Auto Repair Tools: Ratchet Extensions

Tools for Car Repair: Ratchet Extensions
Extensions for your ratchest wrenches you can't do without. courtesy Craftsman

A ratchet extension is a fitted bar that allows you to extend the reach of a socket when using a ratchet wrench.

Not only is the ratchet wrench one of the most useful tools in your box, it comes with the most useful accessories, too. If you can't reach a nut or bolt with just the wrench, these bars go in between the wrench and the socket to give you lots more reach. They can be as short as an inch or as long as 3 feet!

Seasoned mechanics keep lots of extensions available. Not only will they allow you to reach a nut that was impossible with just the wrench, you can add an extension to your tool just to make the job a little easier. Giving yourself more working room and saving a little wear and tear on the back can be a very good thing. Save your back injury for something dramatic like lifting an engine block or trying to trim your hedges with a lawnmower.

One of the most interesting and useful things about a ratchet extension, or a socket for that matter, is the way in which the wrench holds onto the extension. Most brands are universal at this point, and can be used in combination with each other. This means that your Snap-On ratchet wrench can, if you talk nicely to it, be used with a Craftsman six inch extension between the wrench and a correctly sized socket of any brand. The four-sided attachment point includes a spring loaded ball on the male end that holds the socket or extension firmly in place while you're working, but allows it to be removed easily when you're ready to change tools or sizes.

 

Ratchet wrench extensions are available is many sizes, but it's important to choose the right size extension for the job. Too short and, obviously, you can't reach your target nut or bolt. But too long and you've ruined your chances at efficiently removing the nut or bolt, or you'll end up skinning your knuckles trying to get it out.

This is why it's important to have a large selection of extensions in your tool box. Since extensions can be used in series, one attached to the next attached to the next, you are usually better off stocking the tool box with a selection of shorter extensions first. Of course, if money is no object, go for an insane selection of long and short extensions. Articulated extensions can be useful, too. These can enable you to actually ratchet a nut or bolt around a corner, great if you're dealing with something that's in the way of an efficient removal. 

If you don't have the perfect extension for the job, you can use more than one to get the reach you need. Note, however, that with every extension you add, a little torque on the bolt is lost thanks to the wiggle and flex factor. Never attach a series of extensions to a torque wrench for exacting work.