The Best Locking Pliers (Review & Buying Guide) in 2020

One of the problems you face when working on a vehicle is lack of space. Depending on the job you...

Best Choice
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VISE-GRIP IRWIN Original Locking Pliers
Premium Pick
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Apex Tool Group Crescent Locking Plier Set
Best Value
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WORKPRO 3-Piece Locking Plier Set

One of the problems you face when working on a vehicle is lack of space. Depending on the job you can find yourself restricted in the tools that you can safely utilize. In these situations, having access to locking pliers can free up your hands and space, while keeping parts in the required position or allowing you to safely remove objects that have become stuck or cross threaded. But with so many brands of locking pliers available, as well as different shapes and sizes, it can be hard to know which ones are best for the job. Our panel of vehicle and tool experts have created a list of the best locking pliers to point you in the right direction.

The Best Locking Pliers

The IRWIN VISE-GRIP Original Curved Jaw Locking Pliers with Wire Cutter has a curved jaw that comes with hardened teeth to grip a range of shapes from any angle. The classically designed trigger release gives maximum locking force as well as safe and pinch-free controlled release. The locking pliers include a wire cutter to increase their versatility and usefulness. The product is constructed from durable high-grade heat-treated alloy steel. Pressure can be adjusted by a hex key adjusting screw, which also enables you to draw materials together, giving the best possible hold in all situations.

Key Features
  • 10” curved locking jaw pliers
  • Hardened teeth provide a secure grip
  • Hex key adjusting screw
  • Guarded trigger
  • Built in wire cutter
Specification
  • Brand VISE-GRIP
  • Model 502L3
  • Weight 1 pounds

If you are looking for a set of locking pliers that meets all of your needs, then the Crescent 5-Piece Locking Plier Set by Apex Tools might be just what you need. The set contains three pairs of curved jaw locking pliers and two pairs of long nose locking pliers. Each pair is made with a nickel-plated finish for rust and corrosion resistance and includes an angled tooth pattern to give you a better grip. Each pair also has a built-in wire cutter and a compound action that provides a powerful non-slip locking grip.

Key Features
  • Set includes 6” and 9” long nose pliers and 5”, 7”, and 10” curved nose pliers
  • Angled tooth pattern provides a better grip
  • Rust and corrosion resistant nickel-plated finish
  • Jaws include a built-in wire cutter
  • Compound action offers a powerful non-slip locking grip
Specification
  • Brand Apex Tool Group
  • Model CLP5SET
  • Weight 3.8 pounds

The 10100 10-Inch Curved Jaw Self-Adjusting Locking Pliers from CH Hanson allow you to preset your desired clamp pressure. Once set, the jaws self-adjust, allowing them to clamp onto any size object with equal grip pressure. The pliers are durable and made from chrome molybdenum steel. They feature a non-slip texture grip, making them easier and safer to use, while the easy squeeze lever stays locked until you release it.  

Key Features
  • 10” curved jaw self-adjusting locking pliers
  • Made from chrome molybdenum steel
  • Clamping pressure can be pre-set
  • Jaws adjust to fit any size object
  • Includes non-slip texture grip and easy squeeze lever
Specification
  • Brand C.H. Hanson
  • Model 10100
  • Weight 1.46 pounds

The Stanley 94-960 3-Piece Locking Plier Set includes straight jaw, curved jaw, and long nose locking pliers. Each pair of pliers meets ANSI specifications and is made from forged steel, making them strong and durable. The jaws are induction hardened for longer lasting and improved grip. The adjustment screw allows for precise pressure adjustments while the built-in wire cutter offers additional versatility.

Key Features
  • Long nose, straight jaw, and curved jaw locking plier set
  • Made from forged steel with induction hardened jaws
  • Adjustment screw included
  • Built-in wire cutter
  • Meet ANSI specifications
Specification
  • Brand Stanley
  • Model 94-960
  • Weight 2.55 pounds

The 3-Piece Locking Pliers Set from Craftsman includes 6”, 7”, and 10” pliers and includes one pair of long jaw pliers that are ideal when you need longer bends with lighter materials. The pressure can be adjusted easily by turning the screw at the base of the handle. The handles themselves are ergonomically designed and covered in a soft grip material. The entire construction of each pair of pliers is rust resistant, ensuring their durability and longevity.

Key Features
  • 3-Piece locking pliers set including long jaw pliers
  • Set includes 6”, 7”, and 10” pliers
  • Pressure adjustment screw included
  • Made from rust-resistant materials
  • Ergonomic, soft grip handles
Specification
  • Brand Craftsman
  • Model 10061
  • Weight 2.61 pounds

The Grip-On 111-10 10-Inch Curved Jaw Locking Pliers are ideal for firmly gripping round objects. The pliers have a capacity of up to 2 ½” and feature a threaded opening screw that allows you to resize the jaws with ease. The jaws are rugged forged with a tooth profile that has been redesigned to provide greater strength and durability. The pliers unlock easily with the quick-release no-pinch lever.

