If you regularly do automotive wiring, boat wiring, or terminate distribution and fire alarm panels, an automatic wire stripper becomes an indispensable companion. Automatic wire strippers self-adjust to different wire gauges while making your work consistent.
But which are the best automatic wire strippers for electrical wire termination? Find out after reading this buying guide.
Table of Content
- What is an automatic wire stripper?
- How to use automatic wire strippers
- How to choose automatic wire strippers
- Best automatic wire strippers
- Wrap up
What is an Automatic Wire Stripper?
An automatic wire stripper is a self-adjusting tool that DIY and professional electricians use to strip off the plastic insulation from electrical wires and electronic cables more efficiently.
A self-adjusting wire stripper not only saves you time but also energy. For wire cables, this tool cuts through the sheath down to where the wire sits without nicking or damaging it. At least, that’s what the best ones do.
Manual vs Automatic Wire Strippers
Manual/Ordinary wire strippers
A manual wire stripper is a small lightweight tool that electricians use to remove the plastic coating from coaxial cables and electrical wires for repair, wire replacement, splicing, or connecting to a terminal.
It’s called a manual stripper because you have to manually select the correct stripping slot, place the wire, and apply pressure around the insulation to cut and pull it off.
An ordinary wire stripper features several notches, and you must figure out which notch will fit your wire. Otherwise, you might damage wire strands if you choose a slot that is smaller than the wire gauge. And if you choose a bigger stripping gauge, you will not successfully strip the wire.
Some regular wire strippers are versatile too. They are multifunctional in that you get a crimper, wire cutter, stripper, and pliers in the same tool. This eliminates the need to bring multiple tools to the site.
And if you have delicate wires to cut, manual stripper pliers is the tool. It is the best for stripping small electronic wires because it gives you control. And the best part? It is not expensive.
These are the advantages and disadvantages of manual wire strippers.
- A safe bet for thin, delicate wires
- Necessitates adjustments for wires with different cross sections
- One needs to figure out the right notch for a given wire size
- Manual jacket removal
Automatic wire strippers
Automatic wire stripping pliers cut through the insulation and remove it at once, saving you time. With this tool, no need to guess how much squeezing pressure you need for the cut.
Moreover, you don’t need to fiddle with settings when stripping wires of different gauges. At least some of the time. Nor do you need to worry about notch size and whether the wire will fit.
One downside to automatic stripping pliers is that they aren’t always suitable for thin or delicate wires as they can damage or even cut them. Another disadvantage is that it may not work for thick wires because they may not fit.
That said, each auto stripper works best for a specific range of wire sizes. You can’t use one tool for all gauges. Like their manual counterparts, these guys are versatile. Most offer extra features such as a crimper and wire cutter.
If you have tons of wire to strip and not enough time for it, this is a must-have tool.
The following are the pros and cons of automatic wire strippers.
- Takes guesswork out of how much pressure to apply
- Versatile: they come with a wire cutter and some have a wire crimping section
- Cuts the sheath and takes it off as well
- Saves electricians tons of time when stripping many wires
- Sheath removed automatically
- Affordable but pricier than manual options
- Not suitable for delicate wires
- Supersized wires may not fit
- Portable but not as light as manual ones
In a nutshell, self-adjusting wire stripping pliers resize to strip different gauges of wire while manual wire strippers have stripping notches for different wire gauges.
Auto wire strippers are heavy duty and work best for stripping romex cables and medium-sized electrical wires. They are also the best choice when you need to strip multiple wires of same size uniformly.
There is more on manual vs automatic wire stripper pliers in this article.
How to Use Automatic Wire Stripping Pliers
A self-adjusting wire stripper isn’t a super complex tool. But not everyone can immediately figure out how to use the tool without reading the user manual, which isn’t always provided. Plus, who reads user manuals for small tools?
Well, here is how to use any self-adjusting wire stripper pliers. I have created a video as well.
Step 1: Grab the electrical wire you intend to strip and put it inside the two cutters or stripping jaws.
Step 2: Squeeze the handles and you’re done. The sheath may or may not come off. It all depends on the tool’s overall effectiveness, size of wire, how long of a strip you need, and where you made the cut.
