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Reference

Ratchet Straps: How to Choose and Use

06/29/2023

What Is a Ratchet Strap?

Generally, when we say "ratchet strap" it refers to the ratchet mechanism, the loose webbing threaded in the ratchet mechanism, and the fixed webbing that is connected to the ratchet mechanism.

Ratchet Strap Inforgraphic Part Names

Breakdown of the ratchet parts:

  • Handle: Provides leverage needed to ratchet the webbing around the axle.
  • Axle: The pivot point the webbing will rotate around in order to tighten or loosen.
  • Release: When lifted up, it allows the webbing to loosen and be pulled freely without ratcheting.
  • Slot: The webbing is fed through this rectangular hole within the axle in order to create a secure axis around which the loose webbing will rotate and tighten or loosen.

Understanding Ratchet Strap Options

There are many types of ratchet straps on the market, ranging from light-use 1" wide nylon straps all the up to heavy-duty extra-wide polyester straps that support massive working loads. Understanding the options that go into the physical appearance of the strap will allow you to better understand their capabilities and purpose.

2 inch wide by 6 foot long Ratchet Strap with Twisted Snap Hooks, Direct Hook - Blue
2" x 6' Ratchet Strap with twisted snap hook ends and blue webbing

Ratchet Strap with End Fitting

The most common type of ratchet strap, these straps feature loose webbing threaded through the mechanism with an end fitting on the other side. End fittings can vary based on the use applications, strength rating of the strap, and other factors.

Blue continuous loop Mac's ratchet strap securing a wood bundle
Mac's 1" Continuous Loop Ratchet Strap secures a pile of lumber into a tight bundle for transport.

Continuous Loop Ratchet Straps

These consist of only one length of webbing and a ratchet tensioner. They form a closed loop that allows you to bundle cargo together neatly and securely without the use of end hooks.

End Fittings

Because application is everything for end fittings, we divide end fittings into our 1" and 2" applications. Read more about 1" end fittings here, and 2" end fittings here.

Types include: S-hook, S-Hook with catch, J-hook, transit hooks (end fittings vary), E-track hooks, snap hooks and more.

Material

Similar to end fittings, applications plays a large role in what material a ratchet strap is made of. Polyester and nylon are the two most common materials used.

When Do You Use a Ratchet Strap?

The purpose of a ractchet strap is to secure cargo down for transport. In some cases, a ratchet strap might be overkill; in other cases, a chain or heavier-duty binding method might be more suitable.

Personal applications

If you're moving items in a truck or trailer, your choice of end fitting, weight rating and ratchet strap type is at your discretion; the caveat being that you should adhere to state and local laws concerning hauling or towing.

Commercial applications

There are strict regulations to ensure safety on shared public roads as well as private job sites and other commercial facilities. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for the cargo securement rules, and has guidelines on the number of straps, position, strength rating and other aspects of commercial transportation of goods.

Pink Mac's strap wrap securing a cardboard box
Mac's Strap Wrap securing the loose webbing of a pink ratchet strap.

Why should you use a ratchet strap over a cam buckle, rope or chain?

  • Strength: Cam buckle mechanisms are not as strong as the grip of a ratchet mechanism; however a chain that's fixed in place will be completely immovable if used correctly. Rope has many more failure points, such as knots, risk of fraying, etc.
  • Safety Rating/Durability
  • Abrasion: If the contact points run the risk of scratching, think expensive vehicles, a ratchet strap with a Fleece Cover will have a much softer touch than a bare chain.

How to Use a Ratchet Strap, Step-by-Step

Start by threading the end of the loose webbing through the ratchet assembly. Here, Colin demonstrates the proper technique:

Then, once threaded, continue getting the straps on your cargo with the following steps:

  1. Open the handle
  2. Access the axle assembly
  3. Lead the webbing
  4. Attach the hooks
  5. Remove slack
  6. Tighten slack
  7. Close handle
  8. Secure excess webbing to prevent flapping

How to Release a Ratchet Strap, Step-by-Step

  1. Pull and hold the release handle so that the strap starts to loosen
  2. Pull the strap back out through the axle slot
Black Mac's strap securing a motorcycle to a trailer
Mac's Strap Band securing the loose webbing of a 1" ratchet strap with an S-hook.

How to Properly Store and Care for a Ratchet Strap

Wind or fold webbing and secure with rubber band or strap

When not in use, all of the webbing should be folded up neatly to avoid twists and kinks, and secured as much as possible. This will make it more compact for storing, and easier to take out and use when you need them next. No one wants to reach for a strap and be faced with a tangled mess.

Store them out of direct sunlight, moisture and excessive heat or cold

Although a good ratchet strap will be manufactured with UV-resistance, it's good practice to store straps out of sunlight. Not only will that reduce UV exposure, it will also prevent direct heat and weather from reaching the straps.

Store straps in a dry area to reduce the chance of mold and mildew. The goal is to mitigate any factors that will make the material brittle or compromise its strength.

Clean Them Periodically

Depending on what you're hauling, over time your strap webbing absorbs grease, grime and road dust. To preserve the longevity of your strap, take a moment to occasionally clean the webbing thoroughly.

Similarly, cleaning and maintaining the operation of your ratchet will keep it operating smoothly time and time again. The last thing you want is to be rushed on a job and your ratchet mechanism sticks or hits grit. Mac's uses an easy-release ratchet mechanism that has eliminated a lot of the stickiness found in ratchets of lesser quality, however even the most expensive tool needs to be maintained.

Identify Wear and Tear with Regular Inspections

By doing a visual inspection of your straps periodically, you can spot worn webbing before it becomes a hazard mid-transit. Never use a ratchet strap with compromised webbing, or a mechanism that isn't performing correctly.

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