An impact wrench—also known as an impactor, windy gun, impact gun, torque gun, air wrench, and rattle gun—is a power tool with a socket head made to provide high torque results with minimal user exertion. It stores energy inside a rotating mass that's delivered in a sudden burst to its output shaft, making short work of things like wheel bolts and other fasteners in automotive repair. It's also used in product assembly, heavy equipment maintenance, and construction projects.
Its most common power source is compressed air. It also uses hydraulic or electric power as well, with the cordless version rising in popularity in the mid-2000s. With that in mind, how does the impact wrench compare to the impact driver as a power tool? How about the drill?
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Impact Wrench versus Impact Driver
Do-it-yourself or DIY homeowners were typically using the standard electric drill or the impact wrench before the impact driver rose into popularity. However, once the impact driver came into the scene, it's the one that rose in popularity for DIYers everywhere. Apparently, instead of using drills and/or impact wrenches for screwing screws and turning bolts with a socket, you can depend on the impact driver to do all that for you.
So what are the major similarities and differences between the two? Read on to find out.
- Similarities: Both the impact wrench and impact driver are hand tools used for removing fasteners like screws and bolts. Both are capable of fastening and loosening bolts and sockets although the impact driver requires a special adaptor for that task. On the other hand, a special adaptor for the impact wrench can turn it into a more powerful impact driver as well. They also work similarly great with PB Blaster when it comes to dislodging rusted-down bolts.
- Differences: Impact wrenches are heavier and bulkier than their sleeker counterparts. Furthermore, the wrench power tool has more torque and power compared to the smaller impact driver, which is mostly a power tool version of the screwdriver anyway. The impact wrench uses a ½-inch square driver for sockets while the impact driver uses a ¼-inch hex drive for driving screws. The impact wrench can have as much as 6 times more torque than a similarly designed impact driver from the same brand.
Pros: The impact wrench is better than the impact driver in the following ways.
- More durable and tank-like
- Works best on sockets and wheel bolts
- More torque and power for those really tight fasteners
- A wider range of torque options due to higher torque cap
- Torque output can be controlled, allowing for more versatility
- Can dislodge sockets or screws that the impact driver cannot budge
- Has a ½-inch square drive made mostly for fastening or loosening sockets
Cons: The impact wrench is worse than the impact driver in the following ways.
- The driver is better for Philips screws
- Hands get tired easily with the impact wrench
- The wrench is a bit overkill for most applications
- Heavier and bulkier compared to sleek impact drivers
- The driver uses a ¼-inch hex drive for driving and removing screws
Impact Wrench versus Drill
The drill is a familiar power tool used mostly to drill holes for fastening purposes using different sizes of drill bits. It can also be used for the purpose of (screw)driving and fastening as long as you put in the right adapter for the drive or socket head. The impact wrench is several leagues above the drill because the impact driver is merely a more powerful and versatile version of the drill.
With that said, how does the drill differ from the impact wrench? What about them are the same?
- Similarities: Both have served as the DIYer's go-to option for general-purpose fastening and driving. Before the impact wrench and impact driver came along, people depended on the drill to remove chassis or frame bolts and lug nuts as well as drill various surfaces. In terms of being a half-powered impact wrench with a fraction of its torque, the two can do the same things. They're also similarly tiring on your hands because of their bulky builds.
- Differences: The drill is obviously more dependable when it comes to drilling and making holes. You can theoretically turn an impact wrench into a drill by using a drill bit on it but the drill is more precise when it comes to hole placement, roundness, and size. The immense torque abilities of the impact wrench make it less accurate when it comes to drilling but superior when removing lug nuts, frame/chassis bolts, and the like.
Pros: The impact wrench is better than the drill in the following ways.
- Has a higher rotational torque than the ordinary drill
- Built like a tank while maintaining precision driving and wrenching
- Possesses a ½-inch square drive made mostly for fastening or loosening sockets
- Has a much higher torque cap so it can remove even the tightest of nuts and bolts
- More dependable when power-driving tough screws and strong bolts with the correct torque
Cons: The impact wrench is worse than the drill in the following ways.
- It's as tiring on your hands as the drill after extended use
- You won't really need for most driving and wrenching uses
- Less precise than the drill when it comes to precision-drilling holes
- Uses drill bits as well as any hex drives or square drives you can fit on it
- With enough PB Blaster and a square drive, it can as easily wrench off lug nuts
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The impact wrench with its electric, hydraulic, or compressed air power sources is the highest-torque cordless hand tool you can get your hands on. Compared to the impact driver, it's much more powerful and it can match the impact driver's own driving abilities as long as you can fiddle with its torque settings. It's the same with the drill except even more so because the drill was originally made for drilling and the act of driving, wrenching, fastening, and loosening bolts are mostly secondary benefits that it wasn't designed for.
However, for the majority of driving tasks the impact drive is enough and if you only want to use basic screwing and wrenching a drill with the right drives will suffice. Using the impact wrench for those applications might be overkill, like using a flamethrower to cook food in light of its torque settings.