There are few things more frustrating than struggling with stubborn nuts and bolts that don’t want to budge. A handheld ratchet wrench has its well-deserved place in every garage, but sometimes you need something with real moving and twisting power. That’s where the impact wrench comes in.
These power tools have the capacity to loosen or tighten even the most recalcitrant fasteners with minimal effort. Though they used to be available only as air-powered (pneumatic) options that required an air hose and compressor, technological innovations have led to the creation of cordless options that you can use practically anywhere. So, if you’re ready to replace your air hoses with batteries, read on for tips on finding the best cordless impact wrench for your garage.
- BEST OVERALL: Makita XWT11SR1 18V Cordless 1/2″ Impact Wrench Kit
- RUNNER-UP: ENEACRO 20V Cordless Impact Wrench Brushless Motor
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Dobetter 4Ah Battery Impact Wrench 20V DBCIW2040
- UPGRADE PICK: DEWALT 20v MAX XR High Torque 1/2″ Impact Wrench
- BEST HIGH-TORQUE: Milwaukee 2767-20 M18 Fuel High Torque 1/2-Inch
- BEST COMPACT: DEWALT XTREME 12V MAX Impact Driver Kit
- MOST VERSATILE: POPOMAN BHD850B Impact Wrench, Brushless 20V MAX
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Cordless Impact Wrench
The impact wrench that’s best for you depends largely on what you’ll be using it for. Keep the following features in mind when determining which impact wrench is the most suited to your needs.
Brushed vs. Brushless Motor
Without getting lost in the complexities of power tool engine mechanics, it’s enough to say that brushless motors don’t have as many moving parts as brushed motors. Moving parts create friction, and friction causes a loss of efficiency. Consequently, a cordless impact wrench with a brushless motor has several advantages over one with a brushed motor. This includes a greater power-to-weight ratio, higher engine speeds, a longer life span, and less maintenance.
But all these advantages come at a cost. Because of their superior features and more advanced technology, cordless impact wrenches with brushless motors can be considerably more expensive. However, considering that brushless engines tend to last longer and require less maintenance, the extra cost might well be worth it.
RPM, Torque, and IPM
Torque, RPM, and IPM are the three key factors that determine an impact wrench’s power. Of these three, buyers should pay the most attention to the torque value. Simply put, torque is the amount of twisting power an impact wrench has, so an impact wrench with higher torque will have more overall power and generally perform better.
RPM and IPM are also important values to keep in mind. RPM stands for “revolutions per minute” and represents how fast an impact wrench can drive your fasteners. IPM stands for “impacts per minute” and refers to the number of impacts from the “hammer” (the internal mechanism that puts the “impact” into an impact wrench) generated per minute. A higher IPM value will make the wrench work harder as the resistance increases.
Batteries and Run Time
Cordless impact wrenches receive their power from rechargeable batteries. Consequently, the battery’s power (measured in volts) will greatly influence the overall power (measured in torque, RPM, and IPM) the cordless impact wrench can possess.
Cordless impact wrenches most often have 18-volt batteries, but there are some exceptions. Impact wrenches with greater amounts of torque can have batteries as large as 20 volts, while less powerful and more compact impact wrenches can have batteries as small as 12 volts.
Although the volt rating of a battery determines the tool’s power, it doesn’t say anything about how much run time the battery has. That’s determined by a battery’s amp-hour (“Ah”) rating. For example, an 18-volt, 3-Ah battery will run about twice as long as an 18-volt battery with a 1.5-Ah rating. When you put the volt and amp-hour rating together, you’ll be able to roughly gauge how much power and endurance a given impact wrench will have.
Every socket is composed of two primary parts: the drive socket and socket head. The socket head is the female part into which a nut and bolt fit, while the drive socket is the female component that’s attached to the wrench. A cordless impact wrench’s drive size is based on the size of its anvil, or male input shaft that the socket fits into. In other words, an impact wrench’s drive size dictates the size of the sockets it can use.
Cordless impact wrenches are available in sizes from 1/4 inch to 1 inch, with each size having its set of advantages and disadvantages. As a general rule, the larger the impact wrench’s drive size, the more powerful the impact wrench. On the other hand, a wrench with a larger drive size will be larger and bulkier and will be more difficult to fit into tight spaces. For general purpose use, an impact wrench with a 1/2-inch drive size will be the most versatile since it’s both moderately powerful and compact—allowing it to accomplish the widest variety of tasks.
Sound and Vibration
You might think that an impact wrench with more power is automatically better in every way than one with less power, right? Not so fast. As with so many other things in life, there’s a trade-off. When it comes to a cordless impact wrench’s power, that trade-off is in the form of increased sound and vibration. Although battery-powered impact wrenches don’t generate as much sound and vibration as their pneumatic counterparts, both forms of impact wrenches are known for causing hand and ear fatigue. If you’re exposed to either for too long, the sound and vibration can lead to damage to these areas.
Thankfully, many cordless impact wrenches incorporate vibration-reducing ergonomic handles to buffer the impact of excessive vibrations on your hands. Many also allow for adjustable torque levels so you can limit your exposure to the loud and physically jarring high-torque setting to times when you really need it. But no matter what noise and vibration reduction features your impact might have, you should always wear hearing protection and take regular breaks when operating it.
Cordless impact wrenches have two basic grip styles: pistol grip and in-line grip. As the name implies, pistol-grip handles resemble the handle and trigger assembly of a standard pistol. This is the handle type that most power drills and impact drivers have and also is the most commonly found on impact wrenches. Pistol-grip handles are the most popular because they’re comfortable to hold and create less hand fatigue during long work periods.
