Initial Impressions: Ryobi USB Lithium ⅜ Ratchet Fits In Spaces Competitors Can’t
It’s sometimes tough to justify a niche filler tool, but not when it’s this affordable
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When I started putting together a guide for battery-powered ratchets, I hadn’t considered the need for all the different variations. In the past, I’ve used what would probably considered a standard size and, if it didn’t fit in the gap between the fan shroud and the intake plenum, or I couldn’t reach far enough in, I just pulled out the manual ratchet and made it work, even if “work” meant taking out a 30mm long bolt two clicks at a time. Then Ryobi sent this.
This ⅜-inch drive USB cordless ratchet is considerably smaller than everything else that has shown up. It’s dwarfed by Ryobi’s own ONE+ HP ratchet, even when The ONE+ is equipped with a small battery. That put me off at first. We all have a tendency to lean towards the larger, more powerful option when buying tools, “It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it,” is a sentiment I heard over and over training as a machinist.
But, that same wise friend also said, “The best hammer in the world won’t spin a nut.” Always use the right tool for the job. Maybe this small ratchet has a place in your tool cab.
What Is It?
First, this is a power ratchet. This isn’t an impact driver, it’s also different from a right-angle drill/driver. This takes a standard ratchet and applies power to the ratcheting mechanism through a gear transmission to turn it. Since it’s a ratchet, and always locked in one direction, you can use it manually to break a bolt and then use the power drive to get it the rest of the way off. It obviously tightens fasteners as well, and you can get them tight’nuff or use a separate torque wrench. No, seriously, if you’re working on a car, use a torque wrench.
This particular unit from Ryobi is one of the smallest options I’ve seen. It weighs just 1.25 pounds, is 10.5 inches long, and 2 inches wide at its thickest point. The normal-sized Ryobi ratchet weighs 3 pounds with a 2.0 Ah battery and is 13.5 inches long and 2.5 inches thick at the handle. The USB will fit in places that full-size ratchets simply won’t. Maybe more importantly, this ratchet will fit in places your hand won’t.
The smaller physical size also comes at a considerably lower price. The USB ratchet comes with a 4-volt 2 Ah battery and a charging cable in one bundle for half the price, around $70 at the time of writing, of the ONE+HP ratchet with the smallest battery and least expensive charger. It’s a quarter the price of some competitors.
If you’ve ever stripped down an engine using a cordless ratchet, you already know these can be lifesavers. This one isn’t for stripping an engine. That doesn’t mean it can’t be a lifesaver. I have to imagine this would be excellent for building or taking apart furniture. Breaking down several bed frames, a few tables, and garage shelving doesn’t seem like a big job, until you’re breaking those down after you have already loaded 800 pounds of boxes.
You don’t always need breaker bar torque, many cordless ratchets can do 70+ lb-ft, which is way too much for most non-car-related tasks. If I want to use a cordless ratchet on my mountain bike, most bike fasteners’ specs aren’t going much past 15 lb-ft of torque. I shouldn’t say this isn’t for cars, because in modern cars, where half your fasteners are going into plastic, this would be great. The smaller size is probably ideal for interior work too. But, we’ll see.
No Real Opinion Yet
While I have a very positive initial impression of this Ryobi ratchet, I will do a lot more testing with it before I have a strong opinion. There’s a whole range of other cordless ratchets sitting under my desk as I type this, so there will be no shortage of chances for comparisons. The small size, lightweight, and value proposition seems to be what Ryobi as a company absolutely nails. The bright green brand isn’t going for pros with this ratchet.
Although if you’re a pro who already has a full-size cordless ratchet, this could be a good complement. Expect to see not only a more in-depth review of this ratchet in the next few weeks but more from Ryobi and a few competitors. This is literally the first one I took out of the package. It feels good next to my older, well-used tools, but side-by-side testing with brand-new competitors will be more informative.