The only impact wrench buying guide you’ll ever need: Tips, advice, reviews and so much more
What’s the world’s most used air tool? You may be surprised to find it’s the pneumatic impact wrench! Don’t worry if you struggle to bring an impact wrench to mind, however. These immensely useful tools fill a very specific, but necessary niche in the power tool world. In fact, they may be one of the most fascinating specialized tools out there… but often under-appreciated by the general market.
Do you even know what an impact wrench does, however? Maybe you are a little worried you may need one, but don’t know enough to decide? Don’t worry! If you’re a DIY newbie looking for all the information you need to pick the best impact wrench to add to your collection, we’ve got a full buying guide to help you shop like a pro. Or maybe you’re an experienced mechanic looking for the latest, greatest impact wrench reviews to replace a beloved older tool? We’ve got you covered too!
Best Cordless Impact Wrenches
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of buying your first impact wrench, let’s make a little space and take a look at some of the best cordless models on the market today.
1. Bosch 18-Volt High Torque Impact Wrench Kit
Bosch inevitably makes the top 10 list of almost any power tool out there. Their impact wrench range is no different. Delivering the same high standards for decades now, the Bosch 18V high-torque impact wrench gives you 500 ft/lbs of torque. Despite this power, it still comes in at only 6.7 lbs weight and is a nifty 10” length.
This model uses a spring-loaded hammer and anvil to ensure high torque with less torque reaction. Its 1900 RPM gives you up to 2100 BPM. You can also use both Li-ion battery styles from the Bosch range, too. We also loved the LED light, so you always know where you’re working. While it’s not the cheapest tool on the market currently, it’s a stand-out for quality and accessible use. We also loved the balanced battery use, meaning later tasks get the same power as those at the start of the charge.
2. Makita XWT06 18V LXT 3/8-Inch Impact Wrench Kit
This is one of Makita’s smaller impact wrench offerings, so don’t expect too much from this nimble unit. That said, the 4-pole motor still delivers 155 ft/lbs of torque, so don’t write it off. With a variable speed option, it also has a lot more subtlety then many wrenches on the market. It’s only 6 ⅛” long, too, which makes it one of the smallest (and lightest, at 3.4 lbs) entries on our list.
The Makita has a nice balance to it. A rubberized grip provides working comfort. The ⅜” drive is also ideal for a wide range of DIY tasks, including tire rotation. In fact, this is an ideal choice for those looking for a casual automotive tool. It also has value as a general impact wrench for DIY work. Because of this, and the attractive price point, it makes it a great purchase for first time DIY enthusiast.
3. Dewalt DCF899HB 20v MAX XR Brushless High Torque Impact Wrench
Brushless motors are coming to dominate the power tool market. This is partly because they help the motor last longer, delivering better performance on the way. Offering a max torque of 700 ft/lbs, and breakaway torque of 1200 ft/lbs, this is a heavy-duty tool for serious users. It still manages to offer three-speed settings, however.
It’s not the smallest or lightest drill on our list today, coming in at over 8” long. It’s probably one of the most robust, however, and has been tested over 6ft drops. While you’re hopefully not tossing your impact wrench around mindlessly, it’s a reassuring addition. So is the LED light. We were a little unimpressed at having to purchase the battery and charger separately. While it’s still a good deal, it does make the apparent price point a little deceptive. Despite this small fact, this is a superb mid-range tool for robust home use.
4. Milwaukee 2754-20 – M18 FUEL 3/8″ Compact Impact Wrench
Another superb entry-level unit, expect to get 210 ft/lbs of torque from this little beast. The brushless motor helps reduce wear-and-tear, which should keep this baby in your toolbox for years to come. With 4 drive control settings, it’s got the most versatility of any entry on our list, too. The ability to set multiple drive speeds gives you better control over the force applied to each nut. This helps avoid the risk of shattering sockets or stripping nuts.
Many users feel this particular impact wrench delivers above well its pay grade. It’s comfortable, effective and subtle enough to make a versatile piece for your tool kit. In particular, it’s nominated as one of the best automotive impact wrenches over and over again. If you’re looking for power in a small package, then this is the unit for you. It also has great battery life, even on smaller batteries from the range.
