Many electrical connections rely on a terminal (a bolt-down or push-fit connector) with an open end crimped onto the bare end of a wire or cable. The terminals, often simply called crimps, are made of metal and are usually shrouded in PVC or nylon. A crimping tool squeezes the crimp shut, forming a secure join between terminal and cable.
Most crimping tools are squeezed like a pair of pliers, though they are larger and their mechanisms and jaws vary considerably. Use this guide to understand the types available, the factors and features to keep in mind when shopping, and why the following are considered the best crimping tools to buy.
- BEST OVERALL: Titan 11477 Ratcheting Wire Terminal Crimper Tool
- BEST BUDGET: NEIKO 02037A Compact 4-in-1 Multi Purpose
- BEST AUTOMOTIVE: TEMCo Hammer Lug Crimper Tool
- BEST HYDRAULIC: TEMCo Hydraulic Cable Lug Crimper
- BEST FOR ELECTRONICS: Wirefy Crimping Tool Insulated Electrical Connectors
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: IWISS Cable Lug Crimping Tool for Heavy Duty Wire
- BEST CRIMPING TOOL KIT: IWISS Ratcheting Crimping Tool Set
Cable (or wire) thickness is usually given in American Wire Gauge (AWG) or simply “gauge.” The crimp, also known as the terminal, needs to be a corresponding size for the connection to work properly.
At its thinnest, gauge can be around a hundredth of an inch in diameter, though 18 gauge (0.04 inch) is the thinnest in common use. By contrast, the maximum AWG, 4/0, is almost 0.5 inch across. Larger cable diameters are generally given as MCM (which is an abbreviation for “thousands of circular mils”) and can exceed 1.5 inches.
As each cable size can be connected to a variety of different terminals, no single crimping tool can handle every job. There are three basic types of crimping tools: handheld, hydraulic, and hammer.
Handheld crimping tools are the most common. They’re usually very affordable and offer considerable versatility. These crimpers range in size: There are those that sit easily in the palm of a hand and are designed for high-precision work (like small terminals and wire splices), and there are models more than a foot long that offer the leverage required for heavy-duty crimping.
Although many use a simple squeezing action like ordinary pliers, a ratchet is often employed to provide consistent, repeatable pressure application. Jaws vary to accommodate different types and sizes of terminals. To offer increased range, some handheld crimping tools have interchangeable jaw sets. They may also incorporate wire strippers and/or small bolt cutters, making the tool multipurpose.
While mechanized hydraulic wire crimping tools are available for production lines, most of this type are still manually operated. They use an oil-filled cylinder actuated by a lever, thus dramatically increasing output pressure. Hydraulic crimpers are usually rated by the force they can apply. This is measured in tons per square inch (anywhere from 8 to 16), underlining the terrific power they can generate.
Although frequently used in heavy-duty applications, a hydraulic crimper can handle medium-size terminals, thanks to interchangeable crimping dies; these steel jaws are specially shaped to close the crimp firmly. The tools are usually supplied with a selection of these—a typical example might contain from 8 AWG (0.12 inch) to 0-250 MCM (0.68 inch).
Hydraulic crimping tools are easy to use but do require occasional maintenance. If air gets into the cylinder, for instance, it will reduce performance, so purging may be necessary. Oil seals also need to be changed periodically.
A hammer crimping tool is a basic, low-cost device, often making it best for those who only need a crimper occasionally. However, it is also a robust and compact tool that can put up with tough environments and is often found in automotive shops and wherever else heavy-duty crimping is required.
A hammer crimper doesn’t use dies but instead consists of a height-adjustable, wedge-shaped ram on a sliding carriage with a V-shaped groove at the base. The crimp and cable to be connected are simply placed in this groove.
As the name of this crimper suggests, closing the terminal is a matter of hitting the wedge with a hammer. A 2- to 4-pound sledgehammer is recommended, though any heavy hammer will do. A bench vise could also be used to press the ram onto the crimp.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Crimping Tool
The mechanical actions mentioned should play a role in your choice, but a number of other factors must be taken into account as well. Read on for details about materials, applications, and more to help you choose the best crimping tool for your wiring projects.
