How to Use Circlip Pliers

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Things You'll Need

  • Circlip pliers

  • Snap rings

Circlip pliers on table
Image Credit: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

Circlip pliers are used to install or remove "circlips" from equipment shafts. A circlip, sometimes called a snap or retaining ring, holds bearings on shafts or within bore holes. Circlips are also used to hold wheels on axles, clutches on chainsaw motors and even faucet cartridges in valve housings. Like circlips, the pliers you use to install and remove them come in multiple sizes, but there just two configurations. Use the proper circlip pliers to simplify the task of removing a ring from a shaft or bore hole.


Step 1

Identify the circlip. Circlips come in two configurations. Internal circlip rings go inside a bore hole and apply pressure to the outside when in place. External rings go around a shaft and apply pressure inward under normal use. The two holes on the circlip can be used to identify the type of ring. Internal circlip rings have the hole inside the perimeter of the circle made by the clip to keep them out of the way of the ring when it is in place. External rings have the holes outside the perimeter of the circle that will go around the shaft.


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Step 2

Select the right circlip pliers. Circlip pliers look somewhat like standard needle-nose pliers with small prongs at the end of each jaw. Interior-ring circlip pliers have jaws that close as the handles are compressed. This compresses the ring inward when the prongs on the ends of the jaws are inserted into the holes in the circlip ring. External-ring circlip pliers have jaws that spread when the handles are compressed to open the circlip ring and allow its removal from the shaft.


Step 3

Use the right size pliers. Pliers that are too small may not provide enough leverage to remove the circlip ring from the shaft or bore hole, while pliers that are too big are difficult to use and may have prongs too large for the holes in the circlip rings.

Step 4

Install an exterior circlip by hooking the ends of the pliers to the loops on either end of the ring and opening the jaws of the pliers. Slide the ring into position, release the handle and remove the pliers.


Step 5

Place an interior circlip by hooking the jaws on the circlip ring and closing them to compress the ring. Slip the ring into position inside a pipe or fitting, allow the jaws to open and remove the pliers.


Circlip or snap ring pliers are often sold in sets, providing the owner not only with internal and external circlip pliers, but also several sizes. This makes it easier to find the appropriately sized pliers for each job.

Reverse the procedure for installing an interior or exterior circlip to remove it.


Although circlip pliers look similar to needle-nose pliers, use them carefully for other tasks. Avoid damaging the prongs at the end of the jaw that allow the pliers to do the work on circlip rings.



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