You’ll find many kinds of wrenches and sockets in millions of garages across the country. They are indispensable for working on your car, your lawnmower, your kids’ bikes, and more. A ratcheting wrench set is a particularly worthwhile investment; it’s an affordable choice, yet it can also offer considerably more functionality depending on the model you choose. Some ratcheting wrenches can work at angles that just aren’t possible with a standard wrench, for example, while many also work with a far wider range of modern fasteners.
Before you decide to purchase a wrench, take a look at some of the best ratcheting wrench sets on the market today. They are tremendously versatile, with the simplicity of an open-ended wrench plus the effortless action and solid hold of a socket. If you buy a wrench set, it’s likely that sooner or later you’ll want to purchase a socket set as well (or vice versa). With a ratcheting wrench set, you’ve covered your bases, and you could save money, too. Below are some of the top picks for you to consider while shopping for the best ratcheting wrench set for your needs.
- BEST OVERALL: GEARWRENCH 12 Pt. Flex Head Ratcheting Wrench Set
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: WORKPRO 8-piece Flex-Head Ratcheting Combination Set
- UPGRADE PICK: ToolGuards 33pcs Ratcheting Wrench Set
- BEST 5-PIECE: Mountain 5-Piece Metric Double Box Universal Spline
- BEST 20+ PIECE: Jaeger 24pc IN/MM TIGHTSPOT Ratcheting Wrench Set
- BEST COMBINATION SET: GEARDRIVE Flex-Head Ratcheting Combination Wrench Set
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Ratcheting Wrench Set
Before shopping for the best ratcheting wrench set for your needs, delve into the following list of considerations to receive a fuller picture of the factors to keep in mind as you decide on the most appropriate tools for your particular projects.
All ratcheting wrenches are made from steel alloys, but their composition differs. Carbon steel is often recommended as one of the strongest forms of steel, but all steels are alloys of carbon and iron, so that suggestion is a bit misleading. Essentially, you want to choose a ratcheting wrench set made of either chrome vanadium (Cr-V) or chrome molybdenum (Cr-Mo) steel. Chromium steel on its own is highly resistant to rust, which is why it is most commonly referred to as stainless steel. Cr-V and Cr-Mo both increase the strength of the steel and make it ductile, which is the ability to absorb shock without breaking. Chemically, there is little difference between the two types of steel, though Cr-Mo tends to be more expensive.
Ratcheting wrenches are often left unembellished, but manufacturers sometimes coat them with either chrome or nickel to make them easier to wipe clean and more effectively resist rust. They are also frequently polished to a mirror-like finish but can be produced as a particular color as well. These finishes do not detract from the quality of a ratcheting wrench, so the choice is a matter of personal preference.
Number of Pieces
The best ratcheting wrench sets on the market are often those that provide just the right number of pieces for your needs. A 5-piece set might not offer enough variety, while a 24-piece set that contains metric or SAE-standard tools (the latter being units of measurement defined by SAE International most commonly used on automotive and construction tools) is probably cost-effective only for professionals. For that very reason, 8-piece to 12-piece sets are what you’ll find in the average garage. Keep in mind that you can always buy a single ratcheting wrench at a later date if you need a more unusual size.
Number of Points and Tooth Count
The ratchet box of a ratcheting wrench—also called the head—has two important features: the number of points and the tooth count.
A 6-point box was the early standard because hexagonal fasteners are the most common. However, square, Torx, and other shaped fasteners didn’t align with the 6-point design, so the 12-point box—also called a universal box—was introduced.
The tooth count defines the arc the tool has to swing through to engage the ratchet pawls, and thus, turn the fastener. Coarse-toothed ratcheting wrenches can have as few as 30 teeth, meaning the wrench has to travel through 18 degrees to apply pressure, which is difficult to achieve in confined spaces. Fine-toothed ratcheting wrenches max out at 144 teeth, requiring just 2.5 degrees of travel, though they are more prone to damage. A 72-tooth ratcheting wrench is a good compromise, requiring only 5 degrees of movement.
Although a ratcheting wrench with a high tooth count allows for tremendous control, these tools shouldn’t be used as a substitute for a torque wrench on items like cylinder heads when you need precise pressure readings.
