Difference Between Impact Driver and Impact Wrench

Several functionality features distinguish an impact driver from an impact wrench. A look at these tools will have you thinking they are the same, but in essence, they perform very different tasks. There are some similarities, but it is essential to know their key differences to understand which tool suits which task perfectly.

A point to note is that a lot of people get confused over the difference between an impact gun and an impact wrench. Before we get into the details of features that set an impact driver and impact wrench apart, you ought to know that an impact gun is basically another name for an impact wrench. The two are one and the same thing.

Impact drivers

This is a powerful tool with the capacity to exert high rotational torque. It is used mostly by people who want to complete DIY tasks at home and sometimes by professionals. An impact driver works through an internal impact mechanism (rotational and percussive power) to hammer blows in an axial direction.

Uses of an impact driver

The primary purpose of an impact drive lies in driving screws and fastener into position. Alternatively, it can also be used to remove them.

Impact drivers are also useful in drilling holes through materials. However, they are limited in what kind of materials they can drill through. For instance, masons use a different tool (hammer drill) when drilling through stones or building blocks.

An impact driver is more powerful compared to a cordless drill and performs more efficiently at similar tasks. They also cause less fatigue to your wrists and hands and complete the job under less time.

An impact driver gives a more efficient and productive drill than a cordless drill.

Impact wrenches

Also known as an impact gun, this tool is far superior to an impact driver in terms of power and strength. It is used mostly by professionals who have years of experience in the field.

Uses of an impact wrench

They are used for handling lug nuts and fasteners that require extreme force to screw or unscrew. A good example is unscrewing the bolts holding in the tires of a car.

While the roles between these two tools may sound alike, the main thing that sets them apart is their difference in power. The sheer force of an impact wrench outguns that of an impact driver by a long mile.

Impact guns can be used to extract frozen nuts, stuck bolts, rusted fastener, and any other tasks that require a brute amount of force.

They are rarely used in homes. Most of them are used by engineers in the automobile industry to handle the thick, huge bolts, nuts and fasteners involved.

The differences

1. Power

An impact gun is, by far, a superior tool in terms of power when placed next to an impact driver. It runs on electric or compressed air. Each type has its own advantages and drawbacks.

Under electric types of impact guns, we have corded and battery-powered ones. The latter is less powerful in comparison.

Air-powered ones, on the other hand, are extremely powerful. However, they have a downside in that you need to ensure you have a continuous supply of compressed or pressurized air.

In comparison, impact wrenches also have more rotational torque than an impact driver.

An average impact driver produces around 2,000 inch-pounds while an impact gun has a high output of 15,000 inch-pounds.

2. Industry

When you look at the pure productivity and efficiency, an impact wrench is best suited for industrial tasks in vehicle manufacturing and repair. They are, therefore, used in production assembly lines.

This is why you will see a worker at a car garage coming to you with an impact wrench because they use them to unfasten the bolts on the wheels faster.

An impact driver is used a lot in basic home repairs and menial tasks around the house. However, it is also a useful tool in industries such as carpentry.

Impact guns can also be found in metalworking industries at times.

3. Versatility

Impact drivers are more versatile when compared to impact wrenches. They come in handy when you want to do a variety of tasks that involve screwing, unfastening, and drilling. You can also buy different lengths of driving parts to work on different types of jobs.

Impact wrenches, on the other hand, are more specialized in handling specific types of jobs. The kind of tasks they deal with can only be done with them and no other tool.

4. Sockets

Standard impact drivers use ¼” hexagonal sockets while typical impact guns will use a ½” square shaft.

5. Users

Because of their intense power, impact guns are used by professionals with training on how to handle them. Impact drivers are more popular with beginners who want to perform do-it-yourself tasks or home improvement projects.

Sometimes, however, you will find one or two people using impact wrenches for projects at home. This is not a good idea, and you should avoid trying it. Impact wrenches can easily ruin the fastening of the materials you are tightening because of their force. They will overtighten the bolts or nuts too much or drill too deep.

However, you can own one if you like doing your own tire rotation. Nevertheless, they are not a common feature in most homesteads.

6. Cost

From the descriptions, it is pretty evident that impact wrenches cost more money than impact drivers. Each tool also has types or different models that are priced differently.

If you are going to purchase an impact wrench for home use, consider going for ones with settings that prevent overtightening. However, these types will cost you more money than impact drivers, and they are not as common.

