What is a stepped ratchet radiator key?

 
     
     
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 Parts of a stepped ratchet radiator key 
   
 Ratchet radiator valve key 

The parts of a stepped ratchet key are:

 

  • Handle

  • Shaft

  • Ratchet

  • Stepped key to fit different sizes of internal hexagon valve tails and internally-lugged tails

 
     
 Stepped ratchet radiator key 

A stepped ratchet radiator key, also known as a plumber's step wrench, is useful for fitting valve tails where space is restricted. It can be set to clockwise (for screwing in) or anti-clockwise (for removing) radiator valve tails.

 

'Stepped' means that the key has fittings from small to large, stepped along the length of the key, for different internal hexagon and internal lug valve sizes.

 
     
 Stepped ratchet key 

The ratchet action means the handle will turn the key in only one direction - clockwise or anti-clockwise - according to the way it has been set by a small switch. Turning in the opposite direction does not move the key.

 
     
 Grooves in stepped ratchet key 

This is one of the two grooves in the stepped ratchet key which are used to turn internally lugged radiator valve tails.

 

This key also fits valve tails with internal hexagons from 3/8 inch up to 1 inch, including the most common 1/2 inch size.

 
     
 Stepped ratchet spanner 

In a restricted space where only part-turns are possible, the tail is secured or released with quick, repeated clockwise and anti-clockwise movements, with no need to reposition the key.

 
     
 Stepped ratchet or plumber's step wrench radiator key 

Stepped ratchet keys are usually made of hardened steel - often high tensile - for greater strength.

 

Some are made of chromium-vanadium steel. This is a steel alloy incorporating carbon, manganese, phosphorus, sulphur, silicon, chromium, and vanadium. This makes the steel harder, and the chromium provides resistance to abrasion and corrosion.

 

See How to fit and remove valve tails for a step-by-step guide to these operations.

 
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