Key Features
  • 10” curved jaw locking pliers
  • A capacity of up to 2 ½”
  • Rugged forged with a strong and durable tooth profile
  • A quick-release no-pinch release lever
  • Includes threaded opening screw
Specification
  • Brand Grip-On
  • Model GR11110
  • Weight 1.2 pounds

The Capri Tools 1-1125 Klinge Long Nose Locking Pliers have a built-in wire cutter for increased versatility. The 6” pliers have a jaw adjustment of 2 ¼” and are made from heavy-duty chrome molybdenum steel. The durable jaws and teeth are able to grip objects from any angle, while the turn knob allows you to adjust the pressure to keep a secure hold at all times. The pliers also benefit from a classic trigger lock release system.

Key Features
  • 6” long nose locking pliers
  • Jaw adjustment of 2 ¼”
  • Adjustable pressure and classic trigger lock release system
  • Made from heavy-duty chrome molybdenum steel
Specification
  • Brand Capri Tools
  • Model 1-1125
  • Weight 6.4 ounces

The Straight Jaw Pliers by Milwaukee feature a patented torque lock which enables faster set up and easy release on completion of a task. The straight jaw design maximizes the number of contact points on the work surfaces, while the hardened jaws provide a better grip force. The pliers are made from forged alloy steel to improve strength and durability and include rust protection to increase longevity.

Key Features
  • 10” straight nose pliers
  • Patented torque lock
  • Hardened jaws
  • Made from forged alloy steel
  • Includes rust protection coating
Specification
  • Brand Milwaukee
  • Model MIL48223510
  • Weight 1.55 pounds

The WORKPRO 3-Piece Locking Plier Set features 10-inch and 7-inch curved jaw pliers and a pair of 6-1/2-inch straight jaw pliers. Each pair is drop forged and heat treated to give them strength and durability, while the jaws are precision machined for a better grip. The handles are ergonomically designed and created from bi-materials with anti-slip grips. Each unit also includes a wire cutter, adjustable screw, and quick release lever system.

Key Features
  • 7” and 10” curved jaw and 6 ¼” straight jaw pliers
  • Drop forged and heat treated with precision machined jaws
  • Ergonomically designed handles with anti-slip grips
  • Adjustable screw and quick release lever
  • Includes wire cutter
Specification
  • Brand WORKPRO
  • Model W001308A
  • Weight 1.85 pounds

If you are looking for locking pliers that can manage section, flat and round materials with no loss of hold, then the KNIPEX 4104180 Round Jaw Locking Pliers might be just what you are looking for. The pliers are ideal for one-handed usage with a quick release lever and easy to use adjustment screw. You can achieve high clamping pressure with the toggle lever action and versatility is increased by the inclusion of wire cutters at the base of the jaws. The pliers are created from high-strength, forged, rolled steel with chrome vanadium electric steel gripping jaws.

Key Features
  • 7.25-inch round jaw locking pliers
  • Built-in wire cutters
  • Toggle lever action
  • Quick release lever and adjustment screw
  • Made from forged, rolled steel with chrome vanadium electric steel gripping jaws
Specification
  • Brand KNIPEX Tools
  • Model 4104180
  • Weight 13.4 ounces
Best Locking Pliers Buying Guide & FAQ

Finding the right locking pliers for the task you are undertaking takes more than just knowing what is available. It is also important to understand what you need to look for when choosing locking pliers, what the benefits are of using locking pliers compared to other types of pliers, and how the jaws actually work. In this section of the buying guide, we explore each of these aspects in detail and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about locking pliers.

Related Posts: Best Lineman Pliers and Best Hose Clamp Pliers

locking pliers

What to Look for in a Vise Grip

Locking pliers are often referred to as either mole grips or vise grips. However, vise grip pliers are actually a specific brand of pliers, such as the Irwin Vise Grip pliers which are our top pick. Like all locking pliers, vise grip pliers can be locked into position so that they retain a strong hold on an object without the user needing to apply constant pressure to keep the handles closed. When looking for the perfect pair of vise grip or locking pliers you should look for ones that have the following features:

  • Hardened teeth: The plier’s ability to hold an object in place or to grip tightly while you move or loosen an object is partly due to the shape and strength of the teeth within its jaws. If the teeth are not hardened then they will wear down quickly, meaning that its holding ability will be compromised. The shape of the teeth is important as it determines the type and shape of materials that can be successfully held in place.
  • Adjusting screw: An adjusting screw or bolt allows you to set the desired pressure and adjust it in small increments to ensure that the hold is strong and secure. It is important to check the size limits of the locking pliers before using them for any specific job. If the item is too small, then no hold will be possible. If the item is too big, then there is a risk that the hold will not be stable, and the pliers could slip while you are working.
  • Release lever: When you have finished the task a quick release lever helps you to remove the pliers without additional effort, even if they are at a difficult to reach angle. One touch levers reduce the risk of pinching during their operation, therefore reducing the risk of injury to your hands.
  • Nose or jaw style: Locking pliers come in a range of styles and shapes, each of which is best for a specific set of jobs. However, regardless of the job, the quality and construction of the locking pliers remain more important than the shape. Curved jaw pliers should be your first choice for any form of demolition, or loosening nuts, bolts, or screws that have become frozen in place. Long nose locking pliers are better when you need to clamp onto a smaller object to either keep them in place or remove them. Items that you might use long nose locking plier for include nails, staples, broken screws, or pins.
  • Strong construction: You need to trust that the pliers will hold their position regardless of the environment in which they are being used. Forged steel and high grade, heat treated alloy steel are good options.

