Back in the day, impact drivers were considered a tool used exclusively by professional mechanics and furniture-makers. Nowadays, they’ve become an integral part of the DIY handyman’s collection of tools.
The main job of an impact driver is to drive fasteners through wooden boards. A power drill can also be used to push screws through wood, but it’s not nearly as effective or efficient in doing so when compared to an impact driver. You can say goodbye to stripped screw heads and the frustration of being unable to drive screws. With an impact driver on your utility belt, you can get a ton of work done around your home and under the hood of your car.
Impact driver vs. Power Drill
One common question we get is what differentiates an impact driver from a power drill. The answer is simple: a power drill is used to drill holes, whereas an impact driver drives fasteners. They can substitute each other’s main functions but have very limited capacities. For instance, a drill doesn’t have enough torque to drive long screws, and an impact driver can’t be used to drill through cement walls.
Corded or Cordless?
Although cordless impact drivers are all the rage, let’s not forget about their corded-electric counterparts. Corded impact drivers have considerably more power than cordless models. You may not need such a tremendous amount of power for regular home repairs or in your woodworking shop, but it never hurts to have more than you’ll need (just in case).
Of course, with a corded impact driver, your range of movement is limited by how long the power cord is. Like any corded-electric power tool, one way to overcome the problem of portability is with the help of an extension cord. However, if you’re working at a job site without a reliable source of running power, then a corded impact driver may be nothing more than an overqualified paperweight.
Corded Impact Driver Buying Guide
If you’ve decided that you’re going to get a corded impact driver, then there are several things you should consider in terms of the tool’s performance. The following guide will help you determine what specs you need in your impact driver so you can make an educated purchase decision.
The magic behind the ultimate performance of an impact driver is the amount of torque produced. Unlike power drills, an impact driver can deliver hundreds and even thousands of inch-pounds of torque.
This is due to the concussive blows (impacts per minute, or IPM) delivered perpendicularly to the surface where you’re driving the screw. These impacts give the chuck a tremendous amount of power when rotating, giving the tool the ability to drive long screws through thick surfaces without stripping the screws.
For everyday jobs around the house, you may not need a tremendous amount of torque.
Although RPM isn’t as necessary for driving screws, it’s still an important factor to consider. A higher RPM means more efficiency when driving fasteners. However, you don’t want your impact driver’s chuck to spin as rapidly as the chuck on your power drill since quicker speeds can significantly increase the risk of stripping screw heads.
Adjustable vs. Electronic Clutch
Different jobs call for a different amount of torque. For instance, driving short screws through softwood won’t need as much power as driving long fasteners through hardwood. The way you can adjust the amount of torque produced is by using the clutch.
The clutch is the turning mechanism located near the nose-end of the tool. The tool will deliver different amounts of torque based on the clutch’s setting.
There are two types of clutches: manually adjustable and electronic clutches. The former requires you to manually rotate the clutch in order to find the proper torque setting. This requires a bit of trial and error, but it’s not entirely hard to get the hang of using.
An electronic clutch automatically adjusts the amount of torque based on the level of resistance is met when the chuck turns. Greater amounts of resistance will cause the electronic clutch to produce greater amounts of torque.
Brushed vs. Brushless Motor
Like in any power tool, impact drivers come with either a brushed motor or a brushless motor. We recommend getting a brushless motor because: 1) they produce less heat, 2) they’re more efficient, and 3) they won’t have any maintenance problems. However, if you don’t plan on using your impact driver on a regular basis, a brushed motor can do just fine since there’s no risk of burning the motor and the occurrence of maintenance problems will be few and far between. Plus, brushed motors are cheaper, so there’s that to think about.
The size of the chuck determines the width of the bits that can be mounted into your impact driver’s chuck. More light-duty work will most likely require a ¼-inch chuck, whereas heavier-duty jobs will need a ½-inch chuck. You can always get attachments for your impact driver in order to thinner or thicker bits, but it’s advised that you get attachments that go smaller and not bigger since the tool’s motors aren’t equipped to handle more demanding jobs that it was designed to do.
Power Cord Length
Another important factor you need to take into account is the length of the impact driver’s power cord. Basically, your range of movement is a circle where the radius is the length of the power cord. Some models may have short cords while others may come with long 10-plus-foot cords. But you can solve the whole power-cord-length dilemma by getting an extension cord.
The impact driver has become the must-have tool for people looking to do home repairs, fix up their cars and motorcycles, and build furniture. Although cordless models are all the rage, corded impact drivers deliver more power for making easy work out of more demanding tasks. There are several factors that you need to consider when looking at a potential impact driver to take home with you, such as power, speed, torque adjustability, motor, and the size of the chuck. If you’re getting a corded model, be sure that you get one that has a long power cord or that you have a reliable extension cord since they don’t use batteries.
3 Recommended Impact Drivers
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