What Are Impact Wrenches Used for?

Mechanics’ tool chests often contain one of these handy tools, but what are impact wrenc they used for?

They’re used for several things, but they’re usually employed to loosen lug nuts from automobiles in of any size or shape. More broadly, they can be used in any high-torque situation that is more or less repetitive to save time and effort.

The powerful torque they can achieve is obtained from the hammering mechanism of the tool, delivered to the bit, which applies a series of concussive blows in a short interval—If you’re not careful when loosening a lug nut, you might even shear it!

While a lug wrench can remove a tire without a problem, it does so with less speed and more effort; an impact wrench can do it in mere seconds.

What are impact wrenches used for?

What are impact wrenches used for?

Let’s go over their purpose and difference with other, similar, tools as well as their use and types.

Impact Wrench Purpose

Considering their power and overall low weight, professionals and DIY-hobbyists alike favor them for the rough work in home construction and mechanical work; that’s not to say the tool isn’t capable of harder jobs.

Changing tires will definitely become a breeze with one of these, and can save you in pinch out on the road. As you’d expect, they’re perfect for tightening and untightening screws, so anything that involves screwing can probably make use of an impact wrench.

Bear in mind that they’re there for the extra power, but they’re a bit of an overkill on most general-purpose jobs such as driving screws or drilling holes.

The difference From Other Tools

Now, there are several tools that perform a similar job, but they’re different than impact wrenches; let’s address the first contender:


Drills are good for two tasks, and they do them alright: drilling and driving. Be it drilling a hole or driving a screw, they can do it.

On average, they’re much cheaper and dependable, considering that they are not reliant on complex mechanisms, but whenever you’re in store for something more specific or heavyweight, drills fall flat.

They’re perfect for the general-purpose jobs that you’ve got to do without an impact wrench though (unless you want to tear stuff up).

Hammer Drill

You’ve got your drill right? Have you ever been stuck drilling concrete or masonry and thought “What if I smack the back of the drill with a hammer?” That’s basically what a hammer drill does.


Rotary Hammer Drill

Rotary Hammer Drill

Some models feature a switch for the hammer action, and in that case, they’re just bulkier drills with the ability to hammer. The purpose is simple: plowing through concrete and masonry.

Unlike impact wrenches, the hammer action here is used to drive the drill further in, not to apply torque in a short interval.

Read more about the impact wrench difference from the  hammer drill here:

Electric Screwdriver

Imagine your “old-school” screwdriver had a motor; that’s basically an electrical screwdriver.

They’re the ultimate precision tool for driving screws, and they can be a huge help for those working with screws in small or hard-to-reach places.

Now, as you can imagine, these are cordless, lightweight, and compact, so don’t expect them to be high-powered—they’re perfect for assembly-based tasks and other jobs that involve screwing in tight spaces, not a replacement for drills.

They can’t drill holes or apply much torque, but they can make installing outlet covers, changing cabinet handles, assembling furniture, or repairing appliances a breeze; most models have clutches you can set to work on sensitive gear as to avoid stripping out threads.

Less weight means less exertion, and considering the size, you’d save yourself and your back from awkward positioning.

How to Use an Impact Wrench?

You’ve got to make sure your impact wrench is set to produce the sufficient pressure for the job. A swift tap on the trigger should make it move so that you can check which direction it turns; a knob or latch should let you switch the direction of the socket. Lastly, assign the speed or gears you want for your project, and attach the appropriate size socket to the bit of the wrench, slip it onto the lug nut, and pull the trigger.

A high-pitched bang should tell you that the nut was tightened (or untightened) nicely!

Types of Impact Wrenches

Air Impact Wrench

Or more technically, “pneumatic.”

These are the go-to tools for professionals, especially in auto repair shops. It’s not like they’re not useful for around-the-house stuff, but they’re high-powered and make short work of automobile lug nuts —a bit of an overkill for woodworking or other DIY stuff.

As for the advantages besides power, they’re much cheaper, the catch being that they require an air compressor; this is part of their advantages, however, considering that you split the power source from the tool itself, which means the tools themselves are lighter and less cumbersome.

Lastly, they’re very durable, more than cordless wrenches. They could easily last for several years or even decades if cared for properly.

If you don’t mind the noise, have a use for the unadulterated power, and you can tolerate being tethered to an air compressor (such as in a professional shop), they’re the best option—just don’t expect to cut it with a small 20-gallon compressor stuck in your garage, you’ll have to wait a lot.

Electric Impact Wrench

They’re the opposite of electrical wrenches. That is, cumbersome, free to roam, and more adjustable.

Foregoing the air compressor means a built-in energy source, in the form of rechargeable batteries, which is why they’re more expensive on average, especially if you’re in the market for high-powered impacts.

Electric impact wrench

Electric impact wrench

The convenience they lend is advantageous enough, but considering that you can adjust the blows they deliver, they become more versatile for home stuff because you don’t run into the risks of blowing your gear up—Pneumatic wrenches are basically all-in or not at all.

They’re heavier and less durable as well, but we all got to make a compromise, and in this case, DIYers would be better off with a cordless impact wrench for the convenience and versatility alone.   The best tools are reviewed here:


Hopefully, this article helped you clear some myths from impact wrenches. Now that you’ve got several options, what will you choose?

Good luck with your projects!

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