An impact wrench is a must-have in the garage, at home, and inside the trunk of your car; our updated, 8-Step Impact Wrench Buying Guide shows you what you need to know.
A cordless, pneumatic (air or gas), or corded impact wrench is both highly effective and efficient in both removing and tightening bolts or screws that have become quite stuck in place and impossible to remove manually, by hand. Having a powered impact, whichever you choose to acquire, is often necessary in ensuring that this type of work is done both safely and swiftly.
Injury, as you probably know as a mechanic, contractor, or home-user, easily occurs while using manual tools, the wrong tools, or simply old tools. Mishandling the tools or applications themselves can and does cause complications for the user, not the least of which are cuts, gashes, bruises, permanent injuries, damage to property and machinery, lost profit, and time that cannot be regained.
Acquiring and making a staple out of automatic and powerful tools like an impact wrench has become no less than necessary for both the professional and amateur alike in the modern age–and is arguably the best thing since sliced bread–or the bread slicer.
In order to help you better determine how best to make your impact wrench purchase, below we have listed the best and most important tips for you to consider before blowing your money on the wrong piece of hardware–hardware which you will surely come to need around often—and thank your lucky stars for purchasing.
Now, get out your fork and let’s dig in.
1. High Torque
Simply put, this “power” is the bread and butter of any impact wrench, cordless, corded, or otherwise.
Torque is defined by Hyper Physics as “the influence which tends to change the rotational movement of an object.” As it relates to the impact drill, the higher the amount of torque the tool has, the stronger the influence it will exert over the bolt or nut you have it working on.
Torque is typically in counted the hundreds. Make absolutely sure that it is not too low, which would only be good enough for intermediate purposes at best. No less than 200 or above is a good number to work with. Anything below that is unacceptable!
Remember what you want and will use this tool for—this is surely an area where you cannot skimp.
Life’s fast pace and development of technology can and does often require higher numbers, but these are not hard to stay abreast of because of the internet. You can easily stay updated by searching for this online – also, keep in mind that alternatives are always easy to find if you eventually think your main wrench falls below the standards that you need.
2. High Rotations Per Minute (RPM)
When selecting an impact wrench that has impressive RPM’s, you will discover that 3,000 or above is an ideal number for basically any impact wrench.
The impact tool relies on rotations to tighten or unwind a screw or nut in its place. More rotations translates to, of course, less effort on the part of the operator, as the cordless impact takes on the extra work speed itself. (To get an idea of just how impressive this level of RPM is, check out this amazing video of a Honda F1 Engine at 20000 RPM!)
Lower RPM can delay project completion so select a power tool that prioritizes RPM very much, even if the torque or Impacts Per Minute (IPM) may fall a bit below standard.
The only exception to this, of course, is if you are simply not as concerned about finishing a task or project quickly.
Still, the faster the output shaft spins, the quicker your work can be done.
While shopping in your favorite store or online retailer, remember to check the RPM ratings on the product before clicking the buy or reserve button in order to know just how fast your soon-to-be new impact wrench operates.
3. High IPM
IPM (Impacts Per Minute or BPM–Blows Per Minute–read more here), like RPM, should be suitably high enough because this power tool requires a LOT of contact to push down a screw or bolt and tighten or loose it. If it is not possible on your budget to have a high IPM impact tool, look for a device that balances the torque, RPM and IPM well.
The last (IPM) can fall off a bit if the first two (RPM and Torque) are great. Having more IPM means there is more contact between the tool and the intended target, and more contact means the targeted screw or lug nut stays firmly in position.
It’s easy to see why this part of the tool is highly important, as well. Couple this with a high torque and RPM and you have the makings of a nearly perfect impact wrench.
The next question would naturally be what source of power will your impact wrench use and how much are you willing to spend on it?
4. Great Brand or Reputation
Like most products out there, an excellent company or manufacturer will get you a lot when it comes to quality of the wrench you ultimately decide to buy and put to use.
Veteran brands, due to their established success, have all the privileges and experience to experiment on various designs and updates. Make sure you look into the catalogs of various companies first, in order to have a clear idea on what to buy for your garage or car.
Newer brands such as OEMTools, Greenworks, Werktough, and more do come along here and there, of course, but with a still developing and improving technology like cordless impact wrenches, for example, it is sometimes wiser to trust a brand that has been around for a long time.
Tried and tested companies like Milwaukee, DeWalt, Makita, and Ingersoll-Rand would do you a lot of good when it comes to scanning for a potential impact wrench. Look up these trusted, veteran companies first and then check out what impact tool options they offer.
If you are looking for the best “bang for your buck,” then you can consider some lesser-known brands which have been garnering some nice reviews, or alternative medium-to-high level brands, such as Ryobi, which we review.
Impact wrenches should be light enough for extended use and ease in carrying.
If you haven’t picked up an impact or have only used a small variety of corded impacts, then you may actually find yourself surprised (and potentially dismayed) when your new battery-laden impact beast is plopped down at your front door and you lift the box.
The good news is that there are many lighter-weight contenders out there that can fit both your application and comfort level simultaneously.
Lighter is always better if you are using the tool to screw in nuts and bolts with force. A lightweight tool is much better because it gives more mobility for the user and makes operating the power tool easier.
This is especially true for those times when the impact is needed for a difficult project or for longer periods of time.
Lightweight wrenches must be prioritized since they make overall use easier and less strain on the wrist while operating on heavy work. Lighter is definitely better for a tool that will used for long periods of time. If you want or need, you can even go smaller with a cordless ratchet wrench.
