It often seems there are pliers for every task, but few offer the versatility of the best slip joint pliers. They make a great addition to any DIY or professional tool box.
Perhaps because of their simplicity and the number of specialist alternatives available, they have declined in popularity. Yet if it was necessary to choose just one tool to tackle loosening, tightening, twisting, pulling, and wire-cutting tasks, then a pair of slip joint pliers would certainly be among the top picks. What’s more, even the best slip joint pliers are very affordable.
- BEST OVERALL: Channellock 528 8-Inch Slip Joint Pliers | Utility
- RUNNER-UP: Tekton 6-1/2 Inch Slip Joint Pliers | 37122
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Edward Tools Slip Joint Pliers 6″ – Heavy Duty
- MOST VERSATILE: IRWIN VICE-GRIP Hose Pliers, 8-Inch (1773627)
- BEST SET: Stalwart 75-HT3004 Utility Slip Joint Plier Set
- ALSO CONSIDER: Igarashi IPS PH-165 Non-marring Plastic Jaw Soft
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Slip Joint Pliers
Aside from obvious variations in physical size, most slip joint pliers look very similar. However, what small differences there are can have a big impact on durability and performance. The following features all play a part in ensuring you know how to choose the best slip joint pliers for your tool kit.
All of the slip joint pliers considered in this buyer’s guide are made of steel. Ordinary steel is a mix (an alloy) of carbon and iron. The resulting carbon steel is tough but prone to rust. Heat-treating may be used to add strength and ductility (making the steel less brittle). High-carbon steel sounds similar but is considerably more durable—especially for the hard-wearing jaws of pliers.
Unfortunately high-carbon steel is just as prone to rust as ordinary steel. One solution is to give it a protective, electroplated coating. It’s good but will eventually wear. The other is to add chromium and nickel to the alloy, thus creating stainless steel—so called because of its excellent corrosion resistance. Nickel chrome steel is a very similar alloy (the mix has small differences, but the results are essentially the same). These steels are more expensive and are usually found on the best slip joint pliers.
More affordable, though offering similar resilience, is chrome vanadium steel, which is a popular alloy used in many of the tools you’ll find in home and professional tool chests.
Length and Jaw Type
The shortest slip joint pliers we found are 4½ inches. They are compact and easy to hold in your palm, ideal for detailed work. At the other end of the scale, 10-inch versions provide lots of leverage and high-strength grip for heavy-duty tasks. Most slip joint pliers are between 6 and 8 inches, a length that provides a good compromise between power and manageability.
The main function of the jaws is to provide a firm grip on an object to pull, twist, loosen or tighten. For this reason, jaws are almost always serrated. Many include a shear edge for cutting or stripping back wire and cable.
There are also a few specialist models. One we looked at had notches in the jaws for opening and closing the kind of fastener often found on vehicle fuel pipes and water hoses. Another is purpose-designed for the replacement of oil filters. Some have soft plastic jaw covers for more delicate work.
Small, low-cost slip joint pliers often have plain steel handles, with no grips at all. For tools that aren’t in regular use, it’s not really an issue. However, it’s easy for them to slip, particularly outdoors in cold weather.
Those choosing a pair of slip joint pliers for frequent use will want some form of grip that gives a secure hold and greater hand comfort—especially if lots of force is being applied. Plastic is a common material (sometimes rubberized to make it more pliable), but it’s important that it’s a good fit. Sleeves can work loose, resulting in damage to them and frustration for the user. Fully molded grips, bonded to the steel handles underneath, are the best option. These are frequently contoured for a more ergonomic hold.
The sliding pivot mechanism that connects the two halves of a pair of slip joint pliers is what gives them their name. Rather than have a single pivot point, there’s a slot that allows a wider opening.
In effect, this provides two different-size tools in one. They work much like ordinary pliers in the first position, but the jaws can open considerably farther to accommodate larger objects (bolts, shafts, and so on) in the second position.
The maximum opening provided will likely have an impact on your choice. What’s also worth considering is the width of the fixture that connects the jaws. Often this makes little difference, but on cheap slip joint pliers, it can be a comparatively thick nut and bolt. It might make it difficult to get the pliers into narrow openings. It’s also key to have good freedom of movement in the joint. Budget pliers can jam, which is not only annoying but can cause unpleasant pinching injuries.
