Any locking flex-head ratchets other than Wera?

There are lots of flex-head ratchets (where the handle can swivel out of the plane of the ratchet’s rotation), but very few that lock at that angle. Years ago, ToolGuyd reviewed some Armstrong locking flex-head ratchets:

But Wera and Armstrong are the only makers I know of.

Does anybody else make a locking flex-head ratchet? Where can I buy them?

Gearwrench, EZred (aka Mountain, Icon, etc.), MAC, and Snap-On have them. Probably others too.

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Cool. Gearwrench looks like the best bet, since they’re available on Amazon. Thanks!

That armstrong of the orginal review is the Gearwrench 84th of today. So I would check out gear wrench locking flex head but this is not the same as a swivel head and not exactly like the wera.

However it is the style I like for high torque use.

Now other companies are also the gearwrench. Example my 3/8 locking flexhead I bought last year is also a gearwrench model it is however blue and yellow and says Carlyle on the handle. Napa had a sale on of epic proprotions and it was a whopping 27 dollars. it is the older 72 tooth head but that’s fine for me. vs double that price for an 84 tooth.

Meanwhile if you want higher quality I highly recommend the MAC tool version but again super spendy for what is it. I’d break a few EZ Red or GearWrench/Carlyle ones for that. So I would suggest checking around and see what some autoparts stores have that is on sale.

What may I ask are you using it for? I bought mine specifically to do the sparkers on my 2016 Ford Exploder and because I really missed having a locking flex head.

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Oh and if you go look to the EZ red models - while not the Gearwrench/armstrong design it is similar and I can tell you they are solidly made. where they are made to day I don’t know but I have used their locking flex head ratcheting bit holder device and it was a nicely made piece. I have no trouble recommending their other ratchet. And their ratcheting double box wrenches are quite well prized in the auto and aircraft mechanic field.

Thanks Napalm! I haven’t been following the name changes, takeovers, under-licenses, etc.

So what’s the difference between swivel head and flex head, practically speaking?

Actually it would be a gift for my brother, and he would likely be using it for auto or small engine work, maybe HVAC.

so the wera and a few others are swivel head and as far as I know wera makes the only locking swivel head - I’ve also not looked for others.

Where as that armstong/gearwrench, and the MAC and others are a locking flex head.

so swivel the ratchet mechanism is in a pinned yoke that lets it spin on it’s axis usually more than 180 degree - so at 90 degeee it’s right angle to the handle - and 0 degree it’s in line. the ratchet head is round and often a bit bigger in all dimensions than say a pear head ratchet. Which is fine because they are good for off angle acess and other needs quickly. Many swivel heads out there have tension screws so you can re-tighten up the pin joint and make them less sloppy. Tekton makes one, as do a number of others but the wera is like I said a bit different.

Flex head is a traditional ratchet often pear head style where the head is pinned in a pivot to in the handle allowing the head to flop 180 degrees or more around the handle end. Similar idea here is that you get 90 degree to handle and you can get 0 degree to handle the big difference is that at 0 degree it is not inline with the handle the way a swivel ratchet would be. Now most flex head ratchets do not lock in place. Some freely flop (I’m biased) with a basic hinge and others have a ball index hinge where it has stops in various places like 30,60,90.120,180. etc. These are not locking but they are indexed to hold there - but little force will move it freely.

Locking version takes this index pivot one step further with a physical mechanical lock that will hold back some force. so there is usually some other lever or push button to release the index. This is the Armstrong design as a few others.

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Usecases - now you will always see me say I am weird. so many people might refute this idea but it’s something that works for me.

Swivel ratchets I see nearly no point in owning beyond 1/4 drive - and there they shine. can be a inpromtpu ratcheting screwdriver, or it can be a ratchet in angles between and it’s not going to get torqued so hard I have to worry about the swivel pin and joint getting over stressed. Some are indeed made better than others and while I know people swear by them in 3/8 form I size gap my work. I don’t normally use a 1/4 drive setup beyond 10-12 mm, or just to 1/2 drive. Yes I do have the sockets that are a bit bigger they are almost never used.

Locking flex head - I have this in 3/8 and I would have a 1/2 but I’ve not found a need for one just yet. I greatly prefer the locking to the index or smooth flex ratchets. Why they are more handy - yes occasionally I will have to stop and test fit the handle angle. but once set it stays there and is firmly in place so when I pull on it or when I push on it I get smooth reacation at the bolt without worrying about the handle angle changing and banging my hands etc.

Tekton makes an unusualy set of smooth flex heads where they keep the overall ratchet arm the same length as a standard. so for 3/8 it’s still in the 8.5 inch range - where as that gearwrench/carlyle/other will be more like 10.8-11. I like the slight additional torque. some do not.

