swivel head ratchet vs flex head

Swivel Head Ratchet vs Flex Head: Which One Is Better?


One of the most common tools you’ll come across is the ratchet. There is a point in life where you will eventually need one.

Swivel and flex heads are the most common ones. You might get confused between swivel head vs flex head, which one to buy?

The swivel ratchet has a greater tooth count and does not need extenders. It has a lower swing arc of 3.5 degrees. Despite being cheaper, it cannot reach narrow spaces. However, the 36 teeth count enables the flex head to apply more torque. The slim build also enables it to reach tight spaces.

That was a quick glimpse of what’s next to come. Continue reading for a more in-depth discussion of these two topics.

Let’s begin.

Swivel Head Ratchet vs Flex Head: Quick Comparison

Let’s have a look at this summary table first before going head-to-head.


Aspect  Swivel Head Ratchet Flex Head Ratchet
Head Size  Round & Bulky  Pear shaped and Light 
Swing Arc 3.5 Degrees 10 Degrees
Angle Changes At The Head  After The Head 
Tooth Count  Around 100  Around 36 
Price $15-25 $18-30


Now, let’s head on to the main discussion.

Swivel Head Ratchet vs Flex Head: Detailed Comparison

When it comes to manual labor, the ratchet is a must-have instrument. The advancement of technology has resulted in a constant stream of new power tools. But one thing that is irreplaceable is your good old ratchet. 

Choosing a ratchet for your work can be tricky sometimes. It can be as tricky as choosing between Norseman and Viking drill bits.

Worry not, we have a detailed comparison just for your ease. You will be able to take decisions much more quickly.

Head Size 

This is the most distinguishable feature between the two. 

The swivel head is round and bulky. That is why it is called roto head by enthusiasts. This could be a problem if your selections are severely constrained.

On the other hand, the flex head is pear-shaped and lighter than the swivel head. It has less weight on the head and can reach tight spaces. 

However, It has ball detents and swivel pins which can quickly wear out. Hence, the head may wobble after some time.

Winner: Despite having quick wear ball dents and swivel pins, the flex head is the winner. Because a swivel head is bulkier and more difficult to maneuver.

Swing Arc

Before purchasing a ratchet, consider the swing arc. This is where the swivel head ratchet shines. 

The superior tooth count of the swivel head allows a very low swing arc of 3.5 degrees. Also, it features a 180-degree range of motion. This makes the swivel head very easy and efficient to handle.

On the other side, the flex head has a swing arc of 10 degrees. This is because of the 36-Tooth reversible ratcheting mechanism. This can be a bit problematic in narrow spaces.

Winner: Here, the swivel head ratchet is hands-down the clear winner. It has a low swing arc and allows tight movements.

Angle Changes

This is another distinguishable feature between the two ratchet types. 

An angle adjustment is possible for the rotating head ratchet. On the contrary, the flex head has an angle change after the head.

This factor requires the flex head to use extensions in some cases. The roto head does not require extensions that much. 

The clearance problem can be alleviated in some instances by using a breaker bar. Your miter saw may not go all the way but the ratchets will surely do.

Winner: The winner of this segment will be the rotor head because it doesn’t require extensions all the time.

Tooth Count 

Tooth count matters in ratchet a lot. It defines how hard or easy the ratchet is to handle.

The swivel ratchet 100-tooth ratcheting mechanism only needs a 3.5-degree swing arc to work. It has a 180-degree range of motion. 

Also, their quick-release buttons make it easy to switch out sockets.

Flex head ratchets have ratcheting mechanisms with 36 teeth that can be turned around and move 10 degrees. 

With less thick and strong teeth, you can apply more torque. There are 180-degree flexible heads for jobs that are hard to reach.

Winner: This part has left us unable to choose a clear victor. But the swivel head will have a small advantage over the flex head on teeth count.


Pricewise, both ratchets are priced in the same price range. Although the swivel head is priced lower than the flex head, it has its own demerits.

The swivel head ratchet is priced at $15-25. On the other hand, the flex head is priced between $18 to $30.

Winner: The swivel head ratchet wins the battle of the money. It is priced $3-5 lower than the flex head.

Final Thoughts

The higher tooth count of the swivel head allows an easy-to-operate lower swing arc. Also, it has a 180-degree range of motion.  But the bulkier head size is a big disadvantage for it. 

However, it is compensated by a quick socket release system.

On the other hand, The flex head comes with a 36 teeth configuration. With less but thick and strong teeth, you can apply more torque. The slim size of the ratchet allows it to reach tight spaces.

Hence, if working with ease and wide-spaced operation is your priority, pick the swivel head. 

However, if you need to reach narrow spaces and want more torque, choose a flex head.

Both ratchets are priced closely. So you need not choose based on price. Choose the ratchet according to your operational needs.


Is More Teeth Better on a Ratchet?

When the handle doesn’t have to move as much, more teeth can be accommodated. Assemble and deconstruct objects that would be impossible to do so without a ratchet. The ratchet would have a bigger swing arc when you’re in a pinch.

Do I Need to Lubricate My Ratchet?

Yes, to keep the ratchet handle’s moving parts in working order, you need it. For this use a lubricant like dry silicone spray or WD-40. One thing you should always remember is not to get the lubricant on the webbing. It will attract dirt and cause the strap to get stuck. 

What Are the Most Common Ratchet Sizes?

The most common ratchet sizes are ¼-inch drive, 3/8-inch drive, and ½-inch drive. There are also larger sizes of ratchets, like 3/4-inch drive and 1-inch drive. Most ratchets that are used with sockets have a gear system. This only lets them turn in one direction.


That will be all from our side regarding swivel head ratchet vs flex head. Hopefully, you’ve made up your mind on which one is best for you.

Whichever you choose, do maintain and lubricate them properly for optimal operation.

Have a great day.

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