Circlip pliers are a specific hand tool used to put in and take out C-clips, a fastener that functions similarly to a retaining ring. Circlip pliers have other names, such as C-clip pliers, snap ring pliers, and retaining ring pliers. They are typically employed with various bearings in devices intended to twist, spin, turn, rotate, or pivot, where parts must be maintained fitting on shafts or housings.

But how do circlip pliers differ from standard pliers? Standard pliers typically have tips that are either sharpened or flattened, depending on the specific uses for which they are meant. Conversely, circlip pliers feature tips specifically designed to fit in between the grip holes of circlips. This facilitates their manipulation and positioning easily.

In this article, we’ll look at a few circlip pliers available to assist you in determining which sort to use and when.

External circlip pliers

External circlips are designed to slide into a groove and fit around the exterior of a shaft or dowel. After positioning themselves, they apply internal spring pressure to the dowel for support. Thus, to install external C-clips, external circlip pliers must be used to open them. This makes it possible for the ring to slightly enlarge and slide over the dowel more easily.

When you squeeze the handles of the external circlip pliers, the points of the pliers open up after being put into the holes in the C-clip. This lets the snap ring slide over a shaft by gently extending it.

Long nose circlip pliers

Long nose circlip pliers are specialized instruments for working with longer dowels or bores. They’re also helpful in placing and taking out C-clips in locations that are more difficult to access. The points of these pliers have been substantially enlarged for easier use.

Long-nose internal circlip pliers tend to sell more than exterior variants. This is because inserting a snap ring inside a deep bore is typically more difficult than doing it outside. Long nose circlip nose pliers are available with a curved or straight tip.

Internal circlip pliers

Internal circlips fit within a hollow, cylindrical hole or housing. A radiating pressure keeps the ring in place due to the spring action pushing outward against the sides. Squeezing the handle of internal circlip pliers causes the plier tips to close together once put into the holes on the snap ring. You can release the handles after the C-clip is in place, allowing the ring to expand to its total diameter.

Heavy-duty circlip pliers

Heavy-duty circlip pliers are designed to handle more complex tasks, such as manipulating, installing, or removing larger or thicker retaining rings. It’s also more likely that heavy-duty C-clip pliers will have extra safety features and advantages. A ratchet locking mechanism is a frequent example of offering better control and a secure grasp against higher gauge snap ring stresses.

Larger machinery assembly and repairs typically require industrial or heavy-duty snap ring pliers. They are often produced to a high standard using toughened materials, like heat-treated steel, and may have tips that have been galvanized for further hardness.


Your optimal option will vary depending on the kinds of installations or access circumstances you may encounter frequently.