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Best Tube Benders (Review & Buying Guide) in 2022

Let’s do the work you don’t want to but will be happy you did.

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BYHank O'Hop/ LAST UPDATED ON December 6, 2021

There are some skills that are universal to all trades and the one I’ll be talking about today is tube bending. Whether you're working under the hood or on your two-wheeler, you’re bound to run into a situation where a tube bender is an essential piece of equipment. The unfortunate reality is that it's something not many people can afford to just mess around with. Even if they know it's a good way to save money, the learning curve, time that goes into the work, and cost of getting burned by a bad unit can be surprising enough to send even the simplest work to the pros. It's really not all that bad, though. All it takes is a little patience and the right tools. I might not have the psychiatric skills to coach you through the obstacle, but I can help you with equipment. I’m going to talk about some solid choices for tube benders, then walk you through a buying guide to help you decide which is best for the task at hand.

Best Overall

Hilmor 1839032 CBK Compact Bender Kit

Summary

This ratcheting tube bender is as easy to set up as it is to use. Interchangeable sizes make quick work of bending 1/4-inch to 7/8-inch tubing up to 90 degrees.

Pros
  • Covers a wide range of sizes
  • Ratcheting mechanism makes bending easy 
  • Can be used for many different types of work 
  • Storage case included
Cons
  • Relatively high price point
  • Not ideal for automotive work, but it can be used for it
Best Value

Imperial Tool 370FH Triple Head 180 Degree Tube Bender

Summary

Why overcomplicate things? This simple, affordable, handheld bender is perfect for putting up to 180-degree bends in fuel and brake lines ranging from 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch.

Pros
  • Affordable price point 
  • Respectable quality 
  • Easy to use
  • Decent tube range
Cons
  • May have issues with 1/2-inch tubing
  • Quality control issues are relatively common
Honorable Mention

CPS Blackmax Ratcheting Tube Bender

Summary

Looking for a little more from your ratcheting bender? This model works as well as any other, but the quality and color coding make it easy to put up to a 90-degree bend in 1/4-inch to 7/8-inch tubing.

Pros
  • High-quality construction 
  • Covers a decent range of sizes
  • Can be used for various types of work
  • Color coding for simple selection
  • Storage case included
Cons
  • Relatively high price point
  • May not be the best choice for automotive work
Best Tube Benders (Review & Buying Guide) in 2022

Our Methodology

I might be sitting on opposite sides of the screen, but we’re not all that different. I've monkeyed around with our fair share of projects over the years and have had our hands on tube benders along the way. Aside from applying what I already know, I stuck to the typical routine commerce writers are bound to. We took the time to think about the different situations that call for tube benders, what the options are tool-wise, and what's available on the market. From there, I simply figured out which are actually useful and which fall apart in the face of hard work. The end result is a list of tube benders I think suits the average home-shop owner.

Why Trust Us

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.

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Best Tube Bender Reviews & Recommendations

This may not be the first tube bender that comes to mind for automotive work, but the Hilmor is what most folks are looking for in this department in general. It's a ratcheting press that takes a lot of the stress off the user as bends are created. It comes standard with seven dies, allowing the user to bend tubing up to 90-degree angles in diameters ranging from 1/4-inch to 7/8-inch. Obviously, that makes it more than capable of handling various jobs around the house, on the job, and even in the garage. Everything is also kept neatly in the supplied storage case, so you don't have to worry about the set taking up an entire drawer of the tool box.


The price is the first obvious drawback, as it’s not exactly priced in line with most DIY tools. However, you can expect to pay more for tools that can do more. That said, I should reinforce the point that this might not be ideal for all automotive jobs, which is due to the overall size.


Product Specs

  • Manufacturer: Hilmor
  • Part Number: 1839032
  • Tube Size Range: 1/4-inch to 7/8-inch 

Pros

  • Covers a wide range of sizes
  • Ratcheting mechanism makes bending easy 
  • Can be used for many different types of work 
  • Storage case included 

Cons

  • Relatively high price point
  • Not ideal for automotive work, but it can be used for it

The Imperial Tool Triple Head tube bender is an obvious contender for Best Overall. That's because it really is the tube bender most readers are going to want around for working on their cars as it's easy to use compared to other types, and it's built a lot better than much of the competition. But because it sits at a price point most of us can justify, it nabs the title of Best Value. Its lever-action quickly puts up to 180-degree bends in 3/16-inch, 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, and 1/2-inch tubing, and super cushy grips keep you from fighting through the pain to get there.


