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If you’re undertaking a lot of DIY projects – for example, if you’re renovating your home – you might find it difficult to know where to start with buying tools, especially when choosing between impact driver vs impact wrench.
A good set of power tools will see you through most projects: building furniture, laying decking, fixing broken objects, or working with trim pieces… nothing is impossible with a bit of practice, a lot of patience, and the right equipment.
So how do you know which tools to buy? You need to understand what each tool does and what they can be used for. In our impact driver vs. impact wrench comparison, we’ll be taking a look at each tool, looking at the types of jobs you can complete with them, and examining their pros and cons, in order to help you make the right choice.
You might think, given their names, that an impact driver and impact wrench is essentially the same thing. They both use a similar rotating movement to create force. They’re both very powerful tools. They both create a lot of noise when you use them, and they even look kind of similar to each other.
However, in their power and the jobs they can be used for, they’re actually very different – and you will need to make sure you’re getting the right one for the work you need to complete.
In a nutshell, here are the main things that set impact drivers and impact wrenches apart:
Main Differences Between Impact Drivers vs Impact Wrenches
The Main Differences Between Impact Drivers vs Impact Wrenches are:
- Impact drivers are used to drill long screws into wood or metal, whereas Impact wrenches are used to loosen or tighten nuts and bolts
- Impact drivers are mostly used for renovations and DIY, whereas Impact wrenches are more used for car reparations.
- Impact drivers have a ¼” hex collet, whereas Impact wrenches have a ½” square drive.
- Impact Drivers are easy to use, whereas Impact wrenches are more powerful and heavier.
What is an Impact Driver?
An impact driver looks a little like a regular drill, but with much more power. Impact drivers are tough enough to drill through wood, metal, even bricks – this is due to a high torque, which is the force a tool uses to turn an object.
Torque is measured in inches and pounds (in.lb). In an impact driver, it usually ranges from 1500-1800in.lb. What’s great about impact drivers is that they reduce the risk of reactionary torque – this is when your wrist twists due to the power of the tool you’re using. Using an impact driver can stop this from happening.
- They have a ¼” standard hex collet to keep drill bits in place – as, with a usual drill, you can buy bits in many shapes to complete different types of tasks.
- Speed is measured in RPM (rotations per minute) – high speed is great for tough materials, but for softer materials, you’ll want a lower speed. An impact driver with variable speed is a great tool to have.
- Impact drivers are pretty loud – you may want to consider some kind of ear protection while using it. They’re usually cordless, requiring you to charge a battery, but this makes it much easier to fit into tough-to-reach places.
- In general, you’d use an impact driver to drive screws into tough materials – which, as you can imagine, is useful for a variety of projects at home. It can drill long screws with ease – so if you’re building furniture, for example, it will come in handy. They’re also great at removing screws that are stuck in something, or screws that have become corroded over time.
- They’re also pretty compact – again, making them easy to fit into tight spaces.
- However, one downside of impact drivers is a lack of a clutch – found in power drills; a clutch stops a tool from drilling once it reaches a certain torque level. An impact driver does not have this, which means you might overdo it – causing you to drive the screw in further than you wanted.
One model we recommend is the DeWalt DCF887D2 20V Max Brushless. It’s very highly rated, and for a good reason – it packs plenty of punch at 2000 in.lb. It’s lightweight and includes LED lighting to help you work with precision.
It also has three-speed settings, and on the first speed, includes Precision Drive, which again helps you to keep it steady and work accurately. It’s a cordless model, and it comes with two batteries with a charge indicator on them – this is a helpful little feature. If you need a decent impact driver at a good price, this model is a good pick.
Pros of Impact Drivers
- Powerful enough to complete most tasks
- Flexible – able to change bits depending on the project
- Compact – easy to fit in tough places
- Minimal kickback
- Can be fairly affordable depending on which brand you choose
- They’re usually lighter than regular drills
Cons of Impact Drivers
- So powerful that sometimes you can accidentally drive screws in too far
- Noisy during use
- You have to purchase separate bits for an impact driver – you can’t use the same bits from your regular drill
What is an Impact Wrench?
Impact wrenches are a little different than impact drivers. They are used to loosen or tighten nuts and bolts. They look a little smaller and stubbier, but they are, in fact much more powerful. The force they used is measured in ft.lbs (foot-pounds) – and they really do pack a huge amount of power.
In fact, an impact wrench is going to deliver more power than you would generally need for projects around your home – they’re usually used on cars, to remove lug nuts, for example.
You’ll see them being used by mechanics during car races – particularly in the case of pneumatic impact wrenches; they work incredibly quickly and powerfully.
They’re also commonly used by construction workers or in assembly lines. Due to that, you probably won’t want to use an impact wrench for your average home renovation task.