Step 3: Repeat this exact action to remove the casing from the two wires that become visible after the initial action.
If you need to shorten the copper cables, position them between the blades of the tool’s wire cutter and squeeze.
Using an auto stripper leaves a nice and clean cut on the cable, demonstrating your competence.
What if you need to strip a wire to a specific length?
That’s where the depth gauge/depth stop comes into play. The depth gauge adjusts in and out and also rotates out of the way if needed.
Push the gauge to the required depth. Then, slide the wire in until the end touches the stop. Squeeze the handles to automatically cut the coating and pull off the jacket.
Video: How To Strip Wire With Automatic Wire Stripping PliersThis is how to strip wires easily with automatic self adjusting wire stripper.
How to Choose Automatic Wire Stripping Pliers/Factors to Consider When Buying
I get it. This isn’t the tool every electrician grabs every time they need to strip electrical wires. Manual wire strippers sure do the job and do it well. Hardcore electricians use linesman pliers for everything including stripping wire. And it works.
As an experienced electrician and auto mechanic, I know a bunch of guys who own all the tools that need to be in the toolbox. Yet they don’t own auto cable strippers.
But there are instances where putting this tool to work saves you tons of time and effort.
If instance, if you mostly handle commercial or industrial electrical work, you definitely need the best automatic wire stripper you can afford.
But if you’re mostly doing small DIY projects and residential electrical work, you probably don’t need to add this fancy implement to your tool repertoire.
And if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to own it anyway. Because one more cool tool in the gang box doesn’t hurt, does it?
So, consider the following factors when shopping for an automatic wire stripper:
1. Wire stripping capacity
Know what wire size range the tool is suitable for because not all thicknesses can fit in the stripping jaw or stripping slots. Steer clear of very thin wires and really thick ones. 10-24 AWG seems to be the most common range.
2. Material and Ergonomics
Steel alloy is the most common material. Other materials include plastic, fiberglass, and rubber.
Get an option with rubber-covered handles as rubber grips extremely well and feels comfortable. Whether the handles are nicely curved or flat and straight, handle design shouldn’t tire out your hands.
If buying online, definitely read real user reviews to get a sense of the tool’s overall suitability from an ergonomics standpoint.
And if you ever need to use the automatic wire stripper on live wire, make sure there’s extra rubber insulation on the handle.
3. Versatility: Any Extras?
Definitely pick an option that also provides a wire cutter and crimper. Pretty much all wire strippers these days feature a wire cutter and crimper. Most tools also boast a depth stop/depth gauge. This feature shouldn’t be a pain to adjust.
5. Tool Weight
Most tools weigh under 35 ounces/1kg/2.2 pounds. As for automatic cable cutters and strippers, the majority weigh between 6 and 12 ounces. The lighter the better. As long as being lighter doesn’t compromise quality.
6. Color Matters
Color matters in the ever-fluid world of fashion as it does in the tooling universe, but for different reasons. Green, yellow, and red tools tend to be easier to find if misplaced. Small wonder these are the most common colors.
7. Stay Safe
You can safely assume that many hand tools sold in Europe and the US are safety certified. Check for the GS or TÜV seal just to be sure.
8. Price and Brand
$15 for decent to good ones and $30 for the finest tools. Brands? Irwin, Klein, ToolAid, and Weidmuller have a great reputation.
Best Automatic Wire Strippers
Klein 11061 Automatic Wire Stripper: Best Value for Money
Klein Tools 11061 wire stripper feels well-made and actuates awesomely. It features solid gripping and stripping heads that adjust automatically to strip different wire sizes.
Most importantly, it strips wire fast and cleanly. And you get to decide how long you want the stripped end to be using the wire length stopper.
Simply adjust the wire length stopper to the desired length and lock it in place. If you don’t need to control the length of the core strip, turn the stopper out of the way.
Each strip requires a quick easy squeeze to complete provided you feed in the right size gauge. No need to make multiple attempts — that’s the preserve of inferior tools!
This heavy-duty automatic wire stripper from Klein accommodates 10-20 AWG solid wire and 12-22 AWG stranded wire. But it does not do an awesome job on very thin wires. So, make sure the wire conductor size isn’t too small or too big for the stripping slot.
