Earlier this week we posted about Milwaukee’s new M12 Fuel Extended Reach cordless ratchets.
Jared asked a great question, about whether the ratchets can be used manually.
Just curious, after tightening under power, can you finish manually so you can feel the torque you are applying? If so, is it safe to exceed the 55ft/lbs the tool is capable of applying? Just curious whether that would damage the tool -especially with these extended models where it would presumably be easier to apply more torque with your hands.
I thought it might be alright, but wanted to double-check with Milwaukee just to be sure.
I asked Milwaukee Tool whether their cordless ratchets can be used manually (unpowered) for final tightening or initial loosening without concerns about damage to the gearing or internal components
Here’s what they said:
We understand people do this but it is not recommended with these products.
So, although you could use the ratchets manually, it’s not recommended. I would think that final tightening is less stressful on internal components than breaking stuck fasteners free, but I suppose that depends on the circumstances.
If a cordless ratchet can’t break a fastener free, use a breaker bar, which mirrors how you’d use traditional hand tools. Or, if the fastener’s in a more accessible space, you could use an impact wrench. And if you need more torque than the ratchet can provide, then use… maybe a larger-sized tool or a torque wrench?
For those of you that use cordless ratchets regularly, do you use any other tools for your final tightening, or do you turn the unpowered ratchet by hand?
Buy Now(Milwaukee M12 Fuel Ratchets via Tool Nut)
Update (1/28/21) – Regarding the New M12 Fuel High Speed Ratchet
Milwaukee recently announced new M12 Fuel high speed ratchets, which are said to be the fastest and most compact tools of their kind in the industry.
Milwaukee says this about the new ratchets:
The new ratchets can also be used manually without engaging the motor, allowing users to break loose and snug tight fasteners that require more torque.
But… when answering the question for this post, Milwaukee had recommended against such practices.
I asked for confirmation – “Why is manual tightening/loosening okay for these ratchets, but recommended against for the extended length and other ratchets?”
Our other ratchets are capable of manual tightening and loosening as well.
I asked for clarification once more, and this is what they said:
We don’t recommend putting a lot of weight on them, but they can be used to break loose and snug tight fasteners.
So, there you have it.
Milwaukee’s cordless ratchets can be used manually.
You might want to take it easy with the extended length ratchets in particular, and definitely don’t use a cheater bar. But if you need to use them manually for final tightening or breaking fasteners loose, you can, or at least it’s not frowned upon (too much?).
New Milwaukee M12 Fuel High Speed Ratchets are Fastest & Most Compact
Buy Now: 1/4″ Kit via Acme Tools
Buy Now: 1/4″ Kit via Ohio Power Tool
Buy Now: 3/8″ Kit via Acme Tools
Buy Now: 3/8″ Kit via Ohio Power Tool
It’s odd — they advertise this feature with their M12 drill/drivers, but not with the ratchets?
Well, technically you wouldn’t be twisting your wrist with the drill to tighten a screw down further than the drill can on its own. I know I’ve done it, I know other people do it. But it’s not quite the intended use of a drill driver. Most companies don’t advertise cordless drill drivers as wing used by hand.
The 1/4″ drill/drivers have a Sprague clutch behind the adjustable clutch ring. This allows you to turn the driver when it’s not powered because the balls lock out the clutch/chuck assembly from the gear drive that’s powered by the motor. The ratchets don’t have this structure as it’s too bulky, so any input from the socket side of the tool would be borne by the gear drive mechanism instead of being locked out to the tool body. I know the ratchet has pawls that perform the same function, so I’m guessing it would have to be due to either the metal/plastic interface, or handle battery interface. Unlike a hand drill, there isn’t as much meat for tool structure in a slender item like this.
I would venture the weak area is the plastic handle, especially the screw pillars holding it together. If using it to tighten/loosen manually, it would be natural to pull hard on the battery end to gain leverage. With predictable consequences.
This is just another in a long line of cases where Milwaukee’s marketing department goes too far and their Engineers are left explaining for it.
Milwaukee does this all the time and rarely gets called out. No one should make a tool with a 1/2” drive that’s limited to 60 ft-lbs. I believe the ANSI rating for 3/8” drive is over 180 ft-lbs.
This doesn’t make any sense.
The pawls are engaged and there’s no torque being transmitted to the motor so it should be just as rugged as any regular ratchet with that sized head.
Now it IS possible that the plastic portion of the tool is not up to high load.
Pretty sure the handle would be the problem, not the head.
