How to use a ratchet strap to secure a load

ratchet strap

Danny Baggs

Posted November 13, 2023

Ratchet straps can secure cargo during transport. Learn how to correctly and safely secure loads with a ratchet strap.

Whether you’re moving house, transporting goods or lugging your camping gear out for the weekend, you’ll often need a secure method of strapping down your cargo.

Ratchet straps, sometimes called tie-downs, are fasteners that excel at load and cargo restraint. Here’s how to correctly secure your loads with a ratchet strap, plus how to safely release a ratchet strap. If you run into issues on the road and need assistance, RACV Emergency Roadside Assistance is available to help 24/7 all year round.

Remember to always set up your ratchet mechanism on the left side of your vehicle. If adjustment is necessary when out on the road, it can then be carried out on the verge side rather than the traffic side.

How to secure loads with a ratchet strap

Thread the strap through the ratchet

First, open the ratchet by pulling up the release catch or lever, usually located on the centre-top of the ratchet. Flip the ratchet fully open so that its spiked cogs are facing upwards.

Next, feed the free end of the strap through the slot at the bottom of the ratchet, which is called the mandrel. Start from underneath and push the strap up through the mandrel. Wind the strap around the axle, then pull the strap back through the same opening. The threaded strap should be lying flat against its other end on the opposite site of the ratchet.

Pull the free end of the strap so that it’s taut.


man using ratchet strap

Pull up the release catch and flip open the ratchet handle to unlock the ratchet for strap threading. Image: Getty


Secure your cargo with the ratchet strap hooks

Place your cargo in your moving van, trailer, ute tray bed, or other suitable location.

If you need to hold items together, wrap the ratchet strap around them and hook the two ends together. You will then need a second ratchet strap to secure the cargo in the vehicle.

Sharp corners can damage the ratchet strap, while the abrasive straps and metal buckles can damage your cargo. Use cardboard, blankets or towels at contact points to protect both cargo and ratchet straps.

Lay the ratchet strap over your cargo, then hook each end over the side of the ute bed or into a stable anchor point.


ratchet strap hooked into an anchor point

Secure your cargo by hooking each end of the ratchet strap into a stable anchor point. Image: Getty


Crank the ratchet strap until taut

Ensure your cargo is held in place by making the ratchet strap taut. To do this, pull the adjustable (loose) end until there’s no slack. Then ratchet by opening and closing the ratchet handle until the strap is tight.

To check your work, tug at the straps: there should be very little give. Make sure, however, that you can fit a finger between the ratchet strap and your cargo. If you can’t, you may have overtightened the ratchet, which could damage your cargo or your ratchet strap. In this case, loosen the strap and re-ratchet.


man cranking ratchet handle

Tighten the strap by opening and closing the ratchet handle. Image: Getty


Lock the ratchet strap to secure

Once you’re satisfied, lock the strap down by flipping the ratchet back into its closed position. You should hear it latch when you press it closed. Tug on the strap and buckle to ensure your cargo is secure.


man locking a ratchet strap down

Flip the ratchet closed until you hear it latch. Image: Getty


How to release a ratchet strap

To loosen or release your ratchet strap, pull and hold the release lever on top of the rachet. While holding the lever, flip the ratchet open until it lays flat. Pull the entire ratchet mechanism away from your cargo to loosen the tension. You can now pull the non-fixed strap to loosen or remove it completely from the ratchet. Detach the hooks from their anchor points to release your cargo.


ratcher strap with corner protector over side of box

Remember to protect your cargo corners with strap protectors, blankets, towels or cardboard. Image: Getty


How to store a ratchet strap

Keep your ratchet straps in their locked position during storage. Check for any tears, elongations or deformations along the straps, levers and the ratchet itself before storing.

Don’t leave your ratchet straps out in the elements: UV rays, rain and snow can damage the mechanisms and fabric straps. Some straps will come with their own storage bag, while others may have a Velcro strap to prevent uncoiling. Store your ratchet straps individually in bags or keep them coiled with a Velcro strap or rubber band before storing them in your vehicle compartment or garage.


tied up ratchet strap

Coil up your ratchet straps and store them separately. Image: Getty


What type of ratchet strap do you need?

Ratchet straps come in different widths, lengths, end fittings, and weight capacities. Weigh and measure your cargo and look at your vehicle’s anchor points to determine which ratchet strap is best for your needs.

It’s important to note that ratchet straps are rated for their working load limit (WLL), which refers to the weight of cargo that they can hold. It’s better to use a stronger strap that you think you need: wind, acceleration and braking can make your cargo ‘weigh’ more than it does on the ground.


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