In terms of design, most ratcheting wrenches look quite similar, but small details can be important. The most common design has an open wrench on one end and a ratchet on the other end. The reason for this design is that, although ratcheting wrenches are strong, an extreme load could damage the mechanism. If you encounter a nut that you can’t shift with moderate pressure, you can use the open end to start it. However, ratcheting wrenches with ratchets on both ends do give you twice the number of sizes for the same number of tools and are a solid option if you already own a full set of ordinary wrenches.
Flex heads are angled through 90 degrees or 180 degrees, depending on the model, and allow you to reach fasteners at awkward angles. Keep in mind, though, that care is needed when working with these since they can fold and potentially cause injury if you apply too much force. Some ratcheting wrenches also have a small button, so you can reverse the tool without removing it.
Finally, there are both stubby ratcheting wrench sets for when space is very limited and long-reach ratcheting wrench sets, which allow you to apply extra torque with minimal effort.
Sometimes you need a specific type of wrench for a job. If you’re tackling a home plumbing project, for example, a strap wrench prevents damage to softer brass and plastic fittings. When choosing the best ratcheting wrench set for your needs, however, you want to maximize the number and variety of fasteners with which you can work.
The first purchasing option is to buy the set with the most wrenches. The drawback to this decision is that you might be paying for wrenches you will never use.
The second option is to choose a ratcheting wrench set that includes both SAE tools that use an inch (or imperial) scale and metric tools that naturally use a millimeter (or metric) scale. With a versatile ratcheting wrench set, you can work on your classic muscle car that was made in America, your lawnmower that was made in Europe, and the kids’ bicycles that were made in China.
Some of the least expensive ratcheting wrench sets come as loose collections, but they can become jumbled in your toolbox, leading to frustration when you’re trying to grab the right tool for your current project. Aftermarket wrench organizers are available and inexpensive, but most quality ratcheting wrench sets usually include storage that allows for easy portability and clear organization.
Another storage option is a tool roll, which is compact and easy to carry. Modern versions are usually hard-wearing polyester. They also allow quick access, and their flexibility means you can lay them across uneven surfaces.
Hanging racks have become a popular storage option as well. These are tough plastic organizers that often feature a carrying handle. While they are convenient, since you won’t need to roll and unroll them like a tool roll, the trade-off is that your wrenches are less protected.
Finally, cases are a solid storage option to consider. Cases are usually constructed with thermoformed plastic. They maximize protection and offer good organization, but they take up more space than rolls or racks, which is perhaps why they’re less common.
Our Top Picks
The top picks take into consideration the technical features listed above, the versatility of each tool design, the reputations of the manufacturers, and the value for the money. The results provide some of the best ratcheting wrench sets on the market for a variety of needs.
There are many quality ratcheting wrench sets available for purchase, so it can be difficult to pick the best overall product. However, if you have to choose just one, then versatility is key. This set from GEARWRENCH—one of the biggest names in the industry—features both SAE and metric wrenches, open ends for hard-to-crack nuts, and flex heads for working at any angle.
The SAE tools in this set span from ⅜ inch to ¾ inch, and the metric tools span from 10mm to 19mm, giving you the flexibility to tackle items made in all parts of the world. Additionally, the 12-point head provides almost universal hold, while the 72-tooth box means minimal leverage to apply pressure.
These wrenches meet or exceed the specifications of both the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) and ANSI (American National Standards Institute), which underlines the quality of construction and level of accuracy. They are finished in bright, fully-polished chrome, which wipes clean easily and is highly resistant to rust.
It’s not difficult to find inexpensive ratcheting wrench sets, but either quality or versatility will sometimes suffer as a result of the lower cost. You won’t have that concern with this ratcheting wrench set from WORKPRO. Made from tough chrome-vanadium steel, these tools feature a gray nickel coating rather than the common highly polished finish, and with gold on the ratchet inserts, they certainly stand out.
This is an SAE set with sizes ranging from 5/16 inch to ¾ inch, so the most common bolt diameters are covered. The wrenches also offer an open wrench on one end and a 12-point, 72-tooth ratchet on the other end, along with a 180-degree flex head, so nuts and bolts at odd angles present no problem. Additionally, the set includes a heavy-duty polyester pouch for compact carrying and storage.
This comprehensive set from ToolGuards includes 33 ratcheting wrenches in all, conveniently divided into two sets. You’ll have at your disposal 15 SAE wrenches, ranging from ¼ inch up to 1 inch, and 18 metric wrenches, ranging from 6mm to 24mm. These collections are more extensive than what you’ll normally find in a ratcheting wrench set, providing the enthusiast with tools that will work on less-common fastener sizes.
