The Mysterious Ratchet Strap

Mrs. Dan works in the Agriculture Industry and has the frequent need to deliver pallets or bins of goods to customers.  Most of the employees at these places are men who of course want to help her out.  I know that this has happened when she arrives home annoyed that the common person cannot operate a ratchet strap properly.  For the safety of our highway traveling public, and tourists in rental cars everywhere, Dan’s Shop Class is eager to post our first How To:  The Mysterious Ratchet Strap.

Everybody has seen a motorcycle on a trailer going down the highway secured by a few nylon cam lock straps like the ones shown here.003

These work great for light loads that do not move much.  Ancra brand are among the best (IMHO) and the cheap ones you get at the discount parts place in the strip mall generally suck and will wreck your weekend.  Cam Lock straps are notorious for coming loose on their own.  As these wear out around our shop, we cut them up to make handlebar loops like the ones shown.  These keep the metal hooks off your spendy Pro Taper bars, but that is for another day…..


The better way to handle loads that will likely move or are heavier than a few hundred pounds are Ratchet Straps, like the ones above.  The yellow ratchet at the top is rated at 5,000lbs and the lower one perhaps 400lbs.  These come in a variety of sizes and lengths so you can buy what you need to secure your junk on the highway.  The uses for these things is limitless, from desert race trucks to commercial gardeners and weekend hacks like most of us.

Their use is relatively straight forward, but a mystery to most.  The handle fully closes in one direction only.  In the above picture, you see that the handles are almost all the way closed.  This is the direction from which you will feed the strap into and out of the ratchet.


You will see the load side of the strap is inline with the hook side of the ratchet and the dead end of the strap is next to the handle.   This is what it looks like in the real world:


All we do next is pull up the slack with one hand before we start ratcheting this bad boy with your other.  The silver tab below my knuckle is the secondary pawl.  It works against the ratchet just as the primary handle pawl does.


Make sure your tie downs are safe for the weight and don’t use a cheater bar or lever on the handle.  Just use your pizza grabbers and make it snug and finish with the handle fully down and latched.  Without fail, you will have a long, loose tail waiting to flap in the breeze all the way to Bakersfield.  If you get lucky, you will drive over it on the highway resulting in a custom length strap!  Some people overthink this long end and use tape or zip ties to secure this end (like the hot rod shop with a Discovery Channel TV show who we cruised with for a day…).  The easier, faster, safer and WAY cooler technique is to wrap up the end against the loaded strap and simply pass the end under the last pass and snug it down.  I have never had one of these come loose; your results may vary.  Practice makes perfect.  The hot rod shop had never seen this technique before. I taught them and that lesson gave me wild street cred with Mrs. Dan and the hot rod shop.



To undo the strap, you will unfurl the remnants of the flapping tail.  Then you will move the primary handle (the one you tightened) up a bit and then you will TIGHTEN the strap just a bit to allow you to pull back the secondary pawl (the real term for that spring loaded thing) and then you will work the primary and secondary pawls against each other to allow the strap to loosen.  Again, a little practice makes this much easier.

Your straps will not last forever.  That is a fact, so get some longevity out of them by storing your straps indoors without tension on them.  Sunlight and abrasion will kill a strap in no time, as will tightening it with a knot in it (you will never get it out).  Throw some WD-40 or Tri Flow on the mechanisms once in a while and they will last for years.


With a pair of properly secured ratchet straps, this top heavy, sketchy looking rig is ready to go safely down the road!  Yes, that machine is a lot of fun, but like so many things around the Dan’s Shop, we will have to get into that on another day.

Author: Dansshopclass

Dan The Shop Man

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