Pros of using an impact driver

  • They are suitable for handling lug bolts and nuts
  • You don’t have to hold them tightly to provide torque because of their ergonomic design which takes the strain off your wrists and body
  • They are compact and can, therefore, handle screws in confined spaces
  • They have minimal kickback compared to cordless drills

Cons of using an impact driver

  • They do not have torque control
  • Sometimes you may have to buy impact bits

Pros of using an impact wrench

  • They are great in handling heavy-duty tasks
  • They have higher rotational torque and therefore perform their jobs faster
  • They come with fittings (1/2” – 1-inch sockets)
  • They are expandable through accessories

Cons of using an impact wrench 

  • They are heavier than impact drivers
  • They don’t have finesse in handling small tasks

A side by side comparison

Power source

Impact driver – Electricity or battery

Impact wrench – Electricity or compressed air

Output force

Impact driver – More rotation per minute but less torque

Impact wrench – Higher rotation per minute with higher torque

How it works

Impact driver – Produces impact force during axial rotations

Impact wrench – Creates an impact in the direction of rotation

Uses

Impact driver

– Driving screws and drilling holes in light materials

– Home improvement

– DIY projects

Impact wrench

– Handling heavy machinery in fastening and unfastening their bolts and nuts

– Large construction

– Assembly lines

Is an impact driver right for you?

Now you that know everything about the two tools, you may be wondering about which tool may be the right one for you to choose. Let’s take a look at your needs against the impact driver first.

Most homes will need an impact driver more than an impact wrench. It has more applications and is a more comfortable tool to use when compared to others, such as a cordless drill. That is because it goes easier on your hands as you use it because of its ergonomic design.

Although a cordless can get the same job done, the odds are that it will take longer, and it will be more taxing on your energy. The impact drill is highly useful when you want to accomplish a lot of tasks within a short period of time while expending the least amount of energy.

Is an impact wrench suitable for you?

An impact wrench is an uncommon tool in the toolbox of most homes, but you may feel the need to own one. If you do not like taking your car to the shop, then it could be a handy device worth having around.

While not as versatile as an impact driver, you can look for one that has settings that control the torque of the tool. Some models can do a few other jobs around your home. This makes them more useful since you can put them to different uses instead of using them only on your automobile. However, you shouldn’t rely on them for light-duty tasks.

The three best brands for each tool

Impact drivers

If you are looking to buy an impact driver, here are three of the best in the market you should consider.

1. The Milwaukee 2656-21

A battery-powered impact driver, this is one of the best of its kind and delivers excellent performance. It uses ¼” socket. The batteries charge super fast, and it lasts for a long time in comparison with other models in the business.

This tool delivers a torque of 2,200 inch-pound. And that’s not all. It has a sleek and comfortable design that will ease your use of it.

2. The DeWalt DCF885C1 20V MAX ¼” Impact Driver

If you want value for your money, then this is the right impact driver for you. Although it is not designed for heavy-duty tasks, it still manages to outperform itself on a single charge. The battery is 20V and 1.5 amperes. The maximum torque for this tool is 1,400 inch-pounds.

3. Makita XDT111

This impact driver runs on ¼ inch sockets. It has no cord and does not deliver as much power as the Milwaukee 2656, but it is a much cheaper alternative if you are looking for something that is budget-friendly. It produces 1,500 inch-pounds of torque, which is enough for performing all your home tasks.

Impact wrenches

1. The Ingersoll-Rand 231C

This powerful impact wrench uses 1/2-inch square drives and produces more than 5,000 inch-pounds of torque. Moreover, it has a friendly price tag making it a very economical option for you. Be aware, though, that it runs using air compressor technology.

2. The corded Porter-Cable PCE210

The socket for this impact wrench is a 1/2-inch square shaft. It is corded, but this shouldn’t deter you from reviewing its impressive performance in terms of the torque it delivers. It produces almost 3,000 inch-pounds of torque.

Moreover, it is a price-friendly option, and therefore, it gives a far better deal than a lot of other high performing impact wrenches out there.

3. The DeWalt DCF880HM2

The DeWalt company delivers nothing short of impressive detail with their impact drivers and wrenches. And this impact gun comes with just as good a performance as all the others from this company.

It runs on 20V batteries with 4 amperes. You will get two of these batteries with the kit when you buy it. It is also affordable, although the torque is far much less in comparison coming in at 1,800 inch-pounds.

To wrap up the comparison of the impact drivers and impact wrenches, their main difference lies simply in their power. The difference in the amount of torque they produce is what makes them suitable for the tasks they do. Some impact drivers can have similar torque with other less powerful impact wrenches. Even so, you should buy the right tool for the right job.

Conclusion

So, what is the difference between impact driver and impact wrench? An impact driver has been designed for the handyman who likes taking care of do-it-yourself projects around their home. This includes any light projects such as carpentry or woodwork. However, an impact wrench is for professionals who handle bigger, more cumbersome machinery. They have more power, handle more substantial jobs with ease, and are used more for industrial purposes.

All in all, each tool comes in handy for its suitable tasks. Ensure you are fully aware of what you want to use it for before purchasing either to avoid having a dormant tool that is never put to use.

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