Tribus ratcheting flare nut wrenches

What does the fam think of these? They use a ratcheting mechanism I’ve never seen before, where a sleeve (I guess you call it) that grips the nut rotates inside the wrench head. (Flare nut wrenches are like open-end wrenches, except they reach around the the nut more. Often used in plumbing or automotive, where a flare nut might connect a metal vacuum line, for instance, to a manifold.)

Gearwrench makes a ratcheting flare-nut wrench, but it has a hinged jaw that slips when you turn it one way, and grips when you turn it the other. Maybe it opens wider than the Tribus design, but maybe it’s weaker.

It’s pronounced “Tree-bus,” it seems. Made in America, and super-expensive. But they look pretty nice.

https://tribustools.com/the-tool/

I’ve never used these but I’ve seen them on a local tool truck. They certainly seemed to be high quality. The ratchet action felt good and there was little slop in them.

I’m a little confused by them though. I can see the appeal of being able to slide the tool onto a nut like a normal open-end wrench and then have the wrench function like a ratchet. But on the other hand, the ratcheting feature makes the size of the tool quite large and that could make it difficult to fit into tight spots. And furthermore, you can’t remove the wrench from the line until you move the ratcheting jaw back to the “open end” position, so I think these could be awkward to use too. One of them main times when I have to use flare nut wrenches is for hydraulic lines, and quite often there will be several of those going to the same pump or valve all in close proximity to each other and I just don’t see how the relatively large head on these could fit into those kind of tight spots.

I noticed they had a special model for ER16 collets. If I still had my machining business I’d have bought several of those. We used a lot of various ER series collets and the wrenches provided are nearly always straight. That’s fine for tooling on a milling machine but it can be a hassle to use on a CNC lathe whose turret is loaded with various tools. Having this with a flex-head would make it a lot easier to work with collet chucks. I’d also be calling them up asking for an ER25 and ER32 version as well.

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Thanks, very interesting!

Yeah, it occurred to me that removing the wrench could be a hassle. There doesn’t seem to be any convenient way to rotate the jaw once it’s free of the flare nut.

The heads don’t seem super big for ratcheting wrenches, but they’re big in an odd way, sort of flaring to the sides, which s exactly what you DON’T want. I wonder if something in the ratchet mechanism requires that.

I didn’t know what ER collets are used for. Thanks!

I haven’t seen them in person but Mechaman brings up a common problem with most ratchet wrenches in that the places they would help the most their too wide to fit. But as for having to ratchet around to the groove you started on it would be like putting it on - turn till tight and then remove from flare nut and ratchet with fingers to the point you can remove from the line. This is not a tool that will be making its way to my toolbox the flare nut wrenches I do have don’t see much use in heavy off highway equipment.

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The heads are surprisingly large in person. They’re not only wider, especially at the rear, compared to the average ratcheting wrench, but they are also thicker as well. Now in a way that extra thickness is a good thing because it engages a larger area of the nut so there is less chance of damaging it, but it also plays visual tricks and disguises the extra width to the eye. Handle them side-by-side with a non-ratcheting flare nut wrench and they seem huge. Even compared to some other ratcheting box-end wrenches they seem large. Now granted it’s not exactly fair to compare a closed in box end wrench with a flare model but fair doesn’t really matter when we’re talking about real world clearance issues.

I think the reason why these are so large even compared to other ratcheting wrenches is that the design must have two (minimum) pawls, spaced at least as far apart as the open end of the wrench so that the wrench can still function while the open slot passes through the ratchet mechanism. These two pawl stations are spread apart to either side of the head, rather than having a single pawl stationed near the center where the handle attaches.

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That makes total sense!

I wonder if they could have one long pawl that could bridge the opening instead of two pawls.

Or maybe the Gearwrench approach is better after all.

I am not sure what these are properly called but I have used this type of “ratcheting flare nut wrench” before and I love them. They grip tight and uniformly around the nut or fitting and they are very easy to “unhook” from a line.
https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/swagelok-wrenches-ms-rw-810-8-ms-rw-249942564

Swagelok makes high pressure tubing fittings, I have used their branded wrenches exactly like those in the photos, but I know this design is not unique to them, I have seen similar tools with other branding over the years.

