After cutting wood into different pieces using a variety of manual or power saws, it is time to attach/assemble them properly using screws, nails, nuts and bolts. While screwdrivers, wrenches and other hand tools are definitely helpful, you can expedite the process efficiently with the help of some power tools such as Impact Drivers and Impact Wrenches. Many people often seem to have a confusion between these two. So, in this guide, let us understand what exactly is an Impact Wrench and an Impact Driver, what are their main features and also a simple side-by-side comparison of Impact Wrench vs Impact Driver.
What is an Impact Driver?
An Impact Driver is a power tool that is used to drive screws easily and efficiently. You use an Impact Driver to install screws of any size and any head type such as flat head, Philips, Torx, Square, Star etc.
A Power Drill is perhaps the most popular power tool that we use to drill holes in wood, metal, concrete (masonry) and other materials. Before the popularity of Impact Drivers, we used Power Drills to even drive screws. But an Impact Driver is much more efficient and safer for this job due to its hammering mechanism.
In a regular power drill, the chuck only rotates at the desired speed. But in case of an Impact Driver, the chuck will not rotate but also exerts a hammering action on the screw which will put more force on the screw head without you having to pressure your arm. You can also use an impact driver to drill holes but I would suggest you to go for separate drill and driver tools.
The combination of a Drill and an Impact Driver is very useful for many professionals. You can drill holes using the drill and drive screws into those holes using the impact driver.
Impact Drivers are available as both corded and cordless electric model. In these, the cordless impact drivers are becoming extremely popular among professionals as well as DIYers. As they are cordless electric, the battery voltage plays an important role in its performance, compatibility and power. The most popular battery voltages are 12V, 18V and 20V.
Fun Fact: A simple way to differentiate between a Drill and an Impact Driver is by looking at their respective chucks. In case of a drill, the chuck has a metal jaw that widen or narrow to insert the bit. But an Impact Driver’s Chuck has a metal sleeve that pulls out or retracts to insert or remove the bit.
Key Features of Impact Driver
- Used for driving screws.
- Hammering action to drive screws with more force
- Has more torque than a regular power drill
- 1/4“ Hex Drive is the most common drive chuck
- Available in both corded and cordless electric variants
- Good quality cordless impact drivers with 20V battery are available from $50
What is an Impact Wrench?
We use wrenches all the time to tighten or loosen fasteners such as nuts and bolts. A torque wrench is a slightly advanced version of a regular wrench in the sense that you can precisely set the torque of a nut/bolt either in foot-pound or Newton-meters.
But both these tools are primarily hand tools. The power tool variant of these is an Impact Wrench. It is a power tool (usually electric but sometimes pneumatic) that tightens or loosens nuts and bolts with a hammering action.
They look very similar to an impact driver but the performance number are significantly different. An Impact Driver is very powerful than both the power drill and also the impact driver.
Due to the sheer amount of force, we need to be carful where we use impact wrenches and if you are working on a delicate product/material, then the hammering action might cause damage. We use impact drivers regularly in automobiles, metal works, construction and other similar jobs.
A key way to differentiate between an impact driver and an impact wrench is by their chucks. In case of an impact driver, the chuck is often a 1/4” hex drive while it is a 1/2” square drive, in case of an impact wrench. There are other drive sizes and adapter to convert from one size/drive to other but these are very common.
Key Features of Impact Wrench
- Used to tighten or loosen nuts and bolts
- An important tool in automotive and metal working areas
- Provides hammering active to easily drive large bolts and lug nuts
- Has a significantly higher torque figures than an impact driver or drill
- 1/2“ Square Drive is the most common drive chuck
- Available in both corded and cordless electric variants
- Good quality cordless impact wrenches with 20V battery are available from $80
Differences Between Impact Wrench and Impact Driver
Let us now see some differences between an impact driver and an impact wrench in terms of their usage, speed, torque etc.
- Usage: We use an impact driver to insert/remove screws from wood, masonry, metal etc. while we use an impact wrench to tighten/loosen nuts/bolts.
- Drive Styles and Mechanism: The most common form of drive style in Impact Drivers is a 1/4“ Hex Drive Chuck while it is a 1/2“ Square Drive Chuck for Impact Wrenches. Both these power tools have a hammering mechanism to further increase the force of the drive.
- Power Sources: Both impact drivers and impact wrenches are available in corded and cordless electric variants. Additionally, the impact wrenches are also available as pneumatic tools that run with compressed air which are more common in large garages and automobile workshops. The cordless variants are very popular for their ease of use and portability and they are available with 12V, 18V and 20V battery systems.
- Speed and Torque: The speed of impact drivers is usually upward of 3,000 RPM whereas it is just over 2,000 RPM for impact wrenches. Coming to the torque numbers, the impact wrench is a clear winner here. Cordless impact wrenches have tightening torque (maximum) of 800 ft-lbs. (9,600 in-lbs.) or more. In case of impact drivers, the torque numbers are usually 200 ft-lbs. (2400 in-lbs.) or more.
- Size: Both impact drivers and impact wrenches are very similar looking and the size of these tools is also same. But the weight of impact drivers is slightly less than impact wrench with similar configuration (cordless variant with same battery pack).
Comparison: Impact Wrench vs Impact Driver
|Feature||Impact Driver||Impact Wrench|
|Used For||Driving screws||Tightening/loosening nuts and bolts|
|Drive Style (Common Chuck)||1/4“ Hex Drive||1/2“ Square Drive|
|Speed||≥ 3,000 RPM||≥ 2,000 RPM|
|Torque||≥ 200 ft-lbs. (2,400 in-lbs.)||≥ 800 ft-lbs. (9,600 in-lbs.)|
|Size and Weight||Small and light weight.||Small but slightly heavy|
|Power Source||Electric – Corded & Cordless||Electric – Corded & Cordless, Pneumatic (Compressed Air)|
|Common Battery Types (for cordless tools)||12V, 18V, 20V||12V, 18V, 20V|
|Used by||Woodworking, DIY, Metal, Masonry||Automobiles, Industries, Metal Works|
|Cost||Starting from $50||Starting from $80|
Which Tool to Use?
From the above discussion, you might have got a clear idea about an impact driver and an impact wrench. Both the power tools serve entirely different purposes and depending on your work, you might need to purchase both these tools.
If your work involves just driving screw into wood, metal and other tough materials, the you need a good impact driver. We suggest you to invest in a cordless impact driver as you can reuse batteries if they are compatible with other power tools from the same brand.
Comping to impact wrenches, you need them to drive tough bolts, lug nuts in automobiles, metal works and other similar jobs. If you need both these power tools, then go for cordless tools from a same brand with same battery rating (for the sake of battery reusability).
Impact Drivers and Impact Wrenches are two popular power tools that are used for driving screws and nuts/bolts respectively. Both these tools look very similar but their jobs are very different. There are also differences in terms of their speed, torque, chuck style and price. In this guide, we saw a side-by-side comparison of Impact Wrench vs Impact Driver with their features, differences and applications.