If you regularly build or repair electronics, it is inevitable that at some point you need to crimp wires. While this sounds simple on the surface, the world of crimping is a complex one. Especially for hobbyists who cannot justify spending thousands on official crimp tools, it can be a challenge to get quality crimp results.
Engineer’s PAD-02 kit is here to help with that. With a wide range of crimp dies and fabricated to Japanese standards, it promises to deliver good results at the fraction of the cost of official tools.
Today, I will take a look at what the PAD-02 offers, how it compares to other crimping tools and whether it is the single crimping solution that we have all been waiting for.
Purchasing the PAD-02 crimping tool kit will get you the following:
- PAD-11 crimping tool with pre-fitted PAD-11S die plates
- PAD-12S die plate set
- PAD-13S die plate set
- 2.5 mm hex key (for swapping out die plates)
- Hard carrying case (300 * 190 * 60 mm)
- 6x Transparent crimp terminal storage box (20 * 29 * 16 mm)
- Instruction manual
One of the main strengths of the Engineer PAD-02 set is its wide range of features. Typically, you would need to combine several tools to get a complete crimping solution. The PAD-02, on the other hand, gives you a versatile kit that reliably and consistently crimps almost any type and size of open-barrel terminal.
At the core of the PAD-02 kit lie its swappable die plates (named PAD-11S, PAD-12S and PAD-13S). Each die plate set lets you crimp terminals with certain widths. With these three sets, you can handle literally hundreds of common crimp terminal types. I have added more information on crimp terminal compatibility further down the page.
On the tool itself you can also find a built-in wire cutter and stripper. It is razor sharp and cuts well, but I found that consistently stripping a specific length of insulation is rather difficult, especially on thin wires. A stripping tool that lets you set a preset stripping length works better in that regard.
The body of the tool also contains an easy to use latch for closing the handle when not in use. An essential component, as unlike other crimping tools, this one does not have a ratcheting mechanism that can hold the tool closed. I will go into more detail on the lack of ratcheting in the Ease of use section.
Essentially, this kit is an Engineer PAD-11 crimping tool with two extra die plates (for medium and large crimp terminals), along with several accessories. I have done a more in-depth review of the PAD-11, but I will repeat most of its main points in this article.
Precision & build quality
Aside from the die sizes on a crimping tool, what makes or breaks it is its build quality and precision. No matter how much effort you put in, you are not able to get clean and consistent crimps with an inaccurate and poorly finished tool. In the end, the more precise the tool is, the better the results.
The die plates of the PAD-02 are precision machined and as accurate as you can get. Out of the box, the jaws and dies line up perfectly. When you swap die plates, there is no risk of misaligning them. The tool is designed with narrow tolerances, causing the die plates to align perfectly each time.
Precision is especially important when you work with small crimp terminals, like the JST-PH/XH series and Molex Microfit or Picoblade. As you can imagine, a 0.3 mm misalignment might not be that big of a big deal when you are crimping a 3 mm wide contact. When you are dealing with a 0.7 or 1.0 mm wide contact, however, that 0.3 mm suddenly has much more of an impact.
This precision is one of the ways the PAD-02 kit distinguishes itself from similar products. For example, the dies on the IWISS IWS-2820M (the Chinese clone of the PAD-11) have noticeable worse machining quality, leading to connectors getting stuck after crimping and more failed crimps in general. Of course, that lower quality is reflected in the lower price of the 2820M.
Even compared to Engineer’s other crimping tools, the popular PA-09 and PA-21, the build quality and machining finish of the PAD-02 kit is better. If you intend on crimping a lot of small contacts, the PAD-02 will give you superior results.
The durability of the PAD-02 kit is equally impressive.
The handles of the crimp tool are made of oil-resistant thermoplastic rubber. Not only does this make them comfortable to hold, but they also hold up well against oils and greases.
Lesser crimp tools usually come with handles that are either made of hard plastic, or made of rubber. Plastic handles tend to be uncomfortable when crimping with any meaningful force. Rubber handles, on the other hand, have a habit of disintegrating or getting sticky over time when exposed to grease or oil.
The oil-resistant TPR material of the PAD-02’s handles gives the best of both worlds. Durable and comfortable to use.
The durability of the dies is equally impressive. After several years and hundreds of crimps in my workshop, I have yet to see any signs of wear. I have no reason to doubt that these dies will in fact last me a lifetime.
As mentioned, the PAD-02 kit comes with three different sets of interchangeable die plates. Each set has five or six diffent width crimping dies.
Figuring out which die to use is as simple as measuring the width of the contact you want to crimp and find a die that matches in width. If there is no exact match, use the next die up in size.
The PAD-11S set is also referred to as the ‘S’ or small set. It has six different dies ranging from 0.7 to 2.2 mm in width (0.7/1.0/1.3/1.6/1.9/2.2). It works with over 90 different terminals, popular ones being the JST-XH/PH/ZH series, Tyco D-1000, and Molex’s KK-100, CLIK-Mate, Picoblade and SL series.
The PAD-12S set is also referred to as the ‘M’ or medium set. It has six different dies ranging from 1.6 to 3.1 mm in width (1.6/1.9/2.2/2.5/2.8/3.1). It works with over 110 different terminals.
The PAD-13S set is also referred to as the ‘L’ or large set. It has six different dies ranging from 2.5 to 3.7 mm in width (2.5/2.8/3.1/3.4/3.7). It is compatible with over 100 terminals.
A full compatibility list for all die plates can be found here.
One popular die that is missing on this kit is an O-shaped die. These are mostly used for Dupont/Mini-PV insulation crimps. These crimps require a round die because they wrap the crimp around the wire insulation.