Our Top Picks
Now that the main features of the best slip joint pliers have been discussed, it’s time to look at which model you might want to buy. To make selection easier, the top picks are arranged into price- or function-specific categories.
The Channellock name is often associated with high-quality pliers, and these are as impressive as the other tools in the range. High-carbon steel construction gives tremendous durability, and a hard-wearing electroplated coating combats corrosion. The thick, serrated jaws offer excellent grip and have a wire-cutting shear for added versatility. The Permalock central fastener gives strength at a point where nut-and-bolt joints frequently fail.
There are 4½- and 6½-inch models also available. It’s a minor gripe, but if there’s a feature that could be improved, it’s the maximum jaw opening, which isn’t as wide as some other 8-inch slip joint pliers. However, given their overall quality, this pair of pliers is remarkably affordable.
As Tekton pliers don’t list the metal they’re made of, it’s assumed these are basic carbon steel. Nevertheless, the substantial cross-section delivers plenty of gripping power when needed. The jaws are a particular feature of note, with multiple contours designed to tackle flat, round, square, and hexagonal components with equal ease. Broad handles allow maximum application of pressure with minimum discomfort.
On many slip joint pliers, a nut-and-bolt fastening is seen as a weakness. Here, it’s a quality component allowing for precise adjustment of the slip joint mechanism—which also provides plenty of expansion. Tekton produces 8- or 10-inch versions made to the same high standard.
These light-duty, general-purpose slip joint pliers from Edward Tools show you don’t necessarily have to make a whole lot of compromises when on a budget. The flat ends of the jaws have fine serrations for gripping small items, with more robust teeth in the center for holding pipework or bolts.
The joint itself is solid enough. There’s no cutter, but unlike some cheap tools, the handles do have good rubber grips. The plain carbon steel is purported to have a rust-resistant finish, but it’s possible it would eventually corrode. An occasional wipe with a lightly oiled cloth will minimize the problem.
This pair of Irwin slip joint pliers is made from the same fine materials and to the same high standard as the other pair on this list of top picks. These are featured because of their added versatility. Hose clips are found on many kinds of fuel, water, and other fluid pipes. They are made from spring steel and are very awkward to fit using standard pliers. These have grooves specifically designed for the task, yet the grooves don’t detract from their usefulness as standard slip joint pliers.
The grips, while good, aren’t the same high standard as Irwin’s standard slip joint pliers. However, it’s a minor criticism, and for those who regularly work with hose clips, they will be well worth the investment.
Stalwart makes their slip joint pliers from chrome vanadium steel. It’s hard and highly resistant to both corrosion and abrasion. Further durability is added by heat-treating them, ensuring teeth maintain their edges for longer. The pliers are a good width for confined spaces, and the joint itself has a low profile that’s unlikely to cause obstruction. Handles have secure nonslip grips.
The set comprises 6-, 8-, and 10-inch pliers. Jaw capacities from 1 to 2 inches offer solutions for a wide range of gripping tasks. They are competitively priced, supplied in a useful pouch for easy organization, and would make a great addition to the DIY tool kit.
The only drawback with most slip joint pliers is that if you take a firm hold, the teeth are likely to make indentations in the surface of the object you are working with. The soft, urethane jaws of the Igarashi slip joint pliers are designed to prevent that, allowing you to apply pressure without scratching or denting bright finishes. These pliers are a dual-purpose tool. Each urethane (plastic) jaw is held in place with a single screw, and their removal reveals standard serrated jaws underneath.
The 165-millimeter (6.5-inch) length makes them a good size for handling delicate items. They are made from high-carbon steel with a corrosion-resistant finish and incorporate a small wire cutter. Grips are plastic coated.
FAQs About Slip Joint Pliers
What you’ve read so far will have given you a more complete understanding of how to choose the best slip joint pliers for a variety of tasks you need to perform on a regular basis. However, several of the more common queries are dealt with below.
Q. How do slip joint pliers work?
Main operation is much the same as standard pliers, except the slip joint offers a second position with an expanded gripping range. Some slip joint pliers also incorporate a wire cutter.
Q. What is the most common size for slip joint pliers?
Although many lengths are available, the most common size for slip joint pliers is either 6 or 8 inches. They are equally popular.
Q. How long do slip joint pliers last?
The best slip joint pliers are well-made tools that have excellent durability. They should last many years, even in tough working environments.