How To Use Ratchet Straps: The Drive's Garage Guide

Whether you’re securing a 3,000-lb mower or a 6ft tall teddy bear, you need ratchet straps

Blue tie down strap ratchet
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We get it, you’re busy and need to move things quickly. There are trailers full of mowers, boats, and motorcycles to be towed, and a truck bed’s worth of mulch, compost, and pavers to haul. But doing so unsafely will only lead to headaches and potential danger. That’s why it’s time you learn how to use a ratchet strap!

A ratchet strap is a tool used to safely and securely strap-down or fasten a particular load to a trailer, pickup truck bed, or car. It’s a simple and easy-to-use tool that increases the safety of your cargo ten-fold when applied correctly.

So grab The Drive’s informational team’s hand and walk with us as we explain exactly how to use a ratchet strap and do so safely. Let’s get safe!

Yellow Ratchet truck cargo tie downs on white backround
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Yellow Ratchet truck cargo tie downs on white background

What Is Ratchet Strap?

A ratchet strap is a fastener or tie-down tool made of a fabric belt and a ratcheting device that allows the user to create tension between two ends that typically feature hooks. It is used to secure cargo, whether that’s in a truck bed, on a trailer, or on top of your car’s roof.

Ratchet straps for load control
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Ratchet straps for load control

What Are The Parts of a Ratchet Strap?

Here are all the parts of a ratchet strap.

Handle and Release

The handle actuates the ratchet strap’s axle, which tenses the strap and allows you to secure your load. The handle also features the ratchet strap’s release, a small piece of metal or plastic that you squeeze to release the strap’s tension. 

Axle

A spinning mechanism that is actuated by the handle and tenses the strap. 

Slot

A thin opening on the axle that the strap is fed into.

Strap

There are two pieces to the strap. The strap attached to the front of the handle and the non-attached strap that is fed into the ratchet strap’s slot and axle. 

Hooks

Two metal hooks are attached to the straps, one on each end, and act as anchor points. 

Ratchet tie down on wooden plank
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Ratchet tie down on wooden plank

Ratchet Straps Safety

Working with ratchet straps can be dangerous. When properly secured, the ratchet strap is under a great load, and frayed, cut, or improperly secured ratchet straps can snap. Here’s exactly how you can safely use a ratchet strap and not die, get maimed, or lose a finger—hopefully.

Here’s How to Use a Ratchet Strap

Let’s do this!

  1. Lay out the strap and the handle.
  2. Grip the handle and pull the release. 
  3. Open the handle until it can be laid flat. 
  4. Take the loose strap and insert the end without the hook into the slot. Pull it through until you have your desired length.
  5. Close the handle. 
  6. Attach the hook attached to the handle to your anchor point.
  7. Attach the hook on the opposite end to the second anchor point.
  8. Open and close the handle repeatedly until you build tension in the ratchet strap and your cargo is safely secured.

You’re done! Congratulations.

Man attaching load with ratchet strap
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Man attaching load with ratchet strap

How Do You Slacken a Ratchet Strap?

Firmly grip the handle and release mechanism. Simultaneously squeeze the release and pull the handle back toward the axle of the ratchet strap. There’s likely a fair amount of tension, so it may jostle when you fully release the ratchet strap’s tension. Once that’s done, leave the handle open and you can pull out the rest of the strap from the axle.

Ratchet Strap FAQs

You’ve got questions, The Drive’s informational team has answers! 

Is One Ratchet Strap Enough to Safely Secure My Cargo?

The Drive does not recommend using only one ratchet strap, especially for large, heavy, and unwieldy cargo. Utilizing three or more anchor points will increase your cargo’s security and safety. 

Pickup Truck Bed

When you have a small load that can fit in the middle of the truck’s bed or when using a tarp to keep bulk items secure, consider using two ratchet straps and anchor them in an “X” pattern.

Trailer

Depending on what you’re trailering, you’ll want to use multiple ratchet straps to ensure it doesn’t move. For example, a boat will require at least two ratchet straps at the back near the boat’s motor, while a large riding lawn mower will require four ratchet straps, one per wheel hub.

Car Roof

Similar to the pattern in a pickup truck’s bed, it’s best to use an “X” pattern when strapping things to your car’s roof.

Ratchet straps for cargo
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Ratchet straps for cargo

Where Should I Secure My Ratchet Straps?

Ratchet straps should always be secured using a car’s frame, a pickup truck’s bed hooks, or a trailer’s frame. Anchor points that won’t move. 

Is a Slackline Just a Ratchet Strap?

Yes and no. A slackline, which is an exercise and recreation tool, uses the same mechanism as a ratchet strap. However, a slackline is far more heavy-duty than your average ratchet strap and comes with special loops at the end of the straps that allow you to anchor the slackline and not fall off. Your standard ratchet strap is not rated for a full-grown human’s weight.

How Much Do Ratchet Straps Cost?

Luckily for you, ratchet straps are relatively cheap. A pack of small ratchet straps may cost you anywhere from $10-$15, while larger or heavy-duty ratchet straps can cost upwards of $50-$100, depending on how heavy-duty you need. 

Where Can I Buy a Ratchet Strap?

Because ratchet straps are so useful, you can pretty much buy them anywhere tools are sold, including Amazon, Home Depot, or Walmart

Featured Products

RHINO USA Ratchet Straps Motorcycle Tie Down

Auto Tie-Down Straps

Erickson Pro Series Ratcheting Tie-Down Strap

Got a question? Got a pro tip? Send us a note: guidesandgear@thedrive.com