Crimping tools of all types are invariably made of steel. Carbon steel is often cited as offering high durability, but this can be a bit misleading. All steel is a mixture of iron and carbon, so the term “carbon steel” can apply to any of these metals.
For increased toughness, look for high carbon steel (a small but important difference) or hardened steel. The latter is especially appropriate in hydraulic and hammer crimping tools because of its resilience to high pressure and repeated impact.
Handheld crimping tools usually have plastic or rubber grips on the handles for added comfort. On cheap crimping tools, this can be quite thin and prone to splitting. Better-quality models frequently have thicker padding and better ergonomics, offering a more secure grip.
DIY and hobby users will often try to find a single tool for multiple applications. It’s perfectly understandable as it helps reduce expense, but improper fit or pressure often results in faults. There really are no “jack of all trades” solutions when it comes to crimping tools, so you’re often best off being specific.
This is particularly true when dealing with specialist connectors. Fortunately it’s not difficult to find a variety of alternatives for every application that include choices ranging from decent budget to professional tools. Contractors often buy several different crimping tools, finding that the efficiency and reliability of having the right tool for the job more than makes up for the extra expense.
Crimping tool product descriptions usually offer good guidance, but if you’re unsure of which one you need, do further research. Using the wrong type can result in poor connections that eventually lead to a breakdown.
Volume of Operation
In factories and other high-productivity situations, automated machinery is used. Such tooling isn’t typically necessary in most general electrical projects, but volume of operation (or frequency of use) is still an important consideration.
For example, a hammer crimping tool is often found in auto shops for refitting battery cables. If it’s only needed as occasionally as once a month, an inexpensive tool may offer adequate performance and good value. If the same task had to be undertaken several times a day, a hydraulic crimping tool would make more sense. These cost more, but they’re faster and require less effort.
Similarly, a basic handheld crimping tool might suffice for folks who tinker with electrical devices as a hobby. A pro who does the same types of repairs on a daily basis would choose a ratcheting model so every crimp had the same pressure applied, every time. These also release automatically, increasing productivity.
Wire Gauge and Crimp Profile
Hydraulic and hammer crimpers are heavy-duty tools that can handle the largest of wire gauges. The former is limited by the die sizes available, the latter by how much physical force can be applied. Crimp profile—the shape of the crimp before it’s compressed, which varies according to connector type—is unimportant with these tools, because a limited variety is used.
With more general electrical projects, such as repairing household appliances or electronic apparatus, there are a number of different profiles. These include hex, indented, circular, B-Crimp, and others. The profile defines how the crimp closes around the cable, so choosing theright type of jaw is vital in providing safe and secure electrical connections.
Most handheld crimping tools will offer a range of cable gauges and should make clear the type of profile they provide. However, that’s not always the case, so it’s always a good idea to check the specification provided by the manufacturer.
Electrical crimp connectors come in dozens of different materials and styles: nylon, PVC, non-insulated, insulated, heat shrinkable, ring, spade, Faston, Lucar, Shur-Plug—the list is extensive.
Many of these descriptions have little impact on the type of crimping tool used, as they define the type of connection being made between two components. However, some types of crimping tools work better with nylon wire connectors than PVC, for example, making it important to understand the specification of the connector to select a suitable crimper. Often the manufacturer makes this easy, not just by giving clear definitions but also by color-coding the jaws so you have rapid visual identification.
Although it’s a good policy to buy a crimping tool that’s as closely matched as possible to the specification of the cable size and crimps you’re using, these tools are not without versatility. Even basic models will handle a variety of cable and connector diameters. Better-quality tools may offer replaceable jaw sets, which give you the opportunity to handle three or four times as many sizes and potentially different types of connectors as well.
Wire stripping is a necessary part of any crimping operation, and some tools incorporate blades for this purpose. Cutters for trimming cable to length may also be included. Crimping tool kits may extend this further with the addition of cable testers or the terminals themselves.
