Ratchet straps are essential tools for anyone looking to transport cargo. For us outdoor enthusiast, this is an essential tool to have in our inventory. Say we’re traveling through off-road terrain using our pickup truck to a campsite, chances are it will be one bumpy journey. If your flatbed is currently storing any kind of equipment then making sure it’s secure and tied down will help remove the risk of damaging your gear.
Now, a ratchet strap is one of the best ways to make sure our cargo is safely tucked in. But how do we use it properly though? In this article, I’ll be giving you some tips and guidelines on how to use the ratchet strap like a professional. I’ll also be giving you some pointers on how to maintain and store the straps to make sure it stays in great shape for a long time.
How to Use the Ratchet Strap
The first step in using your ratchet strap will be proper assembly. Yes, it will not come ready for use right out of the box. You will need to assemble the straps to the clamps and ratchet first. Assembly is pretty much the same for all ratchet straps but there are certain occasions when the strap will require a different approach. Check the user manual to know for certain how to properly assemble the strap.
Now, as I told you earlier, most will have a pretty straightforward assembly process. I will give you a rundown below, step by step, on how to assemble a ratchet strap.
Step by Step Guide on How to Use Ratchet Strap
- Step 1: Take the ratchet axle as well as the ratchet handle and align both in a way that the opening slot will point upwards.
- Step 2: Attach both the handle and axle. You can easily do this by opening the handle and simply sliding the axle inside. Make sure the opening slot is perfectly aligned.
- Step 3: Close the ratchet and ensure that the ratchet axle can be accessed easily from the outside.
- Step 4: Take your webbing or strap and slide it underneath the ratchet. Push it through the axle and pull it from the other opening.
- Step 5: Once the webbing is secured you should now make sure you remove any give or slack. You can do this by pulling the loose end of the webbing away from the ratchet.
- Step 6: Pull the ratchet handle upwards and downwards until you feel that the strap becomes taut against the axle.
- Step 7: Once the strap is tight and secure simply close the ratchet handle to lock it in place.
- Caution: Don’t tighten the strap too much! It will cause damage to the webbing and might cause it to break.
If you need a little visual reference here’s a quick video on how to properly assemble a ratchet strap:
One Good Way to Loosen Ratchet
Once you have arrived at your destination safely it is time to take out the cargo or equipment from your vehicle. It’s hunkered down by a ratchet strap so we obviously need to loosen the strap a bit. Loosening the ratchet strap is extremely easy and simple. I’ll give you a quick lowdown on how to do so properly.
2 Steps to Loosen Ratchet Straps
- Step 1: The standard design for a ratchet strap will utilize a plate that holds the mechanism. This plate will usually have some sort of tab. Simply press or pull this tab in order to remove the lock of the ratchet.
- Step 2: Simply pull on the plate or handle until the straps are loose enough to your liking. It’s as simple as that.
- Caution: There are instances when the ratchet might be a little difficult to loosen and release. Chances are this is caused by rust build up within the axle and handle. If you are experiencing some difficulty when it comes to releasing the ratchet a good solution is to lightly lubricate the handle, plate, and axle. Basically, oil up any moving part.
How to Release
Let’s say you’re done using the ratchet strap and will be needing to store it for quite some time, you should also make sure you release and disassemble the ratchet strap properly. Here is a quick step by step guide on to release the strap properly.
2 Steps to Release Ratchet Straps
- Step 1: Pull and hold the tab located somewhere on the ratchet plate or handle in order to release the locks.
- Step 2: Open the ratchet and grab the straps from the other side of the plate and pull it to release.
- Caution: While using the ratchet straps are quite simple, you still need to be aware of proper use. Make sure the straps are secure and the ratchet is locked in place before you head on out. While you don’t want to keep the straps too loose, keeping it too tight will also cause some irreparable damage to the webbing. This factor leads us to our next topic which is the work load limit of the ratchet strap.
Importance of Work Load Limit and Break Strength
This is a vital factor when choosing the right ratchet straps as it will make sure you will choose the right straps for the job. Each ratchet strap will undergo tests to find out how much weight it can support before breaking. The importance of knowing the break strength and work load limit is vital if you will be transporting equipment of various shape and sizes.
Now, a ratchet strap is comprised of different parts and you know the saying that you are only as strong as your weakest link? That applies here. No matter how tough the webbing is, if the axle or other parts cannot support past a certain weight then the whole strap will eventually breakdown.
In order to figure out the work load limit, you will need to remove 1/3 of the break strength. For example, if the BS is around 10,000 pounds then the overall WLL will be around 3,333 pounds only. Always look for a ratchet strap that indicates both the break strength and work load limit in its specifications.
Ratchet Strap Maintenance Tips
Let’s say you’re done with using ratchet straps for now and will have no use for it for a couple of months or more. In these instances, proper storage of ratchet straps is essential to ensure they maintain their durability.
