Are you undertaking a home DIY project, but you don’t know which tool to choose between an impact driver and an impact wrench? Well, you are not the first to face this problem; many people have faced it.
These power tools look almost similar in the eyes of beginners. But this is expected because they share certain features. Some people even think the names impact wrench vs impact driver can be used interchangeably. Why? These two power tools create force using similar rotating movements, they are both powerful tools and produce similar noise, and above all, they almost look alike.
However, the jobs they are used for and their powers are not the same. These two power tools are not the same, and you need to choose one that suits the project you have at hand.
In this review, we look at the difference between these two tools to help you make an informed choice.
Impact driver Vs impact wrench – Key Comparisons
At least you now know that impact drivers and impact wrenches aren’t the same. The main differences between the two tools include:
- Impact wrenches are tools used to tighten or loosen bolts and nuts, while impact drivers are suitable for drilling long screws into metals or wood.
- Impact wrenches are mainly used in the reparation of cars, while impact drivers are great for renovation works and DIY projects.
- Impact wrenches have half-inch square drives, while impact drivers have quarter-inch hex collets.
- Impact wrenches are heavier and more powerful, while impact drivers are lighter, thus more comfortable to use.
Below is a brief comparison table between impact wrench vs driver:
If you are in a hurry, the below table can give you an overview of the differences between impact driver vs impact wrench.
Power Source: Electric, Compressed Air.
|Electricity, Battery (cordless).|
Tool Holder: Half-inch square shaft.
|Quarter-inch Hexagonal socket.|
Working Principle: Impact force only by rotating.
|Impact blows in axial and rotational directions.|
Output Force: Higher torque. Less RPM.
|Less torque. More RPM.|
Uses: Drive-in/Loosen heavy bolts, lug nuts.
|Drill holes. Drive screws.|
Recommended Products: Milwaukee M18 Impact Wrench.
|DEWALT 20V MAX XR Impact Driver.|
For who?: Assembly lines, Auto repair, large construction, heavy equipment maintenance.
|DIY, Construction, Home Improvement.|
We will now examine these power tools in detail to make it easy for you to decide which one is best for your project.
Ultimate Differences between impact wrench vs impact driver
In terms of design, impact drivers resemble long screws with large outer sleeves. They work by producing strong but sudden force when hit by hammers. The driver’s core has teeth that enable it to mesh with the sleeve.
On the other hand, impact wrenches are designed to look like guns. That’s why they are also referred to as air guns. When in use, they exert a sudden energy burst at their shafts, providing large force in the shortest time. By design, they are a bit bulkier than impact drivers.
When talking about battery life, we are actually considering how long an impact wrench or an impact drive can serve you in one charge. The battery life varies, and it mainly depends on how you are using the tool.
If you have engaging jobs that consume more power, the battery life will be shorter. For light jobs like simple renovations, the batteries will last longer. However, since impact wrenches are more powerful than impact drivers, we expect them to drain their batteries faster. That’s why you may need more than one battery if you want to work without interruption.
Value for money
To enjoy the benefits of these power tools and get value for money, you must pick the one that suits your project. For general home DIY projects, impact drivers are the best. They are versatile, and their respectful power enables them to handle a variety of scenarios, whether it’s removing screws or fastening objects.
For heavy-duty projects that involve construction or automobiles, impact wrenches are a perfect choice because they are more powerful. They can fasten steel beams and remove lug nuts from the car chassis. Both of these tools are easy to use and durable. They, therefore, provide good value for money.
Generally, impact wrenches and impact drivers are built on the same foundation but with different drives. Other than that, impact drivers are lighter and more compact than impact wrenches.
However, pneumatic impact wrenches tend to be a little lighter. Impact drivers can weigh 3 pounds or less and can measure less than half afoot. The weight and size of impact wrenches make them heavier than impact drives.
This is expected because they deliver more power than impact drives. The weight and size results from the powerful motors they use. This, in turn, translates to reliable power and more torque.
