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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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.

  • Best Overall
    Irwin Vise-Grip The Original Locking Pliers Set with Wire Cutter
    Summary
    Summary
    This Vise-Grip set includes seven-inch curved jaw round-nose pliers along with six-inch needle-nose straight jaw pliers.
    Pros
    Pros
    Irwin fits this pair of Vise-Grips with pressure adjustment screws and triggers release handles, both designed with gripping in mind. The high-grade steel makes these pliers extremely durable.
    Cons
    Cons
    Just like the original locking pliers that Irwin first produced, these products don’t have rubber gripping handles.
  • Best Value
    WORKPRO Three-Piece Locking Pliers Set
    Summary
    Summary
    Three is better than one, especially when you get to choose between two round-nose pliers and one long-nose locking pliers. Each is fitted with grippy handle covers.
    Pros
    Pros
    Each of these locking pliers has strengthened teeth for additional gripping power and are heat-treated for strength and durability, so you can depend on them for the toughest of jobs.
    Cons
    Cons
    Another pair of needle-nose locking pliers would round this set out well so that you would have two sizes for each type of pliers to work with.
  • Honorable Mention
    Crescent Five-Piece Locking Pliers Set with Wire Cutter
    Summary
    Summary
    If you’re looking for the ultimate set of locking pliers to fill your toolbox drawers, this five-piece set from Crescent has all you need.
    Pros
    Pros
    These locking pliers are equipped with wire cutters. The nickel-plated finish will resist rust and corrosion so you can continue using these locking pliers for years to come.
    Cons
    Cons
    Though the trigger release includes a rubber gripping surface, you might find it difficult to turn the pressure adjustment screw.

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

C-Clamp

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. 

Top Brands

Irwin Vise-Grips

Based out of North Carolina and founded in 1885, Irwin Vise-Grips is a name you’ve 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.

Crescent

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.

Craftsman

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+: 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.

Key Features

Size

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.

Easy-Release Handle

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.

Durability

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.  

Grip-Enhancing Handles

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.

Other Considerations

  • 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 2019

Best Locking Pliers Overall: Irwin Vise-Grip The Original Locking Pliers Set with Wire Cutter

Irwin Vise-Grip The Original Locking Pliers Set with Wire Cutter
Amazon

“Can you hand me the Vise-Grips?” This is probably a question you’ve heard at some point in your lifetime, especially if you’ve spent any time in a garage. Irwin’s Vise-Grips are a household name, and once you’ve used a pair of their locking pliers, you’ll see what all the hype is about. Read on to find out more.

This particular packaging of Vise-Grips includes seven-inch curved-jaw round-nose pliers, along with six-inch needle-nose straight-jaw pliers. Both locking pliers have wire cutters built into the jaw, so you can clamp down and cut with just one tool. These Vise-Grips are made from alloy steel and include both a trigger release handle and a pressure adjustment screw. The hardened teeth are durable and bite deep to ensure a tight hold. Irwin also backs its products with a lifetime warranty.

Our biggest concern with these Vise-Grips is that they don’t come fitted with gripping handles. The bare metal may be hard to grip when you’re covered in grease or oil. They are a bit more expensive than other brands as well. At the same time, these Vise-Grips from Irwin are an essential tool you’ll want to add to your collection.

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Best Value Locking Pliers: WORKPRO Three-Piece Locking Pliers Set

WORKPRO Three-Piece Locking Pliers Set
Amazon

You can never have enough clamps, no matter what line of work you’re in—or what projects you work on in your spare time. WORKPRO has created the ultimate three-piece package, including both curved- and straight-jaw locking pliers, so you can clamp both round and flat pieces. What will you clamp next?

The ten-inch curved-jaw locking pliers are great for larger pieces that you need to clamp in place. The seven-inch curved-jaw pliers and the six-and-a-half-inch straight-jaw needle-nose pliers handle the smaller items, so you can free up one hand while still holding your work in place. Each of the three locking pliers has strengthened teeth that won’t let go easy. The electro-plating resists rust and corrosion and the whole assembly is riveted together for added durability. These ergonomic and versatile locking pliers include a quick-release trigger lever and TPR plastic handles, so you can grip them easier for a better hold.

One drawback we found with these locking pliers set is that you only get one pair of needle-nose locking pliers. Having another set would round out the trio well. Also, you don’t get duplicates of the same pliers, but that’s not to say you couldn’t find a use for any and all three of these locking pliers.

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Best Locking Pliers Honorable Mention: Crescent Five-Piece Locking Pliers Set with Wire Cutter

Crescent Five-Piece Locking Pliers Set with Wire Cutter
Amazon

Shopping for a set of locking pliers to round out your toolbox? This five-piece set from Crescent is perfect for the job. You’ll inevitably want to add to your collection as the years pass and the projects pile up, but for now, Crescent’s five-piece locking pliers set is the perfect addition to your stock in tools.

Crescent includes a five-inch, seven-inch, and 10-inch curved-jaw pair of locking pliers, along with a six-inch and nine-inch pair of needle-nose pliers in its five-piece set. All five locking pliers are equipped with a built-in wire cutter. They meet ASME standards for quality and are nickel-plated to be rust- and corrosion-resistant. The narrow profile of these locking pliers makes it easier to get them into tight spaces where a firm hold is key. The angled teeth in each pair of locking pliers allow for a non-slip grip. The power adjustment screw and trigger release handle aid in precision clamping.

We found it hard to overlook the fact that while Crescent does equip the trigger release lever on each of these locking pliers with grippy rubberized material, the power adjustment screws don’t include the same amount of gripping power. Also, since these pliers are just nickel-plated, they may not be as strong as other brands. That being said, nearly anyone of any experience level can find a use for this five-piece set of locking pliers. 

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Tips

  • 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’ve 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. 

FAQs

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Which locking pliers do you find useful? Share your favorites with us in the comments below.