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Impact Driver or Impact Wrench: Which is Best?

Impact Driver or Impact Wrench? Know the Difference.

Impact drivers and impact wrenches are powerful tools that are widely used by construction workers, mechanics, and DIY enthusiasts. They can be used to fasten, wrench, drill, and remove rusted nuts and bolts.

If your job requires force, these tools will deliver it. However, there are some important differences between the two types, which might not be obvious if you aren’t familiar with them.

To make sure you choose the right tool for a job, we have written an impact driver vs. impact wrench rundown. This includes looking at their power, user-friendliness, and which tool will be more suitable for specific tasks.

Key Takeaways

  • Impact drivers are smaller, versatile tools for drilling, driving screws, and loosening rusted bolts and nuts.
  • Impact wrenches are powerful, heavy-duty tools designed for removing rusted, overtightened, and frozen nuts and bolts, commonly used by mechanics and professionals.
  • Using an impact wrench as an impact driver is possible but requires caution to avoid damaging materials or overtightening screws and fasteners.
  • An affordable impact wrench option is the Campbell Hausfeld TL140200AV, offering a lightweight design and 550 ft.-lbs. of torque.

Quick Comparison Chart

Key Features Impact Driver Impact Wrench
Cost $$ $$$
Average weight 3.5 pounds 6 pounds
Power source Electric, battery Compressed air, electric
Chuck type 0.25-inch Hexagonal socket 0.50-inch square shaft
Average RPM 3,000 2,000
Average torque 1,500 to 2,000 in-lbs 2,200 t0 3,000 in-lbs
Best for Drilling and driving screws Loosening/tightening lugs and heavy bolts
Likely users Homeowners, DIY enthusiasts, construction workers Mechanics, production lines, professionals, large construction

What Is an Impact Driver?

Impact Driver
Photo by: Dewalt

An impact driver provides more torque than a drill but less than an impact wrench and was once considered a specialist tool. Since their introduction, they have steadily grown in popularity and are now standard parts of many people’s toolsets.

The torque is the standout feature of an impact driver. These tools are less powerful than impact wrenches but they should still make short work of most drilling and driving tasks.

Impact drivers differ from impact wrenches in a couple of ways. For one, they are smaller and lighter than impact wrenches. They also have 0.25-inch hexagonal sockets for drivers and drill bits. Drivers are less powerful than wrenches, but you are unlikely to need all that extra power for everyday DIY tasks.

Impact drivers usually have various sophisticated features, including brushless motors and keyless chucks. They also tend to have adjustable or electronic clutches to manage their power distribution.

When to Use an Impact Drill

Impact drills can make round holes in hard surfaces. They can also drive longer and wider screws and fasteners into wooden surfaces with ease. Trying to drive the same screws with a standard drill will take much longer and you might need to predrill holes if the surface material is too hard.

You can adapt an impact driver to accept 0.50-inch socket attachments, which will enable you to use it as a type of wrench. This is ideal for removing lug nuts when replacing a wheel on your car. As the driver produces so much torque, it will make it much easier to remove rusted nuts and bolts.

Using Impact Drivers

Impact drivers are smaller, lighter, and far better for working in confined spaces. If you want a tool for general household repairs and home improvement projects, you should choose an impact driver over an impact wrench.


  • High torque
  • Powerful
  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • Drills holes
  • Drives screws
  • Less recoil


  • Limited attachments
  • Less powerful than a wrench
  • Hexagonal chuck
  • Lack of torque control
  • Not cheap

What Is an Impact Wrench?

Impact Wrench
Photo by: Dewalt

Impact wrenches have been in use for more than a century. Since they were introduced by Chicago Pneumatic, they have been known by several names, including rattle guns, impact guns, air wrenches, and air guns.

The impact wrench is a specialist tool, typically found in the workshops of mechanics and repair garages. They can be powered by electricity or compressed air.

Impact wrenches are excellent for removing overtightened nuts and bolts that have rusted. This makes them ideal for large projects that require many nuts and bolts to be loosened, such as restoring old vehicles.

Impact wrenches are heavier and more cumbersome than impact drivers. They also produce greater torque, which makes them very powerful. However, this power also means they are more intense to hold and control, so you might struggle to use one for prolonged periods.

These tools accept different accessories than impact drivers, as they have square sockets that take specialist attachments.

When to Use an Impact Wrench

An impact wrench can only be used for a limited number of tasks. It is designed to remove rusted, over-torqued, and frozen nuts and bolts. Unless you work on vehicles, you are unlikely to encounter a situation where an impact wrench is required in a non-professional setting.

If you have ever spent any time in a garage, waiting for your car to be serviced or repaired, you will probably recognize the familiar “brrr” sound. That is the noise an impact wrench makes. At about 100 dB, they are among the loudest power tools.

When Should You Not Use an Impact Wrench?

