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How to Use Snap Ring Pliers (Circlip Pliers): 5 Tips & Tricks

mechanic using snap ring pliers

Snap ring pliers are completely different from your average pliers, despite their name. These pliers are specifically made to be used with snap rings. These snap rings are very strong (but thin) rings that retain fasteners on shafts and other assembly parts. As you might imagine, they are extremely important.

However, installing them is a bit of a particular job. While you can do it by hand and with the tools you have laying around, it is easiest to do it with snap ring pliers. Therefore, if you work with these rings often, you’ll likely want to purchase a pair of these pliers.

Luckily, using these pliers is extremely easy. It only takes a few simple steps, most of which are pretty straightforward. However, you can only use them with snap rings that have grip holes, grooved ends, or bent ends.

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The 5 Tips & Tricks On Using Snap Ring

1. Wear Protective Gear

safety glasses and gloves
Image Credit: mihalec, Shutterstock

You’ll want to start by putting on protective gear. While installation isn’t particularly dangerous, pieces of metal can fly off if you pull on them a little too much. Therefore, you’ll at least want to wear safety goggles to ensure that nothing hits you in the eye.

However, we also recommend wearing protective gloves to keep the metal from scratching your hands. Generally, the more protective gear you wear, the better.

2. Insert the Tip of the Pliers

Next, you’ll want to insert the pliers into the end of the snap ring. This ring should have grooved edges or grip holes, which allow the pliers to grip the ring. Sometimes, the ends may simply be bent, which allows the pliers to get a grip, as well.

If the rings don’t have anywhere for the pliers to hold onto, you won’t be able to install them with the pliers. Therefore, you should check before purchasing a pair of pliers for the job.

3. Press the Handles of the Pliers

Now, you’ll want to compress the ring by squeezing the handle of the pliers. This allows it to fit the bore or housing, which makes installation much easier. Because of how pliers are designed, using the pliers makes this step much easier than installing them by hand.

Be sure your pliers have a good grip before you start this step. Otherwise, they could slip off, causing the ring to go flying and potentially injure you or someone else.

4. Slide the Ring into Place

Now that the ring is compressed, you’ll want to slide it into place. All you need to do is slide it into the wire lock groove, which will keep it in place. While this may require a bit of finesse, it is much easier to do this with the pliers than by hand.

5. Inspect Your Job

mechanic fixing axel joint
Image Credit: Setta Sornnoi, Shutterstock

Next, you’ll want to ensure that the ring is in the proper place. While it is easy to skip this step, it isn’t odd for the snap ring to be slightly out of the groove, which will cause it to fly off later. Therefore, this step is vital to ensure that everything works correctly.

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How Do You Remove a Snap Ring Without Holes?

You can only use pliers when the snap ring has holes. If it doesn’t have holes, things can get a bit more complicated. Instead of snap ring pliers, you’ll likely need a pair of narrow tip pliers. Simply grip the ring and remove it gently from the groove.

You don’t want to use too much force, as the ring will likely snap off by itself, anyway. If you add too much force, this can make the ring go flying, potentially injuring you or someone else. Therefore, go slow and steady.

You can also use a screwdriver. However, this doesn’t give you any control of the snap ring, which increases the chance of injury. While this does work in a pinch, we particularly recommend using a pair of pliers, instead.

How Do You Fit a Snap Ring?

Fitting a snap ring is much easier with a pair of snap ring pliers. You can fit the ring using your hands or other tools, but this is much more difficult and frustrating. Plus, it can lead to injury later on, which is the last thing you want.

Therefore, we highly recommend picking up a pair of snap ring pliers. They aren’t very expensive, but they can make this job much easier.

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We highly recommend using a pair of snap ring pliers when putting snap rings on or taking them off. While you can perform this job without this tool, it is much harder and more frustrating to do so. Therefore, your best bet is to use this tool, as it was literally made for this job.

With that said, these pliers only work if there is something on the end of the ring for them to grip onto. Otherwise, they simply don’t work.

However, if you have the pliers and rings that work with them, then the process is quite simple. Our step-by-step guide should help you install the snap rings safely without injuring yourself.

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Featured Image Credit: Setta Sornnoi, Shutterstock


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