12 Essential Pliers for Automotive Work

Ratchets and wrenches might be the most stereotypical automotive tools, but we’d like to make a case for pliers to take over that spot. Without them, you won’t get very far into your next repair. When we say pliers, we abide by the loose definition of “two handles that squeeze together to perform an action.” Maybe not Merriam-Webster approved, but that’s what we came up with.

Like pasta, there are many different types of pliers, which are all used in different scenarios. Unlike pasta, these tools are built to perform with strength and precision. Pliers don’t taste good, either. For this list, we recommended products we have in our own toolboxes and have used in the field, along with some highly rated tools from Amazon.

So before you tackle your next Saturday morning car project, make sure to upgrade your plier drawer to a full arsenal of these pinchy tools. They’ll save you time, physical exertion, and frustration—all fantastic perks when you’re dealing with grease monkey business. Let’s replace wrenching with pliering. Yeah? Okay, no.

Protective Gear to Keep You Safe While Working on Your Car

These high-leverage diagonal cutters from Knipex are a top choice for many mechanics. Aside from excelling at slicing through wires, they can easily chomp through large zip ties, vacuum hoses, and metal.

These mini snippers are perfect for cutting things in tight places. Measuring just 4.3-inches long, its size allows you to access wires or zip-ties deep under the hood or up into the dashboard.  

Hose clamps can be notoriously tricky. The lockable long-reach hose clamp plier with a flexible wire shaft is a lifesaver, as it allows you to free up a clamp, lock it open, and use both hands to take off that radiator or vacuum hose. As a bonus, the other tools in this kit are handy in certain clamp-removal situations.

Exhaust hanger removal pliers will save you tons of time from messing around with those pesky rubber exhaust hanger insulators. Just spray a generous amount of lithium grease on the hanger and simply push it through the rubber with these pliers.

This 4-in-1 tool from Neiko is basically a direct rebranding of the Snap-on version. It features a gripper, cutter, crimper, and wire stripper, which works on wires from 12-20 AWG. If you plan on doing any electrical work, this is a must-have.

Hose grip pliers can prevent damage to fittings and hoses that could happen with just brute hand strength. This set features three different pliers, each with varying clasp sizes. The next time you have to remove that 20-year-old vacuum hose, consider picking up this set. 

Needle nose pliers excel at being a do-all tool. From picking up fallen bolts to pulling out fussy plastic fasteners, a good set of these pinchers deserve to be in the top drawer of any toolbox. We like this 8.0-inch one from Channellock, and it even comes with a built-in side cutter.

Continuing with the Channellock theme, a pair of duckbill pliers is a smart tool to have, and it’s tough to beat the value of these. Channellock still makes tools in the USA, and these things last forever. The flat nose and jaws make electrical jobs a breeze, as they help with twisting or straightening wire. 

Piston rings are surprisingly delicate, and should be removed and installed with this tool. The jaws work to spread the piston ring, allowing it to be removed without shattering everywhere. If you’re doing some deep engine work, snag a pair of these.

Ah yes, the dreaded drum brakes. They’ve frustrated countless mechanics over the years, but we think they just didn’t use this tool. Equipped with a few different functions, these pliers easily take care of the various springs and anchors behind the drums. 

A good set of vise-grips is a must-have for any mechanic, and it’s tough to beat the originals. This set from Irwin does the job simply and continuously, as they’re built to last. From locking on sway-bar links to hose clamps, these bad boys are super-helpful. 

Sometimes it’s a good idea to invest in a set of top tools, and we recommend this Snap-on set for that very reason. When it comes to snap ring pliers, the tips have a habit of breaking—but these are built to stay intact for a long time. And with five different pliers, you’re well equipped to conquer the trickiest snap rings.

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