what can I use an impact driver for

What Can I Use a Cordless Impact Driver For? Is it Necessary?

One day while I was nailing together some brand-new cabinets, one of my shop mates, Kenny, walked in and whipped out something a bit surprising—a Makita cordless impact driver.

At the time all of us had been using common cordless drills for years, each preferring a different brand but it was definitely a tool we were all familiar with. However, when he first pulled that thing out and started using it in the shop, we ALL noticed immediately.

So what can I use a cordless impact driver for? Cordless impact drivers can be used for almost anything that you could use a cordless drill/driver for, including some woodwork, mechanical, metalwork, and specific masonry applications.

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The reason Kenny’s new impact driver toy attracted our immediate attention was also the same reason that led me to think about what it could or should be used for. Actually, my first thought upon hearing the thing—because hearing it was indeed the tractor beam that sucked up our attention—was “Is this thing a bit too much for what we’re doing here?”

However, I quickly remembered that I myself had a 24V hammer drill which everyone else claimed was overkill, and I wouldn’t trade that sucker for a moment with some of the 14.4-volts the older guys were using, or even the 18-volt DeWalts (which were kind of on their last legs). Actually, after being required to actually set more than a few (hundred) cabinets to the wall, I became their backup buddy more than a few times.

So I basically shrugged and wondered about different things, such as what else it should or could be used for, and I actually have a pretty decent idea. As a matter of fact, the uses between it and the basic drill are darn similar but there are some key differences which you should be aware of just in case you haven’t actually used one yet—or looked at one firsthand.

Cordless Impact Drivers Can Be Used For Various Woodworking Projects

Being a guy with more than a few thousand cabinets under my belt, I feel comfortable in giving you my thoughts here about using an impact driver for woodworking. I also believe that here is where the driver is most useful.

There are some times when you’ll really see the difference between the driver and your standard drill, and those times are definitely when you need more power.

Woodworking Uses:

The best applications I used the impact driver for were almost always when I had to sink-in some long woodscrews and pull a couple of things together, or perhaps screw some upper or base cabinets to the wall (or to each other)—something a regular drill would struggle with.

The hammer drill that I owned was more than capable of performing this task but there is a significant difference: both my drill and battery were uber in both torque and staying power, so it had the strength and stamina to power through days’ worth of work. Not every hammer drill is made in this way, and the hammer setting is definitely not something I recommend for trying to drive a screw!

With a cordless impact driver, even the lower-capacity ones will have the impact-action which gives them not only their name but also their unique action—and sound, of course.

You can actually use a medium-duty impact driver to set long woodscrews that would otherwise be impossible for your basic drill of comparable power. Further, you will also get more mileage out of the battery, enabling you to not have to worry so much about keeping a backup battery nearby all the time.

You needn’t necessarily use a driver for more basic, mundane wood-related tasks, but you feasibly could. I would recommend, however, that you keep a standard cordless drill to alternate so you don’t need to rely only on the driver (you can always pick up a set—so easy).

Summary:

Cordless impact drivers are best in woodworking for driving and setting long screws and pulling materials together or anywhere torque and/or longevity is needed.

Cordless Impact Drivers Can Be Used For Mechanical and Metalworking Projects

Being a guy with a bit o’ DIY experience in mechanicin’ (I have always refused to give-in to a monthly car note), I will also give you my two washers’ worth of o’pinion in the garage as well.

Before you go thinkin’ it, let me be clear: cordless impact drivers absolutely CANNOT be used to remove lug nuts! You will definitely have to step-up to a decent battery impact wrench at the very least. However, they are definitely handy in situations where not so much is needed, but more than basic is required.

Metalworking & Mechanical Uses:

There are a variety of pieces and parts in a wide range of automotive-related applications alone which require removing and replacing with some degree of difficulty, many requiring more torque or nut-busting power than a drill offers.

Furthermore, I will mention the issue here once again of the tool’s longevity. Because of the way the impact driver works, it actually helps you get more battery life out of it and therefore extended use when you just might need it most. Putting this kind of strain on your standard cordless drill-driver will burn that battery up quite fast.

Again, as with woodworking applications, there are some situations where you won’t want to utilize the impact driver, or you will need to be extra cautious. It’s possible to strip the threads on thin material or small screws and/or threads, so keep this in mind.

Where the impact driver really shines in the mechanical field is in breaking-free stronger or stubborn nuts and bolts (apart from the big, bad boys of course), and setting the same.

Summary:

Cordless impact drivers are best in mechanical situations for breaking-free small-to-medium sized nuts and bolts and setting them, and “suring-up” or fastening (bringing together) metal materials together.

Cordless Impact Drivers Can Be Used For Some Limited Masonry Applications

This may seem like a misleading statement in just a moment but please allow me to remind you of the word “limited” in the above statement.

Impact drivers are made for DRIVING, but not as in Speed Racer style; rather, they are built to put stuff in or on, or perhaps pull something off. They are neither designed nor built for “pounding, pummeling, drilling,” or otherwise attacking concrete.

