Choosing Ratchet Straps

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Ratchet straps are used to secure cargo in transit. They come in a variety of sizes, styles and strengths and with a few hardware options. You should know what is available so you can make an informed decision before purchasing.

The webbing or the strap part generally comes in 1″, 2″, 3″, and 4″ widths. The wider widths hold much more weight. Four-example, a four-inch strap has a 20,000 lb. webbing break strength and a 5,000 lb. work load limit, whereas a 1″ strap has a 4,000 lb. break strength and a 400 lb. work load limit. Commonly available lengths for ratchet straps are 10′, 15′ and 20′, but they can be custom-ordered in any length you need. 8′ is also commonly available in motorcycle strap kits.

The Buckle can be either a ratchet or a cam buckle. A ratchet allows you to secure the strap and then “ratchet” it until it is pulled tight around your cargo. A cam buckle will lock the strap so it can’t move, but you have to use your own strength to tighten the strap. The cam buckle typically does not get as tight as a ratchet buckle and some users say they loosen in travel and weather.

The hooks on the ratchet straps are the part of the assembly that attaches to a D-ring or some type of anchor. S-hooks are shaped like the letter “S” and simply hook into the D-ring or anchor. Some are vinyl coated to prevent scratches on the vehicle doing the hauling or the item being hauled.

Wire hooks are double-J-shaped and have a shorter and flatter hook part than the S-hook. The J-hook is perpendicular to the strap while the S-hook is parallel. The J-hook may work better for you depending on the application. I find the J-hook easier to secure when the strap is already somewhat tight.

Spring activated flat snap hooks are also available but cost a little more. The snap hook prevents accidental release of the strap. S-hooks and J-hooks do have the potential to come unhooked if the cargo moves significantly during transit and the tension on the strap is lost.

Some straps come with a floating D-ring. This allows you to hook the strap back to itself. Rubber coated handles are available for a little higher price and make your ratcheting job a little more comfortable allowing you to ratchet tighter. Self-contained straps wind up excess webbing so there is no tail-whipping and unwinding while hauling. Endless ratchet straps work well when you need the strap to wrap around an object and be able to “feed” back into the ratchet and crank tight.


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