Ratchet Tie Dows - Do They Frustrate Anyone Else?

No matter how many times I’ve encountered ratchet tie downs (my good friend has a boat, so I see them several times every summer), I have to be shown how to use them. I just can’t figure out how to use them on my own. I guess this makes sense–I’m also terrible at learning knots (Boy Scout-like knots and tie knots, even via video tutorials), dance steps, chord progressions, and anything from a diagram.

Do ratchet tie downs frustrate anyone else, or am I alone on this one?

Oh. Ratchet tie downs.

I thought you meant ratchet tie dows, like in the header. Those things drive me right up a wall.


I can’t get the hang of them. Any time I’m home, my dad asks me to haul something out to some job site or another. Without fail, I get there and have to spend 10-15 minutes screwing around with the straps, while whoever’s waiting on me makes snarky comments about my supposed engineering education. Oh well.

Ratchet tie downs, found on my boat/trailer at the transom. They slow down the launch ramp in/out procedure for sure.

The key to them? Full, deliberate actions. I find that rushing usually means you shorten the throw, so it doesn’t tighten on every crank, but the worst is that to release them, you need to squeeze just right and execute a full deliberate throw of the handle. Your reward? She loosens a tiny bit!

They’re effective and helpful to lock things down when tying isn’t going to work, but each action you take must be deliberate, and the tie downs need to be straight, tangle free and have lubed mechanisms.


I can get them down, no problem. The hard part is releasing them; the release button or bar always seems to lock in place, resisting all attempts at pressing them. I also never know what to do with the excess strap.

the strap path can be confusing. if you have trouble with knots then these might present a problem.

load shifting can tighten a strap so that releasing them can be a problem, especially on not well designed consumer models.

Bingo. It’s threading the damn things that I can never figure out. Releasing them isn’t a problem, as soon as somebody reminds me that there’s a latch to depress.

I’ve got some lightweight ones that I use to tie my boat to the roof rack - for which they are fantastic - just two of them secure it far more firmly than I ever achieved with rope.

But they’re a bastard to release - the latch is a single-finger job on each half of the inside of the hinged metal contraption - and it’s not exactly sharp - just not designed to make it possible to apply enough force with the finger without it hurting a lot.

Thank you for posting this. Can we move it to the pit?

I borrowed my brother’s truck and ratchet tie-downs, and got one hopelessly jammed. I spent a good half-hour unjamming it, using every curse word (plus several invented ones) I know.

Frustrate the shit outta me!


I think I’m noticing a general pattern to the fail here. Specifically on the release.

Here’s the trick. Open the lever a full 180° relative to the base. There’s a wedge in the mechanism that will release the little bit of metal that’s eating your fingers.

Conversely FYI, closing the handle completely locks the mechanism preventing any movement of the reel.

ETA: Just hold the ratchet up and work it where you can observe what’s going on without having any load on it.

I finally figured them out at the last Burning Man. Some of them are much more persnickety than others and seem to require a two handed approach with a finger on both releases in order to get that fucker to unwind. A shot of WD-40 or silicone spray seems to help.

Listen to Projammer, SDMBers!

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, so before you need to use the tie downs again, take a look at how the mechanism works. There is a way to make releasing them much easier, if you get the pressure off the mechanism. The tie downs should be in good condition, too.

Watch this. - YouTube

And this: how to use ratchet tie down strap - YouTube

No, was that so hard?! :slight_smile:

With a name like that I would think jamming, not unjamming things would be his expertise :slight_smile: Yeah, those thing bug the crap out of me too, particularly the smaller, cheaper ones. The bigger, heavy duty ones I can work with.

They turn me into a FrustratedIdiot.

Even worse than using them to tie down things on a trailer/truck bed, is trying to use them to affix a tree stand properly while hanging on the side of a tree. Especially if you forgot to either oil them prior to packing them out into the woods, or forgot to bring oil with you at the end of the season!

Great invention, but tough to get them right some times.