Ratchet straps are one of the best ways to tie down and secure loads during transport. These straps are available with a wide variety of end fittings and ratchets, but all generally work in a similar way with two separate straps connected with a ratcheting assembly. In this article, we would like to discuss how to properly assemble and use ratchet tie-down straps, and maintain ratchet straps for optimal performance.
Break Strength and Working Load Limit It’s important to use a strap based on the Break Strength (BS) and working load limit (WLL). Each component of a ratchet strap assembly – the webbing, the ratchet, and the end fittings – have a break strength that is determined through independent testing. The break strength is the amount of weight a component can withstand before failing. Because a tie down assembly is only as strong as its weakest point, the component with the lowest break strength is considered the break strength of the entire ratchet strap assembly.
The working load limit is then determined based on the break strength. The working load limit is figured by taking 1/3 of the break strength of the weakest component. This means a tie down strap with an assembly break strength of 10,000 lbs would have a working load limit of 3,333 lbs. An assembly should never be used in applications over its working load limit.
Assembling and operating your ratchet tie-down straps Before hooking up your ratchet tie-down straps, it’s important to ensure you correctly assemble them. Incorrectly assembled straps can lead to tie-down failure and cause injury or property damage. There are two main parts that make up your ratchet tie-down straps. First, your main section, composed of a ratchet buckle and shorter length of webbing and hook. And then you have your longer section of webbing with one open and one hook end.
1. Start by attaching each hooked end of your tie down to a secure anchor point on your truck or trailer. Position the strap across the cargo you want to secure. Get the ratchet on one end and then get the strap, and wrap the strap around the cargo that you want to tie down.
2. Next, cycle the ratchet strap until the open slot on the axle faces upwards when the handle is in the closed position.
3. Feed the open end of the webbing through bottom side of the axle and pull all of the slack through.
4. Open and close your ratchet 3 or 4 times to tighten it down. Return the handle to the closed position to lock it in place. Be sure not to over-tighten.
5. When you want to release the ratchet tie-down, use your two fingers to push up the center release bar, and simultaneously as you are holding the bar up, you are going to open the ratchet all the way, a full 180 degrees until you hear a click and tension is released. After the ratchet and the strap have been loosened, pull the end of the strap out.
Maintaining your ratchet buckles If not taken care of properly tie-down straps can wear over time causing failure or malfunction. But a well-maintained tie down has the potential to last many years. Knowing how to care for your ratchet straps properly can extend their life and be more economical for you. Keep the following in mind to help get the best out of your tie-down straps:
▪ Regularly clean your ratchet handle assembly. Use a wire brush to remove any dirt or grime build up on the surfaces or in the moving parts of the ratchet. ▪ If you find that your straps are not coming clean with above method, you can mix a mild detergent with warm water and scrub with a quality scrub brush to loosen any dirt and debris. Avoid bleach-based cleansers or any with acid additives. ▪ Even though the polyester fabrication of tie down strap webbing limits water absorption, it’s still best practice to hang straps to allow for thorough air drying. ▪ Once or twice a year lubricate your ratchet straps in order to keep them in ideal working condition. Apply lubricating oil, such as dry silicone spray or WD-40, to the moving parts of the ratchet handle assembly. But do not get the lubricant on the webbing, as it will attract dirt and eventually cause the strap to bind. Be sure to dry off any excess lubricant. ▪ It’s tempting to toss straps in a pile after usage, taking the time to wind up a strap is also an ideal time to inspect the webbing for rips, tears and abrasions. ▪ Inspect your straps webbing before and after each use. Look for frayed fibers where a sharp edges may have come into contact with the strap. To prevent further damage from corners, use rubber corner strap protectors; they are inexpensive, and easy to use. ▪ Check that the ratchet handle assembly is free of damage and operates smoothly. ▪ When storing your tie-downs, keep them out of direct sunlight. Over time UV light can make synthetic fibers brittle and prone to breakage. Also, avoid storing your ratchets where moisture, oil and grease, or abrasive materials could negatively impact their condition. ▪ Disassemble your straps at the after use to prevent the webbing from becoming a tangled mess or getting caught up in the ratchets spindle or teeth.
Items to help store your ratchet straps ▪ Bungee balls come in a bulk package so you’ll have plenty to wrap up your tie down straps.
▪ Bungee cords come in a wide range of sizes, sure to fit around even your largest 4″ winch straps or ratchet straps.
After a thorough inspection, create a record with dates to keep on file. Write your notes in a notebook, or keep an electronic file on your computer; either way, it’s a good idea to also take photos of straps so you can refer to them if needed during the next inspection.