Both impact drivers and impact wrenches are made from high-quality materials and so are quite durable. You don’t need to worry about longevity if you are using them for their intended purposes.
However, you need to purchase these power tools from reliable supplies to be sure they are genuine. For the sake of comparison, impact wrenches are more durable than impact drivers because of their strong bodies.
Impact drivers are more versatile than impact wrenches. This is because they come with a variety of extensions and adapter bits. This means you can use them to handle a variety of screws (of different sizes and shapes).
You won’t need to buy any new driver when working on different screws. On the other hand, impact wrenches have fixed sizes and shapes. This means a particular impact wrench will work with one/two different socket sizes. The fact that impact drivers are more versatile doesn’t mean they can replace impact wrenches. You have to use a tool for its intended purpose.
4 Highlighted Difference Between impact driver vs wrench
Impact drivers use quarter-inch hex collets and accept quarter-inch hex shank bits. On the other hand, impact wrenches use square drives attached to a socket. We also have 7/16-inch hex impact wrenches, often used by utility workers.
Many impact drivers are cordless, but you won’t miss them if you want the corded models. 18V/20V and 12V Ma are the most popular impact drivers.
Impact wrenches also have corded and cordless versions. But the ones used in race tracks are mainly air-powered.
Generally, impact drivers are screw driving specialists. When you are dealing with fasteners, impact drivers will serve you well. They can drill with different bits.
Impact wrenches are great when dealing with tough fasteners such as tightly fixed bolts and nuts. They are the best option for construction works or heavy-duty jobs.
Generally, impact drivers have less power compared to impact wrenches. Well, it all depends on the driver or wrench you are dealing with. Some compact drivers are more powerful than some impact wrenches.
What is an Impact Driver?
Impact drivers look like conventional drills, but they have more power. They are very tough and can drill through bricks, wood, and even metal. This can be attributed to their high toque (the turning force). The torque of impact drivers ranges from 1500 in.lb to 1800 in.lb. They can weigh as little as three pounds and measure half a foot from front to back.
Impact drivers are lightweight, compact, and stubby power tools that people can even use with small hands. Very company impact drivers are small tools that can be used in tiny spaces.
Even the cordless impact drivers plus their battery packs are still very light but always provide a lot of power to perform tasks around the workshop or home. The main use of an impact driver is to loosen screws stuck in objects as a result of over-torquing. It can also tighten screws to make them hold more strongly.
Here are the four key points to consider when choosing an impact driver:
- Bits: They have a quarter-inch standard hex collect that keeps the drill bit in position. Like in ordinary drills, the bits can be bought in different shapes depending on the completed tasks. This is what makes these tools versatile. Before you begin any task, find out which bit will work best.
- Speed: The speed of impact drivers is measured in rotations per minute (RPM). Impact drivers have high RPM, which makes them the best tools for tough materials. If you are working on a soft material, you’ll need low speed. That’s where impact drivers with variable speed come in. With this, you can adjust speed depending on the material you are working on.
- Loudness: In all honesty, impact drivers are very loud when operating. It is, therefore, advisable to wear ear protection when using them. The advantage of this tool is that it is cordless, so that you can use it in any space.
- Uses: As stated earlier, impact drivers can be used to tighten or loosen screws. They can also be used to drive screws into materials. This makes them quite suitable for use in many DIY projects at home. They drill long screws with a lot of ease and remove screws stuck in materials even if they have corroded.
DEWALT 20V MAX XR Impact Driver Kit
If you really want to get your DIY job done fast and efficiently, choose the DeWalt DCF887D2 20V Max Brushless impact, driver. This is a power tool that has been proven to work better than many impact drivers in its class. That explains why it is highly rated. Operating at a toque of 2000 in.lb, this tool will help you in nearly all types of home projects.
It is lightweight but has a very strong build. One of its outstanding features is the LED light that helps users to work with accuracy and precision. You can use it on various materials, from soft to hard, because it has a 3-speed setting.
