It can take between a few seconds and a couple of minutes to remove a hose clamp from a flexible rubber hose fitting. If you are unlucky, you might burst your knuckles in the process. Generally, how safely and fast you remove hose clamps from fittings depends on the removal tool you are using and the type of clamp in question.
Table of Contents
- What are spring hose clamps
- How to install and remove spring hose clamps
- Types of spring hose clamp pliers
- Best spring hose clamp pliers
On most cars and appliances, you will find a variety of clamps including the T-bolt clamps, wire hose clamps, spring hose clamps, and quick release hose clamps among others. Each type is useful for specific applications. For example, the spring wire hose clamps are great for securing low pressure hoses whereas the flat band spring hose clamps are suitable for hoses that experience high pressure and temperature differentials such as radiator hoses. In this article, I look at the different types of spring hose clamps and the best spring hose clamp pliers for removing or installing them.
What are spring hose clamps?
Spring hose clamps are self-adjusting tension clamps for securing hoses on fittings. They are made from spring steel and do not need tightening. Once you place the right size clamp over a hose, it will squeeze tightly on the hose end to seal and prevent any leakage.
Spring hose clips are the strongest and most reliable automotive hose clamps you will find in a car. Car manufacturers prefer them because they adjust for temperature to ensure a tight seal all the time. This alone is why some people refer to them as smart clamps.
What makes spring hose clamps the best?
The good thing about hose spring clamps is that they apply constant tension over the circumference of a hose. Even as the hose expands and contracts due to pressure, these clamps always provide constant tension on the hose fittings. Hence the name constant tension clamps.
So, unlike the worm hose clamps that you have to adjust manually, spring clamps adjust automatically. It is also hard to get the tightness of a spring clamp wrong unless the clamp is faulty or the wrong size. Otherwise, a good spring clamp always applies enough compression to the hose to ensure a perfect seal every time. It will expand and contract automatically to compensate for pressure and temperature fluctuation in the tubing without applying destructive compression on the fitting.
In contrast, a screw-type clamp requires tightening and retightening manually and it is still hard to get the tightness right. Sometimes if you tighten a screw-type clamp when it is too cold, it would become too tight when the fluid gets hot and might even crack the pipe fitting. On the other hand, if you tighten the clamp when the hose is hot, you will definitely get a leak when the fluid cools down.
Lastly, spring clamps are easy to remove or install when you use the correct tool. They are also durable and can sometimes outlast the hose they are used to clamp. In fact, manufacturers estimate that automotive hose clamps can last the lifetime of a vehicle if handled correctly.
Types of spring hose clamps
There are two major categories of spring hose clamps. They are the flat band hose clamps and wire hose clamps.
1. Flat band hose clamps
Flat band spring hose clamps have a wide band spring steel. They are of different types including the flat type, space-saving type, and the standard type. Flat band hose clamps are suitable for high pressure applications. You will find them on radiator and heater hoses, transmission return lines, and power steering return lines.
2. Spring wire hose clamps
Spring wire hose clamps are made from round wire spring steel. They are narrower than flat band clamps and do not provide as much tension. Therefore, they are more suitable for low pressure applications such as securing the vacuum lines and intake boots of a car.
How to install and remove spring hose clamps
As I mentioned, spring hose clips are quick to install or remove if you have the right tool. But without a proper hose clamp tool, it can take a good amount of effort and time to put the clamp over the hose. Sometimes you can be lucky with a regular pair of pliers especially if you are removing a small flat band clamp or wire clamp. Whichever tool you choose, this is how to use it to operate the clamp. But first, put on a face shield and work gloves.
- Step 1: Open the jaws of your tool. The jaws should open wider than the gap between the ears of the spring clamp.
- step 2: Position the clamping tool such that the tabs of the clamp are in between the jaws.
- Step 3: Close the jaws of the clamping tool to press together the ears of the clip. This should expand the diameter of the clamp. If you are using ordinary pliers as your clamping tool, keep pressing the handles together to keep the spring clip from retracting. On the other hand, if you are using spring hose clamp pliers, you might not need to keep pressing the handles. Some of them have a locking mechanism to lock the pliers and keep them under tension.
- Step 4: To install the spring clamp, slide it over the hose on one end then connect the hose to the pipe fitting. Lastly, slide the expanded clamp over the hose fitting and release it. It should contract to secure the hose over the fitting, creating a tight seal.
- Step 5: To remove the clip, simply slide it further from the hose end after expanding it. Then wiggle out the hose to disconnect it from the fitting before removing the clip. Lastly, release the clip. But be careful when releasing the clamp after removing it from the hose because it can fly at your face and cause injury. This is why you need a face shield when operating spring hose clamps that are not fitted on the hose.
