Here’s Why You Need an Impact Wrench (Sizes & Types)

Need an Impact Wrench

Primarily, impact wrenches are used for rugged applications, including, but not limited to, tire nut removal for small and large vehicles and repair of heavy construction machinery. Over time, manufacturers have improved impact wrenches from pneumatic to electric and cordless, making them accessible at all levels.

After purchasing my first mid-torque cordless impact wrench, it became my go-to tool when fixing my car. It is a very handy tool to have on hand. In this article, I will cover a few aspects and things to consider, including the ideal cordless impact wrench by torque application for automotive and industrial repair, followed by the different types.

Cordless Impact Wrench: High, Mid, Compact (Ideal Torque Application)

One of the most popular cordless impact wrenches is the Milwaukee M18-FUEL, 1″, 1/2″, and 3/8″. But you may be wondering what torque capacity should I buy.

Let’s go through which cordless impact wrench is ideal for vehicles to industrial applications to help guide you on which tool would benefit you based on torque. You can follow the same suggestions for buying your preferred brand as follows. Let’s start with the 1″ high torque first.

Cordless 1″ High Torque Impact Wrench

If the 1/2″ high torque impact wrench isn’t doing the job for you, then I suggest you consider the 1″ impact wrench. Here’s why. Now, the 1″ cordless impact wrench offers up to 1500 ft-lbs of fastening torque and 1800 ft/lbs of nut-busting torque, which is impressive for a cordless impact wrench. This impact wrench is ideal for working around semi-trucks and industrial applications. For example, this 1″ impact wrench can remove a yoke nut from a semi-truck transmission without using liquids or a torch to heat the yoke nut.

It is also capable of removing semi-truck lug nuts and suspension U-bolts with no problems. Plus, it has a one-key built-in feature so that you can have complete control of your tool. You can download the Milwaukee one-key app on your phone and customize the torque and speed adjustment buttons depending on what you’re working on.

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Cordless 1/2″ High Torque Impact Wrench

This model has a friction ring with 1000 ft-lbs of fastening torque and 1400 ft-lbs of reverse nut-breaking torque. This cordless 1/2″ high torque impact wrench is ideal for suspension work, especially for larger vehicles, including pickup trucks, tractors, SUVs, to name a few. For example, when removing a pitman arm nut, you can also use it on the puller to help pull the pitman arm off, which can take a tremendous amount of torque.

It also works great for removing lug nuts and brake caliper bracket bolts; this high torque impact wrench has no problem doing these types of jobs. It is important to note that high-torque impact wrenches are bulkier and heavier and will not fit smaller vehicles.

Also, when removing an axle nut on larger vehicles, these tools perform very well. For example, some pickup truck axle nuts are tightened to about 295 ft-lbs of torque with Loctite and a nylon thread locker on the bolt, so it can be tough to remove. Still, this tool will do the job with no problems.

When working with a high torque cordless impact wrench, you need to give a perfect grip on the tool to prevent you wrists from twisting.

Impact Wrench Grip Advice

In addition, it also comes with integrated one-key functionality so you can have full control of speed and torque settings through the Milwaukee one-key app.

Cordless 1/2″ Mid Torque Impact Wrench

This mid torque cordless impact wrench has 550 ft-lbs of fastening torque and 650 ft-lbs of nut-breaking torque. Mid torque cordless impact wrenches are also excellent for large vehicle suspension work and also to work around engines. For example, you can remove exhaust manifold bolts on a pickup truck combined with one-meter-long extensions with a half-inch drive and a 3/8″ drive.

Generally, impact torque wrenches have a lot of trouble with long extensions and wobble sockets. However, this mid torque impact wrench will have no problem removing nuts and bolts with extensions or wobble sockets.

And compared to high torque, the mid torque is a little less bulky, resulting in the ability to fit into tight areas where the high torque won’t and is much easier to work with. Mid torque cordless impact wrenches are also excellent for light-duty work because they have a variable trigger that allows you to take out small nuts and bolts without overloading them. Also, the mid torque is very versatile because of its smooth power range. I highly recommend using a mid torque on a day-to-day basis.

Cordless 3/8″ Compact Torque Impact Wrench

This cordless 3/8″ compact impact wrench has 250 ft-lbs of fastening torque and 250 ft-lbs of nut-breaking torque. The 3/8″ impact wrench is fantastic for doing jobs like removing a differential cover, and transmission pan bolts, to name a few light tasks. You can use the variable trigger to slightly back out the bolts, break them free, and slowly turn them to where you want them.

