When trying to choose an impact wrench for automotive or other general mechanical work, there are so many different considerations to take into account that the task can be a bit daunting. That is why we have done all the heavy lifting for you and offer this article to help you figure out what is the best impact wrench. We break this inquiry down into two groups: the cordless impact wrench reviews and the air impact wrench reviews. Then we answer your remaining questions with our helpful FAQ like the difference between impact driver and wrench, what size air compressor for an impact wrench, and best impact wrench for lug nuts.
- Cordless Impact Wrench Reviews
- Air Impact Wrench Reviews
Cordless Impact Wrench Reviews
DeWalt DCF899HB 20V MAX XR Brushless Impact Wrench
Editor’s Choice Best Cordless Impact Wrench
DeWalt is one of the biggest power tool manufacturers in the world and is quickly reclaiming its position as one of the professional-grade manufacturers as well. While the brand may not provide much in the way of pneumatic options, it is one of the premier cordless power tool manufacturers out there. The DeWalt DCF899HB is a prime example of this trend continuing with a motor that is well-built as well as durable. The DCF899HB’s brushless motor prolongs the lifespan of the tool and puts out more volts than any other cordless impact wrench we saw.
That said, the DeWalt electric impact wrench does provide the least amount of torque in the cordless category, but it is close enough that you are unlikely to notice in use. It does provide some ease with a slightly quicker speed of 1900/2400 RPM/IPM to make working quicker. On top of that, the DeWalt DCF899HB is also the only impact wrench we came across with a built-in LED light to help work in dimly lit areas–like underneath a car. The only functional issue is that this DeWalt is a heavier impact wrench, even for the cordless category which has a tendency to be heavier anyway due to the battery.
- Has a powerful 20V motor
- Has a durable brushless motor
- Has 700 ft. lbs of maximum torque
- Has 1200 ft. lbs. of breakaway torque
- Comes with an LED light
- Has a maximum RPM/IPM of 1900/2400
- Is a heavier impact wrench
- Is the most expensive impact wrench reviewed
Makita XWT08Z LXT 18V Brushless Impact Wrench
Best DIYer Cordless Impact Wrench
Makita has long been known as one of the best power tools manufacturers in the world, especially with their cordless models. This is largely due to the fact that Makita started as an electric motor manufacturer, so they are generally able to distribute power from a battery pack better than most. In this instance, the Makita XWT08Z LXT could easily be considered the best impact wrench we saw, but its fairly heavy weight makes it less ideal to use for extended periods of time–like in a professional setting. However, this 18v electric impact wrench still produces impressive specs with a solid lifespan.
Like most of the cordless impact wrenches we saw, the Makita XWT08Z LXT uses a brushless motor which reduces the wear and tear on the tool and keeps it cool during use. The Makita XWT08Z LXT is also known for being one of the best battery powered impact wrenches and get much better “mileage” than most of its competitors. It provides plenty of torque for both loosening bolts as well as general function with a speed that falls well within the industry standard. The variable speed control is nice with this being the only half inch electric impact wrench on the list to offer 3 separate settings for impact and rotations.
- Has a durable brushless motor
- Has a better battery life than most
- Has a maximum RPM/IPM of 1800/2200
- Has a maximum torque of 740 ft. lbs.
- Has a nut-busting torque of 1180 ft. lbs.
- Has variable speed control
- Is the heaviest impact wrench reviewed
- Is a more expensive impact wrench
DeWalt DC820B 18V Impact Wrench
Best Budget Cordless Impact Wrench
Our final top cordless electric impact wrench is another product from DeWalt, but this time, we went with a more budget-friendly option. It is worth noting when purchasing a budget-minded product that it will likely not be as impressive as its competitors, and the DeWalt DC820B is easily the weakest impact wrench on our list. This is not to suggest it is useless, but you definitely do not want to stress test it or use it for heavy-duty jobs. However, if you simply need the best impact wrench under 100 for minor tasks around the home, then this is a great tool for the task.
For one, this impact wrench is the lightest electric impact wrench that we found which also makes it one of the best portable impact wrenches on our list. While the DC820B reviews note its lack of power, that is due to DeWalt using a confusing measuring system of inch-pounds as opposed to the standard foot-pounds.
