You've probably seen professional electricians use a variety of tools to pull cables and wires. Whether you're pulling high-voltage or low-voltage cables, you'll need the best wire pulling tools for the job. You also need to understand how each tool works differently.
While pulling wires is only part of the job, it can slow down newbies in the electrical trade. However, recent advances have brought new products to market. When used correctly, these wire pulling tools can really save you time and money. Whether you find yourself working on an intricate remodel or embarking on a new commercial job, the right wire pulling tool can reduce frustration and shorten time on the job.
We want to cover a few things in this article. First, we want to help you choose the right pulling tool for the job. Second, you need to understand how these tools work and what situations each tool does well. The right tools can put you in a good mood—while the wrong tools can make your day long and hard. From fishing rods and tape to catheter plungers and pull cords, there is a place for every tool.
This is your first stop for pulling 12 gauge or even low voltage cables through the conduit. A good fish tape can make or break you. We look for features that will keep you safe or work faster.
Consider choosing non-conductive materials like fiberglass or threaded or adjustable nose pins that can easily fit your needs. Fiberglass tape will provide additional protection against contact with live circuits. The price is rigidity. Steel straps can be pushed and pulled with greater authority and force before bending.
When you get your fish tape, make sure you have enough length to do what you do. Also, be sure to buy some reels that are stable and sturdy and won't tangle easily. We really like the Southwire SIMpull range as well as some models from Klein Tools. For really long and curved 1/2" conduit, you may need the stiffness of a more traditional steel or fiberglass product.
- Best Fiberglass Fishing Line Tape: Southwire SIMpull Non-Conductive Fishing Line Tape (Video) – Buy Now ($76.99)
- Best Fish Tape: Klein Fish Tape – Buy It Now ($24.99)
Pull rod (fishing rod)
The difference between fish tape and rod is that rod is a shorter material and is not used with a reel. Reels are great for long pipe runs, and rods are great for fishing up and down wall cavities, as well as getting through other hidden areas, and their extra rigidity gives you an edge. You can also usually splice the rods together for longer lengths.
Other features to consider include glow sticks that are easily visible in ceiling, floor and wall cavities. If you only do light work or short distances, non-conductive wire tie rods will be your main product.
Rods are usually 3 to 6 feet in length with several in between. There are many heads for almost any task (magnetic, loop, hook, etc.). The pull rod is ideal for pulling network cables, cable/satellite TV, telephones, thermostats, and other short-distance wiring or cables. Klein recently launched our very favorite line of Splinter Guard fiberglass rods. They do a better job of not creating immediate splinters, as rods hit joists, drywall, and other materials every day. They also glow in the dark.
- Best Fiberglass Rod: Klein Tools Splinter Guard Rod – Buy It Now ($144.99)
- Also: Greenlee Fiberglass Fishing Rod – Buy It Now ($63.27)
Piping Pistons, Airbags and Blower/Vacuum Systems
You will never catch the line or lead until you attach it to the catheter plunger and actually suck it through the line. No fuss, no fuss. An added bonus is that the pipes are cleaned in the process. This works well for high-end residential and commercial jobs that require longer distances to run new wire through the pipe. There's some prep work involved, but it's a great solution. For bent or blocked catheters, you can use airbags that better accommodate the needs of non-direct catheters.
Lightweight Nylon Drawstring/Rope
If you're pulling cables, you'll need a properly sized nylon rope that's strong, lightweight, and offers a lot of tensile strength. You'll see the tensile strength in "pounds." This is the pounds of pull and you can usually find values between 22 and 500 pounds. Remember, higher strength usually means heavier rope. You can even buy piston/cord combo kits from companies like Kena that can vacuum through the ducts (see above).
For really short runs, you can also look into systems like the Klein Tools Magnetic Pull Line System – Buy Now ($38.91) or the Fish n Pull Pull Line System.
When dealing with residential electrical work, a right-angle drill is usually sufficient for making holes in metal. However, if you plan to run conduit through steel studs in a commercial setting, you may want to invest in metal stud punches. This eliminates the hassle of inserting metal conduits through steel studs.
Good models can handle up to 20 gauge steel, and stud bushings can be inserted to protect your conduit and cables from sharp metal edges.
Conduit benders are also essential as we continue our topic of commercial catheters. While you can get more complex models, there are some manual "hand" benders that work very efficiently if you don't intend to bend a lot of material in a day. The "hand" bender rests on your foot, with the metal handle guiding the fulcrum of the bend. For larger jobs, a power pipe bender will often be on site to facilitate larger pipes and more bends.
- Best Catheter Bender: Klein Catheter Bender – Buy It Now ($40-$80)
- Best Power Bender: Southwire Bendmax Compact Power Bender – Buy Now
It sounds obvious (or like a bad joke), but lube can make it easier for you to pull the wire. A better wire lube will make less mess and go farther depending on how much you use. It is a non-corrosive material to aluminum, copper, PVC and galvanized steel. Dries to a non-toxic lubricating powder after application.
You mainly use it for high stress electrical work and telecommunication cable pulling. In these areas, friction is your enemy. Lubricants are water-soluble and usually do not irritate the skin. The newest types we've seen claim to be 100% non-toxic and eco-friendly.
- Best Wire Lubricant: Klein Foaming Wire Lubricant
Hopefully this guide has given you an idea of the best wire pulling tools that can make this type of work more profitable for you and your company. The right tools can really reduce the time spent pulling wires through walls or conduits. Knowing about some of the more obscure tools (like airbags) should lead to a more piston-friendly pull of cables through imperfect conduits. Improvements in fiberglass glow sticks and foam lubricants promise to speed up your workflow, too. Let us know your personal favorite pulling tool in the comments below.
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