From avid DIYers to busy automobile techs, everyone who has ever dealt with fasteners would testify that an air ratchet is an invaluable tool. The air ratchet not only saves time and effort but also frees you up to pursue challenging projects with confidence.
Essentially, an air ratchet harnesses the power of pressurized air from a compressor to turn an anvil. By attaching the appropriate socket to the anvil, you can utilize the power of the turning anvil to tighten or loosen bolts. The mechanism is as simple as it is powerful.
So, are you tired of elbow greasing your way through your repair, maintenance, or restoration jobs? Then, the time is right to add an air ratchet to your tool kit. However, buying an air ratchet isn’t as simple as picking one from a big box store. A lot of thought goes into choosing the right product for you.
|MODEL||PRICE||PRODUCT DIMENSIONS||ITEM WEIGHT||USER RATING|
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|3.2 x 13 x 2.9 inches||3.1 pounds||4.8/5
Our Top Pick
|Ingersoll Rand 170G||$$|
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|10.4 x 1.7 x 1.7 inches||2.8 pounds||4.5/5
Best For The Money
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|12.5 x 10.4 x 2.7 inches||3.6 pounds||4.3/5|
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|9.6 x 2.8 x 1.9 inches||3 pounds||4.2/5|
|Ingersoll Rand 1207MAX||$$$$$|
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|10.8 x 1.9 x 1.9 inches||3 pounds||4.1/5|
What are some common problems with budget air ratchets? Generally, they aren’t built to last and while they still are working, they don’t perform as advertised. Not all budget picks are bad ones (we have a few recommendations below), but the Ingersoll-Rand 109XPA is a great example of paying a premium for quality.
Let’s talk about what you get for the price tag. You get a powerful, durable, and reliable air ratchet. Cranking an impressive torque of 76 ft-lb at 220 rpm, the 109XPA tackles most of your fastening and unfastening needs with ease.
Design characteristics, such as the trademark IR Twin Pawl Plus head design, extends the life of the tool, even under extensive use. The push-button variable speed trigger, 360° adjustable exhaust, and ergonomic grip improve usability and performance.
Despite its power, the 109XPA handles extremely well. However, you must understand that tools in this category are suited for light to medium duty tasks. If you use the tool within its limits and follow safe operating procedures, this machine is the one of the safest air ratchets out there.
The only minor issue for me is the size and weight of the machine. Weighing in at 3.1 pounds and measuring 13 inches long, the 109XPA is not ideal for tight spots. But, when it comes to places with easy access, the Ingersoll-Rand 109XPA is the best air ratchet on the market.
Yes, the 109XP is a great air ratchet; but its high price and larger physical dimensions might not work for everyone. If you’re looking for an affordable model that is easier to handle, Ingersoll Rand offers a viable option – the Ingersoll Rand 170G, the best air ratchet for the money out there on the market.
Costing about half as much as the 109XP, the 170G’s price puts it within the reach of most DIYers. What I love about this product is that IR didn’t scale down this product to suit the price. With the 170G, you get a torque of 55 ft-lb at 170 rpm. This is sufficient for a wide range of needs.
The 170G weighs 2.8 pounds, so it’s about 10 percent lighter than the 109XP. But, the 170G is 75 percent more compact than the 109XP. Therefore, if you want to work on hard-to-reach areas, then this is the tool for you.
In choosing between the 170G and the 109XP, the most important distinction you must make is the size of the bolts you’ll work on. If you work on bolts under 1/2-inch size, the 170G’s torque is more than enough to handle the challenge. But, for bolts larger than that, you need more torque – in other words the 109XP is the right choice.
Of course, you can buy a torque wrench to work on the occasional “stubborn” bolts, and use the 170G to remove or fix the regular fasteners. This is the best option if you don’t have the budget for the 109XP.
Whenever I think Dewalt, the first thing I think of is the amazing warranty that the company usually offers. The Dewalt DWMT70776L air ratchet comes with a 3-year warranty, a year of free service, and a 90-day money back guarantee. When you take into consideration the amount of money you are paying, the warranty is extremely generous.
Performance-wise, the DWMT70776L cranks out 65 ft-lb of torque at 180 rpm. So, it’s faster than the 170G; and, it’s also a lot more powerful. However, the 170G’s main appeal is its compactness. In this regard, the DWMT70776L falls short. It is larger than the 170G. So, if you’re looking for an air ratchet to work on hard to reach areas, the DWMT70776L is not the tool for you.
