How to Release a Ratchet Strap

How to Release a Ratchet Strap

Written by Cameron Repic
March 27, 2023

Put the scissors down, it's not time to cut that strap just yet.

Although useful, tie down straps or ratchet straps can be a pain to use. When the ratcheting mechanism gets jammed, you might find yourself scratching your head wondering if there's any possible way to take it apart again.

Keep reading, and we'll show you step by step how to loosen ratchet straps.

1. The Ratchet isn't Fully Disengaged

We see this problem the most, the ratchet is either closed or partially closed.

Opening a Ratchet Strap

In order to release the strap from the ratchet, you must first make sure you have squeezed the manual pawl (seen below). This will lift the manual pawl and allow you to flatten the ratchet. Now, before you let go of the manual pawl, lift the main handle upwards. Keep lifting until the ratchet mechanism is as flat as you can possibly make it.

  1. Start Squeezing the Manual Pawl
  2. Pull the Handle Completely Flat
  3. Remove all of the Loose Strap

Now that it's flat, you may hear and feel the strap release. The only thing left for you to do is to pull the loosened strap out of the ratchet. If this didn't solve the problem, try following the next steps until your ratchet works again.

2. The Ratchet is Damaged or Rusty

Leaving your straps in the bed of your truck or trailer can quickly lead to rust buildup, when a worn-down ratchet rusts it may cause the pawls to stick, essentially making it harder to tighten or loosen the ratchet strap.

Rusty Ratchet Strap

There are two ways you can solve this problem. Firstly, the trick that solves just about any rust-related problem. Try spraying some WD-40 on the pawls. Then wiggle the handle while squeezing the manual pawl to try and break the ratchet lose, keep spraying WD-40 as needed. This may take some time to finally get your ratchet working correctly again, but if it's important cargo you need to release, you'll find it's time well spent.

  1. Spray WD-40 on the Ratchet
  2. Wriggle Until it Comes Loose
  3. If Still Stuck, Order a new Ratchet Strap

If your Ratchet Mechanism still won't budge and you can't fix it, you may want to consider ordering a new set of Ratchet Straps. If this is the case, check out our collection of heavy duty straps by clicking here. If you've already owned Rhino straps, give us a call and we'll ship you a new set with your Lifetime Warranty.

3. Your Ratchets Spool is Overloaded

This is another very common, and easy to fix problem we often hear about. You'll likely run into this problem if you didn't remove the slack before tightening your down your cargo or motorcycle. If you're someone who doesn't want to worry about this issue, we highly recommend using a retractable ratchet strap.

Overloaded Ratchet Strap

Removing the slack prevents the spool from building up to big, if you tie-down your equipment right, you'll notice you have lot's of extra strap leftover. This is totally normal! You want to keep little strap actually wrapping around the spool, this way the pawls can function like they were meant to. As a matter of fact, an overloaded spool can be very dangerous, this makes it harder to tighten, lock, and will likely push on the automatic pawl.

  1. Disengage the Ratchet Mechanism
  2. Pull Hard on Unhooked Strap until Lose

Fixing this takes a bit of strength, as you're going to need to follow our first step of disengaging your ratchet mechanism. Then you're going to have to pull on the unhooked strap as hard as you possibly can to in order to get the strap to finally unwind from the spool.

Featured Product: Rhino USA Heavy Duty Tie Down Ratchet Straps

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If you have attempted all of the above steps and your ratchet still won't work, it may finally be time to get the scissors out. Be sure that the equipment you have tied down is safely secured before you cut the strap. 

For the easiest ratchet straps on the market, make sure to check out our retractable ratchet straps at Lowe's!

You should know that all of our products come with an unlimited Lifetime Warranty. So if you're having trouble with one of our Ratchet Straps please do not hesitate to reach out to our support team found here. They will ensure you get a new Ratchet Strap sent out to replace the one that caused this frustration.

RHino USA store


What to look for when buying ratchet straps?

When looking to buy a ratchet strap there are several things to look out for to ensure you are buying the strongest and highest quality on the market. 

Here are some things to look for:

  1. Load capacity: Ratchet straps come in different load capacities, so it's important to choose one that can handle the weight of your cargo. Make sure to check the load capacity before buying.

  2. Length and width: Ratchet straps come in different lengths and widths, so make sure to choose a size that is appropriate for your cargo and the tie-down points on your vehicle.

  3. Material: Ratchet straps can be made from different materials such as nylon, polyester, or polypropylene. Nylon and polyester straps are generally more durable and resistant to weathering than polypropylene straps.

  4. Ratchet mechanism: Look for ratchet straps with a high-quality ratchet mechanism that is easy to use and can hold the load securely in place. A double J-hook ratchet mechanism is a popular choice for many applications.

  5. End fittings: Make sure the end fittings, such as hooks or loops, are appropriate for your tie-down points and are made from durable materials.

  6. Certification: Check if the ratchet straps are certified to meet industry standards such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) or Web Sling and Tie-Down Association (WSTDA) standards.

By considering these factors, you can find ratchet straps that are strong, durable, and safe to use for your cargo, vehicles, and more.

How to untangle a ratchet strap?

Untangling a ratchet strap can be frustrating, but there are a few steps you can take to make it easier:

  1. Find a clear and open space: It's best to work in an open space where you have enough room to move around the strap and can see what you're doing.

  2. Lay out the strap: Lay the strap on a flat surface, ensuring that there are no twists or knots in it.

  3. Identify the tangle: Look for where the strap is tangled or twisted. You may need to pull the strap to straighten it out a bit and make it easier to see.

  4. Loosen the ratchet: Release the tension on the ratchet by pulling the release lever or button. This will make it easier to move the strap.

  5. Work on the tangle: Starting at the point where the strap is tangled, gently pull and manipulate the strap to loosen the knot. You may need to use a small tool like a pair of pliers to help you work the strap loose.

  6. Re-tighten the ratchet: Once the knot is loosened, re-tighten the ratchet to ensure the strap is secure.

  7. Repeat if necessary: If the strap is still tangled, repeat steps 4 to 6 until the knot is completely undone.

With these steps, you should be able to untangle your ratchet strap without too much trouble.