Circlips vs. Snap Rings: Understanding the Differences

Circlips and snap rings are two types of fastening devices that are related but not identical, and there is a lot of misconception about them. However, a leading circlip manufacturer states that circlips and snap rings are not entirely similar in that they are different in terms of their design, method of installation and removal and the type of application they are suited for. It is crucial for engineers and designers who are looking for the most suitable fastener for their purposes to recognise these significant differences.

What Are Circlips?

Circlips, or retaining rings, are a variety of fasteners that are made up of semi-circular wire. The free ends of the circlip also have small lugs on them, which are inserted into new holes drilled through the circlip in diametrically opposed positions to each other. This enables the circlip to be compressed when placed finally into a groove and to return to its original configuration, retaining it in the groove. The groove needs to be machined to the diameter of the circlip and must be precision-machined.

What Are Snap Rings?

Snap rings and tension rings resemble circlips in shape. But, in a snap ring, the ends of the ring are linked by a group of small projections instead of holes and lugs. This ensures that snap rings retain a ring shape at all times, even when not in use or yet to be fitted into an application area. Snap rings have them so that the rings can be squeezed against the force direction in order to install and released to fit tightly within the groove. Another way of categorising snap rings is based on their mounting: external or internal.

Snap Rings Vs. Circlips: Installation and Removal

The snap rings are continuous in shape hence no specific tools need to be applied to effectively fit or remove it. Snap rings can be easily operated using needle-nose pliers to snap on or off onto or from the parts respectively. Nonetheless, circlips are difficult to have and are used for compression and expansion during mounting and dismounting operations using a circlip plier. While circlips provide exceptional retention, snap rings enable easy installation and removal with normal tools.

Snap Rings Vs. Circlips: Application

Circlips provide precision grooves for the relevant part and, therefore, are mostly used for permanent applications that do not require frequent assembly. Snap rings are perfect for applications where there is the occasional need to take apart an assembly or work on it.


It is easy to conclude that circlips and snap rings are designed differently, installed differently and have different capabilities, which makes it easy to select the most suitable fastener for a specific job. Cooperation with a reputed circlip manufacturer like Circlips India can help in searching for parts produced according to the proper standards.