Types of Spring hose clamp pliers
Although you can use your regular pliers, water pump pliers, or vise grips pliers to remove spring hose clips, they are not the best tools for the job. Not only are they less effective especially on larger clips, but also unsafe at times. For example, when working in confined spaces such as in the engine compartment, ordinary pliers can cause you to get bruised as you try to get a grip on the elusive clips. That is why you need specialty pliers for the job.
There are two main types of specialty pliers for working on spring steel hose clamps.
1. Hose clamp pliers with swivel tips
Spring hose clamp pliers are the best for removing or installing spring clamps. They have specially designed jaws for gripping different types of spring clips. Some have a locking mechanism like vise grips to lock the handles once you squeeze the ears of the tension clamps. The locking feature assists in retaining the tension on the open clamp while freeing your hands.
2. Cable driven hose clamp pliers
There are others called pneumatic hose clamp pliers. They use a flexible cable shaft to operate a remote jaw mechanism. The shaft on these pliers allows you to access clamps in the most awkward positions you can think of. These are arguably the best long reach hose clamp pliers.
Most pneumatic hose clamp pliers also have a ratcheting lock mechanism for holding the clamp open when you release the handles. This locking feature increases the versatility of the flexible cable hose clamps pliers, making them some of the best hose clamp pliers for use when you want to free up your hands.
Although there are only two major categories of spring hose clamp removal pliers, there are far too many models and brands from which to choose. This makes it quite overwhelming to choose the alternative that brings the most value. That is why I wrote this article to narrow down your selection pool to only these best alternatives.
How flexible hose clamp pliers work
Flexible or pneumatic or cable-driven hose clamp pliers are quite different from regular spring hose clamp pliers. They have handles like regular pliers but their jaws are angled at 90-degrees. Instead of using the jaws to remove compression hose clamps, these pliers operate a flexible cable attachment with a hook mechanism at the end.
The pneumatic cable is attached to the jaws. So, when you squeeze the handles, the jaws apply tension to the flexible cable attachment that in turn pulls together the spring-loaded hooks at the end. As the hooks come together, they compress the tabs of a hose clamp to release it.
Some flexible cable hose clamp pliers have a locking lever. The lever ratchets with the handle and lets you lock the jaws at any position. When engaged, this locking feature keeps the compression clamp in the open position so you can free up your hands. This makes your job easier and faster.
Best spring hose clamp pliers
Knipex spring hose clamp pliers – Best for radiator and fuel hose clamps
- Length – 10″ or 250mm
- Has a jaw locking mechanism
- Has rotatable swivel tips
- 25 jaw adjustment positions
- Made in Germany
At a glance, the 10″ Knipex spring hose clamp pliers look very much like a pair of cobra pliers. They take the shape of the Cobras including the fine push-button adjustment mechanism and the box joint design. They also provide very high leverage just like the Cobras. The only differences are the rotatable tips on the jaws, the unique jaw design, and the jaw locking mechanism.
Key features of the Knipex 250mm hose clamp pliers
Special jaws with rotatable tips
The jaws are smooth and quite flat but they have toothed rotatable tips that swivel 360 degrees around. The grooves on the swiveling tips have variable sizes for gripping different types and sizes of spring hose clips. You can use them to grip round wire clips and the flat band clamps on most pressure hoses.
Unlike the standard hose clamp pliers, these Knipex hose clip pliers allow you to adjust the jaw capacity up to 2 inches. They have 25 fine adjustment positions just like the regular 250mm Cobra water pump pliers. This adjustable joint lets you grab hold even on clamps whose tabs are quite far apart.
To open the jaws, you just push the adjustment button and slide down the inner jaw. To adjust the jaw up, you don’t need to press the push button. Just slide it up. These pliers have a quickset adjustment style that lets you slide up the lower jaw without pressing the push button. The quickset style is common on new cobra pliers and is very convenient when working in tight spaces. It also allows you to operate the pliers with one hand.
Another terrific thing about the jaws of these Knipex hose clamp pliers is their unique design that you can use to grip and loosen hoses that are stuck onto the fitting. Radiator hoses are a good example. They often get seized onto the fittings and can be hard to remove even after removing the clamp. But with these pliers, you can get a good hold of those stuck hoses and wiggle them out without tearing or damaging them.
Knipex hose clamp pliers are of two types; those with and those without a locking device. Those without a locking mechanism require that you keep pressing the handles to maintain the tension of the spring clamp. On the other hand, Knipex spring hose clamp pliers with lock engage and maintain the ring tension without you squeezing the handles. The locking device keeps the jaws closed onto the clamp until you unlock it. This helps free your hands and minimizes hand fatigue. It is the coolest feature any hose clamp pliers would have.
Downsides of Knipex tension clamp pliers
As far as the build quality is concerned, the Knipex Tools hose clip pliers are top of the line. But they are not without a few shortcomings. One of them is that even though the manufacturer has tried to minimize the tool’s profile, it is still too big to access some tight spots. That being said, the rotating tips come in handy at allowing the head of the pliers to rotate and make it easier to maneuver some tight areas.
