How To Use Ratchet Straps

Everybody should have a set of ratchet straps.

Bungee cords have long been known as the go-to do-it-all tool to wrap, strap, and hold anything and everything in place. But there’s another piece of equipment out there does that same job with added strength and security: the ratchet strap.

The ratchet strap, also known as a tie-down strap, does not use any elastic or rubber (aside from coating on the hooks), therefore it cannot fail due to dry-rot. Instead, quality examples rely on polyester fabric for a gorilla grip that can be used at the boat dock, at the lumber yard, or in your bedroom (we judge no kink!).

If you’ve never used a ratchet strap, they might seem like a complicated version of a belt buckle, but there’s not much to them. Once you understand the basics of their components, it’s simple to understand why they’re one of the best tools any DIYer can keep in the garage. Allow Car Bibles to explain.

What Is a Ratchet Strap?

A ratchet strap is a tool used for tying things down, holding things down, keeping things in place, and/or creating boundaries between specific areas. The main components of a ratchet strap include two fabric belts, two anchor hooks at the end of the belts, a ratcheting device with a rotating axle, and a handle to actuate the ratchet.

A big ratchet strap.
Depositphotos

When Can You Use a Ratchet Strap?

Ratchet straps are most commonly used in transportation when it is necessary to keep cargo in check and in place. For example, they are often used to keep cars planted on a dynamometer or to hold jet skis, boats, side-by-sides, or ATVs on a trailer. They are also commonly used by hooking into the rails on a pickup truck to keep dressers, couches, 12-foot skeletons, a Peloton, or any other household items in place during a move.

Ratchet Strap Safety

Hauling cargo that requires tie-downs can be dangerous to you and those in your surroundings. Always make sure you have adequate equipment, proper tie-down points, and the right vehicle, and ratchet strap, for the job. To aid in determining which strap is right for you, let’s talk about strength, load, and inspecting your ratchet strap.

Determining Strength and Load

Ratchet straps come in a variety of sizes, each of which is designed and tested to handle certain loads and weights. Double check that you have the right tools for the job, or you could be watching your hand-turned cedar bed frame bouncing down the highway in the near future.

Inspecting Your Ratchet Strap

Ratchet straps might not have degrading rubber to worry about, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to failure. The straps could become weakened over time due to cuts, fraying, mold, or age. Always inspect the strap, as well as the ratchet for worn teeth, before use. And once rigged up, give them a good, solid pull to make sure they don’t have any movement that could unladen the load.

A yellow ratchet strap
Depositphotos

Here’s How To Use Ratchet Straps

That riding lawn mower ain’t gonna hold itself, let’s get to work.

  1. Measure the distances between anchor points to ensure your straps are long enough.
  2. Lay the straps flat, loosely positioning the straps in place or on the ground.
  3. Depress the release button and open the ratchet.
  4. Insert the loose strap into the slot found on the axle on the ratchet.
  5. Close the ratchet. This should grip the strap into place and pair the two pieces together.
  6. Leave enough slack to cover cargo and reach the anchor points.
  7. Attach the hooks to the anchor points.
  8. Use the handle on the ratchet strap to tighten until the strap is taught and your cargo is safely secured.
  9. Double check that the straps are not twisted and the strap is neatly feeding through the ratchet.
  10. Double check that the anchor hooks are secured. Give them that solid pull we mentioned earlier.
  11. Repeat with any additional straps. Most jobs require more than one.

How To Release a Ratchet Strap

Once you’re ready to disconnect the ratchet strap, follow these steps:

  1. Press the release and pull the strap apart.
  2. Hold the release until you have displaced the desired amount of strap.
  3. Once there is enough slack in the line, release the anchor points.

FAQs About Using Ratchet Straps

Just think of Car Bibles as your automotive Magic 8 Ball. There’s an answer, whether you like it or not.

Q: Do All Ratchet Straps Have S-Hooks?

A: No. Some ratchet straps are designed with other types of fasteners such as U-hooks, flat hooks, and e-tracks. Buy the one for your job.

Q: Where Should I Secure My Ratchet Straps?

A: You should secure your ratchet straps to a reliable point of strength such as a built-in tie-down point on your pickup truck.

Q: How Much Do Ratchet Straps Cost?

A: Small ratchet straps typically cost roughly $10-20, while larger options could cost $50-100.

Q: Is One Ratchet Strap Enough to Safely Secure My Cargo?

A: Unless you’re strapping Wile E. Coyote to a rocket, one ratchet strap ain’t gonna cut it. Always use at least two ratchet straps to prevent the item from moving left and right or forward and backward. Bracing the cargo with the ratchet straps in an “X” pattern is by far the best method.

Tony Markovich
Tony Markovich

Tony has a thing for pop-up headlights. His first car was a $3,000 1996 Saturn SC2 Coupe, and his current project is a 1970 Opel GT junker. When he's not daydreaming about the Cadillac Sixteen, he's watching the Chicago Bulls go undefeated on TNT. Contact the author here.