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Are Knipex Cobra Pliers Really the Best?

Dan is a licensed electrician and has been a homeowner for 40 years. He has nearly always done his own repair and improvement tasks.

Knipex (red) and other brand (blue) water pump pliers.

Knipex (red) and other brand (blue) water pump pliers.

What Is Knipex?

Knipex is a German-based company, located in Wuppertal. It specializes in making pliers of all sorts and claims to make the best pliers in the country. But are Knipex pliers really the best?

I carry a pair of water pump (or tongue-and-groove) pliers, commonly called Channellock, as they are often needed in my work. As a professional electrician, I depend on my tools for a living and am always interested in tools that will make my work easier, safer, or more efficient. The Knipex Cobra pliers are of the water pump variety, and I welcomed the opportunity to find a replacement for the heavy, bulky pliers in my tool bags.

Given a chance to use the odd-looking Knipex Cobra pliers, I was happy to try them out.

Note the difference in jaw width.

Note the difference in jaw width.

How Do Knipex Cobra Pliers and Channellock Pliers Compare?

There are many differences between the Knipex Cobra pliers and the more common brand. Here are a few:

  1. Weight. The Knipex pliers are much slimmer and as a consequence much lighter to carry all day long. They will also fit into smaller spaces, spaces that the larger pliers have no hope of getting into.
  2. Durability. Compared to my old pliers, the Knipex have lasted considerably longer. The teeth are extremely hard and difficult to damage. Ordinary pliers have much softer teeth that easily bend and make holding on to a workpiece much more difficult.
  3. Ergonomics. The Knipex pliers are ergonomically designed and easy to hold and grip with. The handles are the right size and shape, fitting the hand very well, and it really does make quite a difference over a day's work.
  4. Jaw grip. The jaws are a semi-circular rounded design, making for a much better grip on round items such as plumbing pipe; other designs have flat jaws that do not grip nearly as well. The force needed to hold a pipe is amazingly small; these pliers would nearly replace a pipe wrench for smaller work. The Cobra style also has a wider range of jaw openings to choose from, and that can make a difference.
  5. Other features. The Cobra style that Knipex makes has a small spring-loaded button on the side for easy, one-handed operation when changing the jaw opening.

Knipex Alligator Pliers

Knipex also makes an alligator style of water pump pliers—a more traditional style that does not have the button and instead is adjusted the same way other pliers are. I prefer the Cobra style even though the button was lost after only a few weeks of usage. The supporting structure for the button is still there, and I have used them with no problem for several more years.

Although considerably more costly than other water pump pliers, the Knipex Cobra and Alligator series of pliers are very good buys in the long run. They are much easier to use, grip better, and last longer. When my current pair finally wears out (if it ever does!), I will certainly purchase another pair—it is incredibly handy for not only the professional but also for the homeowner doing their own home repairs and home improvement projects.

While not commonly available in retail stores, they are readily purchased online at Amazon and other locations.

A Second Opinon

Knipex Cobra pliers from Amazon

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is it normal for a Knipex Cobra plier to have jaws that when closed do not align? In other words, do Knipex Cobra Waterpump pliers jaws close straight or are they supposed to have play to them?

Answer: There is very little play in a pair of Cobra pliers. Only enough to ensure that they can open and close, and the jaws should align with each other.

© 2010 Dan Harmon


Mike on November 01, 2016:

I have about 40 knipex pliers. Ive never lost the "button" for adjustment. Or a screw. Every single pair is still near perfect. The ones used and abused most 10inch cobra, 10 inch pliers wrench. Used as hammers, pressing(squeezing) in extremely tight roll pins (very hard metal). Pry bars etc. Abused daily at work. And not a single problem. Very high quality. Id recommend buy these first, and never buy again. Or buy crap then buy these later.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on June 11, 2013:

LOL - I'm the opposite. Channellock makes a decent set of pliers, but can't compare to Knipex for how hard they can grab, given that both are the same size. Those curved jaws and harded steel just can't be beat.

Eddie Carrara from New Hampshire on June 11, 2013:

Nice review wilderness,

I own both Knipex and Channellock, they are both great for clamping down on things and holding rounded nuts or bolts. I have to agree that the Knipex pliers have an advantage in tight places but for a monster grip on heated metal like exhaust bolts, Channellock is the way to go :)

Good job, Voted up and useful.

@ Tom Schulte, you may want to check out the professional tool truck vender's in your area like Mac, Snap-on, Matco, and Cornwell, the pliers should have a life time warranty and one of them should be able to help :)

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on April 26, 2013:

Good question. They are becoming more popular now, and can sometimes be found in home improvement or tool stores, but I've never seen parts.

I lost that screw from my cobra model pliers - they have served fine for years without the screw. Screws will be metric, however, and you should be able to find one that will work. Might have to cut it off, but a simple screw should not be that difficult to find. Or maybe write Knipex directly...

TomSchulte on April 26, 2013:

All well and good. I own 4 Knipex tools. The big q--

What or where to go when you need a part replaced and live in USA.

I need a screw for my 'channel locks' small style pliers. What to do? Tom

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on November 29, 2012:

I use Knipex Pliers for my stained glass. I have the glass nipping pliers, grozing and breaking pliers. Knipex makes a good product. Personally I find anything that I buy that is made in Germany is great quality.

Dan Harmon (author) from Boise, Idaho on July 28, 2010:

I haven't seen them - I'll have to try and find a pair and check them out. Thanks for the response.

TomC on July 28, 2010:

Knipex are great pliers. People should also try the Irwin GrooveLock pliers, they are very much like the Knipex but easier to adjust and less expensive.