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If you are doing any type of electrical accessory installation or repair work on your vehicle, you know how important proper side cutters are to get the job done quickly and correctly. So what makes the best side cutters?
Is it a short handle so you can get into tight spaces? Or maybe long handled side cutters are better because they offer more leverage when compared to short handled. Should they be a combination of pliers and side cutters or be a dedicated set of side cutters?
These are only some of the questions that you will ask yourself when you are looking to add a set of side cutters to your toolbox.
I have used side cutters for over 20 years in the automotive industry and I am going to let you know what I look for when buying a new set of side cutters and what features are important to me. We are then going to take a look at some of the best side cutters that are on the market and which one will suit your needs the best.
Yes that’s right, I am not going to list every single pair of side cutters that are on the market to try and get you to buy one. Instead our ratings consist of actual recommendations that break down into three categories, DIY Use, Daily Use and Professional Use. These ratings will then help you decide which level of tool that you need for your job at hand.
Are we qualified to bring you advice like this? I personally bring a unique and qualified view to these tool round ups, after all I have been not only using, but also breaking tools like this on an everyday basis for over 20 years.
(Note: breaking tools is not recommended….trust me…it gets expensive)
What features are important in the best side cutters?
There are many different types of cutters that you will come across on your search for the perfect addition to your toolbox.
Diagonal cutters, end cutters? Which one do you need?
Diagonal cutters, end cutters, flush cutters, cable cutters and side cutters are only a few of the many different types that you will run into on your search.
Diagonal cutters are sometimes found in the aisle of your local tool store as they can be useful when completing delicate electrical work. They are generally constructed with lighter materials and do not stand up well when required to do heavy cutting of large copper wire or even steel brake components.
End cutters are also common and some people might find these cutters useful in their toolboxes. However, end cutters have a cutter that is located on the end of the pliers perpendicular to the handle. This allows the tool to easily cut close to other materials where a pair of side cutters may not fit.
Side cutters are the most versatile set of cutters out there. Depending on the side cutters you use, they can cut heavy copper wire and I have even been known to cut brake springs on drum brakes with my side cutters.
Ideal side cutters have a slightly angled cutting head when compared to the handle, you may also find your ideal side cutters may have the ability to flush cut. This allows easier and closer cutting of copper wire, or other materials that you may need to cut.
Long Handled Vs. Short Handled
This is an age-old debate whether long or short side cutters are better. Ask any mechanic and you are sure to get a different opinion every time.
To get the right set of side cutters you need to understand what type of work that you will be doing. Are you going to be doing delicate under dash radio installations? If so, a short handled pair of side cutters would fit your application well.
If you are cutting heavy copper wires, such as replacing starter or alternator wires, the extra leverage of a long handled side cutter would be perfect. I prefer long handled side cutters if I am working on the outside of the vehicle. They are versatile and you can use them for many other uses as well due to their excellent leverage.
If you open my toolbox you will find multiple pairs of side cutters. After all, there really is a perfect tool for every job.
Handle Design and Shape
This is an important thing to look for that is quickly overlooked. If your hands are small you should look for a pair of cutters that feature a thin molded grip that will easily fit in your hands. Plastic dipped handles would be the best fit if you have small hands.
This will make sure that your hands do not get sore during a long period of working because they are having to stretch around the handle.
However, if you have larger hands you may be okay with sticking to a handle grip that is large and possibly even oversized to provide extra grip when squeezing the plier handles.
A heavy set of side cutters is very similar to having a heavy set of boots. You do not notice it right away but after a while you will realize that your hands are worn out.
Try to get the lightest set of side cutter pliers without sacrificing strength. Reducing hand fatigue is important and handle design and weight are two of the largest causes of fatigue during use.
The Best Side Cutters – Detailed Overview
KNIPEX High Leverage Diagonal Cutters, 10”
- Brand: Knipex
- Part Number: 7401250SBA
- Length: 10”
- Weight: 0.9 lbs
- Cutting Edge: Oil-hardened chrome vanadium
- High leverage design for ease of cutting
- Plastic-dipped handles
- Handle grips stand up to oil and grease well
- Precision cutting edges
- Long handles
The Knipex 10” wire cutters are by far one of the best set of cutters out on the market today. With 10” handles they have a high leverage set of cutters that quickly and easily cuts through the toughest materials.
They are equipped with plastic-dipped handle material. Plastic-dipped handles are one of the most misunderstood handle materials in the tool industry. I have used tools with this type of handle material for years and they stand up to the heaviest abuse. The handles also withstand oil and other types of lubricants that are present in the automotive industry.
The cutting edges are made of chrome vanadium and are tempered after they are oil-hardened. This gives you a tool that is sharp and stays sharp for the life of the tool.
I have used this set of side cutters for years and they are my favorite set of side cutters. They are priced on the higher side of side cutters but I have had mine for many years and have never experienced an issue.