So how can a cordless impact driver actually be used for masonry at all?

Good question—now here’s the anticlimactic answer:

You can use it for any application involving screwing or unscrewing! This could include setting some rather large or long screws into or through the wall, such as bolts and nut anchors (through the wall) or putting a screw into an existing wall anchor (which sits in a hole you drill out with a hammer tool or standard drill, if capable).

The impact driver just isn’t built for drilling into anything. The way the mechanism functions is for DRIVING, that is forcing a screw, nut, or bolt in, on, off, or out—not forcing a drill bit to twist into wood, metal, or concrete.

Furthermore,

as I have mentioned elsewhere in this article, it doesn’t even come with the type of connector you would need to affix the necessary bit, anyway (it’s a hex-style connection, not a clamp-on).

I will add here that I wouldn’t recommend you try to Jerry-rig a way to set this type of tool up for such a task in order to “give it a whirl.” You won’t be impressed with the results, but you also just might damage the tool, break your accessories, damage the intended material, and even hurt yourself or a bystander.

Summary:

Cordless impact drivers are only useful in masonry applications which involve direct driving of nuts, bolts, or screws—not in a drilling capacity.

Further points & questions to consider about cordless impact drivers:

Words of Caution:

First, remember that the added torque that the impact driver has over the typical drill is much higher in direct application, therefore be careful about using it on materials that are easy to split, break, or rip through. This is a very real possibility, man!

Second, always, always use proper bits and accessories with your impact driver. The action and power combination of this type of power tool can not only destroy anything delicate—keep that in mind also the possible result when you’re considering cheap screws! I actually shattered the (included!) bits that came with my hammer drill last year, as well as the first box of screws I picked up online.

Sigh.

Third, this is basically a reminder to use the cordless impact driver for its intended, specifically-designed purpose: driving stuff. Don’t try to get all MacGuyver with it and start modifications to drill through your cement wall—or save the day (that’s what a Swiss-Army knife is for, right?). In general, use it for driving and removing various screws, nuts, and bolts.

Cordless Impact Driver Questions and Answers

Can I use an impact driver for drywall?

Yes, you can use an impact driver for drywall because it is made for driving screws, but you should remember that the pounding action of the impact feature can and may cause unwanted damage or breakage to the drywall. Furthermore, the power might be a bit more than you need and could sink the screw too much, so just be aware of these things.

Can I use an impact driver to remove lug nuts?

As I mentioned before, you can’t use a cordless impact driver to remove lug nuts because it’s not built with the necessary design or power for the task. You’ll need to upgrade to an impact wrench, either cordless, electric, or pneumatic.

Can I use an impact driver for concrete?

Impact drivers can only be used in applications involving securing or removing nuts or bolts from concrete, but not actually in the drilling or “pounding” of concrete. They weren’t designed for the drilling-into function so you’ll need a different tool for that, such as a standard drill, hammer drill, or perhaps rotary drill.

Can I use an impact driver to drill into brick?

The answer is the same as for masonry: impact drivers cannot be used to drill into brick, but they can be used to secure nuts and bolts together or take them apart. The cordless impact driver is not a “drill” – it is a driver.

Can I use an impact driver to drill (holes)?

The short answer is no, you cannot use an impact driver to drill holes. There are a couple of reasons for this but they are both related to the core reason, which is that an impact driver isn’t designed or intended for drilling holes.

A drill or hammer drill—which are suited for drilling holes—can twist at full-speed, straight-out, and at nonstop, full RPMs (revolutions per minute). This makes them perfect for the job of drilling holes in various types of material, including wood, metal, plastic, etc.

An impact drill on the other hand does NOT go “all out, nonstop, at full RPMs” while rotating. It has a sort of “start-stop” wrenching motion as opposed to the nonstop design of the basic drill, and therefore is neither made for or useful for drilling holes. Therefore, the layman (regular Joe) might think that an impact drill might be a good choice for popping some holes into some type of masonry or brick, but that’s most assuredly NOT the case.

For tasks involving mortar, brick, cement, concrete, etc, you should venture over to a hammer drill or perhaps a rotary drill instead.

Can an impact driver be used for tricks?

Manufacturers do not condone the use of impact drivers or any tools for ‘tricks.’

Bro, it’s generally best to not use any of your tools for ‘tricks,’ unless by tricks you mean some sort of ‘life hacks.’ Still, it would be questionable to use a tool like an impact driver for anything apart from its intended use. The main reasons are similar to the ones stated above in the Caution section.

If you attempt to use an impact drill-driver in any other way apart from which it is intended to be used:

  • You could damage or break your impact driver
  • You could damage or break your accessories
  • You could damage, break, or destroy your fasteners
  • You could damage, break, or destroy your materials
  • You could hurt yourself or destroy someone else (well, not destroy, but you get the idea)

 

That’s all for today, it’s time for me to go buy some more WD-40.

Peace!

-Brandon

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