How to Maintain and Lubricate Snap on Ratchets

Welcome to our article on how to maintain and lubricate Snap on ratchets.

A ratchet is a precision tool. But your ratchet may get stiff. The reasons are a build-up of fine dust from dirt ground up by the gears and pawls inside and lack of lube. 

However, regular care and proper maintenance can prevent damages and prolong its life.

Snap on, a quality hand tool brand, stands out from the crown of ratchets available in the market. This company has a proven background of solving the critical ratcheting work to make your project more productive and safer.

This article on how to maintain and lubricate Snap on ratchets will provide you with the necessary information you need to maintain and lubricate your snap on ratchet correctly. Moreover, this information may apply to other ratchets as well beyond snap on.

How to Maintain and Lubricate Snap On Ratchets

Easy Care and Maintenance Tips

It's good to clean and re-lube your ratchet every year or two. However, inspect and disassemble it if you don’t hear a clean, smooth ratchet sound or sense a problem.

A soak in lubricant will sometimes get your stiff ratchet turning freely again. The best method to open the ratchet is- clean the internals with carb cleaner and a toothbrush and then re-lube it. A screwdriver or snap-ring pliers are about all that's needed.

If you’re working on a Snap-On or Craftsman with a detent ball, get an SPP744 tool to hold the ball while installing the pawl.

We’re going to show you the maintenance process of snap on swivel head ratchet.

Step 1: 

First, clean off the foreign materials from your ratchet.

On pear-shaped ratchet, you’ll find a snap ring and two screws holding a back plate in place.

Simply take out the screws. Of course, find a screwdriver that fits the holes properly.

You’ll find forward and reverse lever. Switching the lever back and forth several times will help you to clean the build up dirt from between the pawl and the housing.

If you’re using your ratchet in automotive projects or something like that more than likely to have a little bit of garbage build up in these holes. In this case, you might not be able to round them off with a screwdriver to get it out.

So, take a fine little pick or something and clean those slots out before you try to get a screwdriver in there.

Step 2: 

Once you get the two screws out of there, pop off the plate right there. Pick that plate up. Here’s the gear. Clean the pieces out of this. Inspect the teeth to ensure that the teeth are not damaged.

Check the moveable parts -pawl and gear to see if these are break or in good condition.

Step 3: 

First, remove the head. Next, pull out the gear and clean it with a degreasing compound. Then, Clean all the stuff off it with a toothbrush. Also, brush the screws and the head.

Step 4: 

The formula for cleaning any part that you don’t want to rust is solvent hot water and air. Then take an air hose and blow it off.

Blow the most of the water out or all that you can get out. And heat retaining the part will dissipate the rest, and you won’t have rusting.

Step 5: 

Lubricate the tool.

To do this with the excess on your fingers, coat the plate from both sides. Put one little drop down where the indent ball is. It’ll lubricate the spring and backside of the bowl. Wipe off the excess. Also, put one drop of oil in the bearing surface to lubricate it.

Wipe off the excess oil. It's the primary step to prevent rusting. Do the same thing with the screws. Just put a little drop of oil on the screws.

Step 6: 

Put the ratchet back together. Replace the back plate on put the screws in. Give it a good tightening on both sides.

And this one will be ready to go back into service.

That’s how you can basically maintain your ratchet.

How To Lubricate A Ratchet- Ratchet Lubrication Basics

Here are few questions and guidelines about ratchet lubrication.

After doing our research and having solicited opinions from fellow forum members and professional mechanics, we’ve distilled it down to a few general guidelines.

This topic generates a lot of differing opinions. There is no one solution in every case. Most importantly, personal preference and your specific working conditions and requirements make one lube good for your ratchet. But it may be a bad choice for someone else.

Anyway, in most cases the following guidelines that we’re presenting here will net you good results.

THE FIRST QUESTION-why should a ratchet be lubed? After all, the factory did it perfectly, and it’s permanent. Right?


If you disassemble your ratchet, you may see a little lube on there, or it may be bone-dry.

When you’re tightening a fastener, you’re applying torque and a ford motion against the ratchets mechanism. If you pull back to reset, the resistance you feel from the mechanism is back drag.

In case there is too much back drag, you may actually loosen the fastener instead of having the ratcheting action work. Lubrication can really help here.

Lastly, lubrication will help prevent corrosion and rust. It's very important for people who work in wet environments like marine mechanics or anybody who’s out doing work on the car and happens to get caught in a rainstorm.

THE SECOND QUESTION- what are some guidelines for lubrication?

Firstly, give a light coating of oil anywhere metal touches in the case of the smaller ratchet. It’s pretty much all the componentry in here. The small parts in here need to be able to move freely and smoothly.

Different types of ratchets come with different teeth count. The generally accepted guidelines for viscosity are as follows.

  • If you have a smaller size ratchet with a higher teeth count, you’re going to need a thinner lubricant.
  • In case you have a larger size ratchet with a lower tooth count, you’re going to use thicker lubricant.

If you use thick lube on a high tooth ratchet, it could fill in these tiny teeth and call it skipping conversely.

On the other hand, if you use a very thin lube on this one, it’s not going to do very much. And in the case of thin loops, we also run into the problem of on non-sealed ratchets- it will leak out into your toolbox.

THE THIRD QUESTION- what specific Lube to use or which ones not to use?

Which one is the best lube for ratchet?

super lube

The first part of this question is straightforward. First of all, use the manufacturer recommendation.

Some ratchets are engraved with oil only or in the case of something like Snap on. The manufacturers recommends that you should use Super Lube if you go with their recommendation. Snap-On includes a grease called Super Lube which is great for this use.

Above all, you’ll keep your warranty intact without any problems, and it should work quite well.

What Lube Should You Not Use

WD-40 is a bad choice. It’s very thin. In fact, this lube is designed to displace water not to create a lasting lubricant.

Anything that’s water-based is a bad choice because it’ll promote corrosion and possibly get mouldy inside. Moreover, it’s also easy to accidentally wash it out and not waxes.

Finally, they could bind gum or something like a car wax which is too thin of a coating to do any good.

Ratchet Maintenance Tips

  • Wipe all dust and debris from your ratchet regularly.
  • Ensure that the backing plate screws are tight enough so that no foreign materials enter your ratchet head. Check it weekly.
  • To remove dust and grime build up, you should disassemble, clean and soak the ratchet head in a solvent. Do the process monthly in case heavy use, quarterly in case light use.
  • Replace any damage component. Contact your distributor for a suitable ratchet repair kit.
  • While lubricating, don’t overload with the grease. Always lightly lubricate the gears after the repair and before re-assembling it.
  • For lubrication, don’t use grease. Because it’ll attract dirt that builds up and turns into a grinding compound, wearing the ratchet out shortly. Simply use a little oil.
  • To ensure the reliability and maximum performance, perform the above maintenance and lubrication steps at least once each year.
  • Make sure you’re using the right size ratchet for the job. Don’t try to use a 3/8 inch drive ratchet to do the job of ½ inch model.


Ratchet is a workhorse in a toolbox. It’s an essential tool to getting a project done properly and quickly.


Only proper cleaning and lubrication can provide with you smoother operation and the best ratchet service for years after years.

So, implement regular inspection and maintenance routine.

Thanks for reading our article on how to maintain and lubricate snap on ratchets.

Happy ratcheting!

Ivan D. Mitchell

Chief Engineer, Manufacturing Engineering Tool and Launch, specializing in automation equipment design and build which meets World Class Manufacturing methodology. 15 years of work experience as Tooling Specialist on some of the leading automotive manufacturing company. His primary area of expertise is automation equipment design and build.

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