Locking Pliers or Vise Grips
Daily Dirt Education How-to & Tech Tools

Locking Pliers or Vise Grips

LON-TT-ViseGripsThe most handy tool to have close by on your vehicle while offroading is a pair of Locking Pliers, or more commonly known as Vise-Grips.  Click them onto your skid plate if you are a motorcycle or quad rider, onto a tab if you are a UTV or buggy person and onto your seat rail if you are a 4x4 owner.

Locking Pliers

Locking pliers are pliers that can be locked into place on a surface or around a bolt.  One side of the handle includes a bolt that is used to adjust the spacing of the jaws allowing the same tool the opportunity to grip larger or very slim items.  The other side of the handle includes a lever to push the two sides of the handles apart to unlock the pliers.

When using a pair of locking pliers you want to adjust the screw to where the head is just a little bigger than the piece that you are trying to capture.  Put the jaw head over the item and then squeeze the handles together.  You will feel the handle lock into place, allowing you to let go of the pliers and they will stay set.  If you do not feel the lock, remove the pliers and adjust the screw so the head is a little bigger.

When trying to release the jaws, you will need to gently start squeezing the lever to release the jaws.

There are multiple kinds of locking pliers including regular pliers, needle-nose, locking wrenches, and more.


The first locking pliers, named Vise-Grips, were invented by an agricultural innovator William Petersen in De Witt, Nebraska in 1924.  So, similar to kleenex, what we commonly call this tool is actually a brand name!

locking wrenchAt some point, William realized the job he was doing would be a lot easier if he had a set of pliers that would clamp down and hold the piece of metal he was working on "in a vise-like grip." He undoubtedly had sets of pliers and at least one vise in his shop. But the pliers couldn't be locked and the vise was hard to set up. Somehow, he came up with the idea of combining the function of the two tools.  He figured out that a screw mechanism in the handle could adjust the opening of the pliers. Later, he figured out a way for the other handle to lock it in place. He built several prototypes, first out of cardboard and then wood. Finally, he hammered one out of metal on his forge. It worked.  READ his full story on www.LivingHistoryFarm.org

As a Lady

This is a great tool to have because, being honest, our hand strength isn't as strong as some of the guys and/or our hands aren't as big.  This tool allows you to get a strong grip on something and then be able to use leverage to move it.  You can use it to help hold a bolt head while you are ratcheting off the nut.  You can use it to pull out a nail.  If you are doing anything with sheet metal this is the tool to have.

Maybe not so obvious uses while camping include removing cast iron pans and dutch ovens from the campfire coals or cracking nuts.

Whats Next:

Do you have a pair of locking pliers?  Go grab them and start playing with them!  See what you can move or grip onto.  Where are you storing them on your vehicle.  These don't need to be in your tool bag, they should actually be readily available in case of a need.  Look for something you can clamp them to and have ready.  If you already have them clamped to your vehicle, go check out their livelihood.  Sometimes they can get tight if there is rain or water involved, it may be time for some lube to make sure they work when you need them to.

If you don't have a pair of locking pliers it's time to get at least one.  Start working with them to see how they work and get comfortable.  Then find a great place to store them in or on your vehicle.  Time to be prepared!

A good options for a pair of Original Vise-Grips and a pair of Needle Nose: CLICK HERE

Author:  Charlene Bower

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