Sometimes, you have to get to a bolt that’s simply beyond the reach of a traditional socket wrench. This is when a flex head ratchet becomes an invaluable member of your tool kit. Though they may look similar at first glance, the performance of these wrenches can feel drastically different. Purchase the wrong one and you may have a floppy-headed bending bar instead of the qualified tool you were looking for. But just because something is priced on the low end of the spectrum doesn’t mean it’s junk! To sort through the many options on the market, we’ve put them to the test and compiled our findings in the following ten reviews. The first three have earned our top recommendations, but all of them are solid performers.
|Model||Price||Sizes Available||Editor Rating|
|TEKTON Polished||1 Size||4.35/5|
|GEARWRENCH Release||16 Sizes||4.15/5|
Sleek and strong, the Williams B-52EHFB flex enclosed head ratchet covers all the bases. Since it’s built to very tight tolerances, there’s much less chance of slippage when under load. This helps the wrench to enjoy a much longer lifespan overall, thanks to the reduced wear. The fully-sealed design of the ratchet ensures that no dirt or debris can make its way inside and cause excess damage or dry out the lubrication.
At just 9.6 ounces, this wrench is very light in the hands. Don’t let that fool you though; it’s very sturdy and exhibited no flex in our testing. The high-polished chrome finish is easy to clean and visually appealing. Moreover, the smooth finish of the handle felt great in our hands all day long, even when working without gloves. Of course, you’re going to pay for the high-quality of this tool compared to some of the low-end options on the market. To us, it’s a worthwhile investment since the Williams wrench is sure to be a part of your tool collection for a very long time to come.
Thanks to the compact design of its head, the OEMTOOLS 22912 flexible head ratchet can squeeze into tight spaces where other wrenches may have a hard time. This is one of the most affordable wrenches we tested and it also features a fully rebuildable head, meaning you can save even more money down the road by rebuilding this wrench instead of purchasing a new one. Although this ratchet is priced on the lower end of the spectrum, it’s got strength and durability to rival any of the high-end wrenches that cost twice as much.
Despite being just as strong as more expensive competitors, the OEMTOOLS flexible head ratchet doesn’t have the same smooth movement. This is where you can feel the low price just a little bit. Beyond this, it’s also a heavy wrench, weighing in at 15.2 ounces. This isn’t a deal-breaker since it helps give the wrench a very stout and sturdy feel. The fully-sealed head also ensures that this wrench will have a long service life. In all, we think the great performance and low price of this tool combine to make it the best flex head ratchet for the money.
Although this is one of the higher-priced items we tested overall, the Steelman Pro extendable flex-head ratchet set may be one of the best deals. This isn’t just a single wrench; it’s a set of three, covering all three major drive sizes. Even better, these ratchets all extend for longer reach and greater leverage. In their short forms, they store easily since they take up much less space. We also really appreciated the rubberized handles that were much more comfortable than the all-metal design of most ratchets we tested.
One of our favorite features of the Steelman Pro is the 72-tooth mechanism that means you only need a 5-degree arc to operate the wrench. When we were squeezed into tight positions, this came in handy and allowed these wrenches to remove bolts that other ratchets didn’t have room to operate on. However, we would have liked to see a lock on the ratchet head to keep it in position when working. The head came loose and moved at inconvenient moments. Despite this, we felt that these were some of the best wrenches we tested, which is why they earn our premium choice recommendation.
With a 9-position flex head, the TEKTON 14962 flex polished ratchet can get into almost any space for removing even the hardest to get to nuts and bolts. As the name implies, this tool features a polished chrome-plated finish that’s corrosion-resistant and looks excellent. Function-wise, the 72-tooth fine gearing of this ratchet means only 5-degrees of arc are necessary to make use of this wrench.
We didn’t like the lack of tightness of the head. It seemed to just limply flop with no resistance whatsoever. Beyond this, it seemed to lack strength. It never broke in our testing, but there was noticeable flex and it just didn’t feel very sturdy. We also noticed that the drive selector was backward from what we’re used to on all the other ratchets. Of course, the price is very low to accommodate these drawbacks, making this one of the cheapest tools we tested. If you’re bargain shopping it may be worth a look. Otherwise, we suggest our second-place pick from OEMTOOLS instead.
Unlike the other flex head ratchets we tested, this one features a closed-end wrench design instead of a drive to mount sockets on. This is limiting in many regards since you’ll only get one size per wrench. Though each wrench is priced fairly, you’ll need a whole set to really be useful, which will add up very quickly.
Like many standard hand wrenches, this one features a closed-end wrench on one side and open-end on the other. Only the closed end is a flex head. The simple design means there’s not much to break or go wrong. However, it’s also very short and doesn’t give you much leverage. For certain jobs, this device would definitely be a benefit to have. For the majority of work in the garage though, we’d recommend something more versatile that accepts all the sockets you already have on hand.
Craftsman is a well-known name in tools that can be found in garages everywhere. The 9-44815 flex head quick release teardrop ratchet isn’t one of their best offerings though. It’s a stout wrench, constructed from a sturdy alloy-steel. Craftsman backs it up with their lifetime guarantee so you can rest assured it should hold up over the long-term.
Many ratchets now feature the 72-tooth gearing which allows a very small 5-degree arc. The Craftsman, however, does not. Instead, it opts for the traditional 36-tooth design with a 10-degree ratcheting arc. This is a minor gripe, but the poor detent is another matter. Sockets did not seem to want to stay attached to the drive, and we were continually picking them up off the floor. It may be a strong tool, but if the sockets just won’t stay on, it doesn’t seem so useful.
