Whether you’re moving an entire home or towing your toys on vacation, you need to know how to tie stuff down. If you know how to use ratchet straps the right way, you can make sure your stuff gets there in one piece. In fact, there are stiff fines for improper use of ratchet straps, tarps, nets, chains or ropes, stiffer still if something falls off. That could be disastrous for other drivers.
How to Use Ratchet Straps to Secure a Load
There are several ways to secure a load: under a tarp or cargo net, with ropes, cam straps, ratchet straps or chains. Bungee cords are not a good choice because they stretch. Ropes can stretch or slip, and their strength relies on your knot-tying skills. Cam straps are easy to adjust, but their strength relies on yours. Ratchet straps multiply your force and don’t loosen easily. Transport chains are for big stuff, like bulldozers and logs. When considering ratchet straps to keep a load secure, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Weight rating. If the load weighs 600 pounds, like a motorcycle or small boat, the combined working load limit (WLL) of your ratchet straps should be at least 600 pounds. Strap width and thickness usually correlates with the WLL, which should be clearly stated on the package or label. Accessories or anchors should rate similarly because a ratchet strap is only as strong as its weakest point.
- Flat loads. For flat loads, such as lumber, use ratchet straps passing over the stack from side to side, no more than four feet apart. For furniture, one or two straps may be required for length or height. Use one strap to hold to a wall, and another to hold to the floor.
- Vehicles. Motorcycles, boats, quads or cars usually require four straps. For motorcycles, stand the bike vertically and use ratchet straps to hold diagonally side to side, front to rear. For quads and cars, use wheel nets or tire straps, remembering to tension the straps diagonally. For boats, tie down the transom first, then a third strap from the bow. (Don’t count on the winch to hold your boat.)
- Protection. Moving blankets or rubber mats can protect furniture, but make sure hooks are spaced far enough away to prevent scratches. Use soft loops to protect wheels or bike parts from ratchet strap hooks.
- Condition. Oil or grease can weaken the straps. Abrasions or cuts can lead to critical failure. Store unused ratchet straps in a cool, dry place out of the sun, as exposure to UV rays can weaken them. Ensure the ratchet doesn’t bind or skip teeth. Discard ratchet straps if they show signs of wear.
When securing the load, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Four will keep a quad from bouncing, but three might let it hop, and five or six can prevent disaster if one fails. Carry an extra set of straps for added security. On the road, vibrations and bumps can cause the load to shift. Check and adjust ratchet strap tension after the first 15 minutes of driving, then every couple of hours. Catch a loose strap before it causes a disaster.
Check out all the cargo products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to use ratchet straps, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
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