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Today I am reviewing a Nepros NBRC390L 9.5mm or 3/8" 90-tooth compact head long handled ratchet (eBay US, eBay CA, eBay AU). It's a Japanese-made unit and makes up part of KTC's Nepros lineup, which is their premium line of tools. Let's take a closer look.
The wrench arrives in a box akin to what you would expect with a premium tech product:
The wrench is presented neatly inside, and has a mirror polish finish:
The "5GQ" is what Nepros call the metal that the wrenches are made from. In addition to that, one of the other points of difference according to Nepros is their N-power concept, which is their take on ergonomics, large contact surfaces and close-fitting machining.
Flipping the ratchet wrench over, it's quite remarkable just how slim the head is in comparison to the 3/8" (or 9.5mm) drive:
The back of the box has this label:
First thing I did was compare it to my daily ratchet wrench, a Taiwanese-made Kincrome (about $70AUD on eBay AU):
There's a huge difference in head size there, and in terms of weight - the Nepros NBRC390L is 148gm on my scale while the Kincrome 3/8" wrench is 319gm. The Kincrome is slightly longer at 195mm as compared to the Nepros unit, which is 175mm in overall length. How do they compare for depth when a socket is installed? Here's a pic of each of them with an identical socket attached:
There's only about 2mm difference in terms of overall depth, measuring from the tip of the quick release button to the end of the socket. The Nepros really shines when it comes to the other dimensions, though:
The head is just 22mm wide at the widest point.
In use the ratchet has a nice feel - 90 teeth is certainly good for working in confined spaces, and in those situations the mere 4 degrees of movement required to reach the next tooth on the ratcheting mechanism will be a revelation for anyone coming from a 24-, 36- or even 48-tooth ratchet. If most of your work is done in open space you may not see the advantage of the higher tooth count - or the compact nature of the head. If you are working in a confined space, though, the ratchet really shines.
The quick release works well and makes life easier with oil-covered, slippery sockets - I find it difficult pulling sockets off ratchets at the best of times (arthritis) so quick release is a must-have for me - your mileage may vary.
Backdrag is better than the Kincrome, Sidchrome or Dufor ratchets I have on-hand, though it is present - I'd like to compare it to a Koken Z-series or Zeal ratchet, but as it stands it's smoother than anything else I have to compare it with - well within expectations of a premium ratchet, to my mind.
Value for money, this ratchet retails for $80USD+shipping and can be found in quite a few places online - under either the KTC or ネプロス (Nepros) branding - eBay US, eBay AU, Rakuten (Mutsuura) or Nepros. The Nepros range often gets compared to Snap-On, and their 72-tooth FC72 appears to be close in spec - ~24mm in head width as opposed to the Nepros 22mm, though it has a slightly lower tooth count and is shorter at ~113mm (vs. 172mm for the NBRC390L) and has a list price of $94.25USD. I haven't used one of those so I can't provide a direct comparison, but at the very least it shows that Nepros is competitively (favourably?) priced for the feature set it has.
So far - a week in - I have nothing but good things to say about the ratchet for working in tight spaces. I find the length to be a sweet spot for that sort of work - while longer is better for leverage it sometimes means that you run into obstructions that a shorter wrench would not encounter, and 175mm seems to be enough for sufficient leverage for the bolts I encounter in cramped car engine bays or inside motorcycle frames. The chrome is nice and deep and the tool is very comfortable in the hand, and so far it has held up to use well.
Of note - the left/right toggle on the head is oriented such that when it is flicked to the left you're tightening and to the right loosening - this feels natural for me but I think it will depend on what you are used to on the other brands of ratchets as to whether that's the same for you.
I have disassembled it out of curiosity and have asked Nepros which lubricant to use in the mechanism - I will update when they respond. So far they have been quite responsive to my emails, their customer service is good. I have also asked whether there is a difference in the maximum amount of torque that the compact head wrench can handle as compared to the 3/8" non-compact Nepros 90-tooth ratchet, or the lower tooth count Nepros ratchet.
Add on some shallow sockets like the Ko-Ken 3400MZ/12 set (eBay US, eBay AU, Rakuten) and you end up with a ratchet/socket combo that's rather petite which leads to a much easier time of things in a cramped space vs. a regular ratchet with a standard height socket:
As far as warranty goes, KTC/Nepros offer a 30-day return period (unused tool in original packaging etc., see T&Cs) followed by a lifetime warranty.
All in all, if you're looking at spending $80USD on a really nice ratchet and find yourself working in confined spaces a lot the Nepros NBRC390L is well worth considering. It's a quality-made Japanese unit and it's darn nice to use compared to the cheaper wrenches. Check it out via the online shopping links above!
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