Finding and fixing the problem
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Photo 1: Remove an internal/external snap ring
Jam the prongs of the snap ring
pliers into the holes on the snap ring.
Then compress the internal snap ring
and lift it out of the retaining slot.
Change the pliers over to external
mode to expand an external snap
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Ratchet rebuilding kit
You can find inexpensive rebuild kits for most ratchets with an online search.
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Photo 2: Remove a spiral snap ring
Locate the clipped end of the spiral
snap ring and twist it out and up
with a small flat-blade screwdriver.
Then “unwind” the snap ring in a
counterclockwise direction. Reverse
the procedure to reinstall.
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Photo 3: Grease and reassemble
Compress the pawl assembly with
your fingers and slide the entire
ratchet into the head. Rotate it in
both directions to check the pawl's
operation and spread the grease.
Then reinstall the snap ring or
screws. Double-check the operation.
Got a ratchet that's jammed, rusted or
won't switch directions? Don't toss it,
rebuild it. In most cases, you can slap
yours back into shape with just a good
cleaning and new grease. But if you've
broken a spring or a pawl, you'll need
to buy a rebuilding kit. A rebuild kit for
most major brands costs about $10. To
find one for yours, just enter the
ratchet brand and model number in a
search engine, or try ebay.com.
Before you buy a kit, disassemble the
ratchet to assess its condition. Use a
combination snap ring pliers (one
brand is Tekton No. 3578; available through our affiliation with amazon.com to remove the internal or
external snap ring from the ratchet
head (Photo 1). Or use a small flat-blade
screwdriver to remove a spiral snap
ring (Photo 2). If your ratchet doesn't
use snap rings, it'll come apart with
either a hex wrench or a screwdriver.
Throw a towel over the ratchet (to
capture flying springs) and slide the
entire ratchet assembly out of the head.
Clean the parts with brake cleaner and
an old toothbrush. Remove any rust
with a rust removal chemical. If the
spring ends are intact and the pawl
teeth are sharp, you can reuse them. If not, buy a rebuild kit. Then apply a light
coating of wheel bearing grease to all
the parts. Don't use engine oil; it'll just
drip out. And don't pack the head with
grease—that'll prevent the pawl from
reversing. Then reassemble (Photo 3).