How to Use an Impact Driver: Tool Guy Tips

You’ve heard about a miracle tool: the impact driver. It practically does the work for you, they say, so you pick up an impact driver at the store and get ready to work. Until you suddenly realize one simple fact: you don’t even know how to use an impact driver!

No matter how many magazines, DIY shows, or construction-inclined friends tell you about a tool, you won’t learn how to use it simply from their stories. Instead, you need this encompassing guide.

So, let’s get into this tool guy’s tips. It’s easier than you think; promise.

What is an Impact Driver?

An impact driver is a torque-based machine that is made to tighten and loosen both screws and bolts that need a lot of power. The torque produced by an impact drill is often two to three times higher than that of a drill, and this allows the impact driver to help you precisely drive bolts into place without injuring yourself or destroying the screws.

There are many cases where you could use an impact driver; here are some of the most common ones:

  • Working on an engine
  • Changing tires
  • Screwing in any type of bolt or screw into metal
  • Any project on your car
  • Building a deck
  • Screwing in plywood
  • Any project that requires a very strong drill

How to Use an Impact Driver?

To learn how to use an impact driver successfully, there are three main things you have to learn: how to change the bit, how to drive something in, and how to loosen something to take it out.

How to Change the Bit

Changing the bit in an impact driver is very simple. Impact drivers are tools that are equipped with a collet that typically matches 1/4 inches hex shank driver bits, and in order to insert or release one, you should pull it forward.

  1. First, find the collet. This small piece can be pulled forward to release the bit that is currently in the driver.
  2. Push it back so that the bit will be released and it can be removed.
  3. Once again, move the collet back.
  4. After the collet is released, insert the new bit.
  5. Once done, push the collet back into its original position. The bit will be locked in place by the collet.

As you can see, changing the bit is super simple, so don’t be afraid to change it often!

How to Drive Something In?

Now, it’s time to learn how to use the tool to drive something in. Let’s go through every step of the process so that you have a clear idea of what you will be doing.

  1. Insert the battery or plug the tool into its power source. This will differ based on the tool that you have.
  2. Find the right bit for your project. Make sure that the bit you choose has the correct (typically ¼”) shank to be able to fit into your impact driver.
  3. Insert the bit as described in the previous section. If your bit is too short, use an elongator.
  4. Set rotation to “forward” on your device.
  5. Set speed. Choosing the speed will depend on your project, but you need to know that lower gears have lower torque and are for smaller, softer projects. Higher gears have higher torques and should be reserved for more robust or tougher materials.
  6. Turn on the tool.
  7. Squeeze the speed control until things start moving. While using the tool, adjust the speed as necessary for good results.
  8. Use the tool to drive the screw into pre-drilled holes for best results and precision.
  9. Once it is nearly screwed in, use your hands to do the final screwing. This will prevent any screw stripping.

That’s it! As you can see, using your impact driver is as simple as turning it on, lining things up, and getting driving!

How to Loosen Something?

The technique needed to remove a fastener or bolt from an object is very similar to the process to put one in. Still, it can be confusing at first so let’s go through all of the steps one more time.

  1. Depending on your tool, insert the battery or plug the tool into its power source.
  2. Find the right bit for your project. In this case, it should match up to the screw or fastener that you want to remove.
  3. Insert the bit as described in the previous section. If your bit is too short, use an elongator.
  4. Set rotation to “backward” on your device.
  5. Set speed. If the screw is rusted or very stuck, choose a higher torque to give you a better chance of removing the screw without stripping it.
  6. Turn on the tool.
  7. Squeeze the speed control until things start moving. While using the tool, adjust the speed as necessary for good results.
  8. Use the tool to loosen the fastener or screw until it is loose enough to remove with your hands.

The main difference is that you need to remember to set the direction of rotation to reverse when removing; that’s it!

Power Drill vs. Impact Driver

While the two look very similar, these two tools actually have different functions. Even if you already own a power drill, adding an impact driver to your toolbox will expand what you can do with your tools.

An impact driver provides a lot more power. This means that you can accomplish more while putting in less manual labor, preventing fatigue. The tool itself produces a lot more torque than a power drill or manual driver would, so you are also getting your work done more efficiently when using an impact driver over a power drill in some cases.

It’s Time to Drive

Now that you know everything that every beginner impact driver user should know, it’s time to give it a try! All you can do is learn while using it, so practice is the best method to refine your technique and skill further.

If you still have troubles using your impact driver after this tutorial, head to your local hardware store and ask for assistance. No one would judge you for wanting to use a tool correctly, and they’ll be able to help you in no time.

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