Behind any neat and organized electrical wiring job is a person who has the right electrical tools and knows how to use them properly. Among the most indispensable wiring tools are crimping pliers.
It does not matter whether you are a professional electrician or a DIY person. Crimping pliers are necessary for managing flexible electrical wires and cables in any wiring project. They help you to effectively install crimp terminal connectors onto stripped ends of stranded wires to make them safer.
Crimp terminal connectors, what are they?
Crimp connectors are types of wire terminals. They prevent the fraying of the wire strands and also provide the desired terminal configuration.
There are many types of crimp terminal connectors. Some of the common types are spade, ring, bullet, and butt connectors. Crimp connectors are either shrouded in PVC insulation material or nylon heat shrink or just bare metal barrels. They come in different size ranges to accommodate various wire sizes.
If you want to learn more about crimp terminal connectors, I have written about them extensively in this article. You will learn about the different types of terminal connectors and why you should use them in your electrical projects.
The best way to install crimp terminal connectors is to crimp them. I say this because some people solder connectors because they doubt the reliability of crimping. Just know you do not need to solder a connector if you crimp it properly with the right tool.
Crimping is the process of attaching a crimp connector to a wire by dimpling the metal barrel onto the wire with a tool to create a cold weld bond. The resulting connector-wire bond needs to be both mechanically and electrically sound.
What makes a good crimp?
So, what makes a good crimp? A good crimp should be secure enough to not pull out or come loose over time. In other words, a properly installed crimp connector is airtight and mechanically solid to pass the tug test.
It is also electrically sound to conduct electricity without any loss either through overheating or sparking. Not to mention that all the wire strands must fit inside the metal barrel.
To effectively crimp a wire terminal, you need a reliable crimping tool that can squeeze shut the barrel of a crimp connector onto the wire. The connector barrel should be the right size to accommodate all the wire strands.
Types of crimping tools
There are many types of crimping tools. They are classified mainly by mode of operation. The three major types are hydraulic, ratcheting, and manual crimpers. Other types are hammer style and 3-point crimper with a ratchet.
A hydraulic crimper uses a hydraulic mechanism to operate the crimping dies. It is suitable for heavy-duty applications where a ton of crimping force is needed. You can use it to crimp cable lugs for batteries on your solar PV project.
For the sake of this article, I will only focus on manual and ratchet crimpers as they are types of pliers. The others are not.
Wire crimper pliers?
Wire crimping pliers are types of pliers with jaws for squashing crimp connectors into wires. They are generally inexpensive, versatile, and quite easy to use.
Crimping pliers are a favorite tool for electricians and non-electricians for installing crimp connectors to stranded electrical wires. They use them along with wire strippers.
Crimper pliers come in two styles: manual style or ratcheting style.
Manual crimping pliers
Manual or hand crimpers are the most common and the least expensive type of crimping tool. They use a simple squeezing action like regular pliers to crimp terminals. Because of the limited leverage, manual wire crimpers are suitable for crimping small terminals that will not require a lot of effort to squeeze.
If you use them on large crimps, you are not guaranteed to get a reliable, gas-tight cold weld.
Ratcheting crimping pliers
Ratcheting wire crimpers are quite similar to manual crimpers except that they have a ratcheting mechanism that allows you to apply repeatable pressure on the jaws. They provide a greater mechanical advantage over manual crimpers. This makes them the best for installing tons of small and medium sized crimp terminals.
With ratcheting crimpers, you can be sure to get a gas-tight seal on your terminal connectors. Moreover, crimps done with ratcheting crimping pliers hardly fail. So long as you pick the right connector and squeeze it with the right jaw die.
Which are the best wire crimper pliers?
Klein Ratcheting Crimper – Best value for money
The Klein Tools ratcheting crimper pliers are designed to crimp insulated terminals. You can use them to terminate red, yellow, and blue terminals onto 10-22 AWG stranded wire.
These crimping pliers from Klein Tools use a smooth ratcheting mechanism to crimp. They have a dial on the side that you can adjust to control the amount of force exerted on each crimp connector. This helps you to avoid over-crimping which may compromise the quality of the crimp or puncture the insulation sleeve.
The jaws of these crimper pliers from Klein Tools are fixed and have three distinct compression cavities. The cavities are color-coded to help you select easily the appropriate crimping slot every time. What is outstanding about the crimper dies is that they make a perfect double crimp every time. This guarantees a firm secure crimp.
Whether you are a professional electrician or a tinkerer, these wire crimper pliers from Klein are a great upgrade to your cheap non-branded crimpers or manual crimpers. They look fantastic, feel durable and sturdy, and the ratcheting mechanism works great. The pricing is also great. You won’t need to break the bank.
A friend of mine used to crimp terminals for his custom wiring harnesses with a nub on a regular linesman. But after he got this tool, he now swears by it. Not only does he make better crimps with the tool but also crimps connectors faster. What an upgrade!
