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Best plier sets 2024

We get a grip on eight sets to see which should be in your tool box

Pliers are a tool-box essential when it comes to working on your car. There are dozens of types available, many of them very specific and likely to be used only once in a while, so it’s more cost effective to start with a basic set and build up when you need more.

The three most common types are: combination for heavy work, long nose for delicate, tricky tasks, and side-cutters for use on plastics, rubber and cables. With these three, you can hold and cut most things, although adding slip-joint pliers, as some sets do, makes such collections even more versatile.

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So which is the set to get a grip on your car maintenance? We put the squeeze on eight rivals to find out.

How we tested them

Pliers usually work hard for a living and so we placed a lot of emphasis on build quality. We also looked for comfort when applying a lot of force, and for the tools not to become slippery when they were doused in oil or liquids.

We measured the combination opening and checked that all jaws gripped well and moved easily – a spring action makes life simpler. We assessed the grip by turning nuts that were tightened to ever-increasing torques. 

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Using the cutter on the combination and long nose, we tried to cut through a 3mm mild-steel chain, standard three-core electrical cable, and thicker cooker wire. We also cut through several small strands of copper to check for jaw-build accuracy. A box, tray or bag is handy to keep a set together and clean. Finally, we checked the best online prices.

Reviews:

Silverline VDE Expert Pliers Set 282501

  • Price: Around £24  
  • Number of pliers included: Three 
  • Website: silverlinetools.com
  • Rating: 5 stars 

Our last winner remains at the head of the pack, with its archetypal set of 180mm combination and 160mm needle nose and side cutters. The pliers come in a blow-moulded plastic case that can be carried or wall mounted, and has a flip-down front to keep them together. 

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The huge 37mm jaw gap of the combination tool will grasp most bolt heads, and the various cutters worked well on our cables and the copper strands. We like the comfortable, grippy handles, which have horns at the base to protect fingers. The VDE testing to 10,000V is a bonus. 

Buy now from Amazon…

Clarke PRO97 5-Piece Professional Pliers Set

  • Price: Around £24  
  • Number of pliers included: Five
  • Website: machinemart.co.uk
  • Rating: 4.5 stars

The big factor with this Clarke set is its value for money, with five tools strapped into the tough, zip-up case. The combination was a reasonable 179mm, although the needle nose and side cutters were both the smallest we tried in this test, at 152mm. 

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Thanks to their grained centre section, the handles provided grip, even when they were smeared with oil. The 250mm seven-position water-pump pliers are very useful, as is the easily adjustable wire stripper. The side cutters performed well on our cables, but the combination cutter struggled a little and none of the tools could get through the chain.

Buy now from Amazon…

Minotaur Pliers Set 

  • Price: Around £14  
  • Number of pliers included: Three
  • Website: toolstation.com  
  • Rating: 4 stars 

At around £4.59 a tool, the Minotaur is very well priced, coming with impressively long 200mm needle-nose pliers and 160mm small combination and side cutters. 

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We like that they all have ready-oiled joints and comfortable, non-slip handles, which feature a small horn to protect errant fingers. The combi has a wide 30mm jaw opening, and both it and the side cutters got through our cables and made a neat job of the copper strands. The last test proved more difficult for the long-nose pliers, however.

Buy now from Toolstation…

Laser High-Leverage Pliers 8235/8236/8327

  • Price: Around £66  
  • Website: lasertools.co.uk
  • Number of pliers included: Three
  • Rating: 4 stars 

This was our favourite set on test, albeit the second most expensive. Thanks to the lever mechanism, the combination jaw opening is a bit tight, at 13mm, but the three tools are the longest that we tested, which makes them ideal for heavy-duty work. 

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The Laser set’s gripping and cutting performance is brilliant, carving through the metal chain as if it was made from plastic. We like the non-slip handles and springs, which make life easier, plus the flip-over locks. Despite the high price, they come as individual tools to spread the cost, but this means there is no case to store them in.

Buy now from Amazon…

Draper 5-Piece Soft Grip Mini Pliers Set 12544

  • Price: Around £19  
  • Number of pliers included: Five
  • Website: drapertools.com  
  • Rating: 3.5 stars 

Our second five-plier set comprises flat nose, long nose, bent nose, diagonal side cutters and end-cutting pliers. We like the captive double-leaf stainless steel springs which make the tools easy to use. 

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In all variations, this set is not made for the heavy torque use of the others here, and although they cut reasonably well, none of the pliers could hack through our two multicore cables. Well priced and undoubtedly useful for the regular DIY-er, these Draper pliers should be viewed as an addition to a regular-sized set for more delicate work.

Buy now from Amazon…

Stanley Control Grip Assorted Pliers Set

  • Price: Around £35  
  • Number of pliers included: Three 
  • Website: toolstation.com
  • Rating: 3.5 stars 

Unusually, this set doesn’t have needle-nose pliers, rather combination, cutters and eight-position 250mm groove-joint pliers, which some people may find more useful for motoring DIY. The black oxide finish looks good while resisting corrosion. 

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The handles have three softer material zones that offer plenty of grip. At 27mm, the combination pliers’ jaw opening is plenty for most situations. While cutting the chain proved impossible, the combinations got through both cables,  although the side cutters made hard work of the cooker wire.

Buy now from Amazon…

Sealey Premier AK8376HV – 3pc High-Leverage Pliers Set - Green 

  • Price: Around £28  
  • Number of pliers included: Three
  • Website: sealey.co.uk
  • Rating: 3 stars

Finished in bright lime green and black, our second high- leverage set has a seriously chunky design, not least the handles, where rubber sections are inset into the plastic to give plenty of grip, even when they are oily.  

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Although listed as high leverage, the Sealey pliers aren’t as powerful as the Lasers and couldn’t manage the chain. But the 200mm long-nose pliers were second only to the 230mm Laser tool and also cut the cables well. However, we found that neither Sealey’s combination pliers nor the side cutters were that good at cutting the copper strands. 

Buy now from Amazon…

Draper Expert XP1000 VDE Pliers Set, 3-Piece 99070

  • Price: Around £70  
  • Pliers included: Three
  • Website: drapertools.com
  • Rating: 3 stars 

Our second set of specialist pliers is suitable for use on live circuits up to 1,000V AC and 1,500V DC, and are tested to 10,000V. The induction-hardened jaws grip and turn impressively and the bi-material soft-grip handles are comfortable in all situations. 

Cutting performance is good, especially on the copper strands, although getting through the electrical cables took some effort. The Draper set’s sizes are the same as the Silverline’s and we like the horns that prevent a hand slipping onto the job, which is vital when dealing with live current. But the price hurts in this company.

Buy now from Amazon…

Verdict:

It’s another win for the impressive Silverline set, which combines strong performance with a value-for-money price. The Clarke and Minotaur sets were left fighting it out in our champion’s wake. They both also work well and offer good value for their asking prices, but the five-piece Clarke combination eventually got the nod to take the runner-up position.

  1. Silverline VDE Expert Pliers Set 282501
  2. Clarke PRO97
  3. Minotaur Pliers set

Read more of our product reviews here

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