I have also used my side cutters to cut some large and hard things. Brake springs are one thing I would cut very often when taking apart drum brakes, these side cutters would cut through them with no problem. The really cool part is when I was done cutting brake springs I could cut electrical wires on the next job with no issue. A true test of the cutting edge’s strength.
An interesting fact about these Knipex side cutters. They are the same side cutters that you can purchase from premium tool dealers such as Mac Tools and Matco Tools. I think this is an indicator of how great these side cutters are.
Great high leverage, plastic dipped handles and a long lasting cutting edge find the Knipex side cutter pliers in the Professional Use category.
I do have to say, no matter your use, these are the best set of side cutters you will ever use.
Channellock 338 Diagonal Cutting Plier, 8″
- Brand: Channellock
- Part Number: 338
- Length: 8”
- Weight: 0.2 lbs
- Cutting Edge: Laser heat treating
- Plastic dipped handles
- Laser heat treated cutting edges
- Made in USA
- Limited lifetime warranty
- 8” handles
If you open any toolbox around the world I am sure that you will find at least 1 set of Channellock pliers. Just like Kleenex and facial tissue, the Channellock name is used in place of slip jaw pliers all the time.
This is a true testament of the quality of these American made side cutters. The 8” high leverage cutting pliers will provide you with extra cutting force when you need it.
The cutting edges are precision machined and are heat treated with a new form of heat treating, laser heat treating. Talk about 21st century technology for a company that has been around for close to 150 years.
The plastic dipped handles provide you with an easy to grip surface and stand up well in the worst environments possible.
I have owned various Channellock pliers over the years and have been nothing but satisfied with their quality. Because of this I rate these side cutters in the Professional Use category.
You will never regret purchasing Channellock pliers, no matter the one you select out of the 120 different types of pliers that they currently produce.
IRWIN VISE-GRIP Diagonal Cutting Pliers, 8-Inch
- Brand: Irwin Vise-Grip
- Part Number: 2078308
- Length: 8”
- Weight: 0.31 lbs
- Cutting Edge: Induction Hardened
- ProTouch grips
- Induction hardened steel cutting edge
- Lifetime Irwin Vise-Grip warranty
- Short handle
- ProTouch grips can be large for small hands
If you are not cutting any type of material that requires a lot of leverage an 8” plier can be a perfect solution. This 8” IRWIN VISE-GRIP pliers have all the features that you look for in a pair of side cutters.
The handles feature the ProTouch hand grips that are designed to reduce hand fatigue. This will make sure you have the stamina to complete even the largest jobs that you face.
If you have small hands, please be aware that this type of grip makes the handles much thicker than plastic dipped handles. The large design makes it hard to grasp the handle resulting in having to stretch your hands to fit over.
The cutting edges are made of induction hardened steel. This process ensures that the side cutters stay sharper longer. It really goes to show you that they stand behind this process due to the warranty that they offer.
IRWIN VISE-GRIP stands behind the quality of these cutters by backing them up with a lifetime guarantee. I have used this warranty before on VISE-GRIP products, and it is a relief knowing that someone is there to help you if you ever happen to break one of these great products.
Due to the short handles and low price these side cutters are rated as DIY use. They are a great addition to your toolbox but may require a little extra “muscle” when trying to cut anything heavy.
Klein Tools D248-8 Pliers, 8”
- Brand: Klein Tools
- Part Number: D248-8
- Length: 8”
- Weight: 0.6 lbs
- Cutting Edge: Induction hardened
- Made in USA
- Angled head for easy access
- Induction hardened cutting edges
- Plastic dipped handles
- Great price to value
- Long handle length
These amazing Klein Tools cutters are made in the USA. As you can imagine this ensures that you get a tool that is well made and willing to withstand the hardest work conditions possible.
A hot-riveted jaw provides smooth action to the cutting edge, which are induction hardened. The induction hardening process uses electrical currents to create heat before it is then quenched. This process provides a sharp and long lasting cutting edge to provide effortless cuts time and time again.
The design of the cutting jaws is unique despite these being a 8” pair of side cutters. They feature beveled jaws which allows you to reach hard to reach areas. This increases the versatility of this set of pliers.
Similar to the Knipex cutters, the handles of the Klein are also plastic dipped. This provides you a non-slip surface that will stand up well to the harshest environments.
The Klein 8” side cutters find themselves in the Daily Use category. The unique curved head design makes these side cutters stand out. Especially when you are looking for something to access those hard to reach areas.
Hopefully this in depth overview has provided you with some thoughts about what you are looking for when shopping for the best side cutters for your application.
The best side cutters for your use will need 3 things. The correct length, proper handle material and a great warranty in case anything goes wrong. Everyone of the side cutters featured in this guide will serve you well. You may find as time progresses your pliers drawer in your toolbox ends up having multiple different side cutters for different applications.
You never can have too many tools…..Just don’t let my wife hear me say that..