How to Use a Ratchet Screwdriver

A green and black ratchet screwdriver on a white background.
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
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What You'll Need
Ratchet screwdriver
Bit set
What You'll Need
Ratchet screwdriver
Bit set

A ratchet screwdriver is one of the most useful tools you can have in your toolbox. With a good selection of bits, this one device can take the place of an entire screwdriver set and be even easier to use. It isn’t an expensive item either, and one that only takes a couple of minutes to master with the right advice.

Step 1 - Have a Wide Selection of Bits

It’s important to purchase a variety of bits that fit your ratchet screwdriver. You will need flathead types, Phillips head, and square drive bits to ensure you’ll be able to handle any screw you encounter, no matter what. Also, make sure you have a full range of sizes in all styles.

Step 2 - Insert a Bit

Most of your bits will be double-ended, with a different tip on each side. To insert one correctly, grasp it between your thumb and forefinger, and push it firmly into the hole on the blade of the screwdriver until secure. Most ratchet screwdrivers have a magnet holding the tip in place, but some others require you to twist until the driver end is tight around the bit.

Step 3 - Change Your Bit

assortment of bits

To remove a bit from the screwdriver, grab it with your thumb and forefinger and pull sharply. In most cases, it will come right out. When it doesn’t, the usual cause is sweat on your skin causing your fingertips to lose their grip on the metal. Wipe your fingers and the bit with a dry cloth and try again. Then, once it's free, you can choose another to replace it.

Step 4 - Push the Ratchet Tab Down

The beauty of the ratchet screwdriver is the ratchet itself. It means you don’t constantly have to stop and adjust your wrist position as you put a screw into a surface; the handle itself turns instead. Without that extra step, the process is much faster and smoother with less wear on your wrists.

Hold the screw in position and put the tip of the bit into the screw head, making sure you have the correct size. There are three positions for the ratchet tab. To drive in a screw, push the tab down all the way, toward the blade, and start to turn. When your wrist has turned as far as it will go, twist the driver toward you. Only the handle will move back, not the blade. Continue driving the screw all the way home without expending the extra effort.

Step 5 - Pull the Tab up for Removal

To remove a screw, insert your bit into the head just like before, but this time, pull the ratchet driver's tab toward you, moving it all the way. Then, turn the handle counter clockwise. Keep going, utilizing the ratchet motion, until the screw is all the way out.

Step 6 - Use the Middle Setting for a Traditional Driver

using a screwdriver on a screen

As mentioned previously, there are actually three tab settings on this tool, so you're likely wondering by this time what the third does. The middle setting will keep the blade fixed so the device performs like a regular screwdriver. Once you’re used to the way a ratchet screwdriver operates and how easy it is to use, you might never use this setting, but it is still important to know about.

Ratchet Screwdriver FAQ

How does a ratchet screwdriver work?

A ratchet is used to apply torque in only one direction. That's why there are both ratchets and reversible ratchets, which apply torque in the opposite direction from standard ratchets.

Ratchets are used to tighten or loosen various types of fasteners, such as screws.

Why use a ratcheting screwdriver?

Ratcheting screwdrivers put force on fasteners in one direction, while the opposite direction can turn easily without undoing any of your work. This means you don't have to remove the tool to twist out or twist in a fastener, which saves you a lot of effort and muscle power.

Ratchet screwdrivers do what they are meant to do in that they make work a lot easier for you, but this is not necessarily a tool you must have because there are other tools that do the same thing that take a little more work to use.

How do you remove a bit from a ratchet screwdriver?

To remove the bit from a ratchet screwdriver, slide back the collar toward the handle to release the bit. If the collar does not slide or the bit won't move, try adding a little oil and try again.

How do you put a socket on a ratchet screwdriver?

Ratchets often have corresponding socket sets, so you can add sockets of multiple sizes when needed. These suckets twist easily into place because they are often held securely with magnets.

What are the three most common ratcheting wrenches?

The three ratchet sizes that are most commonly sold are the 1/4 inch, 3/8 inch, and 1/2 inch sizes.