There’s a good chance you’ve come across or heard an impact wrench when visiting an automotive repair shop or dealership. They aren’t necessarily tools made for professionals and if you plan on doing routine work on your car, investing into an impact wrench is wise. Like other power tools, an impact wrench is designed to make your life and job a lot easier. More importantly, there is now a wide range of offerings from various manufacturers, including cordless impact wrenches that use batteries so you don’t have to invest into an air compressor.
To read more about impact wrenches, check the table of contents, but here’s some information on the best impact wrenches you can buy for your car and your garage.
Table of contents
- 1. Editor's Pick: Dewalt 20V 1/2-inch Impact Wrench (DCF899P1)
- 2. Best Air Impact Wrench: Aircat Killer Torque 1/2-inch Impact Wrench (1150)
- 3. Best Corded Impact Wrench: Porter-Cable 1/2-inch Impact Wrench (PCE211)
- 4. Ingersoll Rand 1/2-inch Super-Duty Air Impact Wrench (231C)
- 5. NitroCat 1/2-inch Kevlar Composite Air Impact Wrench (1200-K)
- 6. Milwaukee M18 Fuel 1/2-inch Impact Wrench (2763-20)
- 7. Hammerhead 1/2-inch Impact Wrench (HDIW075)
- 8. Campbell Hausfeld 1/2-inch Impact Wrench (TL140200AV)
- 9. Makita Lithium-Ion Cordless 1/2-inch Impact Wrench (XWT08Z)
- 10. Ryobi 1/2-inch Impact Wrench (P1833)
- Types of Impact Wrenches
- Why Do I Need an Impact Wrench?
- Can I Use an Impact Wrench for Everything?
- How to Choose the Right Impact Wrench
1. Editor's Pick: Dewalt 20V 1/2-inch Impact Wrench (DCF899P1)
If you’re looking for a cordless impact wrench, Dewalt offers a brushless high torque 1/2-inch unit featuring a 1/2-inch anvil with detent pin to offer loosening torque of 1,200 ft-lbs and max torque of 700 ft-lbs. It comes equipped with a three-speed selector for control (400, 1200, 1900 RPM) and incorporates an LED work light with 20-second delay, which comes in handy when you’re working in your engine bay or in a dimly lit environment.
The impact wrench has a comfortable grip handle and weighs 7.2 lbs, since it does use a battery. It does have a compact design, measuring 8.81 inches in length. The cordless Dewalt impact wrench does 2,400 impacts per minute.
The kit includes the 20v impact wrench, a 5.0 Ah battery, and a multi-voltage charger.
2. Best Air Impact Wrench: Aircat Killer Torque 1/2-inch Impact Wrench (1150)
One of the most popular impact wrenches available on Amazon, the Aircat Killer Torque is a 1/2-inch air impact wrench boasting 1,295 foot-pounds of loosening torque and max torque of 900 ft-lbs. Aircat says its impact wrench is the strongest hard hitting twin hammer 1/2-inch wrench on the market with 1,400 blows per minute. It’s fairly quiet as well, operating at 86 decibels.
The impact features a patented, ergonomically designed handle that helps to relieve stress and fatigue on your hands, wrists, and arms. It tips the scales at 4.5 lbs, so it’s not too heavy to use for an extended period of time. Helping it retain power, the impact wrench is also equipped with a patented tuned exhaust muffler technology, which allows discharged air to pass without developing back pressure.
The Killer Torque impact wrench comes with a two-year parts and labor warranty and is available with a variety of options, including a 3/8-inch ratchet, impact adapter, and extension bar.
In order to take advantage of the full power of the impact wrench however, it is recommended not to use a hose longer than 25 feet and to not use a quick connect at the gun. Just keep that in mind if you’re planning to use this impact wrench in a garage where you may need a hose longer than 25 feet.
3. Best Corded Impact Wrench: Porter-Cable 1/2-inch Impact Wrench (PCE211)
Another affordable, corded electric impact wrench is the Porter-Cable PCE211. It features a 7.5-amp motor offering 450 ft-lbs of torque. Speed for this particular impact is rated at 2,200 RPM and 2,700 BPM. It features a 1/2-inch hog ring anvil for easy socket changes and a forward/reverse rocker switch for easy adjusting. It weighs 7.8 lbs, which is comparable to some of the cordless impacts with batteries.
This corded electric impact is more powerful than the Hammerhead unit on the list, but it’s still not as powerful as an air impact or even some cordless ones. It’s an affordable substitute if you don’t want to setup an air compressor at home and you have easy access to a power outlet. But for more extensive or heavy-duty jobs, you’ll want something that offers more torque output.
The Porter-Cable PCE211 comes with a three-year limited warranty.
4. Ingersoll Rand 1/2-inch Super-Duty Air Impact Wrench (231C)
The Ingersoll Rand 1/2-inch Super-Duty is an air impact wrench delivering a maximum torque of 600 ft-lbs with a classic and reliable design. It features an adjustable power regulator so you can easily control torque output. Boasting an ergonomic two-piece design, the Ingersoll Rand Super-Duty impact wrench not just easy to operate, but easy to maintain.
