When working on cars we typically think of screwdrivers, wrenches, and ratchets as the common tools we need the most. But if you’re going to work on the electrical components, you’re going to need a wire stripper. So, what are the best wire strippers you can buy for your next DIY project?
We’ve compiled a list of good wire strippers, based on expert opinions and Amazon reviews. This article will help you find the best wire strippers, and here’s our table of contents to find the information you need:
Best Wire Strippers: What You Need To Know
If you’re already familiar with wire strippers and how they work, you can skip this section. If not, learning the basics of wire strippers will help you know how to use them. And you should before you go purchase one.
Wire strippers look like pliers, wire cutters, and wire crimpers. But as the name suggests, wire strippers are used to, well, strip wires. Wires are typically made from copper and aluminum. The encasing is usually rubber or plastic, called insulation.
The insulation protects the wire and you, but occasionally you may need to remove it to replace the copper inside it, or to connect it to a metal plate.
We’re not a big fan of wiring and electrical repairs. But modern cars are becoming almost entirely electronic, to the point where a lot of faults are due to sensor and electrical issues and not mechanical. Knowing how to repair wires and using wire strippers can help a lot with repairs and save you some money.
Wire Stripper And Crimper
One other tool you might need for the job is the wire crimper. While pliers are pretty common and wire cutter is pretty self-explanatory, DIY newbies might not be so familiar with the crimper.
A crimper looks very similar to pliers, but they couldn’t be more different. Crimpers are for connecting the end of a cable to a metal plate together. They deform either the cable or the plate (or both) and hold them together.
There are two-in-one tools that are both a stripper and crimper. While they’re usually more expensive, they’re certainly convenient since you don’t need separate tools to do the job.
Most two-in-one tools are usually the automatic-type wire stripper. This type of wire stripper doesn’t require you to pull off the insulation by yourself. This brings us back to wire strippers and how to use them:
How To Use Wire Strippers
A conventional or manual/gauged wire stripper has opposing blades and looks very similar to pliers. However, the blades have notches in the middle and this is where you place the wire. Then you rotate the stripper around the wire to remove the insulation, leaving the wire inside intact. Here’s how to use it:
Simple, no? Often times you don’t need to rotate it. Simply find the correct hole for your wire, clamp down on it, and then push the insulation off. Start with the biggest notch if you’re not sure of your wire’s size and then work your way down.
As mentioned, the automatic ones work a little differently. And we’ll attach a video later on how to use it. Now, there are plenty of wire strippers out there. And some designs are better than others. So, before you choose, keep these things in mind:
How To Choose The Best Wire Strippers
While wire strippers are very helpful, they’re actually very simple tools. So, there’s not a lot that goes into the consideration. Just keep these things in mind:
- Manual or automatic? Manual or gauged wire strippers have different holes in them, just like the one in the previous video. Meanwhile, an automatic doesn’t have holes, and it can automatically adjust to conform to the size of your cable. Both are good, and it comes down to which one you prefer to use.
- Gauge sizes. The hole sizes use the American Wire Gauge (AWG) measuring system. The larger the number, the smaller the diameter of the wire. Common wire sizes in cars are 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, and 8 gauge. If you’re going to work on cars, it’s a good idea to buy a wire stripper with these gauge sizes.
- Safety certification. Look for wire strippers with a VDE certification. This ensures they’re safe to use and can handle up to 1,000 volts.
Between the manual and automatic, we actually prefer the manual one. While you have to find the right gauge, they’re a lot simpler to use than automatic wire strippers. That being said, automatic wire strippers are great once you’re used to them, and it makes stripping lots of wires faster and easier.
One last thing about the wire sizes, you can often find the size of the wire on the insulation. There should be a text on the wire, and the last numbers in the string of text represent its AWG size. You should check so you can buy the wire strippers has the AWG range that you need.
Wire Stripping Machine
Before we get into our recommendations, we’d like to briefly talk about wire stripping machines. These are electrically-powered wire strippers for professional or factory uses. These machines usually strip thicker wires, at almost any length, and does the job automatically.
While it’s very convenient, you’re probably not going to need them for your DIY project. Additionally, they’re incredibly expensive. One such example is CREWORKS, which costs a hefty $199.
Again, they’re very convenient. But unless you’re working with wiring regularly, and you need a machine that can strip thick wires around 0 to 15 AWG, then it’s unnecessary.
DIY Wire Stripper
The recommendations we have all cost under $50. And on average, they cost between $15 and $30. But if you don’t feel like spending money, then you can make a DIY wire stripper using household items that you probably already have.
However, keep in mind that DIY wire strippers are not going to be as convenient. Additionally, they’re probably more ideal for scrapping or recycling the wire. Here’s what you can create with a razor, a block of wood, some screws, and a drill:
We think it’s just easier to buy a wire stripping tool. They’re going to make the job easier, and faster for you. Not to mention it minimizes the chances of damage to the wire. You can also use a knife or a pair of scissors to strip wires. We’ve even seen videos where people use a potato peeler to strip wires.