5. Porter-Cable PCC740B 1/2″ Cordless Impact Wrench
This surprisingly powerful motor delivers 330 ft/lbs of torque, making it ideal for heavy-duty applications. It still manages to include variable speed control, however, making it a little more versatile than some similar models. It’s still effectively a one-speed impact wrench, however. A ½” hog ring makes swapping between sockets a simple task, but still provides decent retention. Interestingly, the housing is also chemical resistant, giving the unit robust durability for non-standard applications.
At just under 10” and 6 lbs in weight, it’s a bigger impact wrench than many on the list. Give this, they probably could have found some space for a battery indicator light, but it’s a small annoyance. This particular impact wrench is a killer on rusted bolts and nuts. If you’re looking for a wrench for a truck or other large vehicle, this may be your new favorite choice.
6. Dewalt DCF889M2 20-volt MAX High Torque Impact Wrench
This deceptively small impact wrench offers a staggering 400 ft/lbs of torque. It’s neat and compact to handle, allowing you to use it in tight spaces. The batteries are particularly impressive on this model. Not only do they offer a fuel gauge light, but their capacity is considerably better that standard models, for not much extra weight. There’s no independant speed settings, but the variable trigger does give you decent user control all the same. The brake is sensitive, so your chances of cracking a socket are low. It’s a robust kit, with magnesium casing and all-metal transmission, so you have no worries about unit durability either.
The all-in-one kit presentation is pretty nifty too. Coming with not one, but two batteries included for the price, it’s a pretty sweet deal. If you’re new to owning an impact wrench, but expect to have a few heavier applications, this is perfect for you.
6 Top Corded Impact Wrench Reviews
You may not yet be sure if corded or cordless impact wrenches are better for you? So let’s take a look at some of the top corded options, too. Don’t worry- our exhaustive guide below will help you narrow down your choice later.
1. WEN 48107 7.5-Amp 1/2-Inch Two-Direction Electric Impact Wrench
Slimline and unpretentious, the WEN isn’t much on looks. Fortunately, it does make up for this in what it delivers to you. Offering 2700 impacts per second with 230 ft/lbs of torque, it isn’t a particularly powerful unit. 230 ft/lbs puts it square in the middle of the corded impact wrench category. The heavy-duty design of the nose, however, lends itself to a long operational life with little fuss. 2100 RPM unloaded is nothing to sneeze at, either.
You can reverse rotation direction on this impact wrench with a rocker switch, a feature we rather liked, but it’s becoming an industry standard. The hog nose anvil makes for reliable, but fast, socket changes too. The power cord is reinforced for safety, which we appreciated, and stretches 6 ½ feet. Backed with a solid 2-year guarantee, it’s an attractively priced option with solid manufacture behind it.
2. EVERDRAGON 7.5 Amp 1/2″ Electric Impact Wrench
With 2100 RPM and 2500 impacts a minute, this wrench offers a solid package. Nothing too exciting, but a durable and long-lasting corded alternative. 230 ft/lbs of torque may not be the most powerful out there, but it is low noise operation, which more than makes up for it. The typical package for this impact wrench comes with 4 matching sockets and it’s own carrying case. Storage couldn’t really be more convenient.
We particularly noted the comfort grip, which cut down on vibrations notably. With a 6 ft power cord, and weighing only 8.8 lbs, this is a suitable entry-level impact wrench for a variety of home applications. While not, possibly, the best on our list for automotive applications, it’s ideal for home DIY. While EverDragon have a way to go before they generate the pull of a Dewalt or Makita, an attractive price tag and unit durability earn this one a place on the list.
3. VonHaus 8.5 Amp 1/2-inch Electric Impact Wrench Set
Specifically designed for ease of use, this wrench offers you 260 ft/lbs of torque. This places it pretty high-powered for a corded impact wrench. It still manages to be a compact and lightweight unit, however. A rotational direction rocker switch comes standard, so it’s simple to use, too. The hog anvil ring is a little stiff to operate, but offers superior socket retention, so it’s a fair trade-off. VonHaus has opted for a dual-bearing armature to reduce shock and vibration to the user, and it shows in the unit’s balance. It’s a pleasant unit to handle, and ergonomic in the hand.
