At the SEMA Show in November of 2015, the GearWrench people released several new tools. An interesting item in that release was the "Multi-Function Ratchet Set" (PN 81020) consisting of a pair of unique "two-headed" ratchets, a four-inch extension, metric sockets and a plastic case full of hex bits. The Corvette Action Center decided to request a sample to test.
A ¼-drive socket set which includes hex bits seems a strange combination until you check out the two ratchets. Each is a dual-flex-head design, with a ¼-in. square drive on one end and a ¼-in hex drive on the other, hence the terms "Multi-Function".
We like these ratchets for their smaller heads–3/4-in. rather than the usual inch or so wide. We also like their 72-tooth mechanisms which have a five-degree swing per tooth. The ¼-in drive end of each has a quick release feature, but it's not just a "detent" which allows the socket to come off with a tug. It's a real lock which retains the socket on the drive tang until you press the release. The hex drive head of each ratchet is magnetic, so it retains the bit you're using until you remove it. We like both those features, too.
Not only did we find the "dual role" of these ratchets handy at times, these tools fit our hands nicely. When gripping the shorter ratchet at its end for maximum torque, the extra thickness of the second head gave us more to hold onto. The two flex heads have a lock-out feature, so, if you don't want the heads to move, you set the head at the angle you want, then lock it.
The sockets range from four to 13-mm. This set's only drawback is there are no SAE sockets, however, GearWrench does offer a separate set (PN 80303) of 3/16-to-9/6-in., quarter-drive sockets which could be added to have both metric and SAE coverage. The hex bit set includes six slotted and six phillips head screw driver bits, six metric and six hex key ("allen") bits and ten Torx bits.
The combination of the short ratchet and one of the slotted or phillips-head bits make a heck of a good offset screw driver. Not only does it work well in that role, but the locking flex heads make it easy if you're trying to get at a fastener which is difficult to access and requires not only an offset screw driver but one which is offset and angled.
The long double-head ratchet is in this set, according to GrearWrench's press release on this product, to "...allow automotive technicians enhanced access to hard-to-reach fasteners" and to allow. "...technicians to reach past obstructions for tasks such as removing mud flaps without removing wheels. The Long Ratchet provides extra reach when techs need it most.”
Our first reaction to the foot-long-dual-flex-head ratchet was: wow! That's long. In fact, we found it a bit too long to use with hex bits because it seemed hard control the bit properly, especially on a slot-headed screw a foot away. Conversely, the GearWrench's Foot-Long works effectively when fitted with a socket, especially with hard-to-reach fasteners, but you have to be careful when tightening because that long handle makes it easy to over-tighten smaller bolts. As for being good for "mud flap maintenance", the CAC hasn't had a Corvette with mud flaps with which to test that characteristic. That said, we did find a unique and quite valuable application for this tool. We have a set of Baer "Eradispeed" two-piece brake rotors on the front of a C5. We needed to replace the rotors and one way to do this is to remove the bolts holding the brake disc to the hat, then replace just the disc which Baer sells as a replacement part. The fasteners holding the disc and hat together are a bit unusual, an aircraft-quality bolt with a countersunk, "Tri-Wing" head and a self-locking, 5/16-in. hex nut. These fasteners are pretty tight for as small as they are. We used GrearWrench's foot-long-fual-flex-head ratchet, fitted 5/16-in. quarter-drive socket from our existing quarter-drive tools assortment and the short dual-flex head fitted with a Tri-Wing bit we got from Baer Brakes, to easily break those nuts loose.
If we had the choice with this set, we'd rather pay more and have SAE sockets in addition to the metrics. That said, we like this tool set because of the ergonomics, the convenience of the dual-flex-head ratchet design and the ability of the same tool to accept 1/4-drive sockets and hex bits.
The ratchet mechanisms in these two tools exceed ASME torque performance requirements. Both ratchets are covered under the GearWrench Lifetime Warranty. For more information, go to www.GearWrench.com.