Which impact wrench is best?
An impact wrench is an invaluable tool for any homeowner. The amount of physical energy and time you save by using one over a manual wrench is impossible to overstate. There are several types and strengths of impact wrenches to choose from. Selecting the appropriate type for you is essential — you don’t want to overpower anything, after all.
The best impact wrench is the Dewalt 20-Volt Max XR Impact Wrench Kit. It has plenty of power, is easy to adjust the speed and has a comfortable grip.
What to know before you buy an impact wrench
Impact wrench types
There are four types of impact wrenches: corded, cordless, air and hydraulic.
- Corded: Corded models are designed for the average homeowner. They don’t have much in the way of features, but they have plenty of power for the average job and are comfortable to use. They need to be plugged into an outlet and the cord can be unwieldy.
- Cordless: Cordless wrenches are essentially just an easier-to-use corded wrench that runs on a rechargeable battery. The batteries rarely last for long, though some models have battery indicators, so you don’t run out of juice mid-job. They usually have more features, such as LED lights for clarity or variable speeds.
- Air: Also known as pneumatic, air impact wrenches use an air compressor rather than a motor. They are usually affordable but high-power models quickly balloon in cost. They need maintenance and a high-pressure hose connected to the compressor to function. They can be difficult to wield comfortably.
- Hydraulic: These are strictly used for industrial purposes due to their extreme power and size.
There are two grip types: pistol and inline. Pistol grips look exactly as you imagine and usually have more power behind them. Inline grips look like a screwdriver and are best for smaller or difficult-to-reach nuts and bolts.
The anvil is the head of an impact wrench. It has a size and a securing mechanism.
- Size: Anvils come in sizes between 1/4 inch and 2 inches. This determines what size socket you can attach to the anvil.
- Security: Anvils use either detent pin or friction ring securing mechanisms. Detent pins have a tighter grip while friction rings can quickly swap between sockets.
What to look for in a quality impact wrench
The batteries of cordless wrenches have a few qualities to check for.
- Voltage and amp hours: These tell how much power a battery offers and how long it can provide that power, respectively. Bigger equals better.
- Type: Batteries are either nickel-cadmium or lithium-ion. While NiCd batteries are more affordable, their performance ability decreases as the battery’s power wanes. Li-ion batteries are lighter and last longer, plus they provide equal performance at most charge levels. However, they are usually pricey.
There are three elements of performance: torque, revolutions per minute and impacts per minute.
- Torque: Torque comes in two varieties: fastening and unfastening. Fastening torque is lower to prevent overtightening and damage. Unfastening is its highest torque to unstick even the most stubborn nuts and bolts.
- RPM: The higher an impact wrenches RPM, the faster a job will be completed. It doesn’t affect power.
- IPM: The higher an impact wrenches IPM, the more powerful it is.
How much you can expect to spend on an impact wrench
Corded impact wrenches usually run $75-$150, depending on power. Meanwhile, cordless wrenches usually start around $250 and can cost more than $400. Most wrenches cost between $100-$200.
Impact wrench FAQ
What’s the difference between impact wrenches, impact drivers and torque wrenches?
A. An impact wrench is designed to tighten or loosen nuts, bolts and similar fastenings. An impact driver is effectively a powered screwdriver with more power to offer than the average electric drill. A torque wrench is unlike the impact wrench and driver in that it only tightens, never loosens. It’s set to use a precise amount of torque to tighten things such as cylinder heads and uses a limiter to prevent overtightening past the specified torque.
What’s the difference between a brush motor and a brushless motor?
A. Brushless motors are a more recent evolution of the standard brush motor. They are more efficient thanks to fewer moving parts. They also generate less heat and noise and have no maintenance requirements. However, they are also more expensive. If you infrequently use your impact wrench, a brush motor should be more than enough.
What are the best impact wrenches to buy?
Top impact wrench
DeWalt 20-Volt Max XR Impact Wrench Kit
What you need to know: This pick comes from a well-respected brand.
What you’ll love: It’s cordless with a brushless motor. It has a 1/2-inch anvil with a detent pin. It has 700-foot-pounds max torque and 1,200-foot-pounds max breakaway torque. It weighs 6 pounds. It has multispeed control of 0-400, 1,200 or 1,900 rpm. It has an LED light.
What you should consider: There’s only one battery and you can’t charge and use it simultaneously. It’s among the priciest options. Some consumers had issues with the speed adjustment.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot
Top impact wrench for the money
Porter-Cable 20-Volt Max Impact Wrench
What you need to know: This budget pick still gets the job done.
What you’ll love: It has a variable-speed trigger, a 1/2-inch hog ring and an LED light. The grip is molded and comfortable. It weighs 6 pounds with a battery. It has up to 330-foot-pounds of torque. It has a maximum speed of 1,650 rpm.
What you should consider: It doesn’t include a battery or charger and not all separately purchased batteries will work with this wrench. Its power may be too low for some jobs.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
Kimo 20-Volt Cordless Impact Wrench Kit
What you need to know: This is another solid choice for the budget-conscious individual.
What you’ll love: It’s cordless with a brushless motor. It includes a full set of attachments — seven impact sockets and three extension bars. It has an LED light. It has multispeed control and a battery level display. It has speeds up to 3,000 rpm and torque up to 250 foot-pounds.
What you should consider: This wrench is better suited to residential tasks rather than commercial ones. Some consumers had issues reaching the maximum listed torque.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Jordan Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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