Their proprietary ‘planetary ring’ system helps keep the tool lightweight while still offering the user precise control. Expect to receive 4 standard sockets and a carry case with each purchase. This is another quiet model, making it a neighbor-friendly option for the home handyman.
4. HAMMERHEAD HDIW075 7.5 AMP 1/2-inch Impact Wrench
Another impact wrench offering a standard 7.5 amp motor, you’re also getting 2200 RPM and 2700 BPM. That’s coupled with 240 ft/lbs of torque. The drive has been created with an all-metal gearbox and friction ring to ensure socket retention, adding extra reassurance for the user. The rotational rocker is conveniently positioned for two-fingered operation, too. We were also a fan of the shaped rubber handle, offering convenient, stable use. While some vibration is inescapable with impact wrenches, it’s still a comfortable tool to operate.
This is a very slimmed-down package, coming with no accessories or other notable features. However, it still delivers a powerful punch if you’re looking for a budget-friendly wrench option. The lack of a detent ball does sometimes cause a little socket retention when you disengage, but the issue is minor. This isn’t your best choice for tight circumstances, however, being a rather bulky tool to operate.
5. VETOMILE T01 Electric Impact Wrench
This is a simple wrench for the category but delivers in a few key areas that count. The maximum torque force on this impact wrench is definitely impressive. You’re looking at 295 ft/lbs, making it a good choice for rusted areas. It’s also intuitive and easy to use straight from the box, with a low learning curve. Sockets are easy to attach, and the machine easy to operate.
Given this, we were impressed with the durability. Ergonomic molding makes it easy to handle, and the pressure-sensitive trigger was a nice tough. Vibration to the user was pretty low. It shops with 4 socket heads as 2 double-ended sockets and includes a carry case. There’s also a 1-year warranty.
This particular wrench is marketed for the tire-change market, and it handles impressively there. While Vetomil is far from a name brand, this was a surprisingly nice little package to handle.
6. Porter-Cable PCE211 7.5 Amp 1/2″ Impact Wrench
Need a high impact torque tool? This impact wrench puts out a massive 450 ft/lbs. Most corded varieties only work up to 300 ft/lbs or so. It also delivers 2200 RPM and 2700 BPM. It’s a no-nonsense, heavy-duty tool.
The Porter-Cable ships without other accessories, but you’re still receiving a solid tool for high impact work. Due to the strong motor, this is a heavier impact wrench, so don’t expect it to fit in tight spaces. It’s on the less-noisy side which users deeply appreciated. As there’s no function to slow the unit’s spin, do not use this to tighten nuts- it’s designed for loosening only.
Which of these quality tools has taken your eye? Don’t worry if you’re still feeling undecided- we’ve got all the buying facts you need. So, whether you already know which you’re planning on buying, or not yet, all the help you need is on hand
Impact Wrench Buying Guide
Now you’ve seen some of the best models around, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of these important tools.
The impact wrench is older technology, designed for a specific niche use. Back in the day, we had two choices- a standard drill/driver, or a torque wrench. Because of this gap in the market, the impact driver was introduced. Delivering far more torque than a drill, they seem to overlap with the impact wrench- but there are key differences.
Impact wrenches are larger, heavier, and have more bulk. They also are far more powerful, with much greater torque. Far more torque than most DIY home jobs need! Power aside, they also use different bits types. Impact wrenches use larger square drives intended for sockets. Impact drivers use a smaller hex drive and are mainly meant to drive screws. Some do have square socket conversions, however.
The impact wrench simply isn’t meant for standard home DIY tasks. This task really falls to the impact driver, specifically designed for those home jobs that need a little more power than a standard drill. Your impact wrench, instead, is designed for situations where high torque on tight, large sockets is required- such as on a car or truck. Think of them as the elegant alternative to banging on your socket wrench with a hammer because a bolt is stuck.
What to Consider When Buying an Impact Wrench
There’s a few key questions to ask yourself when buying an impact wrench, to help you make the correct purchase for your needs. So let’s take a look at them.
Do I need a high torque impact wrench at all?
High torque tools like the impact wrench make removing nuts easier. Because of this, if you do a lot of automotive work, or construction work, they will speed up your work. For the average DIY user, however, it may be overkill
What torque do I actually need?