Another downside of the tool is that it is quite pricey compared to the standard hose clamp pliers. But these are not your ordinary set of pliers. They are Knipex for heaven’s sake. So, buy once and cry once. But if the price is so much of a deal and you are not willing to compromise on quality, you can choose the cheaper version that does not have a locking feature.
Overall, the Knipex spring hose clamp pliers with auto lock are durable and versatile. and therefore, worth every penny! You will particularly love the big jaw capacity and the locking mechanism. These two features will let you grip different sizes of spring clamps and keep them compressed while shifting them into position.
Hazet 798-12 hose clamp pliers – Best for flat band hose clamps
- Length – 12.5 inches
- Has a jaw locking mechanism
- Fixed tips
- Adjustable jaws
- Made in Germany
There are multiple versions of Hazet hose clamp pliers but the Hazet 798-12 model is the best in the park. The pliers are slightly over 12 inches long and have special tips on the jaws for squeezing the tabs of compressed clamps. Unfortunately, the tips don’t rotate but they do their job perfectly.
Although you can use Hazet 798-12 hose clamp pliers tool to remove and install different types of self-tightening hose clamps, you will find it more effective on flat band hose clamps that have a single tab on one side and double tabs on the other side. These are the clamps you will find on most automotive pressure hoses including heater, fuel, and radiator hoses.
The reason why these pliers are perfect for flat band spring clamps is that the tips on the jaws are shaped for them. One tip has a flat surface for pressing the wider tab of the clamp while the other one is round with a square groove for the narrower tab. These specially designed tips make sure the flat band clamp won’t move when you clamp it.
Besides having straight jaws that make it easy to access clamps in tight spaces, Hazet 798-12 pliers have two other great features. The first one is the lock lever for locking the jaws to keep the hose clamp compressed when maneuvering it.
The second outstanding feature is the jaw adjustment mechanism. This is the spring mechanism on the side with a knob. It is very easy to use. You just turn the knob clockwise or counterclockwise to narrow or widen the gap between the jaws. You can use it to close the jaws all the way when working on small clamps.
The three features make Hazet 798-12 spring hose pliers the best for removing flat band clamps in tight spaces where Knipex hose clamp pliers will not reach.
The only limitation of these German pliers is the price. But like the Knipex, you can get a basic model of Hazet that does not have a jaw adjustment mechanism or locking feature.
Hazet 798-12 hose clamp pliers video review
Astro Pneumatic 9409A Hose Clamp Pliers – Best Long reach hose clamp pliers
- Suitable for spring hose clamps of 18mm to 54mm diameter
- Ratcheting mechanism for operating the jaws
- Have a locking lever to lock the jaws
- Made in Taiwan
I know when you hear the word pneumatic, what comes to mind is a fluid or air-operated device. Well, that is not the case with hose clamp pliers. The term pneumatic is used to refer to hose clamp removal pliers with a cable-driven jaw mechanism. The Astro Pneumatic 9409A is one of the best of its kind. But before we look at it in detail, let us first learn how cable-driven hose clamp pliers operate.
Features of Astro Pneumatic 9409 Clamp Pliers
The Astro Pneumatic hose clamp pliers 9409A have a very functional locking lever. It ratchets with the handles and offers three distinct locking positions. As you squeeze the handles, the lever locks in one of the positive clicks. And if the clamp you are removing is not fully compressed between the click stops, you can adjust the tension on the cable by turning the little adjustment wheel at the end.
Sturdy cable assembly with adjustment
The Astro Pneumatic 9409A pliers have a 2mm steel cable inside a 6mm sheathing. This is an upgrade from OTC, which has a 1.5mm steel cable and 5mm sheathing. At the end of the cable is a little adjuster wheel that you can turn to adjust the cable when it does not open the clamp wide enough. The little adjuster makes up for the few click stops.
Ergnomic handles and overall great quality
The tool feels great in the hands. The handles ratchet smoothly and lock nicely to hold a tension clamp in position. The adjusting wheel at the end of the cable is knurled to provide a non-slippery grip when turning to adjust the cable.
Overall, the Astro Pneumatic 9409A hose clamp pliers are great for reaching tight spots that you cannot access with conventional tools. The cable assembly provides great maneuverability around the engine, enabling you to access hidden and hard-to-reach spring clamps. These pliers are the best for working on firewall clamps, heater hose clamps, and transmission return line tension clamps that would be impossible to reach.
Frequently Asked Questions
Spring-type clamps are better screw type clamps. One of the reasons I think so is the ease of installing the spring clamps compared to screw-type clamps. Spring hose clamps also provide more clamping force and do not need regular adjustment like the screw hose clamps