I personally had trouble stripping thinly insulated Teflon wire. But do you know of any tool that gets great results stripping Teflon wire?
Also, its through-cutting jaws make cutting long lengths of wire somewhat problematic. Because you must slide the conductor to the point that needs the strip.
The grooved rubber overmold makes the grip fairly comfortable for gigantic hands. But small hands may find the tool useless. Why? The handles’ design necessitates a long travel length to activate the stripping mechanism. Not to mention, you need to apply a decent amount of force to squeeze the handle levers all the way.
- A solid build indicative of a long lifespan
- Great actuation and wire stripping ability
- User decides how much strip length they need
- Includes a curved wire cutting edge
- Not the best bet for small hands or very big ones
Stanley Fatmax FMH10-96230: Great for Tough-jacketed Wire
Our old Stanley vacuum cleaner has served us faithfully for years. Purchasing the Stanley Fatmax FMH10-96230 was premised on my belief that this over-170-year-old brand makes great products.
I tested the effectiveness of this Stanley tool by using it to strip three kinds of wire:
- An old, thin, flat, hard phone cable that’s been around for ages
- A 13-amp extension-type cable
- A regular mains cable
These were pretty hard wires. I popped each test cable in and squeezed the yellow, spring-loaded, rubber handles. And I was amazed at how neatly and fast it stripped each wire and its inner wires.
Designed to strip 10-22 AWG conductors, this thing worked well for most wires in this gauge range.
But how did it fair when popped in a 2.5mm2 /10 AWG speaker cable? Well, it nicked the wire at one point and stretched it and did nothing else. Perhaps this tool wasn’t created to strip any kind of cables with a soft casing.
- Works great for wires with a hard casing
- No adjustments needed when stripping
- Head design makes it easy to pop wire in
- Adjustable depth stop & crimping ability
- Not suitable for wires with a soft jacket
Weidmuller 9005000000 stripping tool: The Premium Pick
The Weidmuller 9005000000 automatic wire stripper is significantly pricier than most. For reference, this German-made self-adjusting cable stripper is 3 times costlier than the Klein Catapult 11063W!
It looks different than others in terms of design and appearance. Unlike most, it’s black with a bit of orange. But the basic stripping mechanism works the same way.
An aircraft maintenance guy I’m friends with swears by it. This dude doesn’t spend entire day wiring, but he needs precisely stripped wires for his projects.
Julian says it’s the finest automatic wire stripper he’s ever used in his 10-year career as an aircraft technician.
The guy says he uses this Weidmuller to strip 2-4 wires of different gauges ranging from 14-24AWG. And he always gets a nice clean cut. The front feeding mechanism makes even stripping short wires so flawless.
Whether you earn a living stripping wire for control panels, wiring out cabinets, or doing automotive work, the Weidmuller 9005000000 got you covered. Also, it provides additional insulation, making it a great choice for high-heat situations.
I’ve read it works 100% of the time except when stripping ultra-soft silicone-sheathed wire.
At just 8 ounces, it doesn’t feel as chunky as others. But that’s because it’s a lightweight high-end tool.
- Light in the hand without being low quality
- Offers a wide size range
- Not excellent for stripping extra soft silicone-coating
Tool Aid 19000 Wire Stripper: Best for Automotive Work
I bought these to replace my old Cornwell strippers that’d lost its touch. I got a pro stripper who dances like a god in my hand each time I squeeze.
These guys are good for 14-22 AGW wire. Not only are they a cinch to use, but they’re also pretty precise. I highly recommend these ones for anyone who does automotive wiring. They are a must-have if you are doing any kind of car audio install. Work all the time flawlessly and will last a long time. Oh, and they are also very light in the hands.
It comes with a wire cutter but no crimpers. Many deals sold at half the price offer both features.
Also, these bi-colored strippers (yellow and blue so you’ll never lose them) lack a strip length stopper. Not a deal-breaker IMO. I reckon that’d be a bummer for some.
See the metal knob on the top? It adjusts as needed to allow you strip out insulation without damaging the copper wires.