Higher torque can risk breaking nuts or stripping sockets. So it can also risk breaking nuts and tools, too. Your vehicle will have a specific torque recommendation on nuts. Be sure to balance the torque of the wrench to these needs.
What size nuts will I be removing?
This will determine the drive size of your impact wrench, so match it properly
Where will I be working?
This will impact the power source you choose for your impact wrench. Be sure to opt for a type that suits your working space.
With the answers to these key questions in hand, you will be better prepared to make a smart purchase.
What really matters in an impact wrench?
Features & Specs to Look out For When Buying an Impact Wrench
So now you’ve answered those questions, how do you know if you are making a good purchase that matches your needs? Here’s how to use and interpret the features and specs of your impact wrench.
- Grip Type: A ‘pistol grip’ is held like a gun. However, ‘inline grip’ is held parallel to the driving direction. Pistol grip is typically more comfortable, but inline delivers more force from the user
- Power source: You will see corded, cordless/battery operated and pneumatic/air compressed models.
- Output torque: This indicates the power delivered by the wrench. The higher the torque, the stronger the power- but this should always be balanced to use. Remember, bigger isn’t always better.
- Drive size: The drive size tells you the size of the nut the impact wrench can handle, and what nut sets you will be able to use with the wrench. So you should always match this carefully to your vehicle or typical use.
- Input pressure: This only applies to air-driven impact wrenches and tells you the fluid pressure flow from the compressor to the unit
- Impacts per second: The number of times the hammer hits the anvil in the unit. So, it’s indicative of how fast it will turn the nut.
Now you fully understand what these features do in the impact wrench, you’re well placed to properly interpret the specs of your impact wrench.
Want to know how to buy a hammer drill? Our helpful hammer drill buying guide will tell you what to look for when it comes to selecting the best one.
Electric or Air? The Ultimate Impact Wrench Question
Now comes the key question- electric or air? Let’s take a look at both types of impact wrench in more detail.
The ins-and-outs of pneumatic (air) impact wrenches
Better known as a pneumatic impact wrench, the compressed air impact wrench is the traditional form of impact wrench. You’ll need an air compressor to run them, naturally, and it’s going to need to be a pretty powerful one. Air compressed impact wrenches are hungry things! They can be run almost continuously, however, as long as the air flow remains constant.
Most have a ‘pistol grip’ construction to make them comfortable for the user. There are more compact types available, designed for tight spaces. They can be a little more difficult to hold onto, however, so they’re best kept for their purpose- anywhere a standard wrench won’t fit.
Expect to find these tools in standard square drives of 0.25”, 0.375”, 0.5”, 0.75” and 1” diameters. The larger the drive, the more torque the wrench will give you. In fact, a 1” drive can deliver as much as 3000 feet/lbs of torque!
The pneumatic impact wrenches’ biggest advantage lies in the size. It’s a compact, lean creature next to the electric impact wrench. However, it’s harder to control the power. They don’t offer variable speed triggers like electric types. Basically, the pneumatic air wrench will crack it open, or squeeze it shut… this isn’t a tool with subtlety.
The ins-and-outs of electric impact wrenches
This brings us neatly to the electric impact wrench. There’s two forms of electric impact wrench on the market currently- corded and cordless. Industry focus has shifted to the cordless models recently, so you’ll find less and less corded models available.
Corded impact wrenches
Corded models typically come only in 0.5” and 0.75” drive sizes. Their performance is pretty equal to their pneumatic equivalents, so you lose nothing in power. Because of the onboard motor, however, they’re usually longer and bulkier. Other than this size disadvantage, however, they’re great tools. Nor do you need an air compressor to run them… but you do need a power source. This is not the tool for remote on-site work.
Cordless electric impact wrenches
Cordless models offer a serviceable alternative to this issues, of course. Most will use Li-ion batteries, ranging from 18V to 28V in power. The advent of Li-ion technology has made for powerful, stronger batteries, cutting out many of the older worries about cordless models. This means they now charge faster and last longer. It’s still going to be a lot less powerful than their pneumatic or corded equivalents, however. While a few cordless varieties offer the same high torque values, most are less powerful. That’s not always a bad thing, of course!