On the other hand, if you’re on a budget and you are looking for an alternative to the 109XPA, then you should really consider buying this Dewalt air ratchet. Unlike other economical air ratchets, this machine does not compromise power over economy. The DWMT70776L is powerful, comfortable, and efficient.
Bottom line, this product does not have any noteworthy technological or design improvements. It’s a simple, reliable air ratchet and that’s it. So, as long as you keep your expectations reasonable, you will be very happy with this purchase.
Although the Ingersoll Rand air ratchets are great at what they do, they are also loud. Both the 109XP and the 170G produce sounds louder than 90 decibels. If you don’t wear hearing protection, sustained exposure to sounds louder than 90 decibels can cause permanent damage. If you prefer a more quiet workspace or don’t want to wear ear protection, get the AIRCAT 800.
Courtesy of its patented quiet tuned exhaust, the AIRCAT 800 runs at 82 decibels, which is well within the guidelines that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stipulates. But, don’t mistake its quietness for lack of power. This air ratchet is equipped to tackle any kind of small engine, interior, or body work.
At a free speed of 300 rpm, the air ratchet produces a torque of 35 ft-lb. This torque is enough for any bolt less than 3/8-inch size. Here’s how I see it. The AIRCAT 800 cannot do anything that I can’t do manually. But, the air ratchet does it a great deal faster than I can. So, this is more of a productivity tool than an effort reduction tool.
You must also know that this machine has a 1/4-inch drive head. Why is this important? It’s important because it limits the range of sockets you can use with it. If you’re looking to work on an exotic array of bolts, you might run into difficulties finding compatible sockets.
Price-wise, the AIRCAT 800 falls within the same range as the 170G. Dimensionally, it is larger than the 170G, but smaller than the 109XP. In terms of weight, they all weigh around the same. However, this ratchet’s warranty trumps the Ingersoll Rand’s. You get a 2-year warranty on the AIRCAT 800, which is pretty sweet.
Here’s an air ratchet that’s as powerful as the 109XP, as silent as the AIRCAT 800, and as compact as the 170G. Sounds like a dream purchase, doesn’t it? But, there’s one little problem – the price. This air ratchet commands a significantly high price. However, let’s take a closer look at what you get for the money.
The 1207MAX-D3 is a 3/8-inch air ratchet that produces a torque of 65 ft-lb at 200 rpm. This is enough for light to medium duty work. What’s amazing about this product is the ease with which it lets you wield that power.
It has an innovative forward and reverse collar, an adjustable exhaust, a feather-touch trigger, and a variable-speed regulator. These features give you unprecedented control while you work. In addition to this, the 1207MAX boasts a durable and ergonomic design. Thus, you can enjoy a premium performance at a high level of comfort.
If you’ve been using an air ratchet for a long time, and you’re looking to upgrade your run-down older model, then treat yourself to the 1207MAX. You will not regret it. However, if you’re new to using an air ratchet, go for one of the cheaper models until you get a thorough understanding of the tool’s capabilities and limitations – and as importantly a better understanding of how much you will use the machine.
The worst thing that can happen is buying this beauty and later discovering that you don’t use it as much as you thought you would. So, if you’re convinced that you cannot get by without an air ratchet, consider buying this product. As a bonus, the MAX series of products from Ingersoll Rand come with a 2-year warranty.
When it comes to buying an air ratchet, you won’t be short of choices. There are quite a few manufacturers and tons of options. Consequently, making an informed decision can become a hassle unless you go through the process systematically.
A systematic approach involves clarifying your requirement, identifying products that cater to those requirements, comparing products that qualify, and selecting the best product based on performance and price. That’s quite a handful!
Fortunately, this buying guide breaks everything down into small and manageable steps. So, let’s begin with the first question you must be asking yourself.
Do I need an air ratchet?
Not every auto-repair enthusiast requires an air ratchet. Primarily, the air ratchet is a productivity tool. It saves time because it speeds up tasks that manually consume a lot of time. The advantages only become significant when you fasten or unfasten bolts on a regular basis or if you suffer from a physical ailment that reduces function. Otherwise, a manual ratchet will suit your needs just fine.