Nearly every other crimp terminal uses an F-crimp (for examples, see further down the page), which pierces the wire insulation. F-crimps are made with the typical M-shaped dies you see everywhere.
Swapping die plates
As you can see, all dies on the PAD-12S set can also be found on either the 11S or 13S. It is basically a middle-ground option that prevents you from having to repeatedly swap out the 11S and 13S if you work with various terminals in the 1.6-3.1 mm range.
While swapping out the die plates is effortless and takes about 15 seconds, it does get annoying when you have to do it continuously.
If you need to crimp both small and large terminals concurrently and do not want to keep swapping die plates, it might be worth getting multiple tools. That way, you always have the dies you need at hand.
A popular option for this is to go with both the PA-09 and PA-21. Despite having less available die widths and an inferior build quality to the PAD-02 kit, they are still okay in terms of price/value.
Ease of use
The PAD-02’s crimping tool feels well-balanced and is proportioned correctly. Its action is smooth and the tool’s built-in spring keeps hand fatigue at bay. This is an advantage over other, spring-less crimping tools that quickly wear your hand out.
Compared to the PA-09 and PA-21, this crimping tool is longer and gives you more control over the crimping force. It is a bit heavier however, because of the extra weight of the interchangeable die plate system.
The tool does not have a ratcheting system, so the clamping force fully depends on the force you apply by hand. This means you can apply the perfect amount of force and create better crimps, but you do not have the guaranteed repeatability that comes with a ratcheting crimp tool.
In other words, the crimp quality depends on the user input and it takes a bit of practice to get good results. Usually people get it within the first couple crimps. Expect to waste the first couple of terminals. After that, you are set.
Unlike other crimping tools, like the Hozan P-707 with its compound hinge, there is no risk of applying too much force and damaging (or even crushing) the crimp terminal.
As for the smaller features, these work equally well. For example, the locking latch is conveniently placed and is easy to engage while you are putting down the tool.
The case of the PAD-02 is quite nice. On one side it has hard foam with cutouts for the kit’s components. On the other side it has soft padded foam. When closed, all components are held in place well. You can shake the case around and when you open it again, everything will be where you left it.
The case is obviously not as durable as something like a Pelican case, but it is a significant improvement over generic Chinese kit cases that have their latches coming off after having been used a couple dozen times.
Along with the case you get six smaller boxes that are intended for storing crimp terminals. The boxes are transparent so you can see what is in them. They also interlock both on the back and the sides.
The boxes’ inclusion and quality is a nice bit of Japanese attention to detail. I already had a storage solution for crimp terminals, so I am using them for other small components instead. They are too nice to leave unused.
The PAD-02 kit is able to provide you with professional crimps, provided you use the tool correctly. By that I mean select the right combination of die, wire gauge and crimp terminal, and apply the right amount of force. Do that, and the crimps you make will be practically indistinguishable from OEM spec.
As you have read, the PAD-02 crimping kit has plenty of benefits. But it is always a good idea to quickly go over the possible disadvantages again.
- Price. The price can be seen as a downside when compared to cheaper Chinese (IWISS) crimping tools. However, the precision and compatibility of the PAD-02 kit blows those out of the water. At the same time, the price of the PAD-02 is cheap compared to the multiple hundreds of dollars you would have to pay for the official crimp tools of each connector system you want to work with.
- Two crimps per connector. For each connector or pin you crimp, you have to crimp twice. Once for the conductor and once for the insulation. Official tools crimp everything in a single action with the correct force.
- No ratchet system. As mentioned above, while a tool without a ratchet mechanism can give better crimps, it does require a bit of practice.
- No O-shaped die. Unfortunately, there are no products identical to the PAD-02 kit that do include a round die. The closest I can think of is the Hozan P-707. It is fairly similar to the PAD-02 in terms of dies and quality. It lacks a bit on the small side (no 0.7 mm or 1.0 mm dies), but does have a round die you can use for Dupont/Mini-PV insulation crimps.
If you are looking for a crimping tool that does offer single action operation and a ratcheting mechanism, a decent option is the IWISS SN-2549. It does offer considerably less crimp terminal compatibility than the PAD-02 kit, because it only has four different dies. Its build quality also leaves a lot to be desired. For its price, however, it does offer decent value.
What is the difference between the Engineer PAD-01 and PAD-02?
The PAD-02 kit is the newer version of the PAD-01 and has some minor upgrades compared to the first version. The PAD-01 has been discontinued.
The Engineer PAD-02 crimping kit is an excellent choice for anyone who regularly crimps open-barrel contacts and is looking for a tool that can crimp these to professional standards. It costs significantly less than manufacturers’ official terminal-specific tools and dies, giving it a great price-performance ratio.
Compared to Chinese crimping tools, however, the PAD-02 is a significant investment. It does quickly pay for itself by removing much of the hassle that comes with crimping. It also gives you a set of dies that can handle nearly any crimp terminal.
What the PAD-02 kit does lack is an O-shaped die for Mini-PV / Dupont connectors. As people who are familiar with crimping know all too well, these dies can be hard to find. One tool that does come with this die is the Hozan P-707, but that one does not come with the small dies that the PAD-02 has.
The build quality of the PAD-02 is excellent and you can expect it to last a lifetime. It’s accessories are a nice bonus as well. The case allows you to store or take the kit with you on the go, without the risk of damaging the tool and its dies.
- Precise crimping tool with changeable die sets for open-barrel contacts/pins
- Quick & easy die replacement, with perfect alignment into the handle frame
- Integral wire stripper & cutter.