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I was overhauling a coaster hub the other day. The snapring was recessesed and no screwdriver in my arsenal was small enough to remove the piece.

Park recommends using a small screwdriver to remove the ring: snapring removal machine

I resorted to digging it out with the small blade on my Swiss army knife. I know this is stupid for several reasons; that's why I'm asking if there's a better way. Is there some kind of weird pliers or something that's designed to make snapring removal a snap? Or is there a better way?

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They do make various sorts of "snapring tools". But there are many types of snaprings, so there are many types of tools. For that sort there's a sort of reversed pair of pliers that have small jaws that will slip in between the ends of the ring and spread them apart. (Or you can use a small screwdriver.) –  Daniel R Hicks May 14 '12 at 15:01

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The ends of the ring often taper, sometimes only one end does. That makes it slightly easier to get a screwdriver under the ring. But doing that often just pushes the ring around. Better to use a pair of pliers to spread the end, then a screwdriver to lift it. It will usually pop off, but the plier hand can usually block it from flying across the room.

I've commonly used the circlip pliers that force something open. They're reasonably well designed for the task although grinding the outer surfaces flat improves things. Even so, I often find that the job really requires three hands - for the pliers, a screwdriver and to catch the ring. Plus another to hold the wheel if you don't have an axle vise. AFAIK there is not easy way to do it - I've seen a number of mechanics who work on these a lot and all of them use either pliers or a screwdriver or both. Practice seems to make it faster rather than easier - they've all ended up chasing the ring around the cog at times.

Unless you have a spare pair of those pliers or work in a bike shop I think you're better off buying a proper small screwdriver than the pliers, because small screwdrivers have more uses.

two sets of circlip pliers, one push open, on push closed Note that the bottom right pair open the jaws when you squeeze the handle. This is what you want.

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Of course, those are really intended for use with the sort of snapring that has holes in the ends. What is needed is a pair about like the bottom pair but with the jaws just coming straight out with little "spoons" at the ends. –  Daniel R Hicks May 15 '12 at 0:26
    
(And sometimes, when it's a small ring, it's a good idea to place a piece of tape over it somehow to (hopefully) catch the ring and keep it from shooting across the room when it comes off.) –  Daniel R Hicks May 15 '12 at 0:28
    
Yeah, but I've never seen a pair like that as stock. So I bought a pair as above and ground bits off until I had what I wanted. The tool I bought contained the tool I wanted :) –  Kohi May 15 '12 at 2:27
    
I've seen them, but probably not for 30 years. –  Daniel R Hicks May 15 '12 at 11:19

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