It’s worth noting here that too many people have permanently damaged their wrists and hands and for no good reason, apart from making a few dollars. This is sad considering how many tools there are available to keep this very thing from happening.
The long and short of this point is that a lightweight tool is an excellent way to insure our bodies stay healthy and injury-free and, if you plan to be using this tool–or any tool for that matter–regularly, then you will definitely need to think NOW about the long-term ramifications and consequences of your daily routine.
6. Type of Impact Wrench
Depending on who you are, what you need, want, or think you need or want can vary.
Not long ago, the only viable options for impact wrenches were electrical, corded versions, and the more popular compressed air versions.
I still remember the super-heavy Craftsman electric drill that my dad had at home when I was growing up. That thing had a keyed chuck and no electric brake so not only was it a pain to hold, but it was also annoying to use and troublesome to change the bits.
Due to the amazing work done by today’s leading tool manufacturers however, that has changed dramatically and now we have the wonderful option of the portable cordless impact wrench as well.
There are other options for the heavy-duty, industrial market of course, but they are outside the scope of this article so we won’t be covering them here.
These are 100% dependent upon having—and reaching—an AC outlet, therefore they are not given to situations that would require portability in or to remote locations. However, in certain situations and for certain people, they can keep the costs low and do what needs to be done.
They are typically ideal for those who do not need an impact quite as often, or perhaps those who are more like hobbyists, tinkerers, or light-duty, occasional home mechanics. In most cases, they are not as strong in the torque department as the compressed air wrenches, but they do provide enough power for the sporadic user.
Another added benefit of the electrical impact is that it doesn’t require the power source to be localized (on the tool itself) and therefore this makes the wrench a bit handier in tight spots.
These impacts have been around since the dawn of time—or so it seems—and for good reasons.
Air tools have some excellent benefits and offer a wide variety of applications, provided one has a source of air provided nearby. While it may not be convenient for most people to lug around a small air tank in the trunk, it is still quite possible to keep one handy in the case of other needs as well, such as airing up a flattened tire on the roadside or perhaps an air mattress at the campsite.
The main benefits of the air impact are weight, power, and variety. This version of the impact needs relatively little local parts or mechanisms, therefore the design lends itself to many sizes and applications.
Similar to the electrical impact wrench, the compressed air version draws its power from elsewhere, allowing the tool’s design to focus only on performance and take up less room. This is especially true for the inline versions, which can be quite small—a great design for particular needs.
While the compressed air impact wrenches are more portable than their electrical brothers, they still fall short of the mark offered by the latest and increasingly popular member of the family.
In their early years, the battery-powered impact struggled in more than one category. The torque wasn’t yet there, the battery use time seemed shorter than the charge time (not to mention the battery life of the NiCads—shiver), and the prices were great for spitting out whatever you were drinking at the time of observation.
However, as they say, “Times they are a’ changin,” and the cordless impact wrench is one of the most useful, practical, valuable, and affordable innovations we have on the earth today.
Torque is no longer a problem as these tools come in an array of options for virtually any application, including the everyday, professional mechanic. Using our impact wrench buying guide’s sections above on features, you can choose which specifications are right for you. The same rings true for IPM, so the only remaining issues to consider are size, portability, and weight.
In way of size, one might think or suggest that this is where the cordless falls short of the electrical and air impacts, but this isn’t always the case.
Years of innovations and advancements in both design and power source cause these cordless tools to be much more similar in size to their predecessors than before. Again, depending on application, we can choose the best impact wrench to suit our needs. Because of today’s technological advancements, we now have cordless impact wrenches that are strong, lighter, and easy to use.
Another added benefit is that today’s cordless tools are utilizing the Li-Ion (Lithium-Ion) batteries, which offer a compact size with power, use life, and longer lifespan.
Now that the cordless impact has gained so much ground on the traditional impacts in these other areas, it has become an essential part of our tool kits and even car trunks and truck toolboxes, primarily due to the fact that they are the kings of portability. Toss it in the truck or car and go—no need to worry yourself or injure your body with large, unruly tools anymore. This is the main asset of the cordless tool: take it anywhere and do what you need to do.
7. Safety Features
So, now you know that it is great to have an impact wrench that has high RPMs and IPMs for the best performance.
But in the midst of your starry-eyed shopping, don’t forget to select an impact wrench that is stocked up on the most important features of all: safety. An impact wrench is, after all, a power tool, therefore proper attention must be placed in not only knowing how to use it and what it does, but also what it is capable of.
A couple of important safety features include anti-overloading, cooling, etc. The best features on tools are designed for the explicit reason to keep us from sustaining injuries—these included safety mechanisms can save your life and improve the overall life of the tool.
Professional or not, these features are important because your safety should always be at the top of the list. The best in every field know that once you get this right, the other features can follow.
Take it from a guy who went from old-school electric Craftsman drills (borrowed from my dad, of course) to early-era DeWalt battery operated wrenches, and then on to a pretty cool Black & Decker hammer 24-V hammer drill: getting a new lithium-ion impact wrench is pretty darn awesome!
My first bit of advice–now that you’re either on your way to having one or unboxing one as we speak–is to GET OUT THERE AND TAKE SOME STUFF APART! Heck, after all, isn’t that what a lot of us tool-lovin’ guys did growing up anyway? Seriously, there isn’t much more fun to be had under a shade tree or garage than zapping off some rusty lug nuts or bolts with a shiny new cordless impact.
So, in conclusion, now that you’ve got your grip on these handy and fun gadgets with the best impact wrench buying guide from WrenchGuru, we wish you the best of luck and congratulate you on your upcoming purchase! We have no doubt that you’ll enjoy your new impact power tool for years to come.
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