Best Locking Pliers: Get A Grip When You Need It
Our top picks for the best locking pliers will help you get the job done right
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BY Rebecca Henderson / LAST UPDATED ON July 14, 2021
Ever feel like you need an extra pair of hands? Locking pliers are a handy solution to grabbing tightly onto all those places you need it most. We’ve put together this informative buying guide to help you find the best locking pliers on the market. No matter what type you choose or what you use them for, locking pliers are a staple for any garage.
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Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Locking Pliers
- Superb clamping ability. Locking pliers are a dependable tool you can use to ensure a tight grip. Once you place them where you need them the most, you can even increase the pressure to keep things just where they need to be.
- Multiple sizing available. One set of locking pliers will earn their keep, but the availability of multiple sizes arms you for any project. Invest in various sizes, shapes, and types for a more prepared approach.
- Adjustability. While other clamps only squeeze as much as they’re designed to, locking pliers include adjustment features that allow you to put the pressure on or take it off.
- Frees up one of your hands. Grab your locking pliers any time you need another set of hands to clamp something tight. Most automotive jobs and even those around the house can become complicated quickly, so turn to your locking pliers to get the job done.
- Versatility and adaptability. Locking pliers can be used for a variety of jobs, from the smallest pinch of a hose to larger projects that require an extra pair of grippers. Locking pliers come in many sizes, so you can choose the right one for your needs.
- Toolbox essential. Having a set or two of locking pliers on hand can mean the difference between an easy solution and having to finagle your way through a project. Pick up a set of locking pliers, and you’ll thank yourself every time you need one.
Types of Locking Pliers
Defined by long angled arms that form a point, this type of locking pliers forms the shape of a C in order to clamp around girthier objects. C-clamp locking pliers are best for jobs where you need more clearance to get around objects. For instance, C-clamp locking pliers are a good tool to use when clamping flat pieces of wood together after they’re glued. An adjustment screw and trigger release handle are integrated into these pliers, too.
Round- or Long-Nose
You’ll quickly be able to tell the difference between round- and long-nose locking pliers. Round-nose pliers are curved like a bird’s beak, whereas long-nose locking pliers are formed like a pair of needle-nose pliers. Both types of pliers feature teeth within the inner sides of the jaws. The biggest difference between these two nose types is that round-nose pliers work well on rounded objects like tubes while long-nose pliers clamp well onto flat surfaces.
Curved- or Straight-Jaw
There are two types of jaw designs: curved and straight. Curved-jaw locking pliers are round-nosed and have serrated teeth inside the jaw to clamp onto rounded objects. It’s best to use curved-jaw locking pliers set on anything cylindrical in shape. Straight-jaw locking pliers can either be round- or long-nose. Most, if not all, long-nose locking pliers are straight-jaws, while round-nose pliers can be straight or curved.
Based out of North Carolina and founded in 1885, Irwin Vise-Grips is a name you have probably heard around the shop. If you’re not a fan of the picks we chose above, check out this GrooveLock Pliers Set, which adjusts to help you out in a variety of situations.
Headquartered in Maryland, Crescent was founded in 1907. If you’re looking for a pair of Straight Jaw Locking Pliers, look no further. Crescent has the tools you need at a price point you can afford.
Housed under the Black and Decker family name, Craftsman has been in the business for over 90 years. From their headquarters in Connecticut, Craftsman produces such items as the Straight Jaw 10-Inch Locking Plier. Equipped with easy-grip handles, this tool nearly cracked our top three list.
Locking Pliers Pricing
- $5-$15: If you’re looking for just one set of pliers, you won’t have to spend more than $10-$15. You should be able to find locking pliers of various sizes, from straight- and curved-jaws to round- and long-nose configurations. C-clamp locking pliers are available at this price point as well.
- $16-$20: Larger locking pliers will cost you a bit more. Depending on what type and brand you choose, you’ll likely spend around $20 or more for a set of two locking pliers. Sometimes these pliers are paired together as a round-nose/curved-jaw pliers set and a long-nose/straight-jaw pliers set.
- $30-$45: It isn’t until you get up into the higher price range that you’ll find a varied assortment of each type of locking pliers. Name brands are plenty here, but anything you’re able to find at this price point should get the job done easily. You might even be able to find a five-piece assortment of locking pliers under $50.
- $50 and up: Spending any more than $50 on locking pliers probably means you’re someone who frequently needs to use them. In this case, you can pick up entire sets that will span most common sizes, along with various types of locking pliers as we described above.