Regardless, this impact wrench also provides the quickest action with RPM/IPMs topping our list at 2400/2700. Though it has a brushed motor, the DeWalt DC820B also has an all-metal transmission to more consistently and precisely direct the impact force.
- A less expensive impact wrench
- A fairly portable impact wrench
- Is the lightest cordless impact wrench reviewed
- Can provide concussive or rotational blows
- Has a maximum RPM/IPM of 2400/2700
- Has an all-metal transmission
- Not great for larger fasteners
- Not the most powerful impact wrench
Air Impact Wrench Reviews
AirCat 1150 Air Impact Wrench
Editor’s Choice Best Air Impact Wrench
When trying to decide between an air impact wrench vs electric model, the choice generally hinges on how much maximum torque you need compared to action speed. Thankfully, with the aircat 1150 impact wrench, you do not need to make a decision at all since it leads both categories in pretty much all of the most important specs. In terms of torque, the aircat air impact wrench leads both the loosening torque category with 1295 ft. lbs. as well as the general maximum torque category with 900 ft. lbs. What is even better is that the Aircat 1150 is also one of the quietest impact wrenches that we reviewed putting out a comparatively reasonable 86 dB, as opposed to the more common 100 dB of noise most other top air wrenches do.
It is worth noting that the Air cat 1150 is also the most expensive air impact wrench on our list, and that cost is only exacerbated by the need for a larger than average air compressor tank capacity. That said, you may want to opt for the higher cost because the ergonomic design of this impact wrench is by far one of the most comfortable and striking that we saw. The twin hammer impact mechanism ensures that you also get the fastest rotating air impact wrench with 9000 RPMs.
- Has 1295 ft. lbs. of loosening torque
- Only puts out 86 dB of noise
- Uses a twin hammer mechanism
- Has 900 ft. lbs. of maximum torque
- Is ergonomically designed
- Has a maximum RPM/IPM of 9000/1400
- The most expensive air impact wrench reviewed
- Requires a larger air compressor
Ingersoll Rand 231C Impact Wrench
Best All-Around Air Impact Wrench
The Ingersoll Rand 231C may just be the best 1/2 air impact wrench that we saw, though it is not necessarily the best in all respects. Basically, if you need an air impact wrench that is all-around good from the specs to the accessories to its use, the Ingersoll rand battery powered impact wrench has you covered. First, the 600 ft. lbs. of maximum torque is a bit on the low end of the spectrum, but it is generally more than sufficient for commercial and consumer jobs. On top of that, the twin hammer mechanism ensures that you do not have to wait forever for the wrench to adjust the fastener.
That said, one of the best qualities of the 231C is how well constructed it is. This may not necessarily translate as clearly through the Ingersoll Rand 231C spec sheet, but there are plenty of clues. First, this is one of the few impact wrenches on the market made with an entirely aluminum body making it arguably the strongest impact wrench. This not only protects the 231C from impact fall damage but makes it water and chemical resistant as well. Finally, the 6-vein motor allows for a precise controlling of the air flow which reduces the need for a more expensive air compressor.
- Has 600 ft. lbs. of maximum torque
- Has a maximum RPM/IPM of 8000/1200
- Has a solid CFM requirement
- Has an aluminum body
- Has a 6-vein motor
- Uses a twin hammer mechanism
- Is a heavier air impact wrench
- Is a louder impact wrench
Campbell Hausfeld TL140200AV Impact Wrench
Best Budget Air Impact Wrench
Campbell Hausfeld was founded over a century ago in the United States and is still the only company on our list that manufacturers most of their products in the US. DeWalt and Ingersoll Rand are American companies, but their products are now primarily manufactured in China and Taiwan. While that does not mean those brands are of poor quality, it does mean that Campbell Hausfeld provides a sense of security and trust the other brands cannot. Unfortunately, this pneumatic impact wrench is not the best performing in too many circumstances outside of one Still, this is easily the best air impact wrench under $100 that we saw.