Impact wrenches can be powered in four ways:
As the name suggests, corded impact wrenches will need to be plugged into an electrical outlet, using electricity to work.
These require batteries, which will usually come with your impact wrench. You will need to charge the battery between uses.
Air Powered (Pneumatic)
Traditionally used by race mechanics, air-powered impact wrenches allow you to remove lug nuts with incredible speed. However, they work by using compressed air supply – which makes them less than ideal for home use.
These use a fluid mechanism, relying on a low-pressure hydraulic power source. These are not as commonly used as the other types.
It works in a similar way to an impact driver – designed to be easy for the user, you simply squeeze a trigger to start the rotational force. They’re pretty heavy, as you can imagine given the amount of power it produces. However, just like an impact driver, they are designed to reduce strain on your wrists – the tool does the work without you having to risk injury.
However, instead of a hex collet, it has a ½” standard square drive.
As you can imagine, these are incredibly loud too – you will definitely need ear protection if you plan on using them.
One model of impact wrench that we would recommend is the Milwaukee 2763-20. This is an incredibly powerful battery-powered impact wrench that delivers up to 700 ft.lbs of torque and an incredible 1,100 ft.lbs of ‘nut-busting’ torque.
It runs incredibly quickly, and it comes with Redlink Plus Intelligence – this allows you to choose between two different fastening modes, giving you more control.
Sometimes the battery isn’t included, depending on where you buy it from – so you’ll need to look out for this. However, if you want a very highly-rated impact wrench of excellent quality, we’d recommend it.
Pros of Impact Wrenches
- Creates a huge amount of force, enabling them to loosen even the toughest nuts and bolts
- Designed to reduce wrist strain during use
- Four different types – so you can pick one that suits your needs
- Works very fast
Cons of Impact Wrenches
- Not normally suitable for use at home – better suited for working on cars or for heavy-duty construction work
- Very noisy
- Not suitable for amateurs
Hybrid Impact Drivers/Wrenches
It is possible to get a tool that accomplishes the work of both an impact driver and an impact wrench. Known as ‘The Freak,’ the Bosch GDX 18V 200C is a clever tool that has a ½” square drive, as well as a ¼” inch hex shank – so essentially, it is two tools in one.
It’s an extremely powerful cordless tool, with Bosch branded ProCore batteries. It has three speeds and can accomplish many tasks. It’s not cheap, but it could work out to be cheaper than buying both tools separately – and you can get some great bundles with accessories, batteries, and a carry case to keep everything together.
This is an interesting option to consider, especially if you think you would have a use for both an impact driver and an impact wrench – it could be convenient to buy them at the same time and to have them both in one place.
What to Look for When Buying an Impact Driver or an Impact Wrench
If you’re in the market for either of these tools, there are a few key things you should look out for:
A good-quality brand is more likely to produce great tools, have excellent customer service, and offer a good warranty. Buying from a reputable brand may cost more, but is almost always worth it (check our section below on top brands to look out for).
Some models of impact driver or impact wrench offer more safety features than others – for example, automatic cut-off if its gets too hot, or automatic shut-down of the battery charger once the battery level is full. Others are designed to prevent dust from entering the mechanism, helping them to last longer.
What accessories does your tool have? Does it have a bag or case to keep everything together? What about extra bits (if applicable?). Does it have a spare battery?
Sometimes you can get great kits that contain everything you need – if not, bear in mind the cost if you have to buy lots of extra accessories to go with it.
Some brands utilize new technology when it comes to designing new tools. For example, many impact drivers come with an LED lighting system that allows you to see where you’re drilling, even in poor lighting conditions.
Others have built-in security features. Others have Bluetooth connectivity or even come with apps that allow you to track their performance. If you’re willing to pay a little extra, you can have access to all kinds of interesting features that may make using your new purchase easier and more enjoyable.
If you’re going for a cordless model, check how long the batteries take to charge. Also, make sure to double-check that there is a battery included in the box – ideally, you should get two (so you can have one ‘on the go,’ and one charging ready for next time).
This is an important thing to check, especially if you plan on using your new power tool often. How much does it weigh? If you find lifting heavy objects difficult or you get tired easily, you might want to go for a lighter option that will be easier to use time after time.
Which Brand Should I Go For?
There are a few leading brands that manufacture great tools. Here’s an overview of some well-trusted brands.
DeWalt was founded way back in 1923 by Raymond E.DeWalt. They’re now owned by Black & Decker, and they sell hundreds of products – including impact drivers, saws, drills, and more – all over the world.
DeWalt offers good warranties on all their products. They’re also constantly introducing new technology to their tools, and they’re known for being reliable.