The E-Z Red MR38FL is an interesting flex-head ratchet that extends for increased leverage and reach. Despite the extra functionality, it’s still priced about the same as most of the other wrenches we tested. We liked that it was extendable whenever we were in an engine bay and suddenly needed a bit of extra reach. We also appreciated the rubberized handle that makes the wrench much more comfortable overall.
Though it’s advertised as low profile, the head is very thick and wasn’t able to squeeze into many of the tight spaces we needed. Worse, the design of this wrench isn’t particularly strong. We started to notice wear in the flex head after just a few weeks. We don’t think this ratchet is stout enough to hold up through repeated long-term use. If using it just occasionally you should be fine. For more serious use, we suggest the Steelman Pro that made our third pick instead.
Stubby handle wrenches can go either way. On one hand, they can fit into very tight areas that full-length wrenches just can’t reach. On the other hand, you won’t get much leverage from the short handle. This flex-head stubby ratchet from Performance Tool has 72-tooth gearing to make it even more useful in those hard to reach areas. With this wrench, you’ll hardly need any space to make it operate.
The biggest advantage of a stubby wrench is the ability to fit where other wrenches can’t. However, we feel that this capability is severely limited when the head of the wrench is too thick. That’s the case with the Performance Tool W9116. This wrench is dual drive, so there’s a ¼-inch drive on one side and a ⅜-inch drive on the other. This may be convenient in a normal wrench, but on this stubby, it seems self-defeating since it makes it impossible to fit this stubby wrench into the tight spaces we need it for.
We like the concept of the dual-head ratchets. The Titan Tools 12358 flex head ratchet offers a ⅜-inch drive on one side and a ½-inch drive on the other. For some, this may be very convenient, allowing you to use almost any socket on the same wrench. To us, this is mostly a cumbersome gimmick. That double drive makes the head of this wrench incredibly oversized. It won’t fit into any space that’s even remotely tight. For us, we’d rather have a single drive wrench that’s useful for every situation than a dual-drive wrench that gets in its own way. If you want multiple drives, we suggest picking up a set such as the Steelman Pro that earned our premium pick in the third position of this list.
Weighing in at a hefty 14.4 ounces, this is one of the heavier wrenches we tested. That said, it wasn’t one of the sturdiest. We did appreciate the fine gearing that allows for a minimal 5-degree ratcheting arc. On the other hand, there were several flaws to this ratchet that stood out and kept it from achieving a higher position on our list. To start, the switch that controls the forward/reverse gearing is too loose and moves on its own during use. It’s very frustrating to have your wrench suddenly switch into reverse while you’re tightening a bolt.
When we first got this wrench, it made way too much noise and seemed very rough. We realized it was completely ungreased from the factory. We had no problems after greasing it up. We think this should probably be taken care of before leaving the factory though. Overall, we didn’t think this was one of the best available, though it’s not a bad tool by any means.
Now that we’ve discussed how each of these flex head ratchets compare, let’s take a moment to go over the comparison parameters. There are many differences between each of these models, even though fundamentally they perform the same job. The following traits are what we think you should keep in mind when looking to purchase a new flex head ratchet.
From 9 ounces to 16 ounces, there’s a pretty noticeable discrepancy in weight between brands of ratchet. Keep in mind, just because a certain model is on the lighter side of the scale doesn’t mean it’s not also very strong and sturdy. In fact, some of the strongest models we tested were also the lightest. This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s possible they’re using higher quality materials or just have stronger designs. Either way, with a wrench that’s twice the weight, your arms and hand will start to feel the difference throughout a several hour work session.
Traditionally, socket wrenches had a 36-tooth gearing. This allows for a 10-degree ratcheting arc, which can be too much when working in tight spaces. Many of the wrenches we’ve reviewed have twice as many teeth to cut the ratcheting arc down to 5-degrees. When you’re in a tight space and don’t have room for large movements of the ratchet handle, this improved arc sizing can be a real blessing.
The last thing you want is your wrench breaking when you’re applying maximum force, or really any time at all. With a flex head ratchet, the weak point will generally be the flex head. Some lower-end brands may have play in the head right out of the box. This is something you should check before purchasing it. We always recommend trying to find strong tools with a proven track record of long lifespans.
Often, your ratchets are going to be asked to fit into very cramped spaces. If your wrench has too large of a head, it won’t be able to make the squeeze. Today, many ratchets offer low-profile heads that solve this problem. We always prefer this type of head since it’s much more versatile and proves its value repeatedly throughout the course of a project.
Some wrenches are available with a different sized drive on each side. For instance, they may have ½-inch on one side and ⅜-inch on the other. While this may seem convenient for quick socket changes, it also makes the wrench head much larger, preventing it from squeezing into tight spaces.
We’ve discussed the differences and performance of the top flex head ratchets in the previous ten reviews. You should be ready to decide which one you’re going to add to your tool collection, but just as a quick recap, we’re going to summarize our recommendations. We think the best overall was the Williams B-52EHFB flex enclosed head ratchet. Fully sealed and built to very tight tolerances, it’s a reliable ratchet that’s sure to lead a long service life. At 9.6 ounces it’s very light and the high-polish chrome finish is corrosion resistant and easy to clean.
When you want the best tool on a budget, we think the OEMTOOLS 22912 ratchet is the best value altogether. Affordably priced, fully sealed for longevity with a rebuildable head, this is a low-priced wrench with a high level of value. You can expect this wrench to be a part of your tool kit for many years to come. For our favorite premium pick, the Steelman Pro extendable flex-head ratchet set has incredible value with some great perks. Three wrenches cover all the major drive sizes. All of them extend for improved leverage and reach, and they all feature rubberized handles for comfort.
Featured Image Credit By: garnett_tools, instagram
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!