When working on a soft material, you can choose the low speed (first speed) setting. The first speed has a Precision Drive that will help you work accurately and keep it steady. The cordless model of this tool will come in handy when you are working in small spaces. The DeWalt DCF887D2 20V Max Brushless impact driver provides good value for money.
- Quite flexible and versatile – you can change the bits to suit the project you have at hand.
- Has enough power to accomplish many tasks.
- Minimal kickback.
- Compact – this too; it is small and can easily fit in small spaces.
- They are usually lighter compared to conventional drills.
- There are a variety of brands that you can choose from depending on your budget.
- May sometimes drive the screw too far because they are too powerful.
- Produces a lot of noise during use.
The bits must be purchased separately, and this adds to the cost. The same bit can’t be used for all projects.
What is an Impact Wrench?
An impact wrench differs from an impact driver. It is used to tighten or loosen bolts and nuts. Compared to impact drivers, they look a little stubbier. These tools are very powerful and may be used for jobs that impact drivers can’t manage.
In fact, impact wrenches provide more power than needed for ordinary DIY home projects. That’s why they are used for tough jobs, like removing lug nuts from cars. Mechanics like them a lot, and you’ll see them using the wrenches during car races. That’s because they work powerfully and incredibly quickly.
They are also very common on construction sites or assembly lines. That is why you may not need to buy them for your ordinary DIY home projects or renovation tasks.
There are four different ways to power up the Impact wrenches; these include:
Just from the name, you can easily tell that these impact wrenches need cords to power them. This also means that you’ll need a source of electricity to use them. For this reason, you must think about your electricity source before you buy this tool. The fact that they are corded makes them a little inconvenient to use, especially in tight spaces.
Cordless impact wrenches do not use electricity. Batteries power them. The battery must be charged between uses. If you have to use this tool far away from the charging point, then it’s advisable to carry an extra fully charged battery.
Air Powered (Pneumatic)
Air-powered or pneumatic impact wrenches are powered by compressed air. Race mechanics like these pneumatic tools because they can be used in removing nuts quickly. Since they use compressed air, they aren’t quite ideal for DIY home projects.
Just as the name suggests, hydraulic impact wrenches derive their power from fluids. The fluid mechanism makes them very powerful. Hydraulic impact wrenches aren’t as common as the other types of wrenches. These tools are incredibly loud. So you’ll need ear protection when using them.
Milwaukee M18 FUEL w/ONE-KEY 18-Volt Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless
Of all the models of impact wrenches, we prefer the Milwaukee M18. You’ll like this tool because it is battery powered, meaning you can use it anywhere, even if you don’t have electricity. This is a very powerful tool that delivers 1,100 ft.lbs of torque for loosening or tightening nuts at 700 ft.lbs of torque.
This tool works very quickly, so you can accomplish a task in no time. Its Redlink Plus Intelligence feature provides the user with more control, providing the user with two fastening modes to choose from.
If the supplier doesn’t provide you with the battery, then you must look for it elsewhere. So it would help if you choose a supplier who also provides the batteries. If you have some heavy-duty mechanical works that need a powerful impact wrench, we highly recommend the Milwaukee M18.
- Very powerful tools are creating huge force (torque) that can loosen the toughest bolts and nuts.
- You won’t feel any wrist strain when using this tool.
- Works faster than most impact wrenches.
- Four different designs that you can choose from, depending on what your project needs.
- Redlink Plus Intelligence feature.
- Can’t be used at home – best suited for heavy-duty machines, cars, or construction sites. You can use them at home if you have a garage at home and a qualified mechanic.
- It needs some training to use – amateurs can’t use it.
- Produces a lot of noise.
Two in one tool
If you are a trained technician and like doing some renovations at home, you can pick a two-in-one tool (hybrid) that works as an impact wrench and an impact driver. The Bosch GDX is such a tool. It has a quarter-inch hex shank and a half-inch square drive that makes it a hybrid tool.