Will air ratchets help me with heavy-duty tasks such as removing lug nuts and suspension bolts?
The answer is yes and no. The market does offer air ratchets that can handle large-sized bolts. These are “high-torque” air ratchets. But, they are very expensive. For these machines to provide a good return on investment, you should be regularly carrying out heavy-duty tasks. Most DIYers do not meet that description. Another alternative to buying a high-torque air ratchet is getting an impact wrench.
Air ratchets perform at their best when applied to light to medium duty tasks. Typically, tasks that require 30 to 50 ft-lb of torque. So, let’s look at what you can accomplish within this torque range.
What is torque? Why is it important?
There are two common ways in which you can exert force. You can apply force linearly. For instance, when you push or pull an object. You can also apply rotational force. For example, when you unscrew the lid of a bottle. Torque is a measure of rotational force.
The rotational force exerted when you turn a nut using a foot-long wrench is 1 ft-lb if you apply 1 pound of force at the opposite end. If you apply 10 pounds, the torque becomes 10 ft-lb. If you’re sharp, you must have noticed that you can increase the torque by increasing the length of the wrench. So, you can produce 10 ft-lb of torque by apply 5 pounds of force on a 2-feet long wrench.
When you’re removing bolts, or fixing them, your ability to do so depends on how much torque you can exert. Now, let’s look at how torque relates to various parameters of bolts.
Now that you know the parameters, you must evaluate the relative importance of each parameter to your work.
How do I decide what to prioritize?
The best way to do this is to look at the work you do. Let’s say you do mostly engine or body work. First, look at all the existing bolts and nuts used on your car. Remember, an air ratchet is a productivity tool. So, see which is the most common size of bolt with which you work. Then, identify the most common grade. After that, refer to a torque chart to understand the torque required for the most common size and grade. Now, apply a 20 percent threshold. This should give you a clear idea of how much torque you need.
What are some other factors that I must consider?
Any instrument that relies on torque must be well built. So, look for brands that offer at least a year’s warranty. Also, check whether the manufacturer has taken special care to reinforce the head in some shape of form. Then, evaluate the product’s usability. Poorly made air ratchets, aka “wrist breakers”, can cause injury.
I haven’t mentioned compressors yet. But, air ratchets need a compressor to work. So, make sure you get a compressor that delivers air at the rated pressure and volume. Since this is a high-pressure system, make sure the compressor pipe has an anti-whipping system. And, you should make sure that the air hose is compatible with the air ratchet’s inlet.
In addition to all this, the drive head of the air ratchet is another factor you should consider. The air ratchet anvil comes in three common sizes – 1/4, 3/8, or 1/2. 1/4-inch ratchets are best suited for low-duty tasks. The 3/8-inch ratchet does most of the light to medium duty tasks. The 1/2-inch ratchet delivers the performance needed to deal with heavy duty jobs.
Lastly, check the product’s dimensions and weight. After buying the product, you don’t want it being too heavy to work with or too bulky to handle.
Sounds great! I want an air ratchet. So, what are my options?
Ingersoll Rand, Dewalt, and Aircat make the best air ratchets. We’ve featured some of their products in our review section. But, you can check other products from these companies if you want more options. You can also look at products from Craftsman, Snap On, and Harbor Freight.
Since we’ve covered a lot of ground, let’s quickly revisit the products we reviewed. Our top pick, the Ingersoll Rand 109XPA scores well across all performance criteria. However, it’s large dimensions and weight make it hard to use it places that aren’t easy to access. In that regard, the
170G takes the cake. It’s compact and inexpensive. But, it’s also less powerful. The Dewalt DWMT70776L is a more powerful alternative to the 170G. And, it has the best warranty policy which is great.
Now, these models are all generally loud. If you want a relatively quiet instrument, go for the Aircat 800. But, this tool limits you to light-duty work because of its torque. If you want the best attributes of all these tools, and you don’t mind shelling out the cash, the Ingersoll Rand 1207MAX would be the pick.
Back when air ratchets first came out, they were prohibitively expensive for most. Today, air ratchets are much more affordable. Plus, they’re better than ever from both a quality and a performance point of view. However, the sheer number of choices has made it difficult for shoppers to distinguish good products from bad ones. Hopefully, I’ve made it easier for you to do this with the help of this guide. Good luck in your search!