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Locking Pliers - Truckin Tough

Every Toolbox Needs 'Em—but Which Brand is Best?

Dan Ward
May 1, 2012
Photographers: Dan Ward
Trying to bust loose a stripped nut or bolt is never anyone's idea of a good time, but it's inevitable when working on any car or truck project. Inside the house, when the wife tells you to swap out the showerhead, we all grab one tool—locking pliers. No toolbox is complete without a quality pair of locking pliers, and we asked ourselves, “Which brand is best?” After driving to local tool and auto parts stores, we purchased eight pairs of 10-inch curved jaw locking pliers and put them through several stringent tests, including: jaw clamping force, overall tool strength, teeth condition on stripped nuts, wire cutter ability, a torture test with more than 130 lb-ft of torque enforced, design, ergonomics, and value. Each test was worth 5 points with a maximum of 40 points available. The results will surprise you.
Photo 2/2   |   truckin Tough Locking Pliers huskey
1. Husky - 32 points
$9.97 Made in China with Lifetime Warranty

The dark horse locking pliers who reigned supreme after our eight different tests came from Husky, available at The Home Depot. Strong jaw teeth, sharp wire cutter, and jaws that opened extremely wide helped the Husky locking pliers edge out the industry standard by one point.
2. Irwin Tools Vise-Grips - 31 points
$9.99 Made in China with Lifetime Warranty

As the industry standard, we were expecting big things from Irwin's Vise-Grips, and they didn't disappoint. Thanks to a comfortable, thickly padded grip, the Vise-Grips earned high marks for ergonomics, while the lock release was the easiest to use. Finishing near the top of each test, the Vise-Grips are a well-rounded, must-have tool in your garage.
3. Pittsburgh Professional – 22 points
$9.99 Made in China with Lifetime Warranty

Surprising the staff with a win in our hammer test (imagine locking the pliers to a stationary nut and beating the pliers with a hammer and you'll get a solid idea of the clamping force), the Pittsburgh Professional locking pliers also earned high marks in design, value, and overall strength.
4. Kobalt – 21 points
$9.58 Made in China with Lifetime Warranty

Available at the nationwide home improvement chain Lowes, these Kobalt locking pliers came in with the lowest price, yet still offer a hassle-free lifetime warranty. Performing well in our double-nut test, where two Grade 8 nuts were threaded against each other on a hardened steel threaded rod and the locking pliers used to bust loose one nut, the Kobalt pliers came in at the top in our torque test as well.
5. Craftsman -20 points
$14.99 Made in China with Lifetime Warranty

For many do-it-yourselfers, Craftsman is the preferred tool thanks to its lifetime warranty policy and easy access, but during out tests, the Craftsman locking pliers only received high marks for jaw teeth condition and jaw opening width. Built eerily similar to the Irwin Vise-Grips, the handle grips ended up coming loose during testing , and the Craftsman were amongst the most expensive tool tested.
6. Stanley -19 points
$10.97 Made in China with Two-year Warranty

Sure you can buy your deodorant, milk, and kid's toys in one place, but it turned out buying your tools from the same place might not be the best choice. Available at Wal-Mart, the Stanley locking pliers were labeled as 9 inches, but measured out at 10 inches. After our testing, the jaw teeth were heavily scarred, and the Stanley pliers did not feature handle cushioning.
7. Duralast -18 points
$14.99 Made in China with Lifetime Warranty

Buying tools at the parts store is a must when your truck is broken down or you're helping a friend work at his place. As we learned, the Autozone-sourced Duralast locking pliers performed adequately, but didn't provide any features the competitors provided such as cushioned grips, hex key locking pin, and around a $10 price tag.
8. Irwin Tools Vise-Grips C-Jaw -11 points
$11.99 Made in China with Lifetime Warranty

For a wildcard entry, we also picked up a set of Irwin's new Vise-Grips with C-Jaw design that is supposed to wrap around bolt heads to provide more gripping power. During our high-torque torture test where more than 130 lb-ft of torque was applied to a 11⁄8-inch nut, these pliers were the only ones to slip. During smaller diameter nut test, the pliers performed better, but they lack a wire cutter, don't open as wide, and cost more than traditional Vise-Grips.
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