Impact Driver vs. Impact Wrench: All You Need to Know

VD November 11 2021

If at work you are dealing with bolts and screws, there's a high chance that you have already gone through the impact driver vs. impact wrench debate with one of your colleagues.

Impact drivers and wrench impacts are very similar in their features; however, there are some notable differences that set them apart. Both tools have gained popularity in the past couple of decades due to the excessive use of engineering mechanics in everyday life. Here's all you need to know to take a side in the vs. impact wrench debate.

This article will help you understand which one is better for your work.

What's the big deal?  Well, an impact driver can do all kinds of things: fasten screws, loosen nuts and bolts, and hammer nails. An impact wrench is a pneumatic tool with a socket drive intended to deliver high torque output along with rotational speed. It can be helpful when loosening or tightening heavy-duty bolts as well as removing stuck lug nuts. Both models use rotating force whereas an impact wrench uses its power source to rotate the socket bits inside it while the impact driver delivers an energy pulse to its bit to cause rotation.

Theoretically, an impact driver is a better choice for construction work while an impact wrench will be helpful when dealing with tires and other equipment where a lot of torque is required. However, there are situations when you'll need both for more complex jobs or simply cannot use one of them due to some limitations (e.g., lack of electricity).

The Best Possible Option?

Straight to the point, both tools are equally useful. There will be times when using an impact driver will be much more effective than going with an impact wrench. But it depends on the specifics of the job you are trying to complete.

In terms of effectiveness, the impact driver vs. impact wrench comparison is stuck at a deadlock. Both of the tools are helpful in their respective functions. There are times when you need fastener tightening, removing bolts and screws, drilling pilot holes for larger bits.

For the majority of homeowners or DIYers, it will be easier to manage with just an impact driver because they don't have to work on heavy machinery or equipment that requires more torque than usual. This type of tool is also helpful when dealing with small screws on doors, cabinets, furniture, etc. It is compact enough to fit in narrow spaces where an impact wrench cannot reach.

On the other hand, impact wrenches are more powerful than impact drivers which makes them great when dealing with heavy equipment. These tools can also be used for various DIY projects around the house but are not as effective as an impact driver.

Major Design Differences

Let's talk about the impact driver first. An impact driver is the optimum choice you can go with when it comes to dealing with screws. It usually comes with a ¼ inch hex collet that is compatible with ¼ inch hex shank bits. It generally comes with a square drive mechanism as well.

On the other hand, an impact ranch is not confined to a ¼ inch hex collet alone. Comparatively, an impact wrench holds more power than an impact driver. As a result, the impact wrench structure has noticeable changes that generate more power and, ultimately, a faster working pace.

Impact wrenches usually utilize a ½ inch square drive which is much larger than the ¼ inch hex collet. This allows for more torque; hence, more power. However, it also means that impact wrenches work with an open-ended socket whereas other types of wrenches have specific sockets made for different fastener sizes.

In addition to having a larger size, impact wrenches have the ability to accept both SAE and metric sockets aside from being fitted with a quick-release mechanism that makes changing bits easier and faster. Lastly, they typically come in pneumatic ones as well as cordless electric ones – powered through electricity or compressed air sources respectively.

Design differences

An impact driver has a square drive, is compact, and can generate multiple speeds ranging between 0-2,400 RPM. It is easier to handle than an impact wrench because of its size and lighter weight which makes it better for home projects. It also comes with LED lights that make working in darker areas easier.

One is smaller, lacks LED lights but offers more torque (1,500 inch/lbs vs. 1,300 inch/lbs). As mentioned earlier, it can hold both SAE and metric sockets while the other one accepts only ¼ inch hex collets. On the downside; however; an impact wrench has more moving parts compared to an impact driver which makes it less durable in the long run even when used properly.

An impact wrench is more powerful and longer compared to an impact driver which makes it great for heavy-duty projects like removing lug nuts, large bolts, and screws. It's not as compact as the driver but still relatively easy to handle. The ability to change bits quickly is another plus point that most mechanics look forward to. All in all; even though it has a larger size, an impact wrench can accomplish tasks faster than an impact driver – with the least amount of effort involved.

Impact Drivers vs. Impact Wrench: Power Source

In the impact driver vs. impact wrench debate, the power source unites both impact drivers and impacts wrenches up to some extent.  

In the case of impact drivers, 9 out of 10 times, you will find a model with a cordless power supply. There's still a chance that you can find a mains-powered one.

On the other hand, impact wrenches are widely available in both corded and cordless power supply variations. 

You can even get a unique power supply mode installed before buying the preferred model. Impact wrenches manufacturers are pretty adaptable in this domain.