So with the 3/8″, you have complete control, and it is more compact and suitable for light and precise work for large and smaller vehicles. And because of its small compact size, a 3/8″ cordless impact wrench will fit in many tight areas. It can remove many different fasteners that other impact wrenches won’t be able to reach. Again, with the 250 ft-lbs of torque, the 3/8″ impact wrench can easily remove lug nuts, clamp bolts, shock bolt hardware, cooling fan, support brackets, and plastic covers, to name a few.

When removing lug nuts with a cordless impact wrench, I recommend using the 1″ impact wrench for heavy vehicles and the 1/2″ high or mid torque for mid-size to small vehicles, as the 3/8″ cordless impact wrench may overheat for this job.

Cordless Impact Wrench for Lug Nuts

With this small 3/8″ cordless impact wrench, you will be very productive, and having the right tool when you need it most is crucial.

Impact Wrench Types: Cordless, Electric, and Pneumatic

1. Cordless Impact Wrench

Cordless impact wrenches require a fully charged battery to function properly, so if you are looking for a cordless impact wrench, consider purchasing additional batteries. Not having extra batteries is one of the main things to worry about when using a cordless tool, especially when out in the field.

Compared to pneumatic and electric, a cordless impact wrench can also achieve the same result. And can also be more dynamic; because having a preset torque option button on it is a game-changer. Also, with today’s battery technology and all the research done by manufacturers, cordless impact wrenches will continue to improve. Making them even more ideal to have around, especially if you don’t have an air compressor or are not near a power source.

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2. Corded Electric Impact Wrench

A corded electric impact wrench is a tool that needs to be connected to an electric 120v or 240v power source to operate. Compared to pneumatic and cordless, a corded electric impact wrench can also achieve the same result. Corded electric impact wrenches are somehow practical because all you have to do is plug it in, and you’re good to go.

One advantage of corded electric impact wrenches is that they are also ideal for those who don’t have an air compressor. For example, some homeowners tend to purchase an electric or battery-operated impact wrench because it eliminates the need for an air compressor and makes less noise than a pneumatic impact wrench. So, all you need for a corded electric impact wrench is a heavy-duty electrical cord and a power source of 120v or 240v, depending on which wrench capacity you decide to purchase.

Another thing to consider is if you decide on a 240v corded electric impact wrench; is to make sure your house has a 240v outlet in the garage area or wherever you will be using the tool. Otherwise, you’ll have to add a 240v outlet to operate the tool. Alternative: If there is no 240v plug in the garage area, I suggest getting a 120v or a cordless battery-operated impact wrench.

3. Pneumatic Impact Wrench

Pneumatic impact wrenches are air-powered tools, achieving the same results compared to cordless and corded impact wrenches. For example, a pneumatic impact wrench is also ideal for tightening and loosening nuts, bolts, and other fasteners.

Before buying a pneumatic impact wrench: Ensure that your current or future new air compressor can deliver the correct amount of air needed for the impact wrench to work correctly. Not having the correct air compressor capacity will cause the tool to malfunction. And here’s why.

Usually, when air passes through a pneumatic impact wrench, the anvil will rotate at high speed. Then the wrench switches to a hammering action called impact to tighten further. However, for the tool to perform this task, it will be totally dependent on the air coming from the compressor.

In addition, it is essential to note that the PSI will drop if you are too far away from the air compressor, creating problems with the pneumatic impact wrench.

Typically, this type of impact wrench is used and preferred by automotive repair shops. Another thing to consider about pneumatic impact wrenches is the noise that this tool can make. Usually, this tool gets very loud, and if you plan to use this pneumatic tool in your house garage with neighbors around, it may not be a good idea.

So, suppose you’re in the market for a pneumatic impact wrench and don’t have an air compressor. In that case, you’re probably better off getting a corded electric or cordless impact wrench. I recommend choosing an impact wrench depending on:

  • What you’re trying to accomplish?
  • Where will you use the tool?
  • Is there a power source nearby?
  • Do you need a generator to run your compressor or an electric impact wrench?

Considering these questions will undoubtedly help you to obtain a better solution when using your power tools.

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Impact Wrench (A simple how-to guide)

You should always use an impact wrench with impact sockets designed for this purpose.

Impact sockets are usually distinguished from standard sockets by their thicker walls and flat black appearance, resulting from their hardening process.

All that is needed to use an impact wrench is a socket that matches the drive of your tool and requires a properly sized rotating wheel to hold the bolt head in place while the impact wrench does the job.

Always be wary of the power offered by an impact wrench, as it is more than enough to break the most undersized fasteners.

On the other hand, never rely solely on an impact wrench when using it on torque-sensitive fasteners such as wheel nuts.

Always use a torque wrench to apply final tension on these jobs.

Due to the high impact nature of the impact wrench, you should always wear safety glasses to maintain a safe environment.

Therefore, when impact wrenches are used in the right situations and with little care, they will save you time and effort.