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During my house move I used ratchet straps to secure a book-shelf on a roof of my car. That was well secured and worked out perfect. But the second time I have tried using the same straps, they did not want to release. After examination it turned out that the release mechanism got very tight and I could not rotate the drum backwards with hands. (I could on the new ones).

Also I spoke to my friend who works in Oil and Gas industry, offshore. He said that they discard the tie-downs after one use.

Surely I should not throw away ratchet strap tested for 800kg-load after securing with it a 20kg-book shelf for 10-minute journey on a car.

So the question is: should I just apply some WD-40 to the strap mechanism, try taking it apart and fix it. Or these things are really intended to be used once?

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Just a theory, but perhaps something got bent. They certainly should last longer than one trip. The Oil and Gas industry thing is probably a liability issue. FWIW, there is absolutely a need out there on the market for an easier-to-use ratchet strap system. I don't think I've ever used a ratchet strap without busting up at least one knuckle in the process. –  DA01 Nov 14 '12 at 17:00
    
I inspected it without taking apart, totally expecting something bent, but I could not see anything damaged. Probably taking apart can help. And you are probably right re liability in O&G industry. –  trailmax Nov 14 '12 at 17:28
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Don't spray it with WD-40. It might lube it up enough to get it moving, but the oils in it will attract dirt and debris which will eventually lead to binding. If you want to try giving it a shot of lube, use a dry type silicone spray.

Ratchet straps are not typically a disposable item, but cheaply made straps can be easily broken. If you're handy, you might want to give fixing it a shot. Look for things that look out of place, bent, broken, or bound up. Sometimes the ratchet can become bound up with the strap itself, and can be fixed with a bit of yanking and cranking. Without knowing the exact type of strap you're using, it's difficult to give more accurate repair instructions. So you'll just have to mess with it until you've fixed it, or given up.

If you decide the strap is beyond repair, and you need to purchase a new one. Buying a higher quality strap, should insure a longer more useful product life. Just remember, higher price does not always equal higher quality. Handle and inspect the strap in the store as much as you can. Try operating the ratchet, releasing the ratchet, tugging at the straps, etc. to try and gauge the quality.

Note:
Most ratchet straps do have the ability to destroy themselves, over tightening the ratchet can permanently damage it.

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The straps are exactly these: amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B000LFU06I/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00 The straps are not tangled and do wind up, but takes fair amount of effort to release them. New ones did not take that much force to release the mechanism. I've inspected them without dissasembly, but nothing looked wrong. Will fiddling until fixed, as you suggest -) –  trailmax Nov 14 '12 at 17:33
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@trailmax I used to have a similar type, and the release mechanism did seem to get a bit "sticky" after a few uses (especially when under load). Wiggling the handle forward and back just a bit while pulling the release seemed to work well, but it did take a bit of finger strength to work the release when it was under load. –  Tester101 Nov 14 '12 at 17:48
    
Ah, so that means it is normal state of affairs. Fair enough. Will avoid this type next time. –  trailmax Nov 14 '12 at 23:00
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The wiggling technique can free even absurdly tightened straps. If you do it enough times, you'll develop the feel for it. –  whatsisname Nov 15 '12 at 3:46
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