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What are the different types of circlip pliers?

What are the different types of circlip pliers?


Retaining rings come in many sizes – so do the tools used to remove them.


They are available in a large variety of different lengths and tip diameters, for use with differently sized circlips. It is important to use the right size of pliers so you don’t strain the tool, or the circlip.


Circlip diameters are based on the diameter of the bore or shaft they will be fit into, or onto. Circlip diameter measurements are taken from the outside diameter on one side to the inside diameter on the other side. 


You should be able to find circlip pliers for use with circlip diameters of between 0.5mm (0.02 inch) and 500mm (20 inch), and specialist circlip pliers and tools which can be used with circlips of up to 1000mm (40 inch) in diameter.


You can buy sets of circlip pliers to ensure that you have all the right tools for your jobs.



Internal Circlip Pliers

Internal circlip pliers are used to remove or fit circlip retaining rings from inside a shaft or bore. They work the same way as standard pliers; when the handles close, the tips close.

External Circlip Pliers

External circlip pliers are used with circlip retaining rings which fit onto a pin or shaft. 


These work in the opposite way to internal circlip pliers; when the handles close, the tips open. They are used for circlips which fit around a shaft.

Adjustable Circlip Pliers

Interchangeable circlip pliers can be switched between internal and external.


Sometimes called ‘reversible’ or ‘convertible’ circlip pliers, adjustable types allow you to change their function between internal and external pliers. This means you can use the same tool for the two different types of circlip. 

Adjustable circlip pliers can have a switch or adjustable parts. If the pliers have a switch, you can quickly and easily switch between internal and external whilst working. These pliers would be particularly useful in applications where you are working on different parts, with a variety of circlip types, such as overall car repairs.


These pliers are more versatile, but not as strong, as they have more moving parts to allow them to adjust.

Some circlip pliers can be switched between internal and external by separating and rejoining two parts. Their pivot point can be adjusted, which changes the configuration between internal and external. 


These often come in sets with different sizes of pliers, or they may have interchangeable heads which can be fitted to work as either internal or external.

Straight Tip Circlip Pliers

As their name suggests, these circlip pliers have straight tips and are particularly useful if you need to reach into a shaft to access a circlip. Some will have extended tips for extra reach.

Angled Tip Circlip Pliers

You will also find that circlip pliers come in angled tip versions. Angled tip circlip pliers allow you to reach retaining rings in different places. The most common are 45 and 90 degree angled tips, but you can also get tips which are angled at different degrees.

Circlip pliers with angled or bent tips can reach different places to straight tipped circlip pliers. These give the user extra visibility when working in certain places, and allow them to reach circlips in limited spaces. This is because the angle of the tips will affect the position the tool is held.

Rack-Type Circlip Pliers

Ratcheting circlip pliers can be used for more heavy-duty work. Rack-type circlip pliers have a mechanism which secures the tips in a fixed position when removing or installing a circlip. 


The mechanism consists of a curved bar with teeth that goes between the two handles. It’s pivoted on one side and can be secured at any point along its row of teeth on the other side. 


Ratcheted circlips pliers can come in versions which can be adjusted for use with non-standard circlips.

The rack provides a safer way of removing or installing circlips, as the tips will be held at a fixed distance apart during installation or removal of the circlip, rather the depending on variable pressure form the user’s hand. 


This reduces the chance of the circlip slipping off the tool. They come in internal and external versions, can have fixed straight or angled tips, and may also have replaceable tips.


The locking clamp on these circlip pliers means they can be used with circlips which are not standard sizes.

Other Circlip Pliers and Extra Features


There are many different circlips so there are many designs of tool for removing and installing them. There are also variations of circlip pliers which are designed for use with some of the different types of retaining rings, and for more heavy-duty applications.


Heavy Duty Circlip Pliers

There are a few versions of heavy-duty circlip pliers, with different ways the screw action can be operated. Some have a simple soft-grip bar handle, similar to a screwdriver.


Some have a T-bar handle which is easier to turn; others have a knob on the side of the tool which is turned to adjust the screw.

Heavy-duty circlip pliers can be used with internal and external circlips and usually have a number of different tips which can be changed for different jobs.

Non-Standard Distances Between the Holes

An additional feature on some ratcheted circlip pliers is a non-standard distance between the holes. The majority of circlips come in sizes which are standardised, and it is these sizes that most circlip pliers are designed to work with.


If the circlip is not a standardised size, some circlip pliers have tips you can set at different distances with a locking clamp.

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