Impact Wrench vs Impact Driver: What is the difference
With a wide selection of power tools with increasingly greater power and dropping price tags, it’s not uncommon for people to become their own home repairmen or mechanics. With a set of simple, easy to use tools, even you can save money by doing things on your own.
However, this means getting the right tools for the right jobs. For instance, did you know that a power drill is mainly for drilling holes and not driving screws? Or how about a hammer drill’s superior ability to drill through concrete but the inability to break seized screws or nuts?
One of the greatest confusions to hit the DIY market is the impact wrench and impact driver dilemma. What exactly do you need each of these tools for? Can you live through life with one or the other? Will you need both? This article aims to answer these questions.
What’s an impact wrench and impact driver?
Since they both have the word “impact” in their names, it’s understandable that there might be some level of confusion surrounding both of these tools.
First of all, an impact wrench is designed for fastening and loosening sockets. They’re used for things you’d normally use a wrench for when building furniture and doing automotive work. When a regular wrench just can’t cut it for whatever reason (lug nuts are too tightly wound, or screw heads are badly stripped), your only hope is to turn to an impact wrench.
They’re mainly powered by compressed air through air compressor machines (known as pneumatic impact wrenches), but some models use electricity and even hydraulic power. However, the most powerful type of impact wrenches is air-driven pneumatic ones.
Speaking of power, the magic behind the excellent performance of an impact wrench is torque delivery. Air or electricity gives the tool’s motor a sudden burst of power, producing an intense rotating motion which will break seized nuts in an instant. Impact drivers are mere children to impact wrenches when it comes to torque.
Now let’s talk about impact drivers. First of all, an impact driver is designed to drive fasteners through the wood. They can also be used to unfasten screws and nuts and even drill holes (to a certain extent), making them an extremely versatile tool that both woodworkers and mechanics can get value out of.
Like the impact wrench, the magic behind the impact driver’s excellent performance is the amount of torque produced. In order to drive long threaded screws through several inches of wood, you’ll need torque. An impact driver’s torque comes from the number of concussive impacts perpendicular to the surface, giving the chuck and bit a lot umph to better push fasteners through dense materials.
Impact drivers were once specialized tools for professionals, but the high number of manufacturers producing numerous models has driven their efficiency up while dropping their price. Today, you can get cheap, effective, and even cordless impact drivers for much less than the price of an impact wrench.
So which do I need?
It ultimately comes down to what you do in your workshop. For instance, if your projects focus around building wood-based pieces of art, then you’ll most likely need an impact driver. They can connect two boards together by pushing long screws through thick pieces of wood.
Impact drivers can also be used somewhat like an impact wrench. For instance, with the right attachment and bit, you can use your impact driver to screw in bolts and lug nuts. Basically, with an impact driver, you can do both mechanic (to a certain degree) and carpenter jobs.
As for an impact wrench, you’re virtually limited to only fastening and loosening nuts, bolts, and screws. Yes, an impact wrench delivers a tremendous amount of torque – more than five times as much torque between a certain impact driver and impact wrench models – but this is might actually be its downfall.
You see, with the intense rotating motion of the chuck, without a stable grip on the fastener, it can be quite easy to lose control of the tool due to tremendous vibrations emanating from the tool. For this reason, the impact wrench, regardless of the attachment you use, will not offer stability for driving screws through wood or other materials.
Furthermore, an impact wrench may not be entirely necessary for doing your own automotive repair jobs. Unless you’re tearing apart a semi-truck or breaking 50-year-old, rusted lug nuts, an impact wrench may be overkill. This is especially true if you plan on building furniture using a heavy-duty impact wrench.
Another thing to take into account when contemplating whether to get an impact wrench is the fuel source. We said earlier than a pneumatic impact wrench is the best option in terms of torque delivery, so if you’re going all-in, you’ll need to invest in a reliable air compressor. If you’re thinking of getting a cordless impact wrench, just know that running off of batteries significantly reduces how much torque the tool can produce.
The TLDR version of this article is that you’ll most likely need an impact driver more than you’ll ever need an impact wrench. This, of course, is based on the assumption that you’re a regular Joe looking to handle home-repair, furniture-building, and automotive DIY jobs.
An impact driver drives long screws and breaks seized fasteners. Although there isn’t nearly as much torque produced by an impact driver compared to an impact wrench, for most home jobs, it’ll provide more than enough torque.
An impact wrench is an ultra-powerful tool that perhaps only professional mechanics will ever need. They produce a huge amount of torque for fastening and loosening nuts. Basically, an impact wrench is only used whenever a regular wrench just can’t deliver.
The use of an impact wrench is limited to loosening and fastening nuts and removing screws. It doesn’t offer the ability to drive screws or drill holes, making it basically a glorified one-trick pony. Sure, it’d be nice to own one, but an impact wrench would probably succumb to rust long before the average DIY-er can make regular use out of it.
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