To strip a larger diameter wire, turn the dial clockwise. Turn it counterclockwise to process a smaller diameter wire.
Notice any teeny-weeny bits of copper after stripping? The knob was too tight. That’s why. Turn it counterclockwise a tad to loosen.
- Precise stripping for automotive wiring
- A nice bi-colored look
- Dial for tweaking stripping “force”
- Made in Taiwan (quality supposedly better than made-in-China)
- Lacks wire depth adjustment feature
- No crimpers
Irwin Vise-Grip 2078300 Self-adjusting stripper: Also Good
The Irwin Vise-Grip, a stripper from Taiwan, is worth a second look. Its blue/yellow color is aesthetically pleasing while making her easy to find.
Unlike the Tool AID 19000, it self-adjusts and also comes with a length stop so that you can grip and strip wires consistently and without guesswork.
Designed for 10-24G, it works for nearly all kinds of wire including automotive, breadboard jumper wires, solid thermostat wires, and whatnot.
Here’s where this stripper shines: stripping out multiple-conductor wires in the 18-24ga range. It cuts off the main wire’s outer coating as effortlessly as it does the covering on the strands.
When prepping bell and thermostat wires it was necessary to roll off the tension. One end of the jaw dug down to the copper wire while the other pushed the coating away.
But I experienced difficulty stripping 10-12ga wires. I figured out I had to adjust the tension to increase jaw pressure for a firmer, more efficient wire grip.
One more quirk — this stripper responds best to quick squeezing. Any delay and Stormy slides off the outer coating without a show!
Wire cutter and crimper? OK, not great.
- Affordable but classy strippers who peel off the outer layer quick
- OK wire cutter and crimper
- Tension adjustment dial for tricky gauges
- Poor response if you squeeze slowly
Felo 62681 Wire Stripper: Best for Working in Tight/Awkward Spaces
Made in Germany, the Felo 62681 grips well thanks to its nicely curved handles. Its housing is made from heavy-duty ABS plastic for longevity. It is also insulated! So you can use it on live circuits of up to 1000V but I don’t recommend it.
Unless you’re the type that flings things against brick walls when she doesn’t call or text back, this should last long.
Its stripping capacity starts at 10AWG and ends at 24AWG. It strips THHN strands nicely. I tested it for this ability. And it was effective up to 10AWG. As for stripping small wires, this tool is as good as any. OK-ish rather than excellent.
But the wire cutter on the Felo wire stripper can cut up to 14 AWG wire though. I bet you own decent wire cutters and crimpers, right? If not, here are some of the best side cutter pliers you can consider.
You may not like the Felo as your main automatic wire stripper for professional high volume work but it has its time and place.
It is the best for working off of ladders, especially when stripping electrical wires on ceilings. Or for when working in awkwardly tight spots where holding the tool with both hands would destabilize you or impact stripping precision.
The Felo auto wire stripper allows for strip length adjustment up to ¾”. The little yellow stop on the side makes this possible. However, this component does feel somewhat fragile. But with gentle handling, you should be OK.
- Length stop feels fragile
- Works great for tight spaces and when using a ladder
- Nicely curved handles that grip well
- No crimper or wire cutter
- Made of mostly plastic
Which wire stripper impressed you the most? It’s time to take action. No tool is perfect, which is why I’ve listed the cons of each choice. Decide what features and specs you need and grab the pick that checks the most boxes.
Tip: Consider the gun-style automatic wire stripper if you are stripping wire in a tight spot.
If you are still not sure whether you need a self-adjusting wire stripper for your wiring projects, see if you have any of these needs.
Why choose automatic wire strippers?
These are the main reasons why you need self-adjusting automatic wire strippers
- Automatic wire strippers are best for stripping a bunch of electrical wires at once. They are great for terminating panels, car wiring, and PLC wiring etc.
- Great for non-stranded, heavy wire such as Romex
- Automatic wire stripping pliers are good for bigger wires because they tend to damage strands of small wire.
- Best for flat cables and solid wires.
- Self-adjusting strippers are best for stripping wire in awkward places where you can not get leverage.
- Best for people who have no experience with wire sizes or for wires of unknown size.
- Best for stripping hundreds of electrical wires a day.