7 Best Flex Head Ratchets to Reach Where Others Can’t

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If you have to reach a nut or bolt in a difficult location, nothing beats a good flex head ratchet. Unlike a traditional ratchet, the flex head allows the ratcheting mechanism to pivot “up and down,” giving you access to locations that a straight ratchet cannot get to.

When looking for the best flex head ratchet for the money, consider the drive size you most often use. A 3/8-inch drive is what most will want but 1/2-inch or 1/4-inch may be needed for heavy duty or more delicate applications.

For those REALLY hard to reach nuts or bolts where high torque isn’t necessary, you may also want to consider a finger ratchet.

Our 7 Favorite Flex Head Ratchets

 ProductDriveLengthTeethSwing ArcMade In
best-flex-head-ratchet-2GearWrench 81215P3/8"11.5"60Taiwan
professional-flex-head-ratchetWilliams S-52EHFA1/2"14.3"3610°USA
best-3-8-flex-head-ratchetStanley Proto J5257F3/8"10.6"72Italy
best-1-2-flex-head ratchetGearWrench 81306F1/2"17"84Taiwan
flex-handle-ratchet-setGearWrench 81230TSetvaries90Taiwan
flex-head-socket-wrenchTekton SRH231123/8"12"90Taiwan
cheap-flexible-head-ratchetCrescent CRW103/8"11.3"72Taiwan

Flex Head Ratchet Reviews

#1 – GearWrench 120XP (81215P) 3/8″ Drive Flex Head Ratchet

best-flex-head-ratchet-2Arguably the best flex head ratchet for the money, this 3/8″ drive from GearWrench is part of their top-selling 120XP lineup and for good reason.

At 11.5 inches long, it has a double stacked pawl design with 60 teeth per pawl, creating 120 positions on a three degree swing arc. This allows it to turn in tighter confines than most any other ratchet.

Its compact, enclosed flex head design prevents dirt from getting in. This, paired with the flush mounted, high visibility on/off markings ensure quick size identification.

This 3/8″ driver ratchet is also available in a 13.5″ cushion grip model, a 5″ stubby version, and the larger 1/2″ drive model that measures a full 17 inches for greater torque. All have the same full polish, 60-tooth heads for maximum quality.

This incredibly durable tool has good heft to it and some even compare it to Snap-On quality but at a much lower price. The markings are laser and stamp engraved for easier reading, while the gears are surprisingly quiet.

There are a few minor problems with this tool, mostly related to online sellers. Some sellers will refurbish the product, sometimes even sending the wrong item. To avoid this, only purchase from a reputable retailer. The flex hinge can also be a little difficult to change when in use, which is a small trade off for the overall functionality.

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#2 – J.H. Williams S-52EHFA 1/2″ Drive Flex Head Ratchet

professional-flex-head-ratchetWhile tool nuts likely already know this, the J.H. Williams Tool Group is actually a division of the high-end Snap-On brand. Like Snap-On, these high quality tools are made in the USA but at a lower price point than big brother, making them a great option when you need professional quality at a good price.

Forged as a single piece with an enclosed head to prevent contamination, this high-quality 1/2-inch drive comes with a highly polished chrome finish and smooth comfort grip.

Although the head only has a 36-tooth count to allow a 10 degree swing arc, the Williams flex head ratchet is buttery smooth and has excellent feel, fit, and finish. It’s designed to handle tighter tolerances between the pawl and gear for less slippage when under load for a longer life.

Measuring 14-1/4 inches long, this ratchet includes an easy access reverse lever for quick changes while working. This is one of those tools you can hand down to a child or grandchild when they are old enough to work on their own cars.

Probably the only negative is the lack of a quick release button. Instead, it simply has a ball detent that holds the socket in place so you simply pull it off. As with many tools, make sure you don’t accidentally receive a refurbished unit after ordering a new one.

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#3 – Stanley Proto J5257F 3/8″ Drive Flex Head Ratchet

best-3-8-flex-head-ratchet

Proto makes some of the best quality tools on the market and this flex head ratchet is a good example. While many Proto tools are made in the USA, this one in particular is manufactured in Italy to the same high standards.

This 3/8 inch drive ratchet provides a full 180 degree flex and 5 degree ratcheting arc from its 72-tooth pawl. This (and its small head) makes it super easy to work in tight spaces.

A polished shaft with knurled grip brings the overall length to right around 10.6 inches. Note that the stated 8.5 inches is actually just the handle length yet Proto’s specs don’t mention this.

