Fastening and loosening nuts, bolts, and other fasteners are a hassle too tedious, time-consuming, and oftentimes risky not to use a powered tool. If you have spent hours trying to loosen a rusted bolt, you will appreciate this sentiment. And the unfortunate fact is, no matter how much effort you put into it, you might end up not achieving your goal. This is something that can set you back, whether as a hobbyist doing a DIY project in your workshop or a professional contractor trying to meet a deadline in a construction site.
However, this need not be the case. With an impact wrench, you have a very effective and easy to use tool. The impact wrench is designed to fasten or loosen bolts, nuts, and other fasteners with ease. The tool produces small bursts of torque, forcing even the tightest of nuts and bolts to loosen.
That being said, it is not a matter of purchasing the first wrench you come across. Ideally, you should purchase an impact wrench that best suits your needs. This means you have to consider the power source, the form factor, and the features that a prospective impact wrench has. Herein is an in-depth guide on purchasing an impact wrench that suits your needs.
So How Do Impact Wrenches Actually Work?
As we will see below, there is a variety of impact wrenches on the market. However, their basic functionality is the same. They rely on the same basic concept to make it easy for users to remove or fasten fasteners in place. Electric impact wrenches rely on an internal rotating mass driven by an electric motor.
The rotating mass builds up ample energy to produce ample torque to fix a nut, bolt, or any other fastener in place. The release of the stored energy and the application of the immense torque through the anvil takes place in sudden bursts, usually in 5-seconds bursts. However, even after fixing the fastener in place, the rotating mass continues to rotate, building more energy and negating the impact that the operator feels.
In the case of the pneumatic impact wrenches, they rely on the compressed air to produce the high energy torque bursts.
Why You Should Invest In An Impact Wrench
The impact wrench, therefore, produces more torque than a human being. Furthermore, it works much faster than a human being can. As such, by using an impact wrench, you reduce the amount of effort you must expend to fasten or loosen a fastener. Moreover, you negate the chances of being injured whilst trying to loosen or fasten a nut, bolt, or any other type of fastener.
Understanding The Differences Between An Impact Wrench, Impact Driver, And Torque Wrench
With the above in mind, it is important not confuse impact wrenches with impact drivers or even torque wrenches. While they all function in an almost similar manner, their mechanisms and uses are markedly different. In a nutshell, each tool is optimised for a specific type of use.
The impact wrench is optimised for removing and fastening bolts, lugs, nuts, and other fasteners. On the other hand, the impact driver is optimised to drive screws or to perform other drilling functions. Finally, the torque wrench is designed to perform fine-tuned and exact adjustments.
Another thing to note is that not all impact wrenches are designed to fasten and loosen fasteners. While this is uncommon, there are plenty of impact wrench models that are optimised for one side rotation. As such, while shopping, do not just assume that every impact wrench can fasten and loosen nuts. Makes sure they have this capability incorporated in their system.
Types Of Impact Wrenches And Their Uses
With regards to types of impact wrenches, you can either classify them on the basis of the power source or on the basis of form-factor. Therefore, you need to take into consideration the source of power for your prospective wrenches as well the form factor that beset suits your application. In considering both of these attributes, you will invest in an impact wrench that suits your specific needs.
Types Of Impact Wrenches Based On Power Source
Compressed Air – As explained above, an impact wrench can use compressed air as its power source. Air is compressed in an air tank. The compressed air, in turn, powers the impact wrench, helping to generate an enormous amount of torque.
Typically, these types of impact wrenches are far more capable than the electrically powered impact wrenches. The wrenches are also lightweight although you have to deal with the air compressor tank. As such, they are typically used in the automotive service industry as they can handle much heavier tasks.
Electricity – These are impact wrenches powered by electricity, which drives the internal motor. They come in two varieties; the corded and cordless impact wrenches. That being said, it is important to note that the capability of both electrically driven impact wrenches is far less than that of the compressed air driven. As such, they are best used for light applications.
On the other hand, they do offer a far simpler power method. Unlike the compressed air driven impact wrenches, only require an electrical power source. In case of a corded wrench, you just plug it into the wall sockets. On the other hand, with a cordless battery, you simply need to a charged battery. This means that you do not have to deal with the complexity of air compression.
