One of the most desired features in pliers is a spring-loading mechanism. Most people want self-opening pliers because they are easier to operate with one hand. But are spring-loaded pliers better than standard pliers? Why don’t all pliers have a spring action? Let’s find out.
What are spring loaded pliers?
Spring-loaded pliers are pliers with a spring mechanism that keeps the handles open so that they can fit in the hands better.
Depending on the purpose of the pliers, the spring mechanism can keep the jaws open or closed.
For example, the spring mechanism of hog ring pliers keeps the jaws closed and handles open whereas spring-loaded needle nose pliers have both the jaws and handle open by default.
For ordinary pliers, a spring mechanism keeps the handles and jaws open and ready for work. You only apply force to close the handles and grip a workpiece. No need to open the handles manually.
On the other hand, the jaws of non-spring loaded regular pliers are normally closed. You must open and close them manually to grasp something.
Pros and cons of spring loaded pliers
There are lots of discussions going on in forums on whether spring-loaded pliers are better than standard pliers. Unfortunately, there is no clear winner. Both spring and non-spring pliers have their strengths and weaknesses.
In this article, I look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of spring-loaded pliers over normal pliers.
Advantages of spring loaded pliers
1. Require less effort to operate
Spring loaded pliers require less effort to operate because you only apply force in one direction. No need to open the handles because the spring keeps them open. And this saves you a lot of effort trying to pull the handles apart manually.
As a result, the spring mechanism reduces fatigue on your hand and makes your productivity increase
2. Easy to operate with one hand
The major benefit of spring loaded pliers is the ability to operate them with one hand. The spring provides self-opening action enabling repeated one-hand operation.
With standard pliers, you need to pull the handles apart to open them, which often requires you to use both hands.
3. Provide better control
Because small pliers are hard to control with your palm, a spring mechanism enables you to control them easily with your fingers. Spring-loaded pliers also feel nicer in the hands and are perfect for precision work. That’s why most small pliers including multi-tool pliers are spring-loaded.
4. Better for working in confined spaces
A confined space means that you don’t have enough room to manipulate your tool. The space is also too tight to get both hands. Spring-assisted pliers come in handy in such tight situations. They allow you to get the job done with one hand in the tight spots.
Disadvantages of spring loaded pliers
In theory, pliers with a spring mechanism are presented as better than normal pliers. But in reality, these spring-assisted pliers are at times difficult to use and unsafe in some situations.
These are the key disadvantages of spring-loaded pliers.
1. They are not easy to put in the pouch
Spring loaded pliers are not easy to put in the pouch. They do not slide smoothly because of the handles that are always wide open. Some handles even span wider than the mouth of the pouch or pocket.
To put spring-assisted pliers in the pocket, you press the handles together and release them when the tool is inside the pocket or holster. Isn’t that a lot of work compared to standard pliers which simply slide into the pocket?
2. Unsafe for working with live circuits
Pliers with a spring action are unsafe for use in live circuits. The jaws may open accidentally and touch live electrical wires which can cause an electrical short circuit. This could damage electrical components or cause a fire. The spring could also pop out and jump into live electrical circuits and cause problems. These are some of the reasons insulated pliers don’t have a spring-loaded action.
3. Higher failure rate
Ever wondered why the expensive and heavy-duty leatherman multitool pliers such as Surge and Wave don’t have a spring mechanism? It is because spring-loaded pliers are not for heavy duty applications. They are not as heavy duty as standard pliers.
When you subject spring-assisted pliers to the abuse they cannot handle, the spring will be the first to fail. This is why spring loaded pliers are best for light and medium duty applications.
So, which is better? Spring or non-spring pliers?
As I said, none of the pliers are one-size-fits-all. Both types of pliers have their strengths are weaknesses.
The spring mechanism is mainly for small pliers that would be difficult to operate with both hands. It is also an essential feature in light and medium duty specialty pliers such as snap ring pliers, wire strippers, hog ring pliers, jewelry pliers, micro flush cutters, etc. It makes a whole difference.
For example, the spring in hog ring pliers keeps the jaws closed to prevent a hog ring from falling off once you set it on the jaws. Similarly, the spring mechanism on internal snap ring pliers keeps the jaws open so that they close with the handles to compress an internal snap ring.
For small pliers, the spring mechanism enables you to operate them with one hand or with your fingers, especially in tight spaces.
So, which one is better between spring and non-spring loaded pliers? IMO, both types of pliers are good because they are suited for different tasks.
However, spring-loaded pliers are the best for one-handed operations, especially in tight spots. They are also good for precision work that is normally performed with small-size pliers.
On the other hand, non-spring loaded are suitable for heavy-duty applications. For example, linesman pliers are better without a spring action. Also when you want pliers that will last a lifetime, pliers without a spring mechanism are the best.