While this is a seemingly well-built unit, some reviewers report issues with it not fitting 1/2-inch tubing the way it should. That said, there also seems to be some issues with quality control, and it's worth going over this model with a fine-tooth comb before putting it to work.


Product Specs

  • Manufacturer: Imperial Tool 
  • Part Number: 370FH 
  • Tube Size Range: 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch 

Pros

  • Affordable price point 
  • Respectable quality 
  • Easy to use
  • Decent tube range 

Cons

  • May have issues with 1/2-inch tubing
  • Quality control issues are relatively common

Here’s another solid contender for our pick of Best Overall in the CPS Blackmax. Again, this model does target general tube bending as opposed to what you'd need to bend some brake lines, but it's another solid all-around performer. It comes ready to work with seven different tubing sizes ranging from 1/4-inch to 7/8-inch and features color-coded dies to make selection as easy as possible. This bender also uses a ratcheting-type mechanism that takes as much elbow grease out of the equation as possible. Of course, the well-organized storage/carry case is a nice touch worth tipping our hats to.


As with the pick for Best Overall, this can be used for automotive work, but it is not the premier choice for it. It's also worth mentioning that the price is higher than comparable models, but the overall quality does make it clear that it's targeting professional use.


Product Specs

  • Manufacturer: CPS 
  • Part Number: BTB300
  • Tube Size Range: 1/4-inch to 7/8-inch 

Pros

  • High-quality construction 
  • Covers a decent range of sizes 
  • Can be used for various types of work
  • Color coding for simple selection
  • Storage case included 

Cons

  • Relatively high price point
  • May not be the best choice for automotive work

What if you're not bending round tubes? The KAKA Industries TR-40 is all about it as this roll bender is ready to put a nice, sweeping radius in up to 1 1/2-inch 14-gauge square steel tubing with just a few passes. This thing is no joke, and it's constructed with serious use in mind. You're sure to get years of use out of it before it even begins to show its age. It's also extremely simple to use, as everything is fully adjustable to match the medium, meaning there's no need to swap out components before each project.


Of course, something like this is limited to the serious fabricator, and the price is to show for that. While those potential issues are easy to get around, the use of a crank as opposed to a large wheel may not be favorable for some builders.

Product Specs

  • Manufacturer: KAKA Industries 
  • Part Number: TR-40 
  • Tube Size Range: Up to 1 1/2-inch square tube

Pro

  • Bends square tube
  • Easy to set up and use 
  • Professional-grade quality

Cons

  • Limited use
  • Relatively high price
  • Crank instead of wheel may not be favorable

The Big Red T31202 keeps it simple as this hydraulic press is ready to put 90-degree bends in round tubes ranging from 1/2 inch to 2 inches in diameter. The entire system works a whole lot like your bearing press, meaning there's no need to learn some alien procedure. Oh, and it covers six different sizes thanks to the interchangeable dies. If you're unfamiliar with Big Red, it's a brand that's known to deliver decent tools at reasonable prices to the average home garage owner. That said, you don't have to worry about the 12-ton jack at the heart of the matter calling it quits any time soon.


The primary concern with this system is quality control. While that's to be expected when you buy a machine of the likes for such a low price, it's something to keep in mind as you set things up. Also, the lack of previsions to permanently mount it to any flat surface may be an issue for those who intend to use it extensively.


Product Specs

  • Manufacturer: Big Red 
  • Part Number: T31202 
  • Tube Size Range: 1/2-Inch to 2-Inch 

Pros

  • Relatively affordable
  • Quality is good for home use
  • Easy to use
  • Covers a decent mix of sizes 

Cons

  • Quality control issues are common
  • Lack of mounting provisions can be an issue

The Performance Tool tubing bender is likely all you're going to need for quick jobs. If you're just bending a few lines for a quick repair, you may find it hard to justify spending $50-$100 on a bender. This handy little bender is ready to form brake and fuel lines up to 5/16 inches in diameter. It's easy to use, easy to carry, super affordable, and ready for copper, brass, aluminum, thin-walled steel, and even welding wire. For the money, it's hard to beat, and that makes it a solid contender for the pick of Best Value.


Why isn't it the pick for the title? It's not exactly refined. This is about as crude as it gets and you likely won't get any precision bends out of it. Also, it only features one form, which means you'll likely go through some trial and error learning how to use it in different sizes.