Well the main issue is that the most likely spot to apply pressure is the end of the tool- which is a removable battery portion. Which does NOT like to be pushed on.
Pete, that’s my biggest problem with air ratchets. no matter how many times I use them, I always find myself working my hand down the ratchet closer to the air fitting for more torque. It’s obviously not good for the air fitting to be using it like a cheater pipe?
I was quite disappointed to see that the metal didn’t extend further into the plastic handle during AVE’s teardown of one of these.
Use normal length 3/8 fuel ratchet everyday and if motor is half way through its revolution then it will rotate to a point. It gives the impression that the ratchet is slipping but after that works correctly
AvE just recently tore one of these down and says that is his plan to use it just as described: running in power for initial high-speed driving, then tightening by hand. His impressions were pretty positive, especially of the head and ratchet mechanism. I don’t think any long term damage will come to the operating end by using it like this, but commenters said that the one issue they’ve had with durability in such regard is that the plastic casing flexes and loosens up due to the constant stress: that’s a lot of torque to apply to a hollow plastic casing. Choke up on it and you should be fine, if you need more torque grab the proper tool or plan to replace the ratchet after a couple years.
I think it’s also recommended against because there’s no telling what different users might try to do. Some users might try to whack it with a dead blow mallet, or use a cheaper bar.
It should be able to handle some manual use, but it probably isn’t a good idea to take things too far. I was focused on the internal components and didn’t even think about the stress that unpowered use might exert on the plastic housing or other components.
I feel like I’ve read that the ratchet is capable of 100 or so foot pounds of torque manually.
Seems like it shouldn’t be called a “ratchet”, then. It’s more like a 90 degree cordless driver with square drive.
That would be a mouthful for marketing purposes though.
Bosch could come up with a name.
Milwaukee has more names than Bosch. Bosch’s may be a bit more unorthodox, but Milwaukee is still the king of naming every other product they produce.
Wouldn’t any time savings by using a cordless ratchet be lost when you have to switch to a regular ratchet for final tightening?
Consider how impact wrenches can be paired with torque wrenches.
Depends on the bolt. I have an m12 fuel ratchet that I use a lot for engine work. It REALLY saves time on fasteners that are really tucked away deep–you know the kind that would otherwise take 5-10 minutes to loosen 1 or 2 clicks at a time with a traditional ratchet?
You aren’t thinking holistically about all the reasons why a cordless is superior.
They’re fantastic at zipping off fasteners, faster than any hand ratchet could do. They’re fantastic at “point and shoot” in tight areas where you normally wouldn’t be able to really swing or get leverage on a traditional ratchet. Your arms are less likely to be dead at the end of the day. Etc.
So, according to Milwaukee’s official statement these are pretty much useless then. A 1/2” drive tool limited to 60 ft-lbs has no place, really.
Not really. cause they can still save time since you don’t have to spend 5 minutes either threading the fastener in my hand or with a ratchet.
The 1/2” in my statement is the key. The 3/8” version is good for 55 ft-lbs, more than enough to thread fasteners. The 1/2” model only gets you an extra 5 ft-lbs, so why does the 1/2” exist?
They are excellent tools, hands down the best 12v tool on the market for mechanics.
You can undo bolts with them and then spin them off.
Final tightening is done by hand after the electronic clutch turns the motor off and because its by hand you have control over the fastener and feel for what torque is being applied.
Because not everyone wants to have a set of 3/8” sockets?
Talking to two friends who have the 1/2, they aren’t big fans. They both said they feel gutless, and that they wish they had just bought the 3/8″ instead.
I agree, if the purpose for this is right places and it’s limited to 60 ft-lbs then you really shouldn’t be using it for 1/2” drive bolts. Ratchets should be 3/8” sockets that are not heavily torqued. Anything that require 1/2” drive is impact/breaker bar territory
I was wondering the same thing. I have the Husky brand one and it allows up to 150lb torque manually.
I suspect like lots of CYA for warranty. WE don’t recommend ________
you break the tool doing __________ 3 times a day every day for 4 months.
Typically with Air ratchets you have something with an AL body for the airmotor anyway. Newer air ratchets with plastic bodies still have a metal shaft .
So I could see where this might have some issues with the bottom of the handle flexing or the plastic around the battery latch distoring.
Sort of wonder if the MAC and IR versions say similar. I suspect they are used exactly like air ratchets. Which reminds me I know a few people with the milwaukee I should see if they had issues.
Pretty sure the manual says you can, but the key is to not have the lever on which the manual also says. Having the lever on with the motor trying to work and manually helping it is a sure fire way to break the tool.