The cordless impact wrench is infinitely portable and can be taken anywhere. So no need to lug an air compressor around or worry about electric points. With much greater trigger control, too, they bring a subtlety to the market the stronger varieties don’t have. This lower torque value can also make them a better choice for rusted and over-tightened nuts, allowing them to loosen them without stripping.
As you can see, there’s no true ‘better’ and ‘worse’ between electric and pneumatic impact wrenches. The true answer lies in your needs, where you will use it, and what you need the tool to do instead.
Buying a Cordless Impact Wrench for Your Car?
Here’s What You Need to Know
So if you’re buying your impact wrench for your car, you probably are going to opt for a cordless model. They give a great balance of power, torque, and portability for the average user. But what makes an impact wrench a good choice for your car? Let’s take a closer look at the features of the right cordless impact wrench for automotive.
- Noise: This should be a primary concern. You don’t want your neighbours complaining, after all! Try to opt for lower decibel options, both for your hearing and your neighbourly relations.
- Weight and handling: You aren’t a mechanic, and probably won’t be handling this tool daily. This means the lighter the better… and make sure the style and grip is one you can handle safely.
- Strong battery: The stronger the battery, the longer it will last without needing a charging break.
- Torque and drive size: Be sure to match the torque provided to the manufacturer’s recommendations for your cars. Likewise, opt for the drive size that handles the most common nut sizes.
So, in short, the best impact wrench for automotive use should be maneuverable and have torque and a drive size matched to your needs.
What Makes an Impact Wrench Great for Lug Nuts?
The impact wrench is one of those niche tools. When you need it, man do you need it… but that’s likely to be once a year if you’re a standard Joe with a normal home garage. Car enthusiasts, home mechanics, fabrication shops and any halfway decent commercial garage, of course, will see a lot more use out of them.
What is that once-a-year task likely to be? Tire rotation. You’ve probably been battling with a standard 4-way lug wrench since you got your first car. With an impact wrench, instead, you’ll whizz those lug nuts off in a second. It is quite a pricey investment if you have no other purpose for the impact wrench, however. And contrary to every DIY book or show ever, sometimes there is such a thing as too much power!
So your first consideration should be if an impact driver with a square drive conversion would be better for you. The best impact drivers have more practical uses in DIY and around the home, after all. They’re more compact, most have a decent amount of torque for this task, and they’re a bit more user-friendly. But bear in mind that ¼” hex to ½” square drive adaptor bit will be key.
What key facts should help me make my choice?
If you decide an impact wrench is better for you, then bear these key facts in mind:
- You will likely want cordless for versatility of use
- Balance your torque. Because more torque makes the job easier, but too much and you risk stripping nuts
- Match the drive size to your car carefully. Be sure to consider the nuts you tackle most, and use these to make your decision.
- If you’re only using your wrench on tire rotation, it’s fine to buy cheap. Just look for solid construction and longevity, and opt for less torque in a more manageable package.
So, in short, a slim, lightweight model with good torque and the capability to handle the nuts you use most is key. With this in mind, tire rotation will be a dream.
Types of Impact Wrenches & Their Uses
Now you have all the information you need at your fingertips, let’s take one last look at the three types of impact wrench and their uses. Remember that there’s really no ‘bad’ type of impact wrench. It would just be one you’ve matched poorly to your needs. So why not let this handy round-up of the pros and cons of each help guide your purchase?
Pneumatic impact wrenches
Pneumatic impact wrenches have been on the market the longest, and offer a great blend of high impact torque, portability, and power. They aren’t without downside, however. Let’s look at their specific pros and cons in more detail
A slim, neat body without cord, onboard motor or other bulk
Delivers a higher rate of torque/power than electrical equivalents
No electrocution risk- but use safety gear
If you already own an air compressor, this is your cheapest tool
- Drive Range
This has the largest available range of drive sizes, 0.25”, 0.375”, 0.,5”, 0,75” and 1” drives available
Can be used anywhere you can take an air compressor
- Difficult to regulate
Pneumatic impact wrenches have little subtlety- you can work all out, or not. This is not good for rusty bolts and other areas where stripping is a risk.
- Extra parts
You need an air compressor to work this tool. This may mean an additional investment for you.