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We carried some Proto ratcheting flare nut wrenches in our plumbing trucks. Very handy for use on tubing fittings in tight spots where the guys were “feeling for the connections” more than looking at them.

https://www.toolup.com/Proto-J3800A-SET-WR-FLARE-NUT-RATCHET?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIs7_f14qv9QIVEfCzCh37dAddEAQYBCABEgI8zPD_BwE

The price isn’t crazy - I haven’t seen that before so thanks.

I’ve used something like that swagelock shown above and I can see where with some wear they would give a bit. Automotive work I where I use a flare nut the most I like a solid wrench mostly because the fittings for modern brake lines are a softer SS. I say that is in I watch people muck them up with open end wrenches of bad quality. Even a quality open end doesn’t really grip a fitting tight enough personally. But I would try this. Only place I see it not working on the cars I play with right now is right on top of the abs module. and that’s due to 4 pipe close together. It’d be interesting to try.

Otherwise for the money they seem nice enough I’d like to see a vid of someone use it to run down and then release the colar off the fitting. I suspect there is a bit of a hassle there unless there is a release I don’t see in the picture. Those proto ones I have seen around diesel shops for years also.

Now I like these guys ideas and plans that they make stuff here - I hope they expand to some other things. Like a thin wall regular ratchet wrench.

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Good to know. Just out of curiosity, have you tried something like a Knipex with parallel jaws for those soft fittings?

Yeah, I was wondering about rotating that collar to the open position too. There’s no obvious way to turn it when it’s off the fitting. Also, it occurs to me that if the fitting is loose, it might not give enough friction to make the collar rotate in the head. With ordinary ratchets you can turn the socket with your fingers if that happens.

And yes, I like that they’re making things here.

Re those hook-jaw models from Proto and Swagelock, I read on McMaster-Carr that a smiliar wrench (their “snap-open ratcheting box wrench”) requires a 30 degree swing to advance the ratchet mechanism. Is that true of all of that style of wrench? Their smaller heads might let you get the wrench on the fitting, but if you can’t swing the wrench 30 degrees, then that advantage is gone.

Re making ratchet heads smaller, I wonder if anybody’s tried putting the pawl inside the gear, and making the gear an internally toothed ring gear.

If you look carefully at the part of the Tribus wrenches that moves (the gear, I suppose we’d call it), there are notches on the sides. I think these are intended to provide a grip for turning when it is off the fitting.

As for the hook-jaw wrenches, in the form I’ve seen they always require 30 degrees. You can think of them like a 12-point box end wrench that is split in half. So long as the tool is 12-point it will require a 30 degree swing (360 degrees / 12 = 30). I suppose if someone made them with, say, an 18-point design then the swing arc would go down to 20 degrees, but the more “points” are added the more the tool engages only the corners of the nut rather than face contact. I have seen some of these in smaller sizes that are only a 6 point design, that kind must require 60 degrees to “ratchet”.

Ah, the notches! That makes perfect sense. I thought they were just to look cool.

And the ratcheting angle for the hook-jaw wrenches makes sense too. So I suppose that’s an advantage for the Tribus approach.

Actually, the hook-jaws aren’t really ratcheting, are they? They’re just releasing and regripping the nut.

yes the open jaw style has to move at least one flat position worth to re-engage.

I was thinking the same in the tribus design you would then spin the knurled center to get back to the opening. minor pain could be worth it.

to the question about pliers - at least on the brake and fuel lines I’ve touched in the last while I would NEVER EVER consider putting pliers on them. The SS I think is just too soft, and they are small in most cases. 10mm is perhaps the most common brake line fitting end today. with 12mm on some fuel fittings. not to be confused with AN fitting - these are smaller high pressure SS lines with flare nuts ends. I’ve had to help neighbors who tried to remove their caliper with open end wrenches and the rounded over the ends of the flare nut to the point where a proper size flare nut fit after knocking down the corners. I could see pliers distorting the nut or perhaps destroying the pipe.

Yes, the hook jaw wrenches really just release and regrip. In that sense they’re a bit like the Wera Joker Self-Setting wrenches, or the Stahlwille FastRatch. They basically treat the fastener itself as the “ratchet gear”.

@Napalm Koko mentioned the Knipex Pliers Wrench, those are very different than typical “pliers”. They have parallel jaws without serrations and they’re generally fantastic for applications where you don’t want to round off a fastener. I have never used them on brake line flare nuts. I think that they would work without marring the nut, but the question is whether or not you have room for that tool.