As with the Williams model above, the Proto is an excellent substitute for Snap-On. It has excellent precision and high quality construction. There have been a couple reports of the set screw on the back of the head becoming loose but if this were to happen, a bit of Loctite would take care of it.

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#4 – GearWrench 81306F 1/2″ Drive Flex Head Ratchet

best-1-2-flex-head ratchet

Built with an amazing 84 tooth design, the GearWrench 81306F is designed for operation with as little as a 4 degree turning arc. For even better access to small spaces, the ratchet head is uncommonly thin but still capable of producing the torque required for even heavy duty automotive applications.

Built to exceed ANSI specifications, this 1/2-inch flexible head ratchet is at home in heavy industrial applications but also makes a fine addition to any garage tool kit.

With a total length of 17 inches, this ratchet will give you all the torque you need, and the flexible head can pivot as much as 90 degrees to get into tough spots.

A problem reported by a small number of users of the GearWrench ratchet is that the ratcheting teeth may have a tendency to strip over time, especially when the flex head is used in high torque applications.

GearWrench slim head
GearWrench slim head design

Like with ratcheting wrenches, it’s recommended to use either fixed end or breaker bar to break free a stubborn fastener.

Other than that, you will find that this tool lives up to the GearWrench reputation of professional quality tools at affordable prices.

It’s heavy enough to stand up to hard work and versatile enough to use in almost type of work condition. If you’re looking for quality and performance in a heavy-duty flex head ratchet, this is the one to add to your tool chest.

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#5 – GearWrench 81230T 4-Piece Flex Head Ratchet Set

flex-handle-ratchet-set

Yep, another GearWrench model (their ratchets really are some of the best in the biz). This time, you get a four-piece flex head ratchet set which includes three full-length ratchets in 1/4″ drive (7″ long), 3/8″ drive (11″ long), and 1/2″ drive (17″ long) sizes plus a 3/8″ drive (5″ long) stubby.

All ratchets include a 90-tooth precision engineered pawl for a 4-degree swing arc. The set includes highly visible, flush-mounted on/off markings and a teardrop-shaped, low profile head for superior access in tight spaces.

Much like the 120XP, this set is of excellent quality and is highly durable. The 180 degree head rotation and tight arc are perfect for working in tight spaces, and the longer lengths of the main ratchets allow them to get in deeper without as much disassembly.

There are very few complaints about this set, and the few that exist all report receiving refurbished tools. These included fingerprints, damaged chrome, or breakages. Always inspect upon arrival to ensure your tools are new. Also, while a storage tray is included for the set, it’s pretty flimsy so you’d be better off storing in your tool chest on top of a drawer liner.

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#6 – Tekton SRH23112 3/8″ Drive Flex Head Bent Handle Ratchet

flex-head-socket-wrenchWith a 3/8-inch drive, the Tekton SRH23112 is a great flexible head ratchet choice for light and medium duty applications. The head is capable of swiveling up to 180 degrees and can be used at 9 different angle settings.

Additionally, the 12-inch long bent handle has a 20 degree offset, so you can reach around obstacles that other ratchets cannot come close to.

The 90-tooth gear design means that the ratchet will operate with only a 4 degree turning arc, so you can use it in spaces that have very little room to work in. It will go places where a fixed ratchet from a typical socket set won’t.

As far as problems go, about the only thing you may encounter is a tendency for the vanadium chrome finish to wear through over time, but that is a process which will take years to happen, and the ratchet will still operate fine even after the metal begins to show through.

The quality is good but not as durable as the options above, especially when using higher torque. A couple users have noted that the reverse switch would get stuck and cause the ratchet to jam. But for the money, Tekton (like most of the tools they make) is one of the best values in the biz.

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#7 – Crescent CRW10 3/8″ Drive Flex Head Ratchet

cheap-flexible-head-ratchetMade of tough valadium alloy steel with a polished, chrome finish, this 3/8 inch drive model provides quick release convenience and full compatibility with Crescent’s surface drive technology.

At 11-1/4 inches long, the Crescent contains a 72-tooth pawl in its teardrop-shaped head for a tight 5 degree arc.

While the one-handed release is nice touch, it should be noted that the CRW10 is not as durable as the others in this list. Some users have stripped teeth on tougher projects, and the chrome finish has been known to peel.

That said, the tool is covered by a lifetime warranty and will last if you avoid too much torque and use infrequently. For a budget option, it’s a good value but worth stepping up to Tekton or GearWrench for a few dollars more.

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