In an earlier article, we showed you a number of ways to “beat the heat” for locations in your car that are adversely affected by temperatures generated by exhaust systems and other engine parts. Honestly there are a ton of options available when it comes to thermal barrier products, but you may quickly discover that you might not have the specialty tools on hand to work with some of the components.

We’re not talking exotic, expensive tools here, but rather simple hand tools that make the job far easier.

Zip Tie Wrap Fastener Tools

Case-in-point are the stainless steel zip ties commonly used to fasten header wrap. It is possible to tighten them by gripping the loose end and pulling on it. The dilemma here is it’s tough to hold the end of the tie tightly as you’re pulling on it. We’ve resorted to using lock grip pliers to grab it. But in most situations, that still won’t get it perfectly tight.

man holding a metal zip tie tightening tools
This innocent looking little black oxide coated tool from DEI is a real time saver when working with stainless steel ties. Stainless ties are the answer securing header wraps, but you can also any number of uses for them—particularly where a nylon tie isn’t sufficiently robust. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

There is a solution, however: It’s a special little locking tie tool manufactured by Design Engineering. It can be used for all stainless steel ties, up to half an inch wide.

The loose end of the stainless steel tie is inserted into the slot of the tool. On the other end, you simply install a quarter inch ratchet or a nut drive. Tighten away! It works much like those keys found on some tin food cans—except it doesn’t break!

The tool is manufactured from hardened tool steel and is black oxide coated (considering how cheap it is, there’s really no reason not to have one in your toolbox).

tightening stainless steel zip tie on header wrap
Here’s how the tool works: You can use a quarter inch nut driver to spin it over or (as shown) a small quarter inch drive ratchet. Basically, it tightens up the stainless tie just like a key on a tin food container. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

Aviation Shears or Tin Snips

Straight aviation snips or tin snips also come in handy when slicing header wrap. The author has a set of Wiss snips on hand, but offers all sorts of similar examples in stock.

a vintage set of wiss tin snips
Another way to slice thermal barriers and header wraps is by way of aviation snips. This set of Wiss snips from the writer’s toolbox are dual action jobs. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

Like the DEI tool mentioned above, many of these snips aren’t very expensive. The compound action found on most of these snips makes cutting through thick header wrap a breeze. After all, most are designed to cut through cold rolled steel.

A set of malco tin snips
One of those varied examples are these single action snips from Malco Products. As noted in the article, these snips are designed with replaceable blades. (Image/Summit Racing)

Another option is a set of single action Malco Products snips (Summit Racing part number MAL-MC14NRB). These snips have one feature that sets them apart from others and that’s the replaceable blades. Both the tool and the replacement blades are pretty affordable.

channel lock aviation tin snips
Here are the Channellock straight cut aviation snips mentioned in the article. These tools are certainly inexpensive and Summit Racing offers all sorts of different examples. (Image/Summit Racing)

Channellock also offers straight cut snips. This example boasts a double action mechanism, which makes for easier cutting on thick materials. Channellock says its aviation snips can cut through material as thick as 18 gauge (steel) or 22 gauge (stainless).

a set of channel lock tin snips
If you want something simple to cut through header wrap, these Channellock tin snips are the answer, especially for cutting tighter corners. (Image/Summit Racing)

Channellock manufactures tin snips for cutting tight corners as well. This one in particular is a single action tool and it can cut through material as thick as 20 gauge steel. They’re also perfect for working on exhaust wrap.

man holding a pair of scissors
This little set of Klein electrician’s scissors works wonders for cutting stray ends of header wrap. They’re small and easy to maneuver in tight spots, plus the construction is stout. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

For more delicate work, you’ll need a set of scissors.

Klein Tools makes handy Electrician’s Scissors that are perfect for working on header wrap or other little jobs. They’re manufactured from tempered steel with a nickel plated finish. The tool isn’t very large—overall length is 5.25 inches long while the cutting is 1.875 inches. The outer edge of the scissors has a serrated surface for stripping wire.

scissors cutting engine exhaust heat wrap
We’ve shown this photo in that earlier heat shield article, but it’s worth repeating. Note how the header wrap frays. That’s why a tool like this is a must! (Image/Wayne Scraba)
cutting a section of heat shield hose wrap
A good set of scissors also works wonderfully when cutting aluminized woven fiberglass heat barriers. (Image/Wayne Scraba)

We find that a spray bottle filled with water is handy to have when wrapping headers. We repurpose a used spray wax bottle, but you can also purchase a dedicated spray bottle too. A good example is this Chemical Guys dilution bottle. It’s a 16 ounce bottle and, since it’s clear, you know what’s inside.

chemical guys water spray bottle
A spray of water is often your best friend for working with header wraps. If you don’t have a dedicated spray bottle, they’re really not expensive. For example, this 16 ounce clear bottle from Chemical Guys is only a few bucks and it’s got a handy space for you to label the contents with a marker. (Image/Summit Racing)


As you can see, there’s an equally large range of inexpensive tools that can help you work your way through header wrap installation as well as other heat rejection product installs.

Best of all, they’re readily available and easy to use.

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Author: Wayne Scraba

Wayne Scraba is a diehard car guy and regular contributor to OnAllCylinders. He’s owned his own speed shop, built race cars, street rods, and custom motorcycles, and restored muscle cars. He’s authored five how-to books and written over 4,500 tech articles that have appeared in sixty different high performance automotive, motorcycle and aviation magazines worldwide.