Simply put the sharp edge against the wire, and peel off the insulation until the desired length. But again, they might not do the job as well as a wire stripper would. Additionally, you risk injuring yourself if you have a dull knife or scissors. It’s just easier to buy a wire stripper, and don’t worry, we have budget recommendations:
Best Wire Strippers Recommendations
So, now you know what to look out for. Here are our top recommendations that you should consider:
1. Best Wire Strippers: Klein Tools 11055 Wire Stripper
This wire stripper from Klein Tools often tops the list. And with over 5,000 ratings on Amazon—87% of them are 5-star ratings—there isn’t a better option for a manual wire stripper.
The slight curve of the handles makes it easy to hold, and easy to use. There’s also a high-visibility handle variant if you think you’d need it. Also, did we mention you could use it to cut and bend wires as well?
As for the gauge sizes, there are 10 to 18 AWG holes for solid wires, and 12 to 20 AWG for solid wires. So that covers almost all the wire diameter used in cars, except for the 8-gauge. As long as your car won’t have an 8-gauge wire, you’re good to go.
It’s also made in the States, and it’s always good to support local products and workers. This costs a very reasonable $27 and often goes on sale for around $20. But the high-visibility handle variant will cost you an extra $4.
If this seems like all you need, just go get this one. However, if you’re going to need to crimp wires as well, keep reading:
2. Automatic Wire Stripper
If you have your eyes set on an automatic two-in-one wire stripper and crimper, we recommend the Irwin Vise-Grip 2078300. Unlike the top pick, this automatic wire stripper can strip wires from 10 to 24 AWG. Whether you need it for your electrical or car projects at home, you’re pretty much covered.
There’s an adjustable stopper so you can control the length of the strip easily. As for the crimping device, you can crimp 10 to 22 AWG wires, whether it is insulated or not. And you can crimp it with 7 – 9mm terminals.
There are a whopping 12,979 ratings for this tool on Amazon at the time of writing. And 80% of that are 5-star reviews, while the overall rating averages at 4.7 out 5 stars.
Price? It’s a bit more expensive at around $38, but it often goes on sale on Amazon for about $24. Would you like pliers with that? There’s a bundle package at around $49. Wherever you decide to buy it, just make sure that the product code is 2078300.
3. Budget Pick: Dowell Wire Stripper
If you don’t need anything fancy, consider the Dowell wire stripper. It’s a simple wire stripper that can strip 10 to 22 AWG wires, and it’ll do the job just fine.
There’s nothing fancy about this, and the cutting function isn’t as good as other more expensive options on this list according to some reviews. But at just $7, we really can’t complain.
It does the job, the handle is still pretty comfortable, and there are 6,000 plus five-star reviews on Amazon. If you just need a wire stripper on the cheap, this is the one for you.
4. Best Value Automatic: Kaiweets 3-in-1 Wire Stripper
Can’t justify the price of the Irwin Vise-Grip but want an automatic wire stripper? Consider the Kaiweets 3-in-1 tool at a reasonable $17.99. While there are cheaper options, we think this is the best one thanks to its 3-in-1 design.
You can strip wires from 10 to 24 AWG, cut wires, and crimp them as well. A lot of the other cheaper options don’t have crimping or cutting features, so we’re picking this one from Kaiweets as our best value pick.
It’s self-adjusting, good for crimping both insulated and non-insulated cables, and the rubber grip means it’s easy to hold and it’s insulated. There are 690 reviews for this product, with 76% of them being 5-star reviews.
One thing to keep in mind is that they don’t come with clear instructions. Manual wire strippers are pretty easy to use, while automatic ones can be a little more difficult if you’re not familiar.
Additionally, it might not be as durable as other wire strippers on this list since it’s cheaper. There have been complaints from customers about the quality and durability. Probably not a big deal, but just something to keep in mind.
5. Budget Pick Automatic: Knoweasy Automatic Wire Stripper
Okay, if you want a truly cheap automatic wire stripper, we recommend checking the Knoweasy automatic wire stripper. At $12.99, this is as cheap as it gets if you want an automatic wire stripper.
The design is different than most other automatics, but it comes with clear instructions on how to use it so you don’t need to worry. But since it’s cheap, there are going to be downsides.
While it can strip and cut wires, there’s no crimping function. Additionally, it strips wires that are 14 to 24 AWG. While this is still a respectable range, you won’t be able to strip wires thicker than 14 AWG. And finally, the steel grips are definitely going to be slippier than rubber ones.
6. Most Durable: Klein Tools Klein-Kurve Heavy Duty K12035
Wire strippers don’t actually require any maintenance. As long as you ensure the insulation has been ejected, and you store it in a nice clean toolbox after using it, then it’s going to last a long time.
However, if you’re the type of person that just throws their tools around the garage after using them and doesn’t store it properly (such as myself), it’s a good idea to get a wire stripper with a more durable design.
Klein Tools offer a heavy-duty wire stripper with forged steel strippers and an overall more durable design. The K12035 can strip 8 to 18 AWG for solid wires, and 10 to 20 AWG for stranded wires.
Additionally, it can cut and bend wires, as well as shearing screws and bolts. So, while you can’t crimp with it, it’s still quite versatile and functional. Of course, this doesn’t come cheap and costs about $33, but you probably won’t need to buy one ever again.