- Working room
The need for an air compressor makes this un-ideal for small spaces
These have the highest maintenance needs
Corded Impact Wrench
Venturing into the electrical impact wrenches, we have the corded impact wrench. These offer stable power with more subtlety than a pneumatic wrench but come with some irritations and risks of their own. Let’s look at the pros and cons more closely.
- Work all day
No stop to recharge batteries or compress the air compressor
- Consistent work output
Power levels are constant as long as there is power, no dips as batteries weaken
- More DIY uses
Variable drive speed allows more subtlety and range of removal
Lighter than cordless varieties
Corded impact wrenches have a balanced price point, needing no extras or batteries.
The onboard motor makes them larger than pneumatic models
You need access to a power outlet at all times
The cord can get in the way, and you need careful cable management at all times.
- Limited drive sizes
0.375”, 0.5”, 0.75” models most typical
- Work all day
Cordless impact wrenches
Cordless impact wrenches definitely win when it comes to portability. They can, however, be an expensive purchase, and come with some power concerns. Let’s take a look at their pros and cons more closely.
You can take the cordless impact wrench anywhere and use it in confined spaces.
There’s no electrocution danger or cable management needed
- Drive Sizes
0.25”, 0.375” and 0.5” drives available. While not the full range, these are the most used drive sizes for the DIY and automotive markets.
Remove nuts, bolts and even smaller screws around the home
- On board power
No separate power source to manage
The battery pack can adversely impact size and weight
Torque was lower on older models, but modern cordless impact wrenches provide better torque
These can be the priciest impact wrenches on the market, due to the need to purchase extra batteries
- Battery Life
Work can be interrupted by the need to recharge or swap batteries
Now you have a clearer idea of the pros and cons of different impact wrenches, let’s look at how to operate one safely.
How to Use an Impact Wrench (properly)
The impact wrench isn’t a toy- it’s a tool you need to respect. Why? Because they apply immense force to loosen nuts and fasteners. This means they can just as easily strip or break nuts, tools and you. So, with this in mind, always use your impact wrench correctly.
- Never use on standard (ratchet) sockets, use with impact sockets only: Remember, standard sockets may shatter when used with impact tools.
- Always use safety gear: At a minimum, you need protective gloves, earplugs, and goggles. You do not want to be injured by one of these bad boys.
- Maintenance is critical: Otherwise, your expensive purchase will cease and die.
- Manage the cord: Electrical corded models need you to be mindful of the cord to avoid electrocution risk. So use them sensibly.
- Recommended torque only: Use the recommended torque settings for each nut, per the vehicle manufacturer’s specs.
FAQs About Impact Wrenches You Really Ought to Know
So, you’re still curious about impact wrenches? Maybe your question is answered below.
- How do I make my impact wrench more powerful?
Why do you want to do this, again? Say goodbye to your guarantee and manufacturer support…and possibly a finger! It’s really much better to buy an impact wrench with the right torque for the job than to try and tweak one that isn’t. If this is an air wrench, however, make sure your airflow and PSI are correct.
- What size impact wrench do I need for lug nuts?
Both ⅜” and ½” drives will work for most standard vehicle lug nuts.
- Is the torque really that different in an impact wrench vs an impact driver?
Yes! There is a considerable difference. An average torque for the impact driver is 2000 lbs pressure. Most impact wrenches deliver over 6 times that- 13000 lbs and upward.
Read on to find more details on choosing a drill press.
Cordless drills are a must-have for every homeowner. Don’t forget to check our homepage to see our list of drills and other useful tools.
Wrapping It Up
Now you know everything you need to pick the best impact wrench for your needs. We’ve looked at basic use and safety. We’ve also simplified the complicated world of impact wrench specs so you know what you are looking at and can make meaningful comparisons. Lastly, we’ve learned how to match everything to your intended use. The impact wrench is a niche tool, most suitable for those looking for help with tire rotation, who enjoy automotive DIY or do a lot of construction. If you’re looking for a more general DIY tool, the impact driver may suit you better.
We’ve also taken a look at the three popular types of impact wrenches out there, and what their pros and cons are. You’ve also got access to some great impact wrench reviews to get you started on the right path.