Back in December we reviewed Proto's J150WP Air Impact Wrench and were throughly impressed with what it brought to the table. We also told you to expect more on Proto's new Air Tool line as it expanded. Well, today I'm happy to report we have one of the new 3/8″ Air Ratchets in hand and ready for review.
The Scoop On Air Ratchets:
There's no question that air ratchets are a time and work saver. It's a whole lot easier to depress a paddle switch than it is to jerk a ratchet back a forth 30 times to remove a fastener, especially in a tight spot where you're only getting 2 or 3 clicks at a time. If you're a Flat Rate Tech in a repair shop then your time is literally money and anything that saves you time, in turn makes you money. They do have their limitations though. They are bulkier, require an air hose, etc., but when practical, they are just the ticket. To be honest, I never really got into air ratchets too much. The biggest reason for this was that the directional switch is usually sticks out the sides of the base of the head, so in a tight spot in an engine bay where the air rat really shined, I found myself constantly bumping it into the opposite direction inadvertently. The second reason was that I somewhat regularly had sockets coming off. This may have been due to the fact that the ones I had were cheap models, but it was aggravating nonetheless. So much so that I actually gave them to my neighbor. To a Pro Mechanic it might be a reward worth the hassle, but for a for pleasure wrenched like me, they just weren't worth the aggravation.
The Proto Solution:
If you've read my reviews or hang out on the forums, you are aware that I'm pretty much a Proto Junkie. If you look through my box probably 70% of my hand tools are Proto. I've been using them for as long as I can remember. From adjusting the seat on my BMX bike back in the day, to changing the brake pads on my first car, to the light kit I put on my tractor last week, and virtually every job in between, Proto has been a part of it and they've never let me down, so when Proto came with a potential solution to my air ratchet frustrations, I was eager to get my hands on it.
Feel & Performance:
Right out of the box there were a few key features that jumped out at me. The first thing I noticed was the absence of the typical directional switch on the head of the ratchet. Instead, the Proto utilizes a collar positioned toward the middle of the ratchet. This design not only eliminates inadvertent directional changes, but it gives the tool a sleeker feel as well. Another feature that popped out at me was the trigger. Most air tools utilize a paddle switch with a safety lock to keep the tool from accidentally being engaged. This is great for it's purpose, but it makes any type of finesse hard to pull off and variable speed operation almost impossible. The other thing I noticed was the quick release feature. It really needs no explanation. Is this the only ratchet on the market with it? no, but it's the first one I've had with it. It also features a clevis that can be applied or removed at the users election making it tether-able.
The ratchet feels nice in your hand. At just a hair over a foot long, the titanium frame keeps the tool at a comfortable 2.9 lbs. If you don't have a big shop compressor you'll be delighted to know that with an average air consumption of 3.7 cfm, you don't need one. You won't properly power it with a pancake compressor or something, but you don't need a 60 gallon either. With a peak torque of 65 ft. lbs. and speed of 350 rpm, it ranks among the top tier 3/8″ models in terms of power and speed. This thing oozes user friendliness. The checkered rubber grip is lightyears ahead of traditional bare handled models in terms of comfort and control, which you'll appreciate more on a cold morning. The ratchet is slightly front heavy. When you first pick it up it feels somewhat awkward as balance is usually a key component of a design, but as soon as you hook it up to the air line you quickly find that it balances out very nicely. The ratchet has a remarkably long reach. You get a full 8″ of clearance between your hand and the attached socket. Combined with the low profile head design and you find yourself getting into places you can't normally get with an air ratchet. The sealed head with oil ports makes the tool low maintanance and easily lubricated. Other features such as the 360 degree rotating exhaust and feather touch trigger make the ratchet a real pleasure to work with.
The real stand out feature with the tool is the feather touch trigger. Unlike many air ratchets, this one allows the user to engage the tool comfortably with as little as one finger and provides true variable speed operation. Whether you're choking up on it or holding the base for extra reach, it allows to pull it off with minimal pressure and without sacrificing control. Check out this video clip as I demonstrate the basic operation. I torqued the first nut down to 65 ft. lbs. and the 2nd to 70 ft. lbs. The tool is rated for 65 ft. lbs. and pops the nut right off at that setting. At 70 it took a couple of cranks to get within the tools range, so there is no doubt the ratchet is properly rated at 65 ft. lbs.
The bottom line is that the tool delivers everything you expect it to. It combines heavy duty strength with comfort and balance to deliver a surprisingly precision user experience. It really changes the way I look at air ratchets in general. Available as tested in 3/8″ (J138RSH) and 1/2″ (J150RSH), both models share identical specs. As with the rest of the Proto air tool line, it comes backed by a 2 year warranty and can be serviced at any of the many Dewalt Service Center locations.
If you have any other questions, feel free to come on over the tool forum to chat and as always, stay tuned to TIA for more Proto reviews