Product Specs

  • Manufacturer: Performance Tool
  • Part Number: W704C 
  • Tube Size Range: Up to 5/16-inch 

Pros

  • Compact
  • Very affordable
  • Compatible with most fuel and brake lines

Cons

  • Relatively crude function
  • Features only one form

The Ares 3-in-1 bender is another contender that's worthy of wearing the crown of Best Value. This bender is a perfect addition to any home garage where brake and fuel lines are routinely bent to avoid the cost of direct-replacement parts, or custom work is the only route. It's able to bend 1/4-inch, 5/16-inch, and 3/8-inch tubes up to 180 degrees, and the degree gauge keeps bending simple, with the lever making easy work of whatever you're working with. Of course, the price is also hard not to get excited about.


This is just shy of my pick for Best Value because it does only cover three sizes. The selection may be perfect for most car-related tasks, but it does essentially limit the tool to that setting. Also, the fact that this is prone to binding then cracking as you work is worth being leery of.


Product Specs

  • Manufacturer: Ares 
  • Part Number: 70240
  • Tube Size Range: 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Affordable price point
  • Can put up to 180-degree bends in small diameter tube

Cons

  • Relatively limited range
  • Prone to binding during operation

The KAKA Industries industrial tube bender is a good example of what you're going to want around for building roll cages, bumpers, or anything else that's meant to take a serious blow. It's built to work with 3/4-inch to 1-3/4-inch tubing and can produce up to a 90-degree bend with the five different interchangeable dies. It also operates with the use of hydraulic power, so it's extremely easy to use. This model can be permanently fixed to flat surfaces, and you'll want to do that for the kind of work it's good for. However, despite what you may assume, it's not going to take up too much floor space.


The price is shockingly high to the uninitiated, yet it’s still on the lower end of the spectrum for something in its class. Evidence of that can be seen in quality control issues. While most do feel it works as good as it should, there are issues regarding cracked dies which may inspire some to spend even more on an even beefier unit.

Product Specs

  • Manufacturer: KAKA Industries
  • Part Number: HB-8
  • Tube Size Range: 3/4-inch to 1 3/4-inch 

Pros

  • Easy to set up and operate
  • Bends a decent range of thick tubing
  • Can be permanently mounted

Cons

  • High price point
  • Quality control issues are somewhat common

Our Verdict on Tube Benders

While the  Hilmor 1839032 CBK Compact Bender Kit is my pick for Best Overall and the Imperial Tool 370FH Triple Head 180 Degree Tube Bender for Best Value, they may not be best for you. After all, I’m talking about a task-specific selection, and either of these is the answer to different situations.

What to Consider When Buying a Tube Bender

All right, so, let's get into the nitty gritty. Learning to bend tubes is something you'll be very proud of, and it is a skill that you'll put to use for a lot of automotive projects. Having the right tool for the job is going to make all the difference in the world, though. While every project has a different set of demands, this buying guide is to help you get in the ballpark of the right tubing bender for your application.

Types of Tube Benders

Press Bender

The reality is that most of us will get by just fine with some type of press tube bender, and they dominate our list because of it. The process is as basic as it gets, a section of tubing is pushed over a die that matches the size until the desired angle is achieved. These are simple, cost-effective units that are great for creating bends in a wide range of pipe sizes.

 Press benders come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be intended for anything from fuel and brake lines to roll cage tubing. You just need to make sure it can work with the size tubing you work with and can create the angles the project demands.

Roll Bender 

Roll bending isn't as common as press or rotary draw bending, but it's a far more likely option for use in a home garage than a rotary draw bender. Unlike a press bender, a single die isn't used, nor does the tubing stay stationary. Instead, it's pulled through a series of dies until the desired angle is created. Also, unlike press benders, these are better suited to long sweeping bends as opposed to sharp, short angles. It is worth mentioning that roll benders can create coils, but long sweeps are generally more useful for DIY fabrication projects such as making your own bumper.

Rotary Draw Bender

There are no rotary-draw benders on this list, and it's not something the typical home garage has use for. These are large, industrial machines that are used for all sorts of purposes. However, you're probably familiar with them to a small degree, thanks to exhaust systems.

Rotary draw benders draw tubing over a form to gradually create the necessary angle and are particularly useful for wider sections of pipe.

At times, these benders are paired with a mandrel, which is a component inserted into the tube to offer structural support during bends to avoid deformation. Again, you likely won't need a rotary draw bender in your home shop, but we aren’t too sure what exactly you’re up to.

Tube Bender Key Features

Compatible Tube Sizes

If a tube bender won't work for the size tubing you need it to, it's not much of a tool to you, now is it? Therefore, the first thing to ensure is that you pick the tube bender that can work with the appropriate diameter.