Avoid these common mistakes when using an impact wrench:

Overtightening Fixings

As impact wrenches are so effective at removing nuts and bolts, it can be tempting to also use an impact wrench to tighten them. However, this will almost certainly lead to overtightening, stretching the nut or screw, and stripping the thread. You might also break the head clean off.

The sheer power and torque of these tools mean you shouldn’t use them for anything other than their stated purpose. Overtightening bolts in your car won’t only damage the bolts themselves, but you could also damage parts of your car.

Damaging Threads

This damage occurs if you try to turn a bolt or screw and it is cross-threaded. When you apply force, you could damage the fixing beyond repair. Always hand-turn the bolt into the housing first to ensure it is properly aligned before tightening it.

Using Incorrect Sockets

People often use ordinary sockets with an impact wrench, which is understandable given that socket sets have square attachments and look as though they should fit. However, you shouldn’t use any attachment that doesn’t fit the tool perfectly.

Using the wrong sockets could lead to them rotating in the wrench and potentially slipping. They will struggle to withstand the forces produced by the impact wrench and wear out quickly.

Buying the Wrong Size Impact Wrench

If you overestimate the amount of power you need, you will probably end up with an impact wrench that is unnecessarily powerful. The strongest impact wrenches can be very difficult to control and you could end up doing more harm than good.

Think carefully about how you will use the impact wrench. Air impact wrenches are smaller but deliver a higher power-to-weight ratio than electric wrenches. This means they are better for working in compact spaces and for longer periods of sustained use.

However, electric wrenches are better for infrequent use as they ultimately deliver more overall power.


  • High torque
  • Removes frozen bolts and fixings
  • Ideal for mechanics


  • Expensive
  • Specialist tool
  • Too powerful for many users

Impact Driver vs. Impact Wrench

On the surface, impact drivers and impact wrenches are very similar tools. However, that isn’t the whole story. Impact drivers are more versatile and can be used for a wide range of DIY tasks. They can drive fixings and larger screws directly into wood. They can also be used as drills, which makes them ideal for removing rusted or frozen bolts and screws.

Impact wrenches are designed for one main purpose: removing rusted and frozen nuts and bolts. While they excel at this role, you are unlikely to find them suitable for any other tasks.


Is It Worth Getting an Impact Wrench?

The powerful air- or electric-powered tool eliminates the need for tedious hand tightening while providing superior speed and torque. Additionally, an impact wrench increases the accuracy of jobs which often decreases the amount of time one needs to spend on each individual task.

One could even argue that investing in an impact wrench is worth it due to its multipurpose uses as well.

With its simple design, users can easily switch between applications such as assembly/disassembly, pipe fittings, oil filter removals, and general maintenance work with little to no effort.

While choices regarding tools and home improvement techniques vary, there is no denying the versatility and efficiency that an impact wrench provides.

Will Impact Driver Break Bolts?

An impact driver is usually a tool of choice for removing rusted nuts and bolts. Often, rusty bolts can be tough to remove, and sometimes even impossible if the grip is too tight. But with an impact driver, you can loosen them without much effort or time.

Sometimes the nut or bolt may still not come loose, but it will be much more likely than if a standard screwdriver was used. Not to mention, it is far less tiring and faster compared to other tools.

Additionally, an impact driver may break bolts due to its sheer power when in use—it’s essential to know when enough torque has been reached so as not to cause damage.

What Should You Not Use an Impact Driver For?

An impact driver is a powerful tool that provides extra torque for driving screws into various surfaces. Unfortunately, it cannot be used for everything; in particular, it should not be used for drilling into hard materials like brick or concrete.

While the impact driver may be able to create a small indentation in certain materials, it simply isn’t equipped with the necessary power or rigidity to push through truly hard surfaces. Recognizing when an impact driver should and should not be used is essential.

Otherwise, you’re likely to damage your tools—and the material—without making any progress.

Can You Use Impact Wrench as an Impact Driver?

You can use impact wrenches as an impact driver, but with a few caveats. Impact wrenches are considerably more powerful than traditional impact drivers, and should only be used for very heavy-duty jobs such as removing lug nuts from a car’s wheels.

While they can certainly be used for smaller tasks such as driving in screws and fasteners, it is important to exercise caution not to overtighten or strip the head of the screw or fastener.

Using an impact wrench as an impact driver can certainly be done, but extra care must be taken to ensure that one does not unintentionally cause undue damage to a project by employing too much power on a task that does not require it.

What Is the Best Affordable Impact Wrench?

The Campbell Hausfeld TL140200AV is an incredibly capable impact wrench at an exceptional value. It packs a 3-speed regulator so you can dial in the right torque for the task ahead and comes equipped with a twin-hammer mechanism to ensure trustworthy performance.

It also stands out due to its lightweight design, weighing in at only 5 pounds; yet it produces an impressive 550 ft.-lbs. of torque that puts it on par or better with many higher-priced tools on the market.

All these features combine to make this impact wrench the perfect tool for any DIYer looking for maximum value for their money.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.