jump to example.com

We’ll admit to being a little stumped on this one. Harbor Freight lists the above pictured item as a “composite ratchet,” but we’re not exactly sure which parts are plastic composite. The description page lists a “lightweight, rugged composite handle” but also touts “chrome vanadium steel construction.” Is it an all-composite handle, or does it just sport a cover-all “PVC composite” grip? Either way it’s just $10, and we’ve heard some positive buzz about it on various tool forums.

It’s certainly not going to compete with your brand name, tough-as-nails ratchets when it comes to pure resistance to brute force — we’ve never found a Harbor Freight tool that does — but it might make sense for lighter-duty jobs, especially if they involve working around easily-scratched surfaces. (Whenever I think about that kind of work, I hear my polished-machine-screw Harley-riding buddy talking up the special tools he uses to service it without scratching the fasteners. Really.) We also noticed its high-tooth-count gearing (72 teeth), which should make it pretty easy to position accurately for working in tight spaces.

It looks like the ‘Freightster offers a variety of ’em, too: We found a 1/4″ model for $8 and a 3/8″ model for $9. Buy at your own risk. But hey, it’s $10. How much risk is that?

1/2″ Heavy Duty Composite Ratchet [Harbor Freight]


15 Responses to Cheap-Ass Tools: Composite Ratchets

  1. Dan says:

    Just to clarify, I’ve used a few of these in the past and the exterior of the handle is what’s composite – it’s a fairly heavy plastic with a rubber grip.

    I’m going to guess that the ‘chrome vanadium steel construction’ is a copy-and-paste error….

  2. Justin says:

    I own these ratchets in 1/4″, 3/8″, and 1/2″ drives. Overall, they are higher quality than the price would suggest; the mechanisms seem very solid. However, the rubbery handles get gunked up quickly in dirty work and feel grimy and gritty. I ended up going back to Craftsman for that reason, but wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these for lighter/cleaner/scratchless duty.

  3. Jim Nutt says:

    I have the 3/8″ version of this and it works great. It’s become my favorite ratchet for most work, it’s a lot lighter than the traditional steel ones. I wouldn’t use it with a breaker bar, but for normal use, it works really well.

  4. Shy Guy says:

    I seen these advertised recently (in a catalog) & thought the same thing as Justin said, ” the rubbery handles get gunked up quickly in dirty work and feel grimy and gritty.” This past week I was looking for a 1/2” ratchet for my father-in-law. For $16 or $17- made in China 1):Husky brand Home Depot, 2) Wal-Mart’s brand. 3) local hardware store. All 3 choices, made in China. For a measly $5 more, a made in USA Craftsman 1/2” drive ratchet. In this case buying American wasn’t expensive.

  5. Toolfreak says:

    I have a 3/8″ composite ratchet that’s about the same as those pictured, except it has red accents instead of grey. It’s made in Taiwan under the Steel Grip “Synergy” Ratchet moniker. I got it for basically nothing on clearance at Sears back when they had bins of junk tools that didn’t sell. Of course, now they have even lower quality cheap tools on their own four sided rack.

    I haven’t had the need to use it, but got it because it was cheap, and had a unique shape. No other ratchet I have has that “S” shape bend to it. Don’t know why, as it seems like it would save your knuckles sometimes. The ratchet mechanism is touted as being “all-metal”, but the entire handle seems to be composite, at least going by the light weight of the thing.

    I wouldn’t use it in place of my regular ratchets, but as mentioned, it is a good idea and it does have it’s place as a lighter tool for more precise work, or when something lighter or less liable to kill someone if it falls off the scaffold at 20 stories up would be nice.

  6. DW says:

    I first saw these at Pep Boys (auto parts store)a few years ago. USP brand. Picked it up on a whim. 3/8 is what I have. I haven’t had to break anything totally seized or rusted but it has held up very well. Other than the color(mine is blue) the HF version looks the same.

  7. metis says:

    i just discovered this last weekend that harbor freight will replace any broken hand tool of their brands. sure, the tolerances are a bit “special” some pieces, but that made me interested in picking up things there for other than “oh, i need a beater tool” purposes.

  8. Phil says:

    I have a couple of these, I got them for working around delicate items (trim, shiny metal and paint, etc) and particularly around car batteries and electrical systems, both of which have been excellent uses for these ratchets. As for the construction, they are not entirely made of plastic. The ratchet head and handle (and, of course, the mechanism parts) are metal, with a glass-filled nylon plastic overmold as well as the soft rubber insets. A strong magnet will stick to the handles along their entire lengths. The handles are quite strong, but I have yet to try to test the limits of these cheap things. The tools work fine for my intended, limited uses. The only thing needed to “improve” these things is to open them up and give them proper lubrication, the ones I have (1/4 and 3/8″) were absolutely dry inside. They are dual-pawl, fine tooth designs (72 teeth I believe) and are remarkably smooth once given some lube.

    They are also handy for working without gloves in subfreezing temps!

  9. Bill says:

    As noted above, these are really very good ratchets, and when you factor in the price, they’re outstanding. The 3/8 can be had for about 7 dollars with a coupon at HF. The gearing is very fine, and operates with very little resistance. For the commenter who mentioned Craftsman ratchets- you’re thinking of the Craftsman ratchets of 15-20 years ago. Today’s Craftsman ratchets are overpriced, badly finished, and have terribly cheap internals. They’ll still exchange a broken ratchet, and the replacement tool will break just as quickly. I was a loyal Craftsman customer for many years, and I still have plenty of my old tools (as well as some of my father’s), but the quality has slipped, and I won’t spend money with Sears anymore, not when there are better tools available for far less money elsewhere.

  10. zack says:

    People, next time your at your local sears store and think your being patriotic by buying craftsman, look at the back of the package. 75% of the tools at sears now are made in china, along with some of you mac, matco, and snap ons bluepoint tools. Yes their “evolve” brand is and alot of the craftsman brand is as well, unless it says made in the usa right on front. If im going to buy made in china stuff, I will save the $ and go to farbor freight. Go ahead, be “patriotic” and dish out a bunch of money for the big name retailers ceo’s to drive that lambo…

  11. dick says:

    If you want to know what it’s made of how about asking harbor freight corporate dumbass.

  12. JOHN Arbelo says:

    I agree…..the article was written seemingly without doing any actual research. At leasst pick one up and handle it. Thanks to the other reviewers who have actually used it though.

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