7. Lightweight Option: Capri Tools 20010
Tools are often heavy and tiring to use. If this is how you often feel, we recommend considering the Capri Tools 20010 precision wire strippers. It’s made from cast alloy, making it very light and convenient to use.
It can strip 8 – 20 AWG solid wires, and 10 – 22 AWG stranded wires. So, that’s a pretty wide range of wires that you can strip. And while the design is different than most manual strippers, it’s still easy to use.
The biggest downside is that it doesn’t do anything else other than stripping wires. There’s no crimping or cutting function, so you’re going to have to buy those tools separately if you don’t already have one. Additionally, at $26.99 it isn’t exactly cheap.
8. Honorable Mentions: Milwaukee 48-22-6109
This wire stripper from the Milwaukee brand is a manual one that strips 10 to 18 AWG solid wires and 12 to 20 AWG stranded wires. Not the widest range but still pretty solid overall. If this is the range you need, then you need not worry.
Similar to our top pick, this has a curved rubber handle making it easier and very ergonomic to use. It can also cut wires, cut through certain bolts, and has corrosion-resistant blades.
Many reviews note that it’s very durable and reliable. However, it’s a bit smaller than most other wire strippers. So those with large hands might not find it comfortable. The price is very reasonable though, at around $18 from most retailers.
9. Honorable Mentions: Irwin Multi-Tool 2078309
If you want to strip, cut, crimp wires, and cut bolts all in one tool, consider the Irwin Multi-Tool 2078309. There are over 16,000 ratings for this product, which means it’s very popular. And rightfully so, thanks to its functionality.
You can cut wires, strip between 10 to 22 AWG wires, crimp both insulated and non-insulated terminals, and of course, cut bolts with it. At $21 it’s quite pricey, but it often goes on sale on Amazon for around $13.99. And considering how functional it is, it’s worth the money.
10. Honorable Mentions: Klein Tools Katapult
We round things up with the Klein Tools Katapult 11063W. This has a similar design to the Capri Tools we mentioned earlier, with a cast alloy chassis and heavy-duty coat finish. Unlike the Capri Tools, this can also cut wires.
It’s an automatic wire stripper good for 8-20 AWG solid wires and 10-22 AWG stranded wires. So whether you have a home upgrade or car DIY project, you’re good to go. It can also remove up to 1-inch or 25mm of the insulation layer in just one go.
It’s quite pricey at around $41. But it often goes on sale for about $30. And with an almost perfect rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars, this is a good choice as well.
Best Wire Strippers FAQ
Still, have more questions about wire strippers? Here are some answers you might find useful:
What Are The Best Wire Strippers
If you’re looking for the best manual wire strippers, then the Klein Tools 11055 is highly recommended by experts and consumers. If you’re looking for an automatic wire stripper, then consider the Irwin Vise-Grip 2078300. Both of them are high-quality, feature-packed, and highly recommended.
How To Use Wire Stripper
If you have manual/gauged wire strippers, which look like pliers, insert the cable to one of the holes. Most of them have size markings in AWG, but if you don’t know your cable size, start from the biggest hole and work your way down. Once the cable is inside the gap, clamp the wire stripper and pull the insulation off. If you have an automatic one, simply slot the cable from the left side, and clamp it. The wire stripper will automatically accommodate the size.
What Do Wire Cutters Look Like
Wire cutters look a lot like pliers. The main difference is that rather than a jaw to grip onto things, it has short, sharp blades just like a scissor. Think of scissors but with the handles of pliers.
How To Strip Wires
You can strip wires with a wire stripper. A manual one will require you to put the wire inside the hole of the correct size, clamp it down, and then pull off the insulation. An automatic one requires you to slot the wire in from the left side, and when you clamp it down it’ll automatically do the job for you regardless of the wire diameter—as long as it’s within the specs. You can also strip wires by using scissors or a knife, by rolling the wire’s insulation and separating it from the wires inside. And then you can remove it by hand. This process takes longer though, and you risk injuring yourself if you use a dull knife or scissors. It’s a lot easier to use wire strippers.
How To Use Wire Cutters
Place the wire you want to cut between the sharp metal ridges of the wire cutters and then tightly squeeze the handle. It’s just like using scissors, although the handles are like plier handles. Make sure the cables have no live electricity going through them. And avoid using scissors, as even the sharpest ones might not be strong enough and you risk damaging the wires.
Best Wire Strippers: Final Thoughts
So, those are the best wire strippers that you can buy and make your electrical DIY project easier. Whether you’re doing wiring repairs in your car or wiring in a new heater for your garage, these wire strippers will make the job easier for you.
Again, we don’t recommend using a knife or scissors for the job. While they can do the job, you risk damaging the wires or even injuring yourself in the process. Neither is fun, and you might end up spending more money than you would on a wire stripper.
One last piece of advice, wiring repairs and projects are often very tricky. Not to mention, they can be dangerous without proper safety precautions. If you’re not sure about what you’re doing, we recommend leaving the job to a professional. Hopefully, this has been helpful for you, and good luck!