The good news is that most tube benders can work with a decent range of different tube diameters. In many cases, you will have a set of interchangeable dies to work with. There are many hand held tube benders that have a single die with several grooves for different tube diameters. However, interchangeable dies typically are the best to work with.

Bending Range 

What's equally as important as being able to bend the right size tubing? Putting the right bend in it! At the very least, your tube bender can produce a 90-degree bend. When forming brake lines, that’s what will get you up, over, and under most obstacles. However, there are situations where a complete 180 is better in a single bend than two right angles. To be frank, the types of angles a bender can create will define what kind of work it's good for, but that doesn't mean one is better than the other. That means you can likely expect to invest in two tube benders if your plumbing career is to extend beyond the odd-job here and there.

Press Controls 

Press controls refer to how the tool creates bends or how you physically use the tool. Obviously, you want to pick a model that's comfortable to use because it will impact your results. Since most of us are looking for handheld tube benders, you'll want to find models that use a lever to press the tube against the die to create your bends and not a fixed fence for tubing to ride in as you manipulate the entire mechanism to bend tubing.

On that note, not all are made the same. You want to take the time to make sure the mechanism is made with the level of precision that won’t deflect or cause any deformation in the tubing as you bend it.

Tube Bender Benefits 

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Bending tubes without a tube bender isn't impossible. A good trick to get you through a pinch is plugging a tube on one end, filling it with sand, then applying heat and pressure to bend it. The sand is used to provide structural support to avoid kinks while bends are being created. That's a lot of extra work, and tube bender is designed in such a way to achieve the same goals in a much quicker manner. Considering there's a lot of figuring involved with routing and which bends to make, it's worth keeping as much of the work as simple as possible with a tube bender.

Clean Bends

As I said before, tubing needs the proper support to avoid kinks and make clean bends. You can use sand, but how do you know if the angle you're making is correct? What happens if you mock it up only to find adjustments that need to be made? How about a situation where two separate bends are needed in close proximity to one another? After some trial and error, you will find that some jobs are impossible without the right tool. Tube benders simplify all of those situations by allowing you to make clean, precise bends right where you need them.

Save Money (In the Long Run)

Speaking of trial and error, the cost of kinked and mangled sections of tubing quickly adds up. What is a seemingly simple job to tackle on your own, such as making up your own brake lines, can suddenly become double the cost of buying pre-bent lines. The loss becomes even more dramatic when you're tackling something that demands costlier materials, such as building bumpers or roll cages. We'll be honest, you might only save a few dollars here and there, and the cost of the tool will wash out the difference in the initial stages. However, you're guaranteed to save a lot of money over your wrenching career by learning how to use a tube bender the right way.

Tube Bender Pricing Considerations

How much you spend on a tube bender is heavily dependent on the type of work you're trying to do. For the most part, something under $50 is great for tackling the odd brake and fuel line for DIY repairs. If you're a little more serious about custom work in these areas, moving closer or slightly above the $100 mark is a good way to get yourself a nice tool to work with. Larger tubes do need something more substantial, so it's not out of the realm of possibility to spend anywhere from $150-$300 for something that's capable of getting the job done. However, there really is no cap, as professionals can spend around $50,000 or more on CNC tube benders.

Tips and Tricks

As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and tube benders. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.

  • Don’t Rush. Don't let deadlines and time crunches interfere with your craftsmanship, as rushing is a good way to waste material. Take your time to ensure everything is working properly so you get good, clean bends.
  • Spend a Little. Don't waste your time with cheap tube benders. Spend a little extra and get something that won't flex or distort in any way while you apply pressure.
  • Learn the Tool. Every design has its own advantages and quirks. Familiarize yourself with what you have so you know exactly how to use it.
  • Get a Pipe Cutter. Don't let chewed-up, off-angle ends ruin your hard work. Invest in a decent tube cutter and reaming tool so you can ensure your pride goes unhindered.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!

Q: What is the difference between a pipe bender and a tube bender?

A: Pipes and tubes are different. They may seem virtually identical, but a key difference is that tubes are measured by the outside diameter, while pipes are measured by the inside diameter. The differences between benders relate to the measurements provided for tubes and pipes.

Q: How does a tube bender work?

A: That depends on the type of tube bender you use. However, the process for any can be summarized as the tool forces a pipe over a carefully shaped die or form in such a way that it's stretched as it bends to avoid kinks.

Q: How do you bend tubing with a hand bender?

A: There are variations in the exact process due to the differences in the various types of tube benders. Some require you to force the die against the pipe as a fence holds the tubing in place, while others use a lever to press the tubing over a die until the desired bend is achieved.

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