Ratchet Rebuild

Easy fix for a broken ratchet

Don't throw away a good ratchet wrench that suddenly jams or won't change directions. Take it apart and grease it, and if that doesn't work, rebuild it with an inexpensive kit.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Finding and fixing the problem

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).

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Wrench set

You'll also need a small flat-blade screwdriver and snap-ring pliers.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Ratchet rebuilding kit
  • Brake cleaner
  • Rust removal chemical
  • Wheel bearing grease