Our Top Picks
Much of the criteria detailed above went into the selection of the following tools, along with the precision and durability of each product. We conducted lengthy product research, comparing a wide variety of wire crimping tools to ensure we included the best products on our list.
Busy professionals and enthusiastic amateurs will both appreciate the ease of use, repeatable performance, and excellent value of this Titan wire crimping tool. It’s designed to handle the common insulated nylon terminal type with cable diameters from 22 AWG up to 10 AWG. The double-crimp die provides extra cable security. Jaws are color-coded for rapid identification and high productivity.
The ratcheting action provides great control when tightening and can generate tremendous power, yet the action is light so hands won’t tire quickly. That’s helped by ergonomic handles that incorporate a useful quick-release lever for those occasional jams. Also, one of the handles features a quick-release mechanism that activates after double-crimping. The only drawback of this crimper is the jaws are not adjustable or swappable for other sizes or terminal types.
- Type: Ratcheting
- Range: 22 AWG to 10 AWG
- Terminal type: Nylon
- Double-crimp dies make strong, secure connections
- Light action and ergonomic handles preserve hand strength
- Quick-release lever activates after double-crimp is complete
- Fixed jaws limit versatility
Despite being one of the more affordable crimping tools, The Neiko 4-in-1 crimper can grip, bend, strip, and crimp both insulated and non-insulated connectors from 20 AWG up to 12 AWG. At 8.6 inches long, this versatile, well-priced device fits easily into a tool box, yet it provides sufficient leverage to apply plenty of force when crimping nylon terminals (though it can handle PVC).
Durability comes by way of forged alloy steel that is hammered into shape under pressure while still molten metal, making these preferable to cheap wire crimpers that are often just punched out of sheet metal. Cutting edges are heat treated and CNC machined to stay sharp longer. The grips could be more comfortable, but that’s a minor drawback on an otherwise versatile tool that has few rivals for the money.
- Type: Manual
- Range: 20 AWG to 12 AWG
- Terminal type: Best for nylon
- Very affordable
- Includes cutter and strippers
- Better quality steel than most affordable options
- Grips aren’t as padded as they could be
Modern automotive circuitry allows for little intervention by mechanics or engineers—mostly, it’s a question of identifying the fault and replacing the board. However, battery terminals still get damaged or frayed. The TEMCo hammer crimper mounts to a workbench and provides an easy-to-use, highly durable solution and a straightforward, cost-effective method for low-volume situations.
There’s no need to worry about dies fitting incorrectly, since terminals simply rest in the V-shaped jaw. The crimping ram is then struck with a hammer or tightened in a bench vise. The ram is designed to accommodate wire sizes from 8 AWG all the way up to 4/0 AWG, making the TEMCo hammer lug crimper suitable for attaching heavy-duty terminals to welding equipment cables, but not small wires and terminals.
- Type: Hammer
- Range: 8 AWG to 4/0 AWG
- Terminal type: Uninsulated battery and welding terminals
- Mounts to workbench for easy use
- Handles very large cables
- Universal die for guess-free crimping
- Won’t be effective for small wires and terminals
When it comes to crimping, it doesn’t get much easier than a hydraulic model like this one from TEMCo. This hydraulic cable lug crimper installs a range of terminal types on wires ranging from 12 AWG all the way to 2/0. This kit even comes with dies in half sizes for terminals that are difficult to fit.
This kit from TEMCo can handle building wires, battery and welding cables, and smaller wires. The hydraulic piston easily closes the dies, while the spring-loaded handle returns the handle to its open position naturally. And, because it’s so easy to squeeze with one hand, the user is able to hold the wire steadily in the free hand for perfectly aligned terminal connections. Just beware that this crimper will be heavier than most other models.
- Type: Hydraulic
- Range: 12 AWG to 2/0 AWG
- Terminal type: Uninsulated
- Hydraulic piston makes squeezing easy
- Allows for better terminal alignment
- Wide range, with half sizes for terminals that are difficult to fit
- Heavier than standard models
This crimping tool from Wirefy has been specifically designed for rapid productivity when working with common nylon electrical terminals. The color-coded die allows for quick positioning of the crimp, and double jaws create a high-strength connection. Light pressure holds the terminal in place without the operator needing to maintain grip. A star wheel sets precise crimping pressure, which the ratchet action applies double crimps quickly and with repeatable precision. The finished crimp is then auto-released once it’s double crimped.