I use my locking flex head fairly rarely - but it’s needed when it’s needed. Like I said I bought it for changing the sparkers in my 2016 ford exploder. back set are near fire wall at an angle with the intake off . . . . . . . deep in the head hole - and I didn’t want to turn them with a swivel on the long arm spark plug socket. flex head fixes all of that - locking flex head made it smooth as silk.

Another use was pulling the drive couplers off a Pontiac G8 to take the driveshaft apart to fix it - easier access to the back side. they come in handy. but my normal use 3/8 is a standard one that I grab first. However I would also say this - I know guys that only have locking flex head ratchets and don’t bother with having standards. why - they say why carry more than one. I do agree with this if I was starting over I would have just gotten a quality locking flex head 3/8 and 1/2 and a swivel 1/4 and called it a day.

my 0.04 - and long read. Good luck and I hope he enjoys using whatever you get.

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I don’t know if this extends to the ratchets, but as for the ratcheting double-box wrenches, the Taiwanese company Kabo sells them under their own brand, and they are also the OEM for Mountain, ATD, Platinum, Carlisle (NAPA), and Matco version. They sell for a wide range of prices, you can get a Mountain or ATD set on Amazon for $130, Napa auto parts gets about $230 for the same set, and Matco charges over $300 off the tool truck. The tools are identical except for the name on them, but the warranty service is different. These are warranted by the seller, not the OEM. So if you break a Carlisle or a Matco it’s easy, just hit a local Napa auto parts or a Matco truck and you’re back in business. But if you broke a Mountain from a random Amazon seller it might be more difficult to get warranted. I assume a similar concern exists for the ratchets.

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I think use cases can be a fairly personal thing.

As far as the swivel-head ratchets go, I agree with Napalm. The 1/4 size is handy since it also acts like a “ratcheting screwdriver”, but I don’t really see any use for the larger sizes. I used to own a 3/8 but I never used it and ended up trading it away. I like having a broad assortment of ratchets on hand and despite that I got rid of my 3/8 and I never even considered buying a 1/2 drive.

As far as flex-head ratchets go, I do like them, I have roughly a 50:50 mix of solid handles and flex heads. But all of the the flex-heads are just the generic free-moving type without detents or a lock.

My single favorite ratchet, bar none, is the Snap-On FRSLF80, which is a flex head with a speed handle. It can be used like a traditional ratchet or you can fold the handle up inline with the socket and then it makes a speeder crank. Other companies make similar designs. The similar bent-handle type works great too, like the FBF80A. I use the 1/4 and 1/2 drive versions too but I use the 3/8 a lot more often. If I was giving a gift to a mechanic and they didn’t already have one I’d look for something like that. I am sure that other brands have similar tools to consider too.

Another really handy tool that makes a great mechanic’s gift is this:

I don’t think you can go wrong with either the standard one or the “micro”. 1/4 square drive for sockets on one end, 1/4 female hex for hex bits on the other end. Since that one is an EZRed I assume they are also sold under Mountain, Kabo, ATD, Carlisle, and Matco as well.

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That combo stick tool like a tool you didn’t know that you needed.

Thanks, MechaMan and Napalm!

So it sounds like the locking flex-head can handle more torque than the swivel ratchet, and that’s why you only use the swivel head in 1/4". Is that right?

In my opinion the main advantage of the swivel ratchet is when you can use it straight, like a ratcheting screwdriver. That’s handy for the small fasteners you’d use 1/4 drive for since you can both speed and beak loose or tighten fasteners with the same tool. But many fasteners that are large enough to call for 3/8 or 1/2 drive are sufficiently large or tight that you can’t really drive them “screwdriver style” at all so that benefit of the swivel-head disappears in my opinion. And when you need to use a ratchet in the traditional manner, a flex-head is stronger than a swivel head. I also like how the hinge is located farther away from the socket on a flex-head ratchet. That makes it easier to get into tight places where they may not be clearance for the handle to be right above the socket. Swivel head ratchets also tend to be larger in diameter at the head of the ratchet compared to a rigid handle or a flex head. Sometimes a swivel head ratchet is too large to fit in a tight spot but a flex head can.

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Everything he said and I’ll add one more.

Sometimes to get off a bolt you have to bump a ratchet handle to kick the bolt free. Either age, rust or in more cases today locktited in. (nearly every new car after say 2006 seems to have factory dry compound on threads - everywhere)

So you might find to get that alternator bolt off on the holden commodore SSR that you just can’t pull free you need to bump the handle good to get it started. The strength of the wack is based on bolt size so in the 3/8 drive range bolts and above I like a solid ratchet feel. Locking flexhead does this even with a bend in place. I wouldn’t do that with a swivel head. bolts in the 1/4 size range - sure. (10mm or less)

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Ohh, I gotcha MechaMan, that makes sense! Sorry, took me a while!

I can see that, Napalm, that makes sense. (I don’t work with engines myself.)

Based on what you guys said, I got the flex-head Gearwrenches in 3/8".