This impact uses a twin-hammer mechanism with rotational speeds up to 8,000 rpm, offering 1,200 blows per minute. It’s a bit on the heavier side, weighing 5.8 lbs, but it’s one of the more compact units helping minimize stress on your hands and wrists. If you’re planning to use this in your garage however, keep in mind its sound pressure is rated at 99 dB.
It comes with a one-year warranty.
5. NitroCat 1/2-inch Kevlar Composite Air Impact Wrench (1200-K)
Another pneumatic impact wrench comes from NitroCat, powered by a hard hitting twin clutch mechanism. This impact weighs 4.5 lbs and features a durable Kevlar composite housing with an ergonomically designed handle to reduce hand and write fatigue. It offers 1,295 ft-lbs of loosening torque and max torque of 900 ft-lbs and features an easy operation flip lever for forward and reverse selection.
The NitroCat 1200-K features 950 impacts per minute with a maximum speed of 8,000 rpm. It is manufactured by Aircat, so it features the same patented tuned exhaust muffler technology, which allows discharged air to pass without developing back pressure. Not only does this help retain power, it also reduces noise with the NitroCat rated at 86 dB. Impacts per minute is rated at 950.
The twin clutch mechanism is better suited for heavy duty applications, such as working on medium to heavy duty pickup trucks.
It comes with a two-year parts and labor limited warranty.
6. Milwaukee M18 Fuel 1/2-inch Impact Wrench (2763-20)
Another cordless option comes from Milwaukee with its M18 Fuel impact wrench. This cordless unit offers up to 1,100 ft-lbs of torque and delivers up to 700 ft-lbs of maximum fastening torque. It uses a brushless motor that claims to run cooler than its competitors, while having no wearable components. Users are able to select from two operation modes, one that delivers up to 100 ft-lbs of maximum fastening torque, while another unlocks the full potential of 700 ft-lbs of maximum fastening torque.
It comes equipped with a 1/2-inch anvil with friction ring, for fast and easy socket changes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a battery so a complete package is a bit on the more expensive side when compared to the Dewalt kit.
Milwaukee however, does offer an impressive five-year warranty with the impact wrench, which is one of the best in the industry.
7. Hammerhead 1/2-inch Impact Wrench (HDIW075)
Corded electric impact wrenches aren’t as popular as they once were, but if you’re looking for a solid option, it’s the Hammerhead 1/2-inch impact wrench. Using a 7.5-amp motor, the Hammerhead impact wrench delivers 240 ft-lbs of torque at 2,200 RPM and 2,700 BPM. It features a 1/2-inch square drive with friction ring to keep the socket on securely and has a metal gearbox for increased durability.
Powered by a standard home electrical socket, this impact wrench is ideal if you’re looking to save money and don’t need a high-powered impact. It comes with a non-slip grip for added comfort and better control, along with a forward/reverse rocker switch.
This impact wrench comes with a three-year limited warranty.
8. Campbell Hausfeld 1/2-inch Impact Wrench (TL140200AV)
An extremely affordable air impact wrench comes from Campbell Hausfeld, offering up to 550 ft-lbs of torque, 8,000 rpm, and 1,200 impacts per minute. It features a three-speed power regulator so it’s easy to select the speed you need. Powered by a twin hammer mechanism, the impact boasts a sturdy composite design for a long-lasting, durable tool.
One of the benefits for this particular impact is that it only weighs 4.4 lbs, making it one of the lightest pneumatic impact wrenches on the list. It’s an ideal impact wrench if you already have an air compressor at home and want an affordable impact that won’t see a lot of heavy use.
This Campbell Hausfeld air impact wrench comes with a one-year limited warranty.
9. Makita Lithium-Ion Cordless 1/2-inch Impact Wrench (XWT08Z)
A popular brand among power tools, Makita has a cordless 1/2-inch impact wrench. It’s available as a bare tool or as an entire kit if you need a battery and charger. Makita’s impact wrench has a brushless motor that delivers max torque of 740 ft-lbs and 1,180 ft-lbs of breakaway torque. It has a three-speed power selection switch, allowing you to choose from 900 RPM / 1,800 IPM, 1,000 RPM / 2,000 IPM, and 1,800 RPM / 2,200 IPM. There’s also built-in dual LED lights with preglow and afterglow to help illuminate the work area.
Equipped on the impact is a 1/2-inch anvil with friction ring, allowing for quick and easy socket changes. This particular cordless impact uses Makita’s 18V lithium-ion batteries, which are said to have the fastest charge times in their categories. A nice addition is a tool hook, which secures the tool when it’s not in use.
Overall it has a fairly compact design, measuring 9-inches long and weighing 7.9 lbs with the battery. The Makita impact wrench is only compatible with genuine Makita batteries and chargers and comes with a three-year limited warranty.
