If you placed an impact wrench next to an impact driver, it’d be tough to tell the differences between them. Unless you’re a pro who uses them on a daily basis, of course.
So if you’ve come across impact tools and are now trying to decide which one to get, making the impact driver vs impact wrench comparison can definitely help you choose the right tool for your projects.
There are five main differences between these tools in terms of torque, speed, power source, uses, and driving style. After we compare them in detail, you’ll see that one is actually nothing like the other.
If you’re in a rush, though, here’s a quick summary:
|Features||Impact Wrench||Impact Driver|
|Torque||1250 ft-lbs (15000 in-lbs)||2000 in-lbs|
|Speed||2000 RPM||3600 RPM|
|Power Source||Compressed air or electricity||Electricity|
|Uses||Tighten bolts and nuts on cars and trucks||Drive long screws into tough materials|
|Drive Style||½” square drive for hex-head fasteners||¼” hex collet for driver bits|
Keep reading to find out more about these two tools!
What Is an Impact Wrench?
An impact wrench is a high-torque power tool used to tighten or loosen tough nuts and bolts. Even though they’re rather small and compact, they pack a lot of power. They are so powerful, in fact, that you wouldn’t need to use them for projects around your home. Impact wrenches are typically used in the automobile industry to remove lug nuts, for example, by construction workers or in assembly lines.
Impact wrenches can be classified into two types according to their power source: electricity or compressed air. Electric ones can be corded or cordless. Pneumatic impact wrenches are the ones that deliver the highest amount of torque, which is why you can usually find them at pit stops during car races.
Pros and Cons of an Impact Wrench
So how can an impact wrench benefit you, and what would be the challenges you’d face when operating one?
What Is an Impact Driver?
An impact driver, on the other hand, is a very popular tool in the DIYer community because of its size and simple operation. It resembles a handheld cordless drill, but it exceeds its abilities, and it’s actually much more powerful. So much so, in fact, that it’s commonly used to drive long screws into tough materials like hardwood or metal, and tighten nuts as well.
Pros and Cons of an Impact Driver
Impact drivers are very versatile and can be a great addition to the handyman’s arsenal, so let’s see some pros and cons.
Main Differences Between Impact Drivers and Impact Wrenches
Now that you have a general idea of what impact drivers and wrenches are, let’s dive into what exactly makes them different.
The torque of impact wrenches is usually measured in foot-pounds (ft-lbs), while impact drivers use inch-pounds (in-lbs). If you’re like us and want to compare values, you just have to multiply by 12 to convert ft-lbs to in-lbs or divide by 12 to convert in-lbs to ft-lbs.
Leaving the math aside for now, what you should know is that impact wrenches deliver many times more torque than impact drivers. There’s a vast power disparity between the two tools, so let’s take a quick look at their respective outputs.
From a decent impact driver, you can get approximately 2000 in-lbs of torque. An impact wrench, on the other hand, can output 1250 ft-lbs, which would equate to 15000 in-lbs of torque. There’s quite a wide gap between 2000 in-lbs and 15000 in-lbs, don’t you think?
The tables turn when it comes to speed. A decent cordless impact wrench typically falls short of 2000 RPM, whereas an impact driver can reach 3600 RPM and higher.
Impact wrenches and drivers can be either corded or cordless when powered by electricity. Wrenches just take it one step further, as they can also use compressed air as their power source.
While battery-operated impact wrenches are becoming increasingly more used in automotive shops, they still haven’t been able to replace their most commonly used pneumatic counterpart.
In contrast, cordless impact drivers are hugely popular because of their versatility and ability to get into tight places.
We’ve mentioned before that impact wrenches are more of a specialty tool that’s only used in certain professions, mainly in the automotive industry, and that impact drivers are more suited to home renovation projects and carpentry.
To be able to quickly tell an impact wrench and an impact driver apart, you just have to look at the drive style.
Impact wrenches have a ½” square drive, whereas impact drivers have a ¼” hex collet.
The wrench uses a socket to grab around hex head fasteners like nuts, bolts, and timer screws. The driver, on the other hand, uses driver bits such as slotted, Phillips, square, Torx, or any other drilling bit that has a compatible shank.
It’s important to note that there are socket adapters and nut driver bits that can be attached to an impact driver to work with hex head fasteners. Likewise, there are adapters that can allow your wrench to take ¼” bits.
However, this should be done with care because excessive power can break bits, just like insufficient torque can burn the tool’s motor. We don’t recommend it if you’re just taking your first steps with either of these tools.
Summary: Impact Wrench Vs Impact Driver
The only thing an impact wrench and an impact driver have in common is a similar name because they’re very different in every other aspect.
Impact wrenches are professional tools used to remove nuts and bolts. They have higher torque output and less speed, are typically powered by compressed air and have a ½” square drive to work with hex head fasteners.
Impact drivers are used in house renovations and DIY projects that require drilling long screws into wood or metal. They have significantly less torque output but more speed, are powered by electricity and have a ¼” hex collet for driver bits.
In simple words, you should only get an impact wrench if you know what you’re doing and plan on using it often. Otherwise, you’re better off with an impact driver that’s easier to operate and more versatile.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do impact wrenches/drivers need special bits?
Yes, for both of them you should get impact-rated sockets or bits that can handle the intense power and repeated impact without shattering. Because of this, you can’t use regular drill bits with your impact driver.
Do impact drivers have a clutch?
They don’t, which is why you should be careful not to turn your fasteners too far.
Are air-powered impact wrenches that much different from electric ones?
Yes, they are. Pneumatic impact wrenches are more powerful and durable than electric ones, especially if they’re going to see heavy use. They’re also more expensive, and you need to factor in the cost of an air compressor and a hose. Electric impact wrenches are more suited for occasional use around the house.
We know that coming across these tools for the first time can leave you a bit confused. Hopefully, we’ve helped you clear up any doubts and questions you might have had about them.
Now that you know the differences between an impact wrench and an impact driver, you should be able to pick the right one for your projects.