Mechanic using reversible ratchet spanner on vehicle fastening

Tips & Advice

Which are the Best Ratchet Spanner Sets?

January 22nd 2024

What is a Ratchet Spanner?

Ratchet spanners use the multi-toothed ring in their heads to tighten or loosen a fastening such as a nut. The design of the head allows you to turn the ratchet in the same direction to tighten or loosen but releases the grip when turning the other way preventing undoing the work you have just done. Unlike a spanner you can turn the ratchet back and forth without having to remove it from the fastening as the nut will only turn in one direction.

What are Ratchet Spanners Used For?

Whether you are a mechanical engineer by trade or enjoy being a DIY mechanic in your garage or workshop, a set of ratchet spanners will help you with a wide range of fastenings on cars, motorbikes, and bicycles. They can also be useful for plumbers to help with tightening or loosening radiator valve tails, tank connectors, lugs and nipples.

Ratchet spanners are ideal when there isn’t much space above the fastening, as there is no need to remove the tool to reposition it with each turn. A set of ratchet spanners will offer a range of sizes, some with multiple sizes on each head, making them a practical and cost-effective option for professionals or DIY enthusiasts.

What to Look for When Choosing a Ratchet Spanner Set

There are many different types of ratchet spanner sets available, each with different sizes and head types. Below explains what the various head types are.

Closed Ring Head

A standard closed ring head ratchet spanner will open a fastening when used on one side, and tighten a fastening when flipped around. This type of spanner often includes an arrow on the tool to help you work out which way to turn the ratchet.

Open ended

Similar in looks to a regular spanner but with a spring-loaded pawl that protrudes from one side of the open head and engages with the fastening when turned in one direction but releases when turned in the other. If you turn an open-ended ratchet spanner over, it changes the direction of the torque. The heads tend to be smaller than traditional spanners allowing you to get into more spaces where there is no turning space for a regular spanner.

Offset Head

With an angled head the offset ratchet spanner allows a better grip on a fastening in a confined space. This type of ratchet spanner set may all have the same angle, or may offer different angles so be sure to check this to best suit the type of work you will be undertaking.

Offset Ratchet Spanner Head
Offset Ratchet Spanner Head
Flexible Ratchet Spanner Head
Flexible Ratchet Spanner Head

Flexible Head

The versatility of a flexi head ratchet spanner set makes these a popular choice. They allow you to get into tricky tight spots as you can adjust the angle of the head on the ratchet to whichever position you need to in order to reach the fastening. This combined with different sized heads offer a great amount of flexibility.

Combination Ratchet Spanner

These feature a mechanised closed ring head at one end and a traditional open spanner head at the other end so offer versatility. The traditional spanner head offers a better torque than the ratchet head so is good for starting or finishing the job and the ratchet end can do the bulk of the work. A good combination ratchet spanner set will have a wide variety of sizes allowing you to complete many tasks.


A reversible ratchet spanner looks like a standard closed head ratchet however it features a small lever at the base of the head which allows you to change direction with the flip of a switch without having to remove the spanner. It also offers two sizes, one on each face of the head, so a double-ended reversible spanner can accommodate four different sized fastenings

Reversed ratchets are a bit more expensive because of the additional mechanisms that feature internally, however they are convenient as they can speed up a job.

Matt or Chrome Finish?

This is a personal choice, but consider a matt finish if you work with a lot of light to reduce glare or if you get oily hands from your work as the matt finish can offer a slightly better grip than a polished finish.

Reversible Ratchet Spanner Head
Reversible Ratchet Spanner Head
Image of blog author Cat Burke

About the Author

Cat Burke

Cat is a member of the E-commerce team and is passionate about all things product, from power tools and TVs to cushions and curtains. She enjoys tackling basic DIY tasks at home and has taken on jobs such as stripping wallpaper, painting rooms, and upcycling furniture.

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