Hybrid impact wrenches/drivers are very powerful tools that can perform a variety of tasks. They don’t come cheap but are definitely less expensive than buying the two tools separately. Having an impact driver and an impact wrench in one tool is also more convenient than having them individually.
Ultimate Buying guide for impact wrench vs impact driver
If you are in the market for a good impact driver or impact wrench, you can get overwhelmed because there are many types of these tools in the market. The tool varies in size, weight, and features they offer. All these make each tool to be perfect for particular uses. Here are the top 6 factors you should consider when buying an impact driver or an impact wrench.
Brand and quality go hand-in-hand. Popular brands such as DeWalt, Makita, Milwaukee, and Bosch produce high-quality tools and also have the best customer service. Not only that, but they also offer the best warranty. Buying from a popular brand might cost you a little more, but you’ll get value for money.
The two tools we recommended here, the DEWALT 20V MAX XR Impact Driver and the Milwaukee M18 impact wrench, are manufactured by top brands, meaning they meet all industry standards and will perform as expected.
Your safety matters a lot when using any power tool. Safety features protect you as you use the tool and reduce an injury’s chances if an accident occurs. Different impact drivers and impact wrenches are different safety features. Some tools have more and better safety features than others.
Some of these tools have automatic cuts-off when they become too hot, while others shut down automatically when fully charged. Other power tools are designed with a mechanism that protects them from dust. So, before you buy any of these tools, find out the safety features it has to help you make an informed decision.
Accessories are very important in enhancing the performance of a tool or a device. The more accessories, the better. While some tools are bought together with the relevant accessories, some don’t have these accessories, and the users have to buy them separately. This has the effect of increasing the cost of the product.
So before you buy an impact driver or an impact wrench, find out if there are any accessories required and whether you’ll need to buy them separately. Does the box, case, or bag have everything? Are you going to be provided with all the bits? Is there an extra battery? These are some questions that should guide your purchase.
Technology keeps changing, and some brands strive to keep at par with modern trends. Modern tools are more efficient than their older counterparts. They also have better security features and provide higher precision.
Modern drivers and wrenches have LED lighting that allows the user to see where they are drilling. Some come with apps and Bluetooth connectivity to help in tracking how they perform. Sometimes, you may find that some of these features may require you to pay a little more.
If you are buying a cordless power tool, then the battery must be a major concern. There are two ways about this; you can choose a model that comes with an extra battery or one with the most extended battery life. You must also consider the battery charging time and how long the tool can serve you when fully charged.
Before you leave with your product, double-check to make sure the battery is packed in the box. Ideally, you should have at least two batteries to make sure your work won’t be interrupted by a dead battery. With two batteries, you can have one charging while you use the other one.
Both impact drivers and impact wrenches are hand-held power tools. For this reason, their weights matter a lot. A heavy piece of equipment can make you tired even before the job is done. Heavy tools are not as portable as their light counterparts.
If you are using a power tool often, it needs to be light. So before you buy these tools, check their weights to confirm whether you’ll be comfortable handling them. It is better to choose a lighter option. However, you need to balance weight and performance. Some heavy tools perform better than light ones.
What is the best tool brand for you?
Many brands manufacture very powerful and reliable impact drivers and impact wrenches. Again, some brands do shoddy work. Some even deal with counterfeits. If you are new in this field, you can easily get duped. When buying power tools, do so from well-trusted brands such as:
The name DeWalt is synonymous with high-quality. This company was founded in 1923, and since then, it has been at the forefront of producing high-quality products. Actually, this company was named after its founder E. DeWalt Raymond, though Black and Decker now own it.
It manufactures and sells a variety of products, including drills, saws, impact drivers, just to name a few. This brand offers the best warranties, which is clear proof that their products are of high quality. Their products are available all over the world. DeWalt is very conscious of technological changes, and their reliability is unquestionable.
Makita was founded in 1951 in Japan. The company has gone international, producing high-quality tools in their factories spread globally. They have a strong presence in the US, the UK, Mexico, China, and Brazil.
