RCN Reviews: Milwaukee M12 3/8-Inch Ratchet

Posted January 26, 2021

By Dean Larson

We’re obsessed with tools, and if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you are as well. Guys like us can stock up enough tools to do most any job we encounter, and still be infatuated with finding better, more efficient ways to get things done. Over this recent holiday season, a new tool found its way into my toolbox, the Milwaukee M12 cordless 3/8-inch ratchet, and it’s quickly become my go-to power tool for automotive jobs.

The Milwaukee M12 cordless 3/8-inch ratchet is designed to offer impact-caliber performance in tight spaces. The tool is based on Milwaukee’s successful M12 platform, and is powered by their compact M12 Red Lithium batteries. Its 12-volt motor provides up to 35 ft-lbs of torque and 250 rpm, and can also be used like a standard ratchet to break fasteners loose. The M12 ratchet measures 10 3/4-inches long, with a 3/4-inch head to fit into tight places.

It took a few days for me to make the mental adjustment from using my standard impacts and ratchets to this tool, but now that I have, I wouldn’t go back. The number one advantage to this tool becomes apparent when you’re working in tight places, where a standard impact may not fit. Instead of swinging a ratchet back and forth for a minute, you can simply buzz fasteners in or out in a couple seconds. And the effect of that time savings in amplified when you’re contorted in some wild position to reach a fastener, say that unreachable valve cover bolt, or that pesky bottom water pump bolt. I also feel like the orientation of this tool is more intuitive for automotive applications when compared to a conventional impact — it feels a lot less clumsy. Basically, you’re getting all the advantages of a pneumatic ratchet, but with compact cordless convenience.

You do have to be aware of the tool’s limitations at 35 ft-lbs, but honestly, you’d be surprised at how often that's enough, and when you need more, you can use the tool like a regular ratchet. One other thing to keep in mind is that this tool is going to give you some feedback when a fastener gets tight. Since the distance between your hand and the ratchet head is a few inches, it acts like a lever and can crank on your wrist if you’re not ready, or smack your knuckles into something. But for the increased productivity I get out of this tool, I can deal with that. I’ve had pretty good luck with the small M12 batteries as well, but the larger M12 XC batteries are really the ticket with this tool.

On the surface this may seem like just a convenience item for tight spaces, but I can honestly say it’s replaced my regular impacts for anything automotive. You’ll still want to use a torque wrench, or even a standard ratchet when finish torque is more critical, but this tool is still a huge asset for saving time. And at $150 for the bare tool, it compares pretty well to high-dollar hand tools, not to name any names.

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