The wrench boxes in this set are the 12-point universal type, allowing for secure grip on 6-point, 12-point, Spline, E-Torx, and square fasteners. They also have a 72-tooth design, thus requiring only 5 degrees of action to engage the drive.
This set also employs chrome vanadium steel for each ratcheting wrench, which makes the wrenches basically unbreakable, despite their slender profile. On the outside chance a tool would break, the manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty. The wrenches feature mirror finishing for easy cleaning and to prevent corrosion, and they are housed in individual SAE and metric tool rolls, with each pocket clearly marked with the ratchet wrench size for easy identification. While the full ratcheting wrench set is perhaps more than the average person will need, it nevertheless represents excellent value.
At a glance, this 5-piece ratcheting wrench set from Mountain doesn’t look much different than other sets on the market; even the chrome vanadium steel used for the wrenches’ construction is typical. However, the details reveal some valuable extra features.
These ratcheting wrenches range from 8mm to 19mm. The 12-point universal ends are common, but these wrenches also feature raised collars, so you can reach recessed fasteners. They also provide a greater contact area for a more positive hold. The wrenches are 80 percent longer than the standard ratcheting wrench, so they generate more torque, and the 90-tooth head requires only 4 degrees of movement to engage.
The 180-degree flex heads may look ordinary, but they incorporate a push-button reverse so you can switch from loosening to tightening without removing them. This product is among the higher-priced ratcheting wrench sets, but if your livelihood depends on performance and precision, then they’re worth the investment.
This 24-piece set from Jaeger Tools delivers terrific versatility yet remains surprisingly affordable. For your convenience, the two dozen tools are actually separated into two 12-piece sets. One set is metric with wrenches ranging from 8mm to 19mm, and the other set is SAE with tools ranging from ¼ inch to ⅞ inch. The racked organizers make it easy to grab the tool you need, and fold-out handles allow for convenient carrying. Clear markings near each head help with quick identification, and there is a handy direction arrow for the ratchet as well.
You might expect Jaeger to cut corners in order to keep the price down, with minimum contact points and a coarse tooth count, but this ratcheting wrench set is of high quality. The 12-point box is suitable for multiple fasteners, and 72 teeth provide rapid engagement. To top it off, the set has a lifetime guarantee.
With the combination ratcheting wrench set from GEARDRIVE, there is a standard open-ended tool at one end of each wrench, which is invaluable for starting tough nuts. At the other end you’ll find a 12-point box that fits multiple different fasteners, with a 72-tooth ratchet that requires only 5 degrees of leverage. The box end flexes through 180 degrees. This versatile combination allows you to access hard-to-reach areas in which a standard wrench would slip off of the fastening.
This set consists of 13 SAE tools ranging from 5/16 inch up to 1 inch. The wrenches are made from chrome vanadium steel which has been drop-forged and heat treated to increase durability. They also have a mirror-polished, corrosion-resistant finish with clearly embossed sizes for rapid identification. A roll-up storage bag with a handle for easy carrying makes transporting these tools a breeze. Overall, this competitively priced combination set suits many home, auto, and DIY enthusiasts.
FAQs About Ratcheting Wrench Sets
Now that you have a more thorough understanding of how ratcheting wrenches work, the benefits they offer, and the multitude of available options and features, you may have some questions. We’ve posed some of the most frequently asked questions and included their corresponding answers below.
Q. What is the difference between a ratcheting wrench and a socket?
There are several differences between a ratcheting wrench and a socket. First, a ratcheting wrench is much more slender, so it can fit into tight spaces where sockets can’t go. Second, on a socket, the drive is in the handle, which is separate and can come apart while you work. On a ratcheting wrench, the drive is contained within the tool. Third, you can pass a ratcheting wrench over a threaded bar to a nut, but that is not physically possible with a socket.
Q. Does a ratcheting wrench work in a tight space?
Absolutely. One of the big advantages of a ratcheting wrench is that it can fit in the same small gap as an ordinary wrench while providing a more secure hold on the nut or bolt.
Q. What is the significance of tooth count on a ratcheting wrench?
The tooth count on a ratcheting wrench dictates how far you have to move the wrench to engage the drive and, thus, apply pressure to the fastener. More teeth mean the tool has to swing through a smaller arc. For example, a 36-tooth ratchet needs to move 10 degrees to engage while a 72-tooth ratchet only has to move 5 degrees.