As such, this variety of impact wrenches is the best option for home workshop applications.
Hydraulics – Hydraulically driven impact wrenches are typically used in the heavy industry. They are well-suited for heavy industries such as manufacturing industries and big construction sites owing to the enormous amounts of torque they produce.
These types of impact wrenches tend to produce far more torque than is necessary for a home workshop or automotive repair garage. Moreover, the enormous torque can pose some danger when used in home workshops. As such, it is a preserve of the heavy industries.
Types Of Impact Wrenches Based On Form-Factor
Pistol Grip – This design is the same general design that many power tools have. In many regards, this is the most popular design. Using one hand, you can work the trigger while the other hand you can precisely position the sockets and brace the tool.
Palm Grip/ Inline Impact Wrench – With this design, you have D-shaped or T-shaped hand grip at the end of the impact wrench, giving the tool an over-sized screwdriver look and feel. This is the best impact wrench to use in tight spaces.
Angle Impact Wrenches – With this impact wrenches, they have a general design similar to an inline impact wrench, except that their drives are bent, typically at 90 degrees. They are optimised for tight space work as they have minimised reactionary torque.
Impact Wrenches Features To Consider
Aside from figuring out the power source and the general design, it is important to keep in mind the types of features that you will use with your wrench. Below are the features you will have to consider when purchasing.
Ergonomic And Comfortable Build – impact wrenches are not designed the same. Some are more ergonomically designed and built to yield superior comfort. As such, the best impact wrench for you is one which fits in your hands and one with superior balance. Also such for an impact wrench with anti-vibration features. You can work with this such an impact wrench for a much longer time.
Performance – The performance of the impact wrench is very important. As such, you need to choose an impact wrench that produces ample torque, impacts per minute, and RPMs that meet your needs.
For instance, the more the torque an impact wrench has, the more capable it is. Generally, you should look for an impact wrench that produces at the very least 150 foot-pounds of torque. However, depending on your application, you might want an impact wrench with more torque than this.
With regards to impacts per minute (the number of times the internal mass – hammer – strikes the anvil), you want a wrench with a higher number as it will drive screws faster. It will also perform exceptionally well when loosening tightly fastened nuts and bolts.
Additionally, you might want to consider the no Load speed rating of the impact wrench you are about to purchase. You should look for the right balance between as this rating impacts your torque and speed.
Torque Adjustment Feature – This feature allows users to adjust the torque output, allowing to produce the precise torque for specific use. It is an important feature that allows you to negate the chances of overtorquing nuts and bolts.
Drive Size – The drive size is related to the performance of the wrench. The most popular drive size is the 1/2” as it does suffice for most applications. The other popular drive size is the 3/8”. This drive size allows for a smaller packaging but does suffer from lower torque production.
Durability – When investing in an impact wrench, ideally you should purchase one that will last quite long. As such, look for a model built with superior materials such as high-strength plastic cover and an all-metal gear and motor housing construction. When purchasing an electrically powered impact wrench, consider the fact that a brushless motor has fewer parts, and thus, it has inherent durability.
Another specification you need to be cognizant of is the weight and size of the wrench. However, these are generally defined and influenced by the type of wrench you are looking for.
Where To Buy
By now impact wrenches have gained enough popularity for virtually all local break and mortar hardware and tools shops to stock a simple selection. However, nationwide chains tend to have a much wider selection of impact wrenches than local stores. As such, you can shop for your impact wrench right from your local hardware store to nationwide chains. Making your purchase from physical stores is a good option especially when you need to see the product before making a purchase.
That being said, there are some enormous benefits you enjoy when you make a purchase from the internet. Shopping online gives you access to a far wider selection of impact wrenches than any brick and mortar can offer. Moreover, you can shop at your convenience. You need not worry about the time of day. Online stores do not close.
Another benefit you get to see what other customers are saying about the product you are about to purchase. Granted that you do not have store employee to advise you, the review section in most websites are quite resourceful. You will read personal experience from real users, thereby giving you a better idea of what to expect.