Ratchet straps, sometimes called tie down straps, are used to secure atvs, utvs, side-by-sides, motorcycles, boats, lawn mowers, and other heavy loads to the bed of a trucks, a pull-behind trailer, or semi-trailer.
Regardless of what you are hauling, you will want something that keeps constant tension, so your load stays secure. Ratchet straps are the most popular straps to use and they come in two parts — 1) the shorter ratchet side webbing with attached ratchet and 2) the longer webbing that goes into the ratchet for the overall length.
The ratchet side will have a hook that allows the tie down strap to attach to the area surrounding the cargo or equipment. Then you loop over the UTV, motorcycle or other load to attach to the side of your trailer or cargo bed. The webbing side of the ratchet strap comes in various lengths and has a hook or some type of connector to secure the other side of your load.
A two-piece tie down strap is a single assembly that is constructed out of two separate pieces of webbing each with their own hardware that is fastened at one end to the area surrounding the equipment to be protected and connected to each other, typically at the fastener.
Some ratchet straps have soft ties next to the hook or attachment point. These soft ties are a single piece of webbing that can be looped around the handle bars, forks, side of a trailer or solid connection point, either because the hook won’t fit at your tie down point or you don’t want a metal-on-metal connection.
There are also places you don’t want to have a metal hook that might scratch the tank or fender of a motorcycle or UTV. You loop the soft tie around the part you know can support tightening the ratchet strap, then you run the hook through the soft tie. Once you have the hook into the soft tie you can start tightening your ratchet.
A ratchet strap with a soft tie on the side next to the ratchet can also come in handy if your trailer doesn’t have a D ring or easy tie down point where you need it the soft tie can be looped around a corner post of bottom of a trailer.
The ratchet strap tie down webbing can come in Polyester, Nylon, or Polypropylene and are available in single ply and double ply strengths. Webbing is made in different size widths from 1 to 4 inches and made in a wide range of breaking strengths, from 200 lbs to over 10,000 lbs for most users.
The Department of Transportation has a rule that you take the actual breaking strength of your ratchet strap and divide that number by 3 to get the Working Load Limit of a strap. This gives the user a safety factor so they know how much a ratchet strap can support.
The working load limit is also called the WLL and is typically on a tag sewn into the ratchet strap. On the larger ratchet straps, it is sometimes written right on the webbing every few feet. In Canada, the ratchet must also have the working load limit stamped on one side of the ratchet.
Ratchet Straps can also have a variety of different connectors on the end of each side. You might have J hooks, S hooks with or without a retention clip or E-track connectors.
Some ratchet strap versions have different hooks on each side depending on the application. An example is having E-track connector on one side to connect directly to a trailer wall or floor and an S hook with a soft tie to connect directly to a motorcycle.
Over time a ratchet may become harder to open or release when using. Many people keep them in the back of a truck where the elements will cause them to rust. Spraying a lubricant such as Teflon spray and working the handle open and closed will increase the life of your ratchet strap.
If possible, store your ratchet straps in a dry place and they will last for years. However, if the webbing becomes frayed or cut it is best to replace the webbing immediately.