Thomas & Bett TBM45S Crimping Tool – Best for crimping Non-Insulated Lugs
Thomas and Betts TBM45S are premium crimping pliers for a wide variety of non-insulated connectors including the color-keyed copper and aluminum lugs, splices, C-taps, and pigtails.
These wire crimpers from Sweden feature a color-coded rotating die set wheel that crimps copper lugs between #8 through #2 and aluminum lugs between #10 to #6 AWG.
The TBM45S crimping pliers use a ratcheting style. This helps you to generate enough compression on the lugs with just a hand squeeze on the handles. Another advantage of the ratcheting style is that it allows you to apply repeatable pressure, which is good for your hands.
Like all other Thomas & Betts pliers, the quality of the TBM45S is unmatched. The ratcheting mechanism is nice and smooth, the die wheel rotates without any side plays, and the handles have soft comfortable grips.
Are you in the solar PV industry? You definitely will find this crimping tool useful for making C-tap crimps. It is also a great professional tool for compressing #6 and #8 connectors for airfield wiring.
So, if you are looking for the best crimping tool for non-insulated lugs look no further than the Thomas and Betts TBM45S crimper. It will last years and years while making sure your seamless lugs stay securely on cables long enough.
Klein 1005 Crimping Pliers – Best Manual Wire Crimper
The ratcheting mechanism of ratcheting crimpers can fail but the pivot of good manual crimping pliers will never fail. Unless you are using them to do something else like hitting nails.
My favorite manual crimper pliers are the Klein 1005. These are a basic pair of pliers with a wire crimping section and sharp cutters. I have had this tool for years now and it always does an excellent job on crimp connectors from 8 AWG through 22 AWG.
I use it to do automotive wiring but you can use it to do wiring stuff around the house, boat, motorcycle, name them. Klein 1005 is a versatile hand crimper.
The crimper section has two crimping dies. One for insulated terminals and the other one for non-insulated connectors. The crimping die for non-insulated connectors has a pronounced nub whilst that for crimping insulated connectors is flatter.
If you try to use the nubbier surface to crimp insulated connectors, you risk puncturing the insulation. So, it is good to use the appropriate crimping surface for different types of connectors.
The good thing about this crimper is that it is made in the USA. So quality is guaranteed. It also looks and feels solid and has the form factor of ordinary pliers. You can carry it along anywhere with your pliers holder, if you have one.
If you are new to electrical wiring and are looking for a crimping tool to start with, I recommend the Klein 1005. It will last forever and will serve as a good reminder of where it all started. The only thing you will need to do after some time is to replace the plastic-dipped handle grips because they wear out over time.
Knipex Crimping Pliers (97 71 180) – Most Versatile Hand Crimper
In the world of pliers, I believe that most German-made pliers are of superior quality to the others. Better than American pliers. And Knipex pliers the cream of the crop; high-quality steel, excellently machined, and perfectly treated. So is the Knipex 97 71 180 wire crimper.
These 7-inch Knipex crimping pliers are one of the best hand crimpers. They have 9 crimping dies for the most used sizes of crimp connectors between 1 – 16mm2 or AWG 23 – 5.
Because this tool does not have a ratcheting style, it requires a high crimping force. So, if you intend to use these pliers to crimp tons of connectors, I suggest getting the version with comfort-grip handles.
Titan Tools 11950 7 Pc Ratcheting Terminal Crimping Set – Most Versatile
If you like the Klein 3005CR fixed-jaw wire crimper, then the Titan 11950 kit feels like an upgrade to a more versatile version. The kit comes with 6 sets of changeable jaws for all common solderless crimps including insulated, closed-end, heat shrink, and spark plug terminals.
The die sets have markings on them that help to select the right one for different terminal crimps every time. This ensures that you secure crimps firmly and securely onto wire without damaging them.
|Jaw Marking||Crimp connector types||Crimp size range (AWG)|
|A||insulated terminals||22-18, 16-14 and 12-10|
|A2||fully insulated quick-disconnect terminals||22-18, 16-14 and 12-10 AWG|
|A3||mini insulated terminals||26-22, 24-18 and 22-16 AWG|
|A4||insulated flat terminals||22-18 and 16-14 AWG|
|A5||closed-end and heat shrink connectors||22-16, 16-14 and 12-10 AWG|
|H1||spark plug connectors||17 AWG|
The kit comes in a nice molded plastic case with a slot for each item. This helps to keep everything in place.
As far as operating the pliers is concerned, it is very much like the Klein. The build quality is great and the ratcheting mechanism works smoothly. Together with the jaws, the pliers produce firm, secure, and snug crimps that can last as long as your wiring.
So, if you are looking for a versatile wire crimper that you can use to crimp different types of terminals in different applications, the 7 Pcs Titan wire crimper tool could be your savior. You can use it to crimp connectors on different types of wiring including car wiring, house wiring, car stereo wiring, and industrial wiring among other applications.