…Wouldn’t it be easier to settle this if they just made them capable of higher torque values? Then you don’t need to finish off anything manually… the tool would naturally do it for you first-go.
Honest confession: Until I saw how low the torque value was, I actually said to myself “Hey, I could actually see myself using one of these, despite being a DeWALT guy… I’d consider buying Milwaukee for once…”
Sadly… That was kinda ruined for me… Had my heart kinda fluttering and everything.
most air ratchets are also fairly low running torque. Reasoning is more to do with size than anything else.
same would apply here. The idea of most was to help you run in or out long bolts and do a final tighten at the end manually or with another tool.
Example Alternator bracket bolts on an GM LS motor run about 4 inches or so – threaded for 2 inches. yes you can take them out by hand – but while you’rs still doing than 10 minutes later one of these would have you on the next step already.
high tooth count ratchets do make the need for a power ratchet a bit less – but they still help alot. if I did car repair professionally I’d have 2 of these or some version of them. Probably the IR ones.
I have the older 3/8 drive model that I use when working on my Toyotas I have never had any problems with this tool. It’s nice to have and use…
Have the same 3/8 model. It works fantastic- seems like those complaining don’t own the tool.
When you do use it frequently it ends up being a necessity- Like, I can’t live without one now.
Dead serious… If it had a higher torque value, I’d get one. I have zero other complaints, as I don’t belong to the group that wants to manually torque this tool. I’m a DeWALT guy, but if I could replace my socket drivers with a set of these? I’d go team Red for that alone. I don’t use sockets in tight spaces anyways, so it doesn’t bother me otherwise. I’d still want the DeWALT Impact Wrench, sure… but for just… a Socket Turning Tool? It’s a Power-Ratchet… It would save tons of time!
Though, if this is such a common thing, for the torque rating to be so low… I may only want the DeWALT Impact Wrench or Impact Driver and save the expense. But, I’m not the typical audience for these.
I agree bought non fuel version first for bolts that were hard to get a ratchet or wrench on and turn ( taking fan off a air actuated fan clutch on diesel ) but use on everything now
Same here. I do final tightening with it provided it doesn’t need to be tighter than an oil drain plug. If I need to put more torque on it I’ll get a wrench. If it breaks under those circumstances, I’ll suck it up and get a new one every 7 years (or however long it’s been since they first came out). If I was using it in a professional environment and it was breaking every 6 months I might feel differently.
To all the people saying “if you can’t torque it down, it’s worthless:” I’d argue the real purpose of these is for loosening/tightening bolts in horrifyingly tight spaces. For example, trying to replace an alternator in a modern-day vehicle’s every-square-inch-has-something-in-it engine bay. I gladly forked over ~$200 for one of these to save myself 2 hours of moving the ratchet 1 degree at a time for such a job on a Rav4. No big deal to drop a torque wrench down in there for the final, precise tightening, in comparison.
On a rav 4 haha. I just did one of those and the bolt underneath you can’t even see. I had to go underneath the car and behind the the guard line and I was oh yeah!!!!!!! With my hand tool ratchet. But Im in the fence about this tool. The snap on has only 45ftlbs of torque but has 150ftlbs of manual torque and has a small button in the middle to activate it. Mikwaukee has 40-55ftlbs of torque and has a lever to activate the tool which comes in handy. But not being designed to manual torque is annoying. If the snap on can, does thi mean the milwaukee can or are they designed different. If anything the milwaukee head is bigger and the neck is thicker does this mean if can manually torque like
I have had the 3/8 brushed ratchet since it was released and have done this with it when needed since I bought it with no apparent detriment to the tool as it still works perfectly.
I will add that my uses are relatively light duty but frequent use. (Installing split aircons) ie; where sometimes the mounting bolts for the brackets don’t quite pull up, I use it manually to cinch them up etc.
I would suggest that Milwaukee have said this to avoid liability in situations where some gorilla has been swinging off it trying to undo a bolt. or nut that this tool was never designed for.
Indeed the manual for Makita’s new CXT ratchet states that it can be used as a manual tool, with a proviso.
Using as hand tool You can use the tool as a hand ratchet wrench by turning the tool in the direction arrows as illustrated. In particular when loosening a stiff bolt/nut, loosen it by hand first then turn the tool on.
NOTICE: Excessive fastening torque may damage the bolt/nut, the socket or the tool.
So a degree of common sense comes into it.