Makita originated in Japan in 1951. They now produce power tools internationally, and have factories all over the world, including in Brazil, China, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They sell many types of cordless tools, including cordless impact wrenches – in fact, they were the first to produce cordless tools.
Makita tools are known for being of great quality, and they offer a three-year limited warranty on many of their products.
Check out how Makita compares to Ryobi in our full comparison.
Milwaukee tools have a certain amount of prestige: they’re well-recognized as creating some of the best power tools on the market. Founded in 1924, they have decades of experience.
Milwaukee produces many types of tools, including impact drivers and impact wrenches. Their tools may be a little pricier, but they’re usually worth it in terms of quality.
A well-known household name, Bosch has its headquarters in Germany and are known for producing many things, including household appliances and industrial technology. They also produce and sell power tools all over the world.
Bosch produces some very highly-rated tools, including impact drivers and impact wrenches. They also produce the hybrid impact wrench/impact driver that we mentioned earlier.
Frequently Asked Questions
No – you have to be careful when using them in case you turn a screw too far.
Yes – you cannot use the same bits you would use for a regular drill.
Yes – it’s possible to wear out an impact driver by overworking it – however, they’re pretty tough. As long as you follow the manufacturer’s instructions, you shouldn’t run into problems.
Most models do, yes.
You can – but an impact wrench will be better suited for this.
Yes – impact drivers can wobble while you use them.
Generally speaking, if you’re using an impact wrench a lot (like if you work with cars), you’ll probably prefer an air-powered impact wrench. They’re more powerful, and they tend to last longer, too. However, they’re expensive, and you need constant access to compressed air pressure. If you’re using it at home and infrequently, you’ll probably find an electric impact wrench will be more than enough to suit your needs (and will be much more practical in terms of storage).
You can get impact sockets – these are designed to deal with the intense power of an impact wrench. They’re stronger than other types of the socket – this helps to prevent shattering. They’re also coated in black oxide to protect them from corrosion.
It depends on which type you go for. A decent, cordless impact wrench is the most expensive upfront, and they tend to cost a few hundred dollars at least.
With care, attention, and regular upkeep an impact wrench should last you a good few years – more if you use it infrequently.
No – if they are used properly, they shouldn’t break bolts.
Conclusion: Which One Should You Get?
As you can see, impact wrenches and impact drivers are both quite different, despite their similar-sounding names. Which one you will pick, depends on which projects you need to complete.
With the Bosch ‘Freak’ model, you do have the option of owning both – this could be a good compromise (although it is pricey). We may see other similar hybrid models appearing on the market sooner or later – it will be interesting to see how this technology progresses.
Generally speaking, if you’re looking to complete a lot of DIY projects or you’re renovating, you’ll probably require an impact driver. Being able to drive long screws into materials is really useful, and you’ll find yourself using that much more often than you would be using an impact wrench.
A decent impact driver will enable you to complete many projects and will be a great addition if you’re expanding your collection of power tools and you want to make sure you get the most for your money.
The DeWalt DCF887D2 20V Max Brushless that we mentioned earlier is a really good option here – it offers great value for money, offers a lot of power and some great extra features.
Impact wrenches, on the other hand, are much more specialized. Although they offer a lot more power, they’re really more suited for working on heavy construction materials or working with cars.
If you find yourself tinkering with your car often, you might consider it. The Milwaukee 2763-20 is one of the highest-rated cordless impact wrenches out there – although it’s pricey, it does deliver a huge amount of power and precision.
However, you probably won’t need an impact wrench on a regular basis – so unless you really want one, an impact driver is a much wiser choice.
It’s important to stay safe when using power tools, especially those with as much power as impact drivers or impact wrenches. Here are a few ways you can ensure your safety while you work:
It’s really important to protect your eyes from any flying debris or dust. Good-quality safety glasses will protect your eyesight as you work.
On a similar note, ear protection is also very important. Wear ear defenders or earplugs to ensure that you aren’t damaging your hearing in the long term.
Clothes and Jewellery
It’s really important not to wear anything that could get sucked into the mechanism of any power tool – this includes dangly jewelry, ties, or anything loose that could get in the way while you work.
Familiarising yourself with the instructions that come with your power tool is a great way to ensure your safety.
Maintain Your Tools
It’s important to check your tools for damage and to clean and store them properly. This not only helps them to last longer but also helps to prevent accidents or injuries. Impact wrenches, in particular, need a little more upkeep – they have to be lubricated regularly to keep them working properly.
Use the Right Accessories
Using the wrong accessories with your power tool can put you in danger – especially with such powerful tools as impact wrenches, you run the risk of shattering accessories if they aren’t designed to be used with them.
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