Benefits of Using Locking Pliers

There are several benefits to using locking pliers over traditional pliers. One of the key benefits is that locking pliers require a lot less physical strength to operate than non-locking pliers. The pressure and hold are applied by the pliers, rather than by the individual holding them.

The best locking pliers allow for single-hand operation, freeing up one hand to deal with other important aspects of a task. The pliers can be easily adjusted and released with one hand, which also frees up space in the given work area.

Using locking pliers is safer than other options. Once locked in place the best vise grip pliers do not release until you press the lever. You can work with confidence, knowing that the hold on the part in question will not loosen, move, shift, or turn unless you decide it needs to.

pair of pliers

Jaw Functionality Of Locking Pliers

The jaws are the part of the locking pliers that actually hold on to the item that you want to hold in position. The jaws tend to come in either straight or curved shapes, allowing you to choose the shape that best fits both the space you are working in and the shape of the item to be held. The adjustment screw determines the space between the jaws once the pliers are closed, and therefore the amount of pressure that is applied to the item.

The teeth within the jaws help the jaws hold onto smooth surfaces and help to distribute the pressure of the jaws equally along the surface of the object being held. If the teeth are worn or not hardened, then they can reduce the grip pressure of the pliers, allowing the pliers to slip when they are being used to loosen or tighten an object such as a stuck joint, cross threaded screw, or stuck nail.

Related Post: Torque Wrenches

How to Use Vise Grip Locking Pliers

All pliers work using a lever and fulcrum system. The force that is exerted on the handles is channeled via the joint or fulcrum to the jaws at the other end. The difference with locking pliers is that you can focus more of your attention and energy on turning or levering the pliers and less on worrying about them moving or slipping during the task. Using vise grip locking pliers is a simple and effective way of holding items still or getting a better grip on items that are difficult to move, dislodge, or turn. To effectively use your vise grip locking pliers all you need to do is follow these steps:

  1. The first step is to open the pliers. To do this hold the pliers in your hand and press the tab or lever on the inside of the handle. This separates the handles and the jaws ready for use.
  2. Now place the jaws of the pliers around the object you want to turn, move, or hold.
  3. Squeeze the handles tightly together so that the jaws close tightly around the object. The jaws can be further adjusted using the adjustment knob or screw that is situated at the end of one leg of the handle piece.
  4. Once you have the correct pressure on the object you can continue with the task, either using the pliers to be kept the object in place or using them to loosen and move it as required.
  5. Once completed release the pliers using the tab or lever on the inside of the handle leg.

Best Locking Pliers FAQ:

Q: What are locking pliers?

A: Locking pliers are pliers that can be locked into position to provide a stronger and more stable grip on the item they are applied to. Locking pliers are also known as either vise grips or mole grips and include a bolt, knob, or screw, which is used to adjust the spacing of the jaws and therefore the pressure that is applied to the object the pliers are gripping. Locking pliers are ideal for loosening cross threaded screws, bolts and joints that are stuck, and nails that are in spaces that are too small for tools such as claw hammers. They are also useful for working in small spaces such as car engines and reducing the strength and effort you need to apply to complete a job.

Q: How do mole grips work?

A: Mole grips is another term for locking pliers. They work in exactly the same way as locking pliers. All pliers us a simple lever and fulcrum system to exhibit force on an object to either keep it in place or move it in the desired direction. Locking pliers use the same basic system but have additional features that keep them securely attached to the object. To use them safely and effectively, first, open the jaws using the quick release lever. Then place the jaws around the object you want to grip. Close the handles together until the jaws close around the object. Use the adjustment screw to get the best possible grip. Complete your task and then use the quick release lever to safely remove the mole grips from the object.

two pliers

Our Top Pick for Best Locking Pliers

Our top pick is the IRWIN VISE-GRIP Original Curved Jaw Locking Pliers with Wire Cutter have a curved jaw that comes complete with hardened teeth to grip a range of shapes from any angle. The classically designed trigger release gives maximum locking force, as well as safe and pinch-free controlled release. The locking pliers include a wire cutter to increase their versatility and usefulness. The product is constructed from durable high-grade heat-treated alloy steel. Pressure can be adjusted by a hex key adjusting screw, which also enables you to draw materials together, giving the best possible hold in all situations.