I left a paragraph out,
I just sold the Milwaukee ratchet to a co worker and bought the new Makita CXT ratchet as I have swapped over to Makita for 12v tools@
Why would anyone want to use a cordless ratchet or an air ratchet for that purpose? That’s not what the tool was intended to do. It’s purpose is for nothing other than a thread running and that’s it. That’s what normal ratchets & torque wrenches are for. I’m sure Milwaukee said it’s not recommended because as soon as you lay into it or use a cheater bar or a hammer, the damn plastic is gonna snap like a twig. I thought Milwaukee would have at least made this thing out aluminum considering that the damn thing costs $350. That’s pretty steep for a plastic ratchet that only has 55 ft/lbs of torque.
…You’re making a lot of sense to me again… When this happens I tend to start regretting what I’ve said in the thread…
Seriously? It’s that much? Damn… At that price, why ISN’T it able to go at a higher torque rate, to save the switch to a torque bar at the end?
…I regret my daliance with going Team Red for these things… That is an awful lot of money.
Umm, I bought mine for $170, battery included from home Depot…
I broke the head on my brushed model changing my water pump. Milwaukee sent me a new one and now I only use it for running clean threads with no torque required. Hopefully the fuel model is stronger
Seems to me there is a potential perfect product here. An electric ratchet that is strong enough to be used manually for final tightening and with built in strain gauges that will announce at preset torques.
I’ve used the non fuel versions for years. While I have tightened or loosened bolts/nuts down for years using it as a hand ratchet. It’s not very ergonomic to do so. I will often switch to my non powered ratchet for final tightening or loosening.
This is why having two sets of metric 3/8 sockets or whatever comes in handy.
I have a 3/8” M12 Fuel ratchet and I love it. I use it all the time. I do use it to both break free and to tighten fasteners past the tools electric drive torque limit and have had no problems.
However, I remain aware that I am using a 3/8” ratchet and plastic body. I choke up on the took to me sure I am on pulling on the section that is backed up by the metal body and I limit my torque to somewhere around 80ft-lb (estimated).
First off, I don’t own this tool, but I was thinking about the 1/2″ drive version.
I DO own 2 pneumatic ones, and I use them manually to both loosen stubborn fasteners and to put the final torque on things that I want to tighten by “feel”, or tighten past the limits of the tool when used pneumatically. I do this way more than half of the time.
In the real world, there’s rusty fasteners galore to be disassembled, over-tightened stuff to be removed, and things that need tightened by feel or past the tool’s limit.
I guess I figured that the plastic handle wrapped around a full-length steel spine or tube until out at the end where the battery attaches, but from what I’m reading here, that might not be the case.
1)Plastic– 2)not recc’d to “pull” on the tool and use manually—
A big PASS on this tool for me; I”m no longer interested whatsoever.
Had a couple of the 3/8” non fuel ratchets at work in a tractor trailer shop for over a year. Used these just like a real ratchet breaking loose and tightening things past its capability. I only used the grip and never pulled on the battery. You could feel a little flex in the tool, but it never caused a problem and I ended up getting one for home too.
Just posting to say I thoroughly enjoyed getting the official answer – as well as all the debate that ensued. Thanks!
I’ve had the fuel 3/8 ratchet for close to two years now and I do heavy equipment repair, big stuff, 349 cats and up with my company and this thing hasn’t quit yet. And yeah I’ve pulled the battery out a few times grabbing it for that little bit of extra leverage. If your not careful when the battery pulls out you can wind up on your back side or off the excavators counterweight. We’re though on stuff and ALL my cordless stuff is Milwaukee M12 and M18. I traded in my Snap Ons for other tools. Snap On cordless couldn’t compete with Milwaukee, even my dealer won’t knock the Milwaukee.
That the quandary I’m in do I buy the manual torquing snap on one or buy the milwaukee one. I’ve used the milwaukee Short neck one and the snap on long neck one. You have used both and when you used the milwaukee, how bad was the flex and how long long term do you think you could do that for and do you think it could do 150 ft lb manually like snap on and as you said it’s better than snap on do you think it could manually torque more.
Love the m12 ratchet. I have the 3/8 kobalt ratchet also and it is long. I have used it to break and torque. But it flexes a lot. So use common sense technique and hope for the best on all. Love the kobalt also they both have their own uses. But can’t live without them.
Like the person asking, it doesn’t matter so much if it can be done or not per design intent. The question is has someone been doing it without a failure. The answer to that is YES. I work on heavy duty trucks all day, every day during the week. I abuse my milwaukee tools everyday and so far they hold up to it. The last three years I have been using the 1/2″ and 3/8″ drive milwaukee fuel ratchets to manually loosen hardware and manually to tighten fasteners past the tools electric capability.
