What Are Circlips?

A circlip, also known as a snap ring, is a simple yet versatile mechanical fastener used in various applications. It is a type of retaining ring that fits into a groove on a shaft or in a bore to secure components in place. Due to their ease of installation, reliability, and cost-effectiveness, circlips are widely used in automotive, aerospace, industrial, and manufacturing sectors. With so many possible applications, there are several circlip variations available on the market, each designed for specific purposes and operating conditions. In this blog, we will provide a brief overview of some of the most commonly used types, so you have a better understanding of these versatile devices.

External Circlip

An external circlip is the most basic type of circlip, and it is used to secure components on the outside of a shaft. In particular, it consists of a semi-circular ring with two open ends, which can be expanded to fit into a groove and then snap back into place to secure the assembly. External circlips are typically used to prevent axial movement of components on a shaft.

Internal Circlip

Contrary to the external circlip, an internal circlip is used for securing components within a bore or housing. It has a similar semi-circular shape but with the ends facing inward. By expanding this circlip, it can be inserted into a groove, and upon release, it contracts to hold the assembly in place. In general, internal circlips are commonly used in applications where space constraints prevent the use of external circlips.


E-clips, also known as E-rings, are a variant of circlips that have a unique shape resembling the letter "E." These clips have a small lobe or projection that prevents them from rotating within the groove, providing additional stability. As such, E-clips are used in applications where rotational forces or vibrations are present, ensuring the circlip remains secure.

Constant Section Circlip

Constant section circlips are designed to provide a uniform retaining force along the entire circumference. Unlike traditional circlips that have varying cross-sectional thickness, constant section circlips have a uniform thickness throughout. This design allows them to exert a consistent force when installed in a groove, making them suitable for applications with high rotational speeds or where the load distribution needs to be uniform.

Spiral Retaining Ring

A spiral retaining ring, also known as a spiral circlip, is a unique type of circlip that resembles a coiled spring. It is made from a single piece of flat wire that is wound into a spiral shape, forming multiple turns. Spiral retaining rings are installed into a groove using special tools and exert radial force to secure components. In terms of advantages, they offer reduced groove dimensions, increased load capacity, and improved axial flexibility.

Tapered Section Circlip

Tapered section circlips are designed to fit into tapered grooves. They have a varying cross-sectional thickness that matches the taper of the groove to ensure a secure fit. Typically, section circlips find use in applications where there is a need for a wedging action to securely hold components.

Wrapping Up

Circlips play a crucial role in various mechanical assemblies, ensuring that components stay in place under a wide range of operating conditions. Moreover, they provide a cost-effective and reliable solution for retaining and securing assemblies in a wide range of industries. With this in mind, understanding the various types of circlips and their specific applications can help engineers and designers select the most appropriate option for their needs, ensuring the reliability and performance of their mechanical systems.

If your operations require high-quality circlips, we invite you to explore NSN Orbit’s expansive inventory of products. With over 2 billion new, used, obsolete, and hard-to-find items on our database, customers can easily meet their rigid time constraints and inflexible budget parameters. Kick off the procurement process today by submitting a Request for Quote (RFQ) form through our website and see how our experts can provide you with an effective solution that meets your operational needs in 15 minutes or less.


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