10. Ryobi 1/2-inch Impact Wrench (P1833)
Like Makita and Dewalt, you have likely come across the Ryobi brand if you ever browsed a local hardware store. Part of the company’s One+ lineup of tools, the Ryobi P261 is an 18v 1/2-inch cordless impact wrench equipped with a three-speed selector – 1,800 RPM / 2,300 RPM / 2,900 RPM. It produces 300 ft-lbs of torque, which is on the lower end of the products on this list, but it’s also more affordable than other cordless impacts. It offers up to 3,200 impacts per minute and features a tri-beam LED light to help in low light situations.
All of Ryobi’s One+ tools use the same battery and charger, so if you already own one of the company’s 18v batteries, you can get away with just buying the impact wrench. The P261 uses a 1/2-inch square anvil with detent pin retention for an easy and secure socket connection. It weighs 3.45 lbs without the battery. Combined weight depends on which Ryobi One+ battery you use.
This impact comes with a three-year warranty.
Types of Impact Wrenches
There are mainly three types of impact wrenches currently available: air, electric, and cordless. Air impact wrenches, also known as pneumatic wrenches, are generally considered the most powerful and most popular with professional mechanics, but they require an air compressor, which means they aren’t very convenient for home use. In addition, they’re attached to an air hose limiting ease of use inside a garage.
If you’re shopping for an impact wrench for home use, we recommend looking at electric and cordless options. Electric impact wrenches offer plenty of power, but they require an accessible power outlet which may not be convenient for all car owners. It also has the same inconvenience as an air impact wrench, being tethered to a cord so it could be difficult to move around depending on what you are using the impact wrench for.
Nowadays, cordless impact wrenches are most common with individual car owners. Although they are more expensive, they deliver great performance without having to be attached to a cord. Of course their downfall is that they’re battery powered, which means having to charge a battery or keeping a fully charged spare lying around. And since they need a battery to operate, they tend to be heavier than other impact wrenches. They may not be as powerful as a corded electric impact or a pneumatic one, but for everyday use it’s more than adequate.
Why Do I Need an Impact Wrench?
An impact wrench is a useful tool to have if you regularly work on your car. At some point, using traditional hand wrenches and socket wrenches can get tiresome, and impact wrenches are able to get off even the most stubborn and rusted nuts and bolts. Another benefit to owning an impact wrench is that it’s useful for more than just cars; it can come in handy around the house for other projects.
There are a variety of situations where an impact wrench could come in handy. Maybe you want to remove the lug nuts off your vehicle, so you can rotate the tires on your own, or you need to change your brake rotors or brake pads. Perhaps you’re rebuilding your engine and don’t feel like going through every single nut and bolt by hand. No matter what the task is, an impact wrench can cut down the time and effort needed and they work well even in tight spaces.
Can I Use an Impact Wrench for Everything?
While impact wrenches are very useful in most scenarios, there are times when you do not want to use an impact wrench. Naturally there’s a chance you can overtighten a nut or bolt when using an impact, leading to stripped threads or a weakened bolt. If what you’re working on calls for a specific torque value, use a torque wrench instead. In addition, you normally want to avoid using an impact wrench to drive a bolt in. To avoid cross threading your bolt, it’s best to start it by hand first before using an impact wrench to tighten it.
Also, it’s important to make sure you’re using sockets designed for impact wrenches. Standard sockets aren’t designed to handle the load from an impact wrench and can slip, crack, or worse, break. If you’re investing into an impact wrench, make sure to also purchase a set of impact sockets.
How to Choose the Right Impact Wrench
It’s more than likely you’re shopping for a cordless impact wrench if you plan to use it for your car. Unless you’re planning to invest into an air compressor for your garage, a cordless unit is the way to go. But regardless of the type of impact wrench you’re planning to buy, there are several features to consider.
The first and arguably most important specification is the maximum torque the impact wrench has to offer. The higher the torque an impact wrench offers the more versatile and capable it is.
Regardless of whether you’re purchasing a corded or cordless impact wrench, you’ll want to check its weight. Naturally cordless units will be heavier due to their battery, but you should set yourself a guideline on what’s tolerable. The longer you use a heavy impact wrench, the more tiring it gets.
Depending on what you plan on using the impact wrench for, you may be able to sacrifice torque for size. A smaller torque wrench will allow you to get into tighter spaces, which is something to keep in mind if your job calls for that.
The drive/socket size is important and you’ll want to make sure you get what you need. The most common is 1/2 inch, followed by 3/8 inch. Again, purchase a socket set designed to be used with impact wrenches to complete your kit.
Some impact wrenches will have torque adjustment, which allows you to control the torque it outputs. This feature can come in handy on certain jobs, especially when you don’t want to overtighten a specific nut or bolt.
Comfort should also be something you take into consideration, especially for longer projects. The last thing you want to do is get an impact wrench that isn’t comfortable to hold or grip. Look for ergonomic handle grips or even anti-vibration features to reduce strain on your hand.
Lastly, like most power tools, you’ll want to make sure the manufacturer offers some form of warranty with the impact wrench. One- to two-year warranties are pretty standard, although more expensive impacts will offer three-year or even a lifetime warranty.
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