The Wirefy crimping tool handles sizes from 22 AWG to 10 AWG. Well-cushioned, nonslip handles provide for high levels of comfort through long work periods. If there’s a downside to this crimper, it’s that the jaws don’t swap out for other sizes or crimp styles.
- Type: Ratcheting
- Range: 22 AWG to 10 AWG
- Terminal type: Best for nylon
- Double-crimp design
- Quick-release handle activates after double crimping
- Comfortable grip
- Fixed jaws aren’t swappable for other sizes or crimping styles
Thick cables and heavy-duty lugs require more leverage and force. The IWISS Cable Lug Crimping Tool has what it takes, with its extended handles for leverage and nonslip grips for a sure hold while bearing down. It also comes with rotating dies for six different wire gauges: 8, 6, 4, 2, 1, and 1/0.
This heavy-duty lug crimper from IWISS is made from high-quality steel and is compatible with copper and aluminum non-insulated lugs as well as standard electrical connectors. The only challenge that users might experience with this crimper is lining up terminals on smaller wires while both hands are holding the crimper.
- Type: Manual
- Range: 8 AWG through 1/0 AWG
- Terminal type: Copper and aluminum, non-welding
- Long handles for lots of leverage
- Nonslip grips for sure handling
- Dies are built into the crimper
- Can be a bit unwieldy when working with smaller wires
Anyone hunting for a do-all crimping solution should check out the IWISS Ratcheting Crimping Tool Set. This set comes with a ratcheting crimper, five sets of jaws for a variety of terminal connections and wire gauges, and a set of wire strippers with cutters, allowing users to tackle just about anything.
The IWISS crimping tools in this set feature a crimper with a ratcheting mechanism that creates double crimps in certain types of terminals, ranging from 22 AWG to 8 AWG. Once the crimpers finish the double crimp, the quick-release handle opens automatically. Also, swapping the crimper jaws is simple, requiring the user to simply press the spring-loaded pins to swap them out. Other than the fact that this kit might be too large to keep in a tool box, it’s a good crimping tool for DIY use.
- Type: Ratcheting
- Range: 22 AWG to 8 AWG
- Terminal type: Nearly universal
- Comes with a wide range of swappable jaws
- Ratcheting action and quick-release handle
- Comes with wire strippers
- Too large to fit in a tool box
Overall, the Titan 11477 Ratcheting Wire Terminal Crimper Tool is a good choice for anyone looking for a basic, durable ratcheting crimper tool. But for those who need a bit more power and versatility, the TEMCo Hydraulic Cable Lug Crimper might be one of the best wire crimpers available.
Choosing the best crimping tools came down to several factors. First, we used all of our top considerations listed above, and then we considered what the average DIYer might be looking for in the best crimping tools.
Then, we conducted lengthy product research to ensure we’re suggesting the best tools for a variety of purposes. We wanted to ensure there was something for the automotive enthusiast or welder, as well as a solution for electricians or heavy-duty use.
Only after that research was complete did we feel confident suggesting these tools. As a result, we assembled this list for shoppers to use as a guide.
Those new to crimping tools may still want more info on how to shop for and use them. Check out the answers to commonly asked questions below.
Q: What is wire crimping?
Crimping securely attaches electrical connectors to relevant cable. Types and sizes can vary enormously, from those on computer circuit boards to mains (the high-voltage cables that bring power to your home).
Q: Is soldering better than crimping?
It’s not a matter of better; it’s about doing what’s appropriate for the project. Soldering is largely used for attaching wires permanently, whereas crimping is common for connections that can be disassembled.
Q: How do I choose a crimping tool?
The most important considerations are ensuring the tool can handle the type of terminal you need to attach as well as the appropriate wire sizes.