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When we first looked at the XL Pass-Thru, we thought, “That’s pretty cool.”  Once we had one in the shop, however, we revised our opinion significantly — upward.  This is an incredibly useful tool that’ll pull your acorns out of the fire and make life easier.  Really.

The concept beind the XL Pass-Thru is pretty slick.  At its core, it’s a ratchet/socket set that’s driver from around the ring instead of the center.  Think of it as the “rimfire” of sockets.  But there’s more.  Lots more.

Like, for example, the swiveling head.  Before we jump into that, though, let’s open the box.


We looked at the 23-piece 3/8″ drive set, which ships directly in a nice moulded plastic carry case.  The case’s articulated hinges beat the standard “flimsy-thin-bit-of-plastic” ones hands down, and should last for some time.  This is one set you’ll probably keep in the box it came in, rather than discarding it to let things roll free in the roll-away.

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The kit contains an extra-long 3/8″ drive XL Pass-Thru ratchet and two hollow extensions — a 3″ and a 6″ — as well as the following sockets:

  • 3/8″, 7/16″, 1/2″, 9/16″, 5/8″, 11/16″, 3/4″, 13/16″, and 7/8″
  • 10mm, 11mm, 12mm, 13mm, 14mm, 15mm, 16mm, 17mm, 18mm, 19mm 

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It also includes a 3/8″ square drive quick-release adapter, which means that you can use the XL Pass-Thru with any of your standard 3/8″ drive sockets should you end up needing one that’s not in the kit.  You may lose the pass-through capability, buy you still have the swivelling head.

In Use

Back to the swivelling head:  We have a couple of swivel-head ratchets in our toolbox, but I’ve always been a little bit reluctant to use them.  It’s difficult to put a lot of force behind them because they move.  You know what I’m talking about: They “wiggle” a little as you push on them because the swivel head never really stops swivelling.

The XL Pass-Thru, however, has a cool locking mechanism that lets you push the button, position the head at the angle you want, then release the button to lock it in place.  It’s as if you have a bunch of different fixed-angle ratchets.

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You can see a great example of how this comes into play in the included pictures.  This bolt holds the distributor in place on a Chevy 350, and it’s pretty tight in there — especially considering that we’ve already got most of the rest of the engine-top pieces in place.  You can see that while you can shimmey a normal wrench in there, it’s stuck at an angle that’s sure to round off the bolt if you really got on it at all.

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Now look at the same problem addressed with the XL Pass-Thru.  We just picked the best angle and it fit right in among all the mess to give us a solid grip on the bolt. 

The Pass-Thru’s 3-degree ratchet also makes life easier in tight spaces like the one pictured here.  Even though we could only move the ratchet a small amount, we were able to grab three or four ratchet “clicks,” which let us do the job.

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Of course, the pass-though functionality is quite useful as well.  With the XL Pass-Thru set you can just about forget about your deep sockets.  Even the extension is hollow, which means you’ve got as much “depth” as you could possibly need.


The 3/8″ drive set is quite reasonably priced — street pricing hovers around $50 — and gives you a good start into the GearWrench pass-through world.  The sockets and ratchets from many of their sets are interchangable (look for more on this from us in the near future), so your investment’s likely to pay dividends over time as you collect more compatible tools.

As we said at the top of the article, this is one of those tools that looks “pretty cool” but turns out to be one of the sets you’ll reach for over and over again — which as been our experience over the last couple of weeks.   

If you haven’t already tried one of these out, give it a spin.  We bet you’ll be hooked just like we were.

The XL Pass-Thru Ratchet [GearWrench]
Street Pricing [Froogle]


4 Responses to Hands-On: GearWrench’s XL Pass-Thru Ratchet

  1. Dean says:

    I can’t wait to get one of these. I love my Gearwrench Pass-Thru socket set that my son gave me, now to get the swivel-head driver. I know that would come in very handy for the work I do.

  2. Crispy says:

    I JUST ordered a set. Hopefully they will arrive here before the week is out. I ordered from Eldorado Tool Sales. I’m hoping they will help save me and my pops some heartache on an engine removal/installation on a 1991 Honda Prelude. Pops is questioning some of the thought processes of how the Japanese assemble their cars. I swear half of this project is fueled by cursewords and anger. I’m just hoping these will help to cut down on some of that.

    I’ll get back to everyone later on to let you know how these things work out.

  3. Crispy says:

    Pops is crazy. He will buy a new tool, or get a new tool, and then he doesn’t want to use it because he wants to keep it new looking. That’s frustrating.

    The locking swivel head is worth its weight in gold. All swivel head ratchets should copy this functionality yesterday.

    The ratchet handle has a nice fine tooth action but it is so long that the length of it can counteract that advantage in really tight spots.

    These sockets and extensions will be bigger around than your normal ones as they are hollow. But when you put a socket into the ratchet with no extension, the width of it is thinner. The only thing thinner than this setup is a ratcheting wrench or good old fashioned boxend.

    All the sockets and the ratchet have what I would call snap rings in them. This how the ratchet holds the sockets in the tool. Release of the socket from the ratchet is hit or miss, it may take one or two good tugs to get it out. Another consideration is the fact all your sockets now have a part that is possible to lose or wear out.

    Overall a very nice set. I may get a set for myself in the near future.

  4. pinchvalve says:

    My GearWrench pass-through wrench fell apart after just a few uses. I was just starting a nut, no torque or anything! The little retaining clip popped off and the ratcheting mechanism fell out. Into tall grass and was lost.

    The warranty didn’t help because the 3/8″ drive handle is on backorder for “a few months” according to customer service. I can go to Amazon and drop $30 on a replacement and have it overnight, or wait 3 months for the warranty replacement. That is pretty shady to me, and not a company that honors their warranty as well as they can.

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