Would you trust it with as much torque as a regular length ratchet?
That’s the crux of the question for me. I don’t want to guess about when I’m damaging the tool. If you can treat it just like a normal ratchet, I’m happy.
It can certainly be done – the cheap Husky advertises like 200ft/lbs of manual torque. More than I’m capable of without standing on it, beating it with a hammer or using a pipe. I.e. I’d feel confident that if I was damaging it, I’d know it.
I didn’t trust them at first I just did it and it worked and keep doing it. Some of my co-workers do the same and I am sure there’s a lot of auto/diesel techs out there doing the same with their Milwuakee brand ratchets. So far no warranty claims made, still orginal parts in ratchets. I save time by using the Milwuakee fuel ratchets to break fasteners loose, one tool. For me if its a fastener at 200 ftlbs tight, loosing this fastener I am not using a ratchet as the tool of choice. That would call for an impact gun style tool. My fuel ractchets are used mainly on 1/2″ diameter hardware or less size. Using them in this manner saves me time and less tools to switch to for one fastener. Already have two tools out for fasteners would rather not make it three. (ie; Milwaukee Fuel Ratchet and other brand torque wrench for torquing the fasteners on reassembly. ) If you do this work for a living using the electric tool like I described is very common. If you have the time to do any mechanical tasks not “on the clock” (example at home repairs) I can see being careful of your electric tools and taking time to use a couple more tools to complete the task. Just providing an industry perspective of how I use these tools and others around me.
I’m primarily carpenter/handiman and I have the non fuel 3/8″
I bought it cheap a couple years ago and have used it twice. Loved it both times. It stays in my kit because it’s compact enough to carry and when you need it nothing else will do.
Sounds like a good old fashioned definite-maybe, to me.
I own both the non-fuel 1/4 and 3/8, haven’t broken them yet (when tightening ‘by hand’), but there’s still time….
I have the M12 3/8 ratchet. I frequently use it manually to break bolts loose and then use it electronically to spin them out. I have had no issues. It is a good, well made tool.
Really? I do it all the time with no issues but I don’t force it, just snug up nuts and bolts then switch to a torque wrench. My Snap-on 14.4v ratchets (both short and long reach) you can tighten nuts and bolts manually.
Snap on says you do up to 159ft lbs manually I believe… Snap on makes the best cordless ratchets still, much better then Milwaukee
Everybody’s uses are different, but the Milwaukee ratchets are useless/worthless to me (and I bleed Milwaukee red) if I can’t “yank” on them for both tightening and loosening.
That fact that some people do means little because its obvious that Milwaukee is going to deny a clam where the handle or ratchet is broken.
I’ve not said this about Milwaukee often–maybe never– but plastic JUNK is plastic JUNK. Put some (metal) meat in it’s spine plus a high-torque ratchet and I’m all in.
Shame on Milwaukee for building something I’d expect from Riobi or Skill or B&D. If I have to pick and choose and research which Milwaukee stuff is top-notch, then I’m going elsewhere in the future.
I know this is an older thread but these are fantastic. Just picked up the high speed one and sold the fuel short one will do so when high speed extended comes out. Despite what these look like they are not impact. They do make an m12 right angle impact but this tool is just amazing. While the new ones have 20 less ft/lbs the doubling of removing speed is phenomenal.
Reading the comments I’m not sure what people are thinking this is. It’s not a 200ft lb torquing tool it’s basically a compact right angle drill that allows manual torquing. This is beyond sturdy. If you aren’t an idiot you get a feel of this tool and know when you are pushing it too hard. Basically if you need your full body weight to loosen something you shouldn’t be using anything but a breaker bar. These guys have saved me hours around the house and under the hood. I’ve yet to find where I couldn’t break loose a nut or screw with a small push. This isn’t meant for lug nuts but I tell you what. Where this thing has saved me is small nuts and pressure tubing where you need flare wrenches anyway. I take this and a crows foot flare wrench and holy crap. Now if Milwaukee could make a ratchet that has an opening like a crows foot wrench but then collapses around so no slippage or stripping happens I would buy that in a heart beat.
Get this tool get some smaller torque wrenches and you have perfect combo
Fun trick. Use some electric tape and cover the pins in the anvil. Then when in a tight space you can easily leave nut on then bring in torque wrench with pins open to do final tightening and bring bit back. Can’t say enough.
Also just YouTube torque wrenches. You can buy cheaper ones and keep them calibrated yourself or buy ac delco digital