The biggest factor distinguishing one set of locking pliers from another is the size. The size is the measurement between the jaws when they are fully extended. When you open the locking pliers, the distance from one jaw tip to the other is the size of that particular tool. For example, five-inch locking pliers will have jaws that open up to five inches.
Setting a pair of locking pliers might seem like the easiest part of the process, but the best locking pliers include an easy-release handle that relieves the pressure of the hold so you can remove the pliers with ease. These handles sometimes have gripping material installed over them, but even in bare metal form, they save a lot of muscles. These handles are typically referred to as trigger release handles.
Locking pliers are made from all types of durable metal, from steel to chrome vanadium. The best locking pliers will be sturdy and durable and able to withstand the abuse typically seen in any mechanic’s garage. Teeth should be broad-based and angled to prevent them from breaking off at a crucial moment. In short, all components of the best locking pliers are extremely durable.
Pressure Adjustment Screw
Like the trigger release handle, a pressure adjustment screw should aid in the clamping process. Tighten the screw to add pressure and loosen it to relieve pressure. The best locking pliers will have pressure adjustment screws that are easy to grip due to knurling. You can set the screw before or after you clamp the pliers.
The best set of locking pliers will come fitted with gripping handles that are made from rubber-like materials. These handles typically fit over both arms of the locking pliers, but can also be fitted over the trigger release handle for added gripping power. These gripping handles also cut down on hand fatigue.
- Metal Type: There are many types of metal to choose from when it comes to locking pliers. Most are made from high-strength steel meant to withstand the most extreme conditions. Others can be chrome vanadium or electro-plated. Depending on what type of work you do, you’ll want to consider what metal types you prefer before making a purchase.
- Multiple Pliers in a Variety of Sizes: Consider purchasing a set of locking pliers in various sizes. Having more than one of each measurement can often be a good thing. That way you can have a few extra when you need that locking power because as long as the object you’re clamping is smaller than the size of the locking pliers, there’s no end to what you can clamp together.
Best Locking Pliers Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- When purchasing hand tools, it’s always a good idea to have an assortment. Whether you choose to have an identical-sized pair of locking pliers in case you need two similar clamping tools, or if you just want to have a variety of sizes for numerous applications, fill your toolbox with items you’ll use most.
- One of the big factors in purchasing hand tools is the way they feel in your hand. If you’re not sure what brands to choose or how a certain feature might handle or feel in real life, check out a pair of locking pliers at your local hardware store.
- If you work in a place where tools might easily get lost or misplaced, consider marking or engraving them with your name or initials. This will prevent theft and can often be the easiest solution to a mix-up.
- Constantly find yourself in need of clamps while on the go? Keep a set or two of locking pliers in your car in a heavy-duty bag, preferably with some other common tools you might need for breakdowns.
- Though you might consider the angled teeth of locking pliers to be advantageous in some situations, they can potentially damage the part you’re attempting to clamp. You may end up pinching something too tight. Be aware of this as you use them, and take precautions where and when necessary.
- Locking pliers can come in handy in a pinch when you’re welding and don’t have another solution. At the same time, there are specialty locking pliers that are made for use during welding if you find you need them more than once.
- Locking pliers can be used in a variety of applications. For example, they can hold wooden boards together after you have glued them. If you need to compress an object, get out your locking pliers. In short, you should keep them in mind as you work around the house as they may become more useful than you first thought.
Q: What metal makes up the best locking pliers?
A: There are a lot of people who swear by certain types of metal when it comes to locking pliers, but all you need is something that will resist rust and corrosion. Most of the metals used in any type of tool these days provide that protection.
Q: What automotive jobs require locking pliers?
A: Locking pliers are great for any job where you need to hold something in place. For example, you can use locking pliers to clamp off hoses so the fluid captured within them does not leak out. You can also use locking pliers on non-liquid applications, such as compressing brake calipers if you replace your own brakes.
Q: What other brands make locking pliers?
A: Milwaukee, Stanley, Knipex, TEKTON, and CH Hanson all make locking pliers of various sizes and types. If you’re not satisfied with the three picks we featured here, check out what these brands have to offer.
Our top pick for the best locking pliers is the Irwin Vise-Grip The Original Locking Pliers Set with Wire Cutter. Experience the tradition of superb pliers with above-average locking power.
For locking pliers that won’t cut off your cash supply, purchase the WORKPRO Three-Piece Locking Pliers Set. It’s a great value buy that will round out any toolset.