Ratchet Strap Inspection - What to Look For and When to Know It is Time To Replace Your Straps

Tie downs must be regularly inspected to ensure they are not damaged. Even "minor" damage can drastically reduce the strap's capacity and increase the chance of failure during use.

There is no such thing as "minor damage". If there is any damage or uncertainty of damage, remove the die down. Do not use it!

Tie Down Removal From Service Criteria

The entire ratchet strap assembly must be inspected before each use and removed from service if any of the following are detected:

  • If tie down identification tag is missing or illegible
  • Holes, tears, cuts, snags or embedded materials
  • Broken or worn stitches in the load bearing splices
  • Knots in any part of the webbing
  • Acid or alkali burns
  • Melting, charring or weld splatters on any part of the webbing
  • Excessive abrasive wear or crushed webbing
  • Signs of ultraviolet (UV) light degradation
  • Distortion, excessive pitting, corrosion or other damage to buckles or end fittings
  • Any conditions which cause doubt as to the strength of the tie down

Source: WSTDA "Synthetic Tie Down Safety Bulletin"

Important: Tie downs that are damaged and thus removed from service can not be reused and must be destroyed (and made completely unusable)

How Often Should You Inspect Ratchet Strap Assemblies?

  • Initial Inspection - When first receiving your tie down, a designated person must ensure the correct tie down for the job has been received and it is undamaged.
  • Frequent Inspection - Performed by the person actually handling/using the tie down before every use.
  • Periodic Inspection - Each tie down should be inspected on a regular basis by a qualified and designated person. The intervals of inspection vary depending on the usage of the tie down and adequate written inspection records should be kept.

Types of Damage to Look For When Inspecting Ratchet Strap Assemblies

The following are a few examples of damage to look for. Remember that even minor damage is enough to remove the tie down from service.

  • Acid or Alkali Burns
  • Cuts or Tears
  • Snags
  • Melting or Charring
  • Excessive Abrasive Wear
  • Embedded Materials
  • Knots
  • Broken/Worn Stitches
  • Crushed Webbing
  • UV Degradation
  • Weld Splatter
  • Missing or Unreadable Tags/Labels
  • Damage to Any Hardware

Protecting Ratchet Strap Assemblies From Damage

It is recommended to replace tie downs every 2 to 4 years depending on usage and exposure. (Despite no discovered damage from frequent and periodic inspections.)

Environmental factors such as sunlight, dirt, changes of temperature and humidity, precipitation, etc. can accelerate the deterioration of tie downs.

Visible indications of deterioration can include:

  • Fading of webbing color
  • Uneven or disoriented surface yarn of the webbing
  • Shortening of tie down length
  • Reduction of elasticity
  • Breakage or damage to yarn; fuzzy appearance of the webbing
  • Stiffening of webbing

Damaging Actions to Avoid When Using Tie Downs

These are but some of the actions that can cause damage to your ratchet straps:

  • Dragging tie downs on the ground, floor or other abrasive surfaces
  • Pulling tie downs from under cargo when the cargo is resting on the tie down
  • Shortening or adjusting tie down using unapproved methods
  • Twisting, kinking or knotting the tie down
  • Exposing tie downs to damaging acids or alkalis
  • Using tie downs or allowing exposure to temperatures above 190°F (90°C) or below -40°F (-40°C)
  • Using the tie down with hardware that has edges or surfaces that could damage the tie down
  • Running/driving over tie downs with a vehicle or other equipment

Nylon tie down strength can be reduced 10-15% by water absorption (the strength returns when nylon strap dries completely). We recommend only using polyester webbing for ratchet strap assemblies.

Safeguard Tie Downs With Edge/Corner Protection

Tie-downs can be damaged by the cargo being secured. Surfaces do not need to be that sharp to potentially damage and cause tie down failure.

All tie downs must always be protected from being cut or damaged by corners, edges, protrusions or abrasive surfaces.

Commercially available products to assist include sleeves, wear pads, edge wraps, body wraps, corner protectors, edge protectors, etc.

Properly Store and Maintain Ratchet Strap Assemblies

When not in use, tie downs should be kept in a cool, dry and dark location. This location must keep the straps away from environmental or mechanical sources of damage.

Dirty tie downs can be cleaned with mild soap and water, so long as they dry out completely before putting in storage or use.