For a long time, there was only one major option to choose from in cordless drivers: the cordless drill.
Then, we began seeing a massive innovation on the cordless drill: the cordless impact driver. Tool Tally reviews the best impact drivers, but here we are going to discuss the more intricate between these different types of tools.
These impact drivers borrowed some technology from the pneumatic drivers that have a proven track record in the automotive industry.
Inside these pneumatic wrenches is a hammering mechanism that drives the bit in a circular motion via a series of small hammers.
Think of it this way: If the lug nut on your car was stuck, so you attached a lug wrench to it and then beat on it with a sledgehammer to knock it loose and spin the nut off.
The pneumatic impact wrench has used this principle for over a hundred years to loosen nuts. Because it has little “sledgehammers” inside that beat on these nuts as many as 600 times per minute, (and with over 1,000 pounds of torque), you can remove some of the most stuck bolts in a matter of seconds.
What manufacturers like Dewalt and Makita did was to miniaturize this technology and put it inside their cordless drills.
These new “impact drills” (more commonly called “impact drivers”) enable contractors to drive spade bits through multiple layers of wood and concrete. Basically, these little cordless tools can now deliver the same power that used to be reserved for massive, corded drills.
When impact drivers first hit the market, they were costly. Only the most successful contractors could afford to own them. Even then, there was often only one of them for the entire crew to share.
Now that the technology is about 20 years old, we’re seeing a lot more of them on the market.
Cordless impact wrenches are a much newer phenomenon. These impact wrenches are just like their pneumatic models and are capable of delivering massive torque.
However, they are much larger and heavier than the pneumatic models and require a significant battery source.
The Differences Between Impact Drivers and Impact Wrenches
Power Output – The most significant difference between the impact driver and the impact wrench is that the drivers produce much less torque. Where the impact wrenches generally deliver 600 to 1000 foot-pounds of torque, impact drivers only create about 1500-1800 inch-pounds of torque. (Converted, that is about 125 to 150-foot pounds of torque). While an impact driver could, in theory, tighten and loosen lug nuts on a car, it isn’t the ideal task for it.
Bit Type – Impact wrenches always have a large, male, square drive bit. Usually, they are 1/2-inch or larger. These will use impact-specific sockets to drive bolts. By contrast, Impact drivers have smaller, female, 1/4-inch drive hex heads. In most cases, these drivers will fit all of the common drill bits being sold today. Additionally, they can be outfitted with a 1/4 inch bit drive to be used with sockets.
Should You Buy An Impact Driver?
Mechanics, Farmers, Oil rig employees, and anyone else doing mechanical work will likely need an impact wrench. These mechanical applications require a higher level of power output that the impact driver cannot deliver.
The impact drivers are an excellent tool for home improvement, general contractors, and appliance repair professionals. Their lightweight construction and small form factor make them a perfect model to carry around from job to job.
Some mechanics use impact drivers for smaller sockets. If you are doing a job with enough clearance for the tool, these drivers can make a good alternative to the pneumatic ratchets.
Impact Driver or Cordless Drill?
We’ve skirted around the topic, so let’s dive into it. Cordless drills have been the mainstay of the do-it-yourselfer for a long time. For most homeowners, it is the first tool that they buy.
The impact driver can do everything that the old cordless drills could do. However, they have the added benefit of adjustable torque. This means that you can put it on a stuck screw and slowly let it work until it gets the screw to start moving.
You have a lot fewer stripped screw heads and more successfully completed tasks.
The other massive advantage is that you can use it to create boreholes through multiple walls or studs that you for which you would otherwise need to use a corded drill. This is especially handy for electricians who need to run cords from one room to the next.
They complete these tasks so much faster than cordless drills are able to. Old tasks that require unending patience to complete with a cordless drill can now be done in seconds with an impact driver.
Impact drivers don’t cost much more than cordless drills, and they are quickly becoming a favorite replacement for cordless screwdrivers.
All of the major brands such as Makita, Milwaukee, and Dewalt create variations of all of these tools. All you have to do is pick your favorite brand and get to work.