How to Remove a Snap Ring – The Expert Hacks

The vehicle suspension system’s shaft and bore housing use a ring that fastens them together. As a motorist, cyclist, or DIYer, it’s essential to know how to carry out simple maintenance procedures. One of these maintenance procedures includes learning how to remove snap rings.

Sometimes, both entry-level and expert mechanics find it challenging to remove snap rings, especially without tools.

This article will explain what a snap ring is, what they are used for, and how to remove them. Some snap rings come without holes, making them difficult to remove with snap ring pliers. We have that in mind. We’ll also explain procedures on how to remove snap rings without pliers.

What is a snap ring?

how to put on a snap ring without pliers

A snap ring, also known as C-clip, is a strong, thin metallic clip that serves as a retaining fastener inside bore housing and on circular components like a driveshaft.

Unlike nuts and bolts that thread into components, snap rings snap into a circular groove to prevent the parts it’s retaining from falling off. That’s why it is called a snap ring because it snaps into a radial groove and holds a component from falling off.

The moment the ring fits into the groove, part of its circumference stays out to form a stopping edge. The stuck-out edge retains the assemblies on the shaft or inside bore housing. That’s why some experts call it a retaining ring.

How to remove a snap ring

Removing a snap ring can be a challenging or easy task based on the approach and tools you use. Remember, a workman is as good as his tools. This section will discuss how to remove snap rings with pliers. Follow the steps below religiously;

Step 1: Gain access to the snap ring

The foremost step is to gain access to the snap ring. If you intend to remove a wheel hub snap ring, dismantle the hub assembly and expose the snap ring.

Step 2: Insert the tip of a snap ring tool

Insert the tip of a snap ring removal tool into the snap ring holes. Most snap rings have holes on the two ends.

Step 3: Widen the snap rings

Pull the arms of the snap rings by opening the removal tool [preferably snap ring pliers]. Once you open the removal tool, the snap ring will widen. Insert a flathead screwdriver on the wide part of the ring.

Keep widening the ring by shifting the screwdriver to close the parts. You may need a second screwdriver to keep opening the holes.

Step 4: Pull off the snap rings

If you don’t have a screwdriver with you, or the snap ring is not too tense, continue with only the snap ring pliers.

The moment you have extended the snap rings and the shoulders are out of the groove, gently pull it off the housing.

Gently close the pliers so the snap ring won’t shoot out and injure someone. Close gently until the ring falls off.

Step 5: Clean the groove

Clean the groove and prepare it for replacement. Ensure there is no rust and dirt on the track for easy installation.

how to remove snap ring with pliers

How to remove a snap ring without a tool

As alluded to above, snap rings are a particular type of fastener that holds components together and prevents them from falling off. Some tools make the removal process easy and safe. Suppose you don’t have these special snap ring removal tools; alternative means will do the work.

Snap ring pliers are specifically designed to remove and install snap rings. It should be in your mechanic toolbox if you install it regularly. If you want to use it for a one-off task, it’ll be an unnecessary cost. Other available tools in your toolboxes will do the job pretty fine.

Using flathead screwdrivers

The most common alternative to snap pliers is flathead screwdrivers. This is common with most mechanics and DIYers. However, it involves a grave risk. The snap ring may shoot off and injure you while yanking it off.

While tools manufacturers designed circlip removal tools to hold snap rings and remove them without flying off, screwdrivers may yank them off with force.

This can also damage the snap ring itself or the bore housing you’re pulling it off from. The screwdriver will damage any component that is softer than it. This may cause the mechanism to fail before its lifespan.

Aside from removing circlips, one can use screwdrivers to install them. It only requires placing the ring on the groove of the shaft or bore housing and then forcing it down with a screwdriver.

Do it gently to avoid scratching the metal you’re working on. Again, the force applications mean the snap ring can yank off and injure someone. Regardless of the risks, flathead screwdrivers are a viable round-wire snap ring removal tool.

Using Needle-Nose Pliers

Needle-nose pliers and snap ring pliers have similar designs. Most technicians and motorists use them the same way in removing and installing snap rings. Strong nose pliers will work effectively on soft or less tensed circlips like internal snap ring pliers.

To remove external snap rings, you would need to insert the tip of the nose pliers into the snap ring hole and open it with both hands. This will widen the circling shoulders.

Remember, needle-nose pliers serve a different purpose. They are made and used on snap rings, so they don’t have the tips for holding safely and removing snap rings. Snap ring pliers have more strong tips than needle-nose pliers. This implies that the needle-nose pliers may damage if you use them to remove circlips.

Using a pair of punches

Another alternative you may think of is using a pair of punches. This method may need some practice, but it works. Here are the steps to take;

Take a pair of punches from your toolboxes and ensure they fit into the circlip’s holes. Insert the points into the circlip’s hole.

Insert a dowel rod between the punches and use it as a fulcrum point. Apply pressure on the upper part of the punches as if you’re using chopsticks. Open the snap rings.

How do you remove a snap ring without holes?

If you want to remove a snap ring that doesn’t have a hole, consider using a pair of narrow-tip pliers. You should be able to remove the ring without incurring injuries.

Another means of removing a snap ring without holes is using screwdrivers. Check the steps above on how to use flathead screwdrivers.

Which tool is used to remove snap rings?

Snap rings require a set of special pliers called circlip pliers. Technicians use them in removing and installing snap rings.

The difference between these pliers and ordinary pliers is that snap ring pliers feature a sharp tip for removing and installing circlips.

Standard pliers have flat and or sharpened edges depending on their applications. Whereas circlip pliers, on the other hand, have pointed tips shaped to fit into a snap ring grip hole. This allows them to install and remove snap rings.

Final words

This article has explained the meaning of a snap ring and has provided the required information on how to remove a snap ring with and without circlip pliers.

It has also provided snap ring player hacks. That said, the absence of a snap ring plier shouldn’t stop you from removing snap rings. So far, we’ve outlined a few viable snap ring removal alternatives. These options are effective though not like the circlip pliers.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a seasoned automotive technician for the past 9 years, and a technical writer. He loves writing about auto professional repair guides, DIY repair guides, and buyer’s guide. After spending six years in the automotive workshop, he decided to impact his knowledge to people aside his domain, and he has achieved this by centering his Automotive writing skills on REPAIRS.

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