If you have ever torn apart an engine, transmission, or differential for a rebuild you have undoubtedly encountered snap rings. Snap rings (also sometimes called circlips, circular clips, C-clips, or retaining rings) are used to retain items like bearings, pins, pulleys, and other automotive components in place once they have been installed.
Snap rings can be installed in two different configurations and are typically installed in a corresponding groove that is sized appropriately.. They can be installed on the outside of a pin (in this case they are referred to as an external snap ring) or on the inside of a bore (in which case they are referred to as an internal snap ring).
While screwdrivers have been used on occasion to install a snap ring, a screwdriver isn’t ideal as it can require some pretty significant force and they tend to slip a lot which results in a bunch of lost snap rings. You also run the risk of gouging, nicking, or scratching something important like a bearing surface. Unsurprisingly, the best tool to install snap rings is a good pair of snap ring pliers.
The Best Snap Ring Pliers
When it comes to snap ring pliers, you need both internal snap ring pliers and external snap ring pliers. You can get both by either buying a kit that contains multiple pairs, or you can by a set of snap ring pliers that allows you to toggle between internal and external. In our opinion, the best snap ring pliers allow you toggle between snap ring types because they take up much less room in your tool box.
Channellock 927 8″ Retaining Ring Plier
Without further adieu, our favorite snap ring plier is the Channellock 927. This pair of pliers has a number of notable features that are worth mentioning. First, you can switch back and forth between internal and external snap ring settings. This means that as you squeeze the handles, the jaws will move closer together when switched to the internal setting and will move apart when switched to the external setting. This is extremely handy because not only do you have more capability in one tool, but you also have the ability to switch and install multiple snap rings on the fly.
The construction is steel that has been heat treated for toughness and is of decent quality. The handles are covered by rubber grips that are comfortable and allow you to hang onto the tool even if you hands are wet or oily. The set comes with a variety of interchangeable tips for various sized snap rings. The tip sizes include .036″, .047″, and .070″ for the straight configuration as well as .036″ and .047″ for the 90 degree configuration. There is a heavy duty spring positioned between the handles to keep them apart automatically which is a must have for convenience (makes one handed operation possible so you don’t have to pull the jaws apart with two hands to position them on a snap ring) when working with snap rings.
Overall the Channellock 927 Snap Ring Pliers are a great set that gives the user the most flexibility and we think they will suit your needs quite nicely. As far as where to buy, we recommend Amazon as they have a pretty attractive shipped price that means you can find a set pretty inexpensively. When it comes to the best snap ring pliers, you can’t go wrong with the Channellocks and we wholeheartedly recommend them. Happy Wrenching!