In terms of negatives, the biggest knock on the Campbell Hausfeld is that it is the weakest impact wrench that we saw in terms of torque. This does not limit its ability for most consumer-grade jobs, but it definitely is not designed for heavy-duty work. Still, the best cheap impact wrench we saw is also one of the lightest and ergonomically designed. This makes it the best portable air impact wrench on our list, though it will also likely require the best portable air compressor for an impact wrench too. This is because the Campbell Hausfeld does have a fairly large tank capacity required to maintain a consistent workflow.
- Has a maximum RPM/IPM of 8000/1200
- Has 550 ft. lbs. of nut-busting torque
- Has a variable speed control
- Is the lightest impact wrench reviewed
- Has an ergonomic design
- The least expensive air impact wrench reviewed
- Not for the toughest jobs
- Requires a larger air compressor
What’s the difference between an impact wrench and impact driver?
An impact driver and an impact wrench are incredibly similar tools in their function, but they do differ in terms of their effectiveness or appropriateness of setting. Specifically, impact drivers and impact wrenches are both able to loosen or tighten fasteners, but the impact driver is also able to drill into extremely dense materials like stone or brick. On the other hand, impact wrenches are engineered to provide the perfect amount of torque for tightening or loosening lug nuts and other fasteners commonly used in automobiles.
Otherwise, the differences between the two types of tools may seem minor to the uninitiated. For instance, the size of the socket, as well as the distribution of power between torque and RPMs, will differ. The sockets of impact wrenches will always correspond to either the size of a lug nut or the size of other common automotive fasteners. With the power distribution, impact wrenches tend to produce some of the highest torque but are much more limited in terms of RPMs.
What size of impact wrench is best for lug nuts?
The question, “what size impact wrench for lug nuts?” is mostly a moot point since the overwhelming majority of consumer vehicles use a standard size of lug nut. As such, you want to make sure that your impact wrench has an attachment for a ½” socket. If the impact wrench comes with additional attachments, that is all the better and will extend the versatility of the tool, but for automotive care, the ½” socket is by far the most important. That said, this definitely changes if you are a professional or mechanical enthusiast and want to do serious work on your vehicle.
Of course, if you do intend to use an impact wrench beyond simply tightening and loosening lug nuts, you will definitely want to make sure that you have socket attachments for the various sizes of attachments the vehicle you will be working on employs. This will differ depending on where the vehicle is sold with US cars using the SAE standard and everyone else using metric. Regardless, Japanese-made vehicles use metric, so you should probably have both SAE and metric attachments on hand. Regardless, make sure to look for a mechanics impact wrench in this instance.
What kind of air compressor do I need for an air impact wrench?
When trying to figure out what size air compressor do I need for an impact wrench, the specifications of the air compressor will be determined as much by your intended use as well as the particular impact wrench used, but there are a few general rules to follow when choosing an air compressor to be used with an air impact wrench. For some products, manufacturers have a tendency to highlight features that are not too terribly important for the product’s functional efficacy. This is not the case with air compressors, especially those designed to work with air impact wrenches and other pneumatic tools.
In this case, you will want to keep a keen eye out for the air compressor’s maximum PSI and the tank’s capacity. This is, of course, assuming you do not have access to a commercial air compressor that would remain stationary in a workshop. The maximum PSI that the compressor can push will generally determine the maximum amount of torque the pneumatic tool can generate. As such, the higher the maximum PSI, the more potential torque, though the pneumatic tool can become something of a limiter at this point.
It is worth noting that modest increments in an air compressor’s PSI can result in sharp price hikes, but that may be a price worth paying, depending on what you intend to do with the pneumatic impact wrench.
Unfortunately, this dynamic is repeated with the second-most-important quality to consider when choosing an air compressor: the tank capacity. This quality is secondary because it does not actually limit what kinds of tasks you can use the compressor for, unlike PSI which can limit the tool’s versatility. However, the tank capacity will determine how long you can work before you simply have to take a break and allow the tank to refill. Granted, if the tank has a significant pump that can keep pace with persistent use, the tank capacity becomes less of an issue–though that is generally reserved for commercial-grade air compressors and the most expensive consumer models.