Impact Drivers vs. Impact Wrenches with Reducing Gears

This is where the impact driver vs. impact wrench battle starts turning into a real fight!

Going further in this debate, both tools are cranked up to offer more power by using reducing gears. It's when you are driving long screws or large lag screws that need more torque or force to drive them in that things get interesting between these two tools.

In impact drivers vs. impact wrench match-up, the former wins as it comes with 1,500 inch/lbs of torque while the latter offers only 1,300 inch/lbs of maximum torque output. So what does this mean exactly?

The torque basically the amount of effort pressed onto the power tool when you actuate it. The more torque, the better performance in driving fasteners into hard surfaces.

As an example, an impact driver will be able to drive a four-inch screw in less than two minutes while an impact wrench would take around five minutes or so. And this is for just one single screw! It's easy to imagine how much time you can save with an impact driver over an impact wrench when taking on larger projects like building decks, repairing roofs, and assembling furniture.

Impact Drivers vs. Impact Wrench: Corded models

An impact wrench comes with both corded and cordless variations whereas an impact driver only has cordless versions.    For most people, it is common sense that a cordless power tool is more convenient as you can move it around without the restriction of a power cable.

However; not having any wires attached to it doesn't necessarily mean that an impact wrench comes with limitless flexibility and freedom. If you like using tools up on high places like rooftops, then staying away from a mains-powered model will be impossible for you because there's no way to reach these areas without an extension cord.

Impact drivers don't require cords so they are more adaptable than impact wrenches when it comes to using in confined spaces. But, an extension cord is still necessary if you want complete mobility and unrestricted usage of your power tool – just like what you get with an impact driver.

Impact Drivers vs. Impact Wrenches: Battery power

The biggest difference between an impact wrench and an impact driver is the type of power supply. The first one comes with a direct mains connection, while the second reaches its full potentials through batteries that are charged either by electricity or fuel cells.  

It's true that you can find cordless models of both tools nowadays, but it's always better to choose a model powered by batteries as opposed to those plugged into the mains directly because it offers more freedom of operation.

Nowadays, rechargeable battery packs are getting better in terms of capacity so there's no excuse for owners of cordless power tools not to use them due to short battery life.

With that said, you can't expect batteries of cordless tools to pack as much punch as the mains-powered models. And this is where impact drivers have a clear advantage over their wrenching counterparts.

Impact Drivers vs. Impact Wrenches: Cordless variations

If you prefer using a tool for short periods only then going cordless is your best choice because it doesn't require any recharging or refueling before use. Just grab it and start working on your project until its completion! But if you love battery-powered handheld power tools so much, do not forget about finding backup batteries so you don't have to interrupt what you are doing just to wait for the tool's rechargeable battery to get back up to a full charge.

Regardless of the power supply, be it mains or batteries, all cordless power tools can become useless if there is no more power going through them. But this isn't the case with impact drivers as long as you have access to compressed air.  

The most common use for an impact driver is driving high-torque fasteners into hard surfaces such as steel and concrete so having one at your side equips you with the ability to generate power just like how a pneumatic impact wrench works. And compared to its cordless counterpart, an air compressor powered by electricity is less expensive and easier to find anywhere in your locality.

Another benefit of an air-powered variety is the fact that you can hook it up to a wet/dry vacuum which is very helpful in keeping your work environment clean. This type of machine is also efficient in removing dust, debris, and even moisture from inaccessible places.

 Just like how an impact driver uses compressed air instead of batteries, an impact wrench works through hydraulics (fluid power) instead of electricity.  

With higher capacity hydraulic units installed on top of each tool, they are capable of generating more torque than their electric brothers so expect more speed when driving high-torque fasteners into hard surfaces.

But while cordless models might be better than mains-powered ones when it comes to reaching confined spaces and generating high-performance results, they still can't match the power output of air-powered versions that come with large pumps and accumulators.

What Do the Experts Have to Say?

Let's talk about the expert community. Most experts favor impact wrenches more than impact drivers in the impact driver vs. impact wrench debate.

The primary reason behind the impact wrench getting a slight edge over an impact driver is its pace of doing work. Respectively, both tools are exceptional. But when it comes to getting the job done as soon as possible and with the ultimate level of precision, an impact wrench is clearly winning.

Final Note

The whole impact driver vs. impact wrench comparison hasn't been known to create drastic market shifts, it’s more of constructive competition.

Both the tools have exceptional features and are constantly competing with one another to get ahead and improve the working standards for the entire planet. 

As a result, both tools are introducing new and advanced features that evolve the way handymen used to work with bolts and screws. Plus, the cost of both these tools is affordable for most users.