Impact wrenches are the kind of versatile tools that can be used for every home project. From automotive to construction to machinery, no matter what you’re working on, there is probably a time when an impact wrench would come in handy. However, when you walk in to browse Lowes’ impact wrench options, it might not be obvious at first glance which tool will bring the most ease and efficiency to the job site.
Standing there staring at the boxes certainly isn’t going to tell you the answer, either! So, this guide will lead you through the various options and mechanics that you can find on impact wrenches so that you can get a better idea of what to look for when making your selection.
In case you’ve only heard about this tool but never seen it in action, let’s run through the basics of what an impact wrench really is.
An impact wrench is a tool that uses a power supply to give torque to a socket mechanism. This mechanism turns the socket so that you can loosen or tighten bolts that need more power than your hand tools can provide.
You may know an impact wrench by one of its many other names:
- Rattle gun
- Air wrench
- Torque gun
As mentioned, the impact wrench is one of the most versatile tools that you can find in the toolbox, and to guide you, here are just a few of the many ways that you may use an air gun to help you get a job done:
- Removing lug nuts to rotate tires
- Removing rusty nuts
- Changing subframe bolts on the car
- Rebuilding an engine
- Tightening fasteners
- Breaking a stuck fastener free without injury
Beyond using these tools for specific purposes, the impact wrench is preferred by many home machinists because it can prevent you from busting your knuckles when working in a tight space with a manual wrench. The extra torque power makes it easier to remove fasteners without fatigue or injury.
Now that you’ve got a bit of idea on how and when impact wrenches are used, we can start to break down the different types of wrenches and accompanying features that are available. By understanding these things more intricately, you’ll be sure to find the perfect tool.
There are a few different types of impact wrenches, and they each have a different preferred use.
- Air-powered impact wrench: This type uses compressed air to run, and it is the most complicated and powerful version.
- Battery-powered impact wrench: This type is the most common due to convenience. It runs on battery and comes with a charging station.
- Electric-powered impact wrench: It has a cord and is plugged into the wall. It has a medium level of convenience and is more powerful than battery-powered versions.
Those who work at home tend to choose the battery-powered impact wrench as their preferred choice. In addition to being portable and easy to use anywhere in the house, it’s easy to recharge and handle.
The other big category to consider is the shape of the socket area of the impact wrench. They come in two types: pistol grip and inline.
- Inline model: This resembles a large screwdriver, with everything in a straight line. This model is preferred for any situation where you’re in a tight space as it tends to fit better into some areas.
- Pistol model: This is shaped more like its namesake—a gun. This may be bulkier, but the larger design makes it more comfortable to use. If you don’t need to fit into a small space with an inline wrench, this is usually the better choice as it tends to be more ergonomically friendly.
- Impacts per Minute
The impact wrench has an internal part in which a hammer strikes an anvil, causing the rotation needed to loosen fasteners. The more impacts that happen in this mechanism, the more successfully the wrench can be used.
- Weight and Maneuverability
The weight of the wrench will fatigue your body. If you’re doing an extensive project, owning a lightweight impact wrench will be beneficial because you won’t get tired as quickly. If it’s just a few short loosened screws that need to be completed, a heavier impact wrench won’t be a problem.
On a similar note, pick up and move any sample impact wrenches in the store around while there. You want an impact wrench that feels comfortable in your hand to avoid any pain or frustration caused by the tool not being the right fit for your hand.
While most people prefer a small-sized impact wrench so that it can fit into small places and can be stored easily, this may not be the case for everyone. The smaller you go, the less torque the tool will be able to produce. Consider how much power you need and balance that with the size.
- Torque and Torque Adjustment
Speaking of torque, that is another feature that you should definitely examine carefully before making your final selection. The higher the torque level, the more capable the tool. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t choose anything with a torque lower than 150 feet per pound.
Another feature to consider is whether or not you can adjust the torque on the tool and how easy it is to do so. Not every project requires the same amount of torque, so adjustment capability can be a big selling point.
- Socket Size
Every impact wrench has a different drive size. The most common is ½ inches, though many people also turn to the ⅜ inches drive size instead. It doesn’t sacrifice much torque, but it isn’t quite as strong.
Different socket sizes are usually available in specific shapes; here are a few such cases:
- ¼”: both
- ⅜”: pistol, but the inline wrench exists and is known as a butterfly wrench
- ½”: pistol
- ¾”: pistol
There’s really no such a thing as the perfect tool, so don’t waste hours sifting through all the options. Instead, use this information to get a base idea of what type of impact wrench you need. Once you have that idea, choose a tool that feels right among the Lowes impact wrench options, and give it a try!
As you use tools like this more often, you’ll gain a better feel and understanding of what type of tools work best around your house. Who knows; maybe the first one that you pick up will actually be the perfect fit!