This is why it is vital to do proper handling and maintenance when it comes to even something as simple as a ratchet strap. Proper storage is one thing and maintaining it is a whole other aspect on its own. I will be giving a few pointers on how to properly manage and take care of your ratchet strap to ensure it lasts as long as possible.
#1. Check the Straps Before Using
Now, before you strap down your equipment at the back of your vehicle it is best to check your ratchet straps for any damage. Wear and tear will be the biggest problem you will have to contend with when it comes to taking care of your ratchet straps.
With this in mind, always check the webbing for any tears or scratches. Check the ratchet mechanism for any rust build up as well. Before using the straps, it is best to make sure they are damage free to lower the risk of them snapping during transportation.
#2. Keep your Ratchet Straps Away from the Natural Elements During Storage
Don’t store your ratchet strap for any considerable amount of time where it is at the mercy of the natural elements, specifically sunlight. The sun’s UV rays will damage the webbing material over time and will cause it to become brittle and weak. If you are going to store your tie down straps for a while then make sure you place it inside a perfectly sealed storage box.
#3. Don’t Store the Straps while Wet
Chances are your ratchet straps will be facing the full brunt of mother nature during transportation, especially if you have an open-space flatbed. Now, if you had to go through a torrential downpour during your travel it is important that you first thoroughly dry off the ratchet strap before storing them. Moisture will lead to mildew which can affect the durability of the webbing.
#4. Disassemble After Use
You should make a habit of disassembling the ratchet after use. Simply remove the webbing from the ratchet handle in order to prevent it from warping and wrapping on the ratchet axle. This should allow the webbing to retain its rigid form longer.
#5. Organize it Properly
Once done using the ratchet straps and you’ve disassembled it properly, the next step is keeping it neat and tidy. Roll up the webbing and secure it using a Velcro strap or rubber band. Keep it all in a small bag for easy access when need be.
#6. Apply Oil to the Ratchet Axle and Every Moving Part
Make sure you regularly apply oil to the ratchet handle and axle. This will prevent corrosion from the building and will keep the locking mechanism in tip-top shape. However, you should avoid applying the oil to the webbing as it might cause dust build up.
#7. Inspect the Ratchet Straps After Every Use
Once you have arrived at your destination and removed the straps you should also check to see if sustained any damage was sustained during transportation. If you wish to further prevent possible damage to straps then I highly recommend attaching rubber corner straps which are extremely cheap and can help increase the longevity of your ratchet straps.
How to Store Ratchet Straps
Storage of ratchet straps is just as important as maintenance. Even the best ratchet straps will lose a lot of its durability if stored improperly. This is why it is best to actually take time to store it properly rather than just throwing it in a duffle bag or storage box.
Keeping it in pristine condition is one way to ensure it maintains its strength and prevent any accidents with your cargo during transport. In that regard, below are some storage tips I have compiled to help you increase the shelf life of your ratchet strap.
1. Using Plastic Zip Ties
Plastic zip ties are basically a one-time deal. This means you can’t actually reuse it once you remove it. You might be asking why this is a good choice for storing ratchet straps? Well, if you will be storing your straps for a considerable amount of time, a plastic zip tie is a great choice. It is sturdy and will stay in place. If you will be using your ratchet strap regularly, a reusable zip tie should be a great alternative.
2. Rubber Bands
Easy to use and affordable, rubber bands are also a great option for securing your ratchet straps. The only downside to this is that it is susceptible to wear and tear. If you will be using your straps regularly then the rubber band will become loose over time. However, it is quite cheap and you can buy a whole pack of rubber bands for just a couple of dollars.
3. Plastic Stretch Wrap
This is often used within courier business thanks to its ability to fully secure a package. It also does not have any kind of adhesive which is a huge plus as you won’t need to worry about it leaving any markings.
4. Tackle Box
You can use a variety of tackle boxes to store ratchet straps. Smaller ones with dividers is a great choice for 1-inch straps. You can also use briefcases to store larger straps as the narrow storage space prevents the straps from popping out. Another alternative is plastic storage boxes. This is a good option if you will be storing it in your garage or shelves.
5. Bungee Cords
An essential gear for any outdoor enthusiast, a bungee cord can also be used to secure a ratchet strap. It’s tough and a wide variety of choices will make sure you will have one that is perfect for your ratchet straps.
The fact is it doesn’t matter how durable your ratchet strap is if you will not care for it properly. While it will degrade no matter what, taking the necessary steps in proper maintenance and storage will ensure your straps will last for a long time. The best ratchet straps will need proper care to ensure they maintain their top-notch quality.
This article should help you plan out how to use and take care of your ratchet strap so that it will be on-hand whenever you need it.