Makita manufactures and sells a variety of power tools, including impact wrenches (cordless). In fact, they are the pioneers in producing cordless tools. Just like Dealt, Makita also offers great warranties on their products. Most of their products have 3-year warranties. Their tools are known for their high performance and durability.
Milwaukee is another brand that’s trusted globally. Most of their tools are known for their reliability, durability, performance, and above all, prestige. Milwaukee is recognized as one of the best power tool makers in the world. The strongest selling point of their tools is that they are compact and powerful. This company has existed since 1924, meaning they have an accumulated experience of almost a century.
This company produces a variety of tools, including impact wrenches and impact drivers. Though their tools are a little costly, they provide good value for money. They are of high quality and offer great performance.
Bosch is a power tool manufacturing company headquartered in Germany but with a global presence. Many people are quite familiar with the name Bosch because they manufacture many industrial tools and household appliances. They produce some top-rated tools in the market, including impact wrenches and impact drivers. Bosch also produces a two-in-one impact driver/impact wrench that was mentioned earlier.
They build very strong and powerful tools that offer great performance. Bosch keeps up with modern technological trends. That’s why they keep improving their tools. They offer incredible warranties, which is a clear testimony that they stand behind their tools.
FAQ related to the Impact drivers
What’s a Brushless Impact Driver?
A brushless impact driver is one that uses a brushless motor. The difference between brushed and brushless motors is that the brushless variants generate power using magnets while the brushed motors are made of carbon. This is the reason brushless impact drivers are better performers.
Brushless motors generate less heat, produce no friction, and provide the best performance. Additionally, brushless motors require less maintenance, which only involves dusting with no need to replace brushes. Since brushless impact drivers operate without friction, they have more benefits, such as more power, power control, precision, and longer battery run time.
Do impact drivers have a clutch?
No. An impact driver doesn’t have a clutch. This makes it easier for it to fit into tight spaces where many conventional drills cannot fit. Being that it doesn’t have a clutch, you must be careful when using it since you might end up driving the screw too far. Some high-end impact drivers have clutches, but the impact and the clutch can’t work simultaneously; you must choose one.
Can you use an impact driver to remove lug nuts?
Yes. However, an impact wrench would do a better job in removing lug nuts than an impact driver. To remove a lug nut using an impact driver, use the hex shaft to drive an adapter so you can attach a lug nut socket to it. An impact driver may not work if the lug nut is frozen/rusted or too tight.
Do impact drivers need different bits?
Yes. You can use the same bits you use on regular drills with this tool. When using this tool, you need to have different bits that you can use on different projects. This is one advantage of this tool.
Is it worth getting an impact driver?
Impact drivers are different tools than conventional drill/drivers. Most times, they eliminate the need to drill pilot holes. An impact driver drives screws very quickly and neatly. It is also great at dismantling structures with rusted screws. Any technician who’s worth his salt needs this tool in his/her workshop. It makes work more convenient.
Do impact drivers have variable speeds?
Yes. Most impact driver models have variable speeds. The variable speed is necessary when working on materials with different hardness. Impact drivers have three levels of speed. You can use the lowest speed when working on softer materials that need more precision.
FAQ related to the Impact wrench
Is electric impact wrenches any good?
Electric impact wrenches are good, but you have to buy them if you have a reliable power source. The main problem with these tools is that they are a little expensive and not as durable as their cordless counterparts. They are also heavier and a little inconvenient to use because of the power cable. That’s why many buyers prefer cordless power tools.
Can you use regular sockets with an impact wrench?
No. Regular sockets are not designed to handle the power needed to support impact wrenches. Impact wrenches have special sockets that can deal with their intense power. These sockets are stronger than ordinary sockets and can protect the tools against shattering. They are also corrosion-resistant, thanks to their black oxide coating.
Is an impact wrench worth it?
