Automotive Push Pin Pliers, Why Do You Need Them?

All automotive trim and panel clips are not the same. Some are just a one-piece push pin whilst others have two pieces (a pin and a rivet).

Single-piece push-in fasteners are best removed using panel clip pliers. On the other hand, two-piece push pins are easier to remove with push pin pliers.

In this article, I share some of the best push pin pliers on the market and how to use them to remove those pesky automotive push clips. But first, what are two-piece push pin fasteners?

What are 2-piece push pins?

Two-piece push pins or “Christmas tree” pins if you like are a type of automotive push clips with a center pin and a rivet. The center pin insert has a button head and the rivet has an expanding stem.

The pin insert goes inside the rivet and expands the stem to lock the rivet in place.

Some pin inserts of push-in rivets are threaded and others are not. The threaded rivet pins have Phillip’s button head that you can drive inside using a Philips screwdriver. On the other hand, you install ordinary push pins by simply pushing the center pin inside to lock the rivet.

Although both types of two-piece push pins are common in automotive assembly, push-to-lock rivets are more popular because they are easier to install and dismantle.

You don’t need a tool to install them. A simple push on the button head with your thumb will drive the pin inside and lock the rivet in place.

However, to pull a push pin out, you need a clip removal tool. My go-to tool for removing push pin rivets is the push clip pliers.

You can also use other tools such as a flat screwdriver or a small pry tool to lift off panel clip rivets. Unfortunately, these tools don’t work as effectively as a good pair of push pin retainer pliers.

How to install push in retainer clips

how to install a push pin rivet
How to install a push pin

1. Align the trim panel

Set up the trim panel and align the panel clip holes. It does not matter if you are attaching a trim panel to the body of the car or fastening two panels together, just make sure the holes align perfectly.

2. Insert the plastic rivet

After positioning the panel correctly, insert the rivet without the center pin in to the hole. Alternatively, if the center pin won’t come off, just pull it back a little so it won’t push the stem of the rivet and make it too wide to fit in the hole.

3. Attach the pin insert

With the rivet sitting properly in the hole, insert the center pin and push it inside with your thumb. Press the pin until it clicks in to place and there’s no gap between the base and the button head. This should lock the clip in place and secure the panel.

As I said, the center push pin of a 2 piece retainer clip expands the rivet legs to lock the rivet assembly in place.

If the push pin insert has threads, use a Phillips head screwdriver to drive it in to the rivet.

How to remove plastic push clips with push clip pliers

You need a remover tool to pull out push clips from the fender, trim panels, or any other car part. You can use a flat screwdriver, a small pry tool with a forked end, or panel clip pliers. But if the push clip is threaded, you’ll need a Phillips screwdriver to drive the center pin out.
In this section, I share the simple steps for removing push clips using push clip pliers.

Step 1: Slide the pliers underneath the clip

Slide the jaws of panel clip pliers between the button head and the rivet rim. Try to slide the pliers through the notch on the side of the push pin and work your way around the pin.

Step 2: Grab the pin insert

After lifting the pin insert slightly above the rivet rim, get the jaws around the neck of the pin, and grab it firmly.

Step 3: Lift the pin insert

Push the pliers against the panel to lever out the pin insert. Then pull the pin right off.

As you know, the center pin of a 2-piece plastic rivet expands the rivet stem to anchor it. When you remove the pin insert, you free up the rivet so that it is easy to pull it out.

Step 4: Lift the rivet

Slide the trim clip pliers underneath the rivet and lever it out gently. It should come right off.

This is how to easily remove pop pins from automotive fenders, bumpers, and trim panels with trim clip pliers. These pliers are much easier to use than a pry tool, regular pliers, or a flat screwdriver. They pop plastic rivet buttons out effortlessly and will not mangle a lot of pins to the point where you cannot reuse them.

Best push pin pliers on the market

These are some of the best pliers for removing push pin fasteners used to hold together plastic pieces in cars and light trucks.

Performance tool push clip pliers

One of the best push clip removal tools by which most auto technicians swear is the Performance tool push pin pliers. It looks identical to the Harbor Freight version but feels better in the hands, IMO. It even has a lifetime warranty.

I used these pliers to take out push pins on the body panels of my Honda Accord and they did an excellent job.

The only thing I don’t like about the Performance Tools push clip pliers is the narrow ends. They should have been a bit wider for a more solid grip.

Also, you will be lucky if you don’t break a few pins with this style of push clip remover pliers. But you can’t break as many pins as you would with a flat screwdriver, knife, or regular pliers. And this makes it a nice addition to your collection of automotive pliers.

These pliers are ideal for removing plastic rivet pins that have pry slots on the sides. The bent wedged tips get underneath the center pin quite easily to pull it out. The handles have cushion grips for increased comfort and a spring mechanism that allows you to operate the pliers with one hand, especially in tight spaces.

Gearwrench push pin pliers

Gearwrench push pin pliers set 41840D has two sets of pliers with offset tips. One pair is bent at 30 degrees and the other one at 80 degrees.

The bent front edges enable the pliers to get under the center pin and pull it out with ease.

Both pliers have double-dipped handles for increased hand comfort. However, the grips tend to come off over time but this is not a big deal. You can apply some glue and shove them back on or try one of these hacks to keep the pliers grips from sliding off.

Of the two sets, the 80-degree pliers are the most useful. They get under the plastic pins better even in tighter spots. But it doesn’t hurt to have both in your tool box. Furthermore, they are very well made, have a decent price, and come with a lifetime warranty.

These gearwrench push clip pliers are perfect for removing body clips on bumpers and fenders of modern cars where there’s ample working space. They don’t provide as much leverage for stubborn clips because of their design.

HiYi multifunction trim puller pliers

This little know brand makes my favorite pliers for removing trim clips. The HiYi push pin pliers have a unique offset design that makes light work of pulling out plastic rivets from modern car trims and panels.

They are not the quality of Channellock despite the blue handles but they do the job well. The jaw blades have a notch like a wire stripper that lets you grab the push pin without cutting it off. This is important for removing reusable pins.

The rest of the jaw is a flat cutting edge that lets you use the pliers as diagonal cutters for cutting off soft materials. You can use them to snip and cut off stubborn body clips, soft wires, and zip ties.

The most unique feature of these push pin pliers is the nylon feet. They prevent the pliers from scratching or denting the surface as you roll them back to pry out a fastener. This is what sets them apart from the Yisige model.

The unique offset design of the jaws provides better leverage for prying out pesky fasteners. These pliers approach a pin from the side and this makes them the perfect choice for body clips without pry notches. These are my favorite push pin pliers.

Conclusion

Overall, push clip pliers are a lifesaver for removing 2-piece retainer clips used to hold together interior trims pieces and panels in modern cars and trucks. They pull most of the plastic pins out without damage. They are the right tool for removing push pins for reuse. Not to mention, these pliers pull out even the stubborn pins in awkward positions in seconds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is a flat screwdriver not the best for removing automotive push clips?

A flat screwdriver puts pressure at only one point on the pin head and this increases the chances of breaking the pin. In contrast, a push pin pry bar or push clip pliers put even pressure around the pin head. This allows you to pop out the pin without snapping the head. Hence, a flat screwdriver is not the best tool for removing panel clips for reuse.

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