If you are involved in demanding projects involving industrial machines and motor vehicles, you’ll need an impact wrench in your workshop. Impact wrenches are powerful tools that can help you handle very tight bolts and nuts. It can help you work very fast and efficiently.
How powerful of an impact wrench do I need?
The power of an impact wrench is normally expressed in torque (turning force). On average, a three-quarter-inch impact wrench will have a torque of about 1200 ft/lbs. This power (toque) is enough for most tasks you might want to undertake. If this cannot serve you, then you may opt for more powerful impact wrenches.
How much do impact wrenches cost?
There are many types of impact wrenches in the market today. Their prices vary according to their quality, meaning you can get an impact wrench according to your budget. However, the cost will depend on the quality. Most decent, high-end cordless wrenches cost a lot more than other impact wrenches.
Which One Should You Get?
From this review, you can see that impact driver and impact wrenches are quite different. So, the fact that their names sound similar should not confuse you. They also serve different purposes. The one to choose will depend on the project you need to work on.
If you are much into DIY home projects that require some fixing and renovations, an impact driver would suffice. This tool can drive long screws and is a little lighter. So, you’ll find it more convenient than using an impact wrench.
Impact wrenches are more specialized and offer more power. So if you are working on cars or heavy construction sites with many beams and columns to fix, an impact wrench would be your best bet. If you can get a cordless impact wrench, your work will be made easier. You may not need an impact wrench regularly if you are not working in a busy environment or if you don’t like tinkering with your car.
If you feel you need both an impact driver and an impact wrench, you’ll have two options. You can either buy them separately or buy the hybrid impact wrench/driver. Buying the hybrid model is a lot cheaper than buying both.
Safety Tips while using these tools
There are always some risks associated with using any tool, be they power tools or not. Impact wrenches and impact drivers aren’t an exception. Even if a tool has so many safety features, you also need to take precautions to protect yourself against injuries. Here are the safety tips when using impact wrenches or impact drivers.
When drilling or removing tight nuts and bolts, there’s a possibility that some dust or debris will fly around. That’s why you need to wear eye-protection safety glasses. Choose good quality glasses that can withstand the impact of flying objects without breaking. The eye protector should not obstruct your eyesight.
Noise pollution is very dangerous to the ears. They also cause stress and headaches. Both impact drivers and impact wrenches are very noisy tools. If you keep using them without ear protection, they might interfere with your hearing in the long term. You can use earplugs or ear defenders to protect your ears.
Clothes go together with jewelry. When using any power tool, be it an impact driver or an impact wrench, ensure you wear clothes and jewelry that cannot get sucked into the tool. These may include but are not limited to loose clothing, ties, and dangly jewelry. When these items get sucked into the tool, you may injure yourself, or the tool can get damaged.
Each tool comes with a set of instructions on how it can be used safely. Familiarize yourself with these instructions. This will not only help with your safety but will also ensure you use the tool correctly.
Maintain Your Tools
To make sure your tools serve you longer, take good care of them. Clean them and store them well after use. This will not only increase their lifespans but will also prevent injuries and accidents. Impact wrenches need more attention than impact drivers. Lubricate them regularly so they can continue performing optimally.
Also, remember to use the tools for the right purpose. Do not use an impact driver where you are supposed to use an impact wrench. Last but not least, use the right accessories. Using the wrong accessory can put you, your tool, or both in danger.
Now that you know the difference between impact wrenches and impact drivers, you can decide which tool you need for a particular project. When you are out there making a purchase, buy only from the most popular brands. Even though you might spend more on these top brands, you’ll get value for money.
If you need an impact driver, we strongly recommend the DEWALT 20V MAX XR Impact Driver, while for an impact wrench, we recommend the Milwaukee M18. These two tools are manufactured by the top brands DeWalt and Milwaukee, respectively. These two tools are durable, reliable, and are top performers.
Once you have the tool, remember that it will serve you longer if you take good care of it and store it properly. Tools should be washed and oiled before storing. Don’t store them in a moist place as this can make them corrode.