Impact wrenches with in-line handles are long and slim, somewhat resembling a regular screwdriver. With in-line impact wrenches, the anvil aligns with the body of the impact wrench, and the handle and trigger are integrated into the back side of the wrench. This variety is best for maneuvering in the tight and compact spaces where a pistol-grip impact wrench can’t fit. However, there are compact versions of traditional pistol-grip impact wrenches that serve this purpose as well.
Our Top Picks
After considering features and functions, you can begin to select the best cordless impact wrench to keep around your shop or garage. These recommendations can help you decide.
The Makita XWT11SR1 18-volt Cordless ½-inch Impact Wrench Kit offers a full package of power, run time, and versatility. Its brushless motor can generate 210 foot-pounds of torque that users can control with its 3-speed power selector. This greater level of control prevents you from over-tightening in one direction, and its “reverse rotation autostop mode” automatically stops the rotation when it detects the fastener is loose.
The motor has electronic controls to make its 2.0 Ah batteries run as efficiently as possible, and they can last for as much as 50 percent longer than some models. The batteries also charge rapidly. A lightweight and compact design lets you fit this 1/2-inch drive impact wrench into tight spaces, so it can be used for a wide range of applications. The Makita kit is a little on the pricey side, but it is a compact and versatile tool with a comfortable pistol grip that you can carry around easily, plus it comes with a battery, charger, and tool bag.
ENEACRO’s 20-volt impact wrench has 300 foot-pounds of torque and a brushless motor to tackle tough tasks around the garage or work site. It offers a three-speed variable torque selector so you can choose just the right amount of power for the job and a 1/2-inch anvil that contributes to its impressive versatility.
This impact wrench also has an ergonomic shock-absorbing handle for vibration reduction and an electronic braking system built into the motor for reduced kickback. Together, these features will keep fatigue at bay when you’re tackling time-consuming projects. Instead of just a bare tool, this kit comes with a carrying case, 4-Ah battery, battery charger, and four different size sockets along with the tool. Although this tool is more geared toward hobbyists than pros, Eneacro’s 20-volt impact wrench kit comes with everything you need to handle most jobs around your garage.
Dobetter’s 4-Ah Battery Impact Wrench, model DBCIW2040, shows that you don’t need to compromise on quality just because you’re on a budget. It features an impressively large engine with 250 foot-pounds of torque that can generate up to 2,900 RPMs and can run a long time with its robust 4-Ah battery. It also has an ergonomic soft-grip handle for a sturdy and comfortable grip to prevent fatigue. Last, it comes with a compact storage and carrying case, battery charger, and four-piece socket set.
This affordable impact wrench does not have a brushless motor, so it won’t have the same efficiency and longevity as its brushless brethren. However, it’s made with a cast aluminum gearbox for greater durability that budget and compact wrenches don’t include. With so many features and accessories included, it is a sensible and effective impact wrench for its price range.
With a 1/2-inch anvil and a brushless motor that boasts 700 foot-pounds of torque and 1,900 RPMs, the DEWALT 20v MAX XR High Torque 1/2″ Impact Wrench can handle easy or tough jobs. It comes equipped with variable speed selection, so you can choose the right amount of torque for the task at hand.
The DEWALT impact wrench also is as durable as it is powerful since it’s rated to withstand up to a 6-foot drop. The hog-ring anvil might not make for the speediest socket changes, but it’ll keep sockets tightly attached. It even has an LED work light to illuminate your workspace, so you can confidently operate in otherwise low-visibility spaces and environments. This impact wrench offers quality and functionality to round out the garage of a professional or hobbyist.
For some serious heavy-hitting power, the Milwaukee 2767-20 M18 Fuel High Torque 1/2-inch impact wrench packs an incredible 1,000 foot-pounds of torque to break stuck-on bolts loose. Instead of having to lug around an air hose for the power of a pneumatic impact wrench, you can carry this cordless impact wrench along to get the power you need. Milwaukee even included a 4-speed variable power controller that lets users customize the power output, and features a “bolt removal” mode to reverse in a controlled fashion with reduced RPMs. All of this is housed in a comfortable and attractive rubber overmold that will protect your hands from fatigue and keep the tool from being damaged by corrosive material.
The power in this impact wrench comes at a cost, and getting the 5-Ah battery and charger will double the price. But its power and versatility might make the investment worthwhile for pros or DIYers who often need this level of torque.
The DEWALT XTREME 12V MAX Impact Driver Kit packs a big punch in a little package. It’s 30 percent shorter than many other cordless impact wrenches, so it can help you get into tight spaces that you couldn’t maneuver with a larger unit. Though the tool’s 125 foot-pounds of torque won’t win any awards for high-torque performance, it’s got plenty of juice for many smaller jobs. To complement the wrench’s ability to fit into nooks and crannies, the tool is equipped with three bright LED lights for illuminating a workspace.
Since it’s designed for precision work with smaller (and often more fragile) nuts and bolts, this DEWALT wrench has three power modes, such as “Precision Wrench” to prevent stripping or overtightening. The kit comes with the accessories to get started, including two 12-volt 2-Ah batteries, a charger, and a storage bag.
The POPOMAN BHD850B 20-volt Brushless and Cordless Impact Wrench blends versatile traits such as weight, size, and features into a highly versatile impact wrench. Its 300 foot-pounds of torque provide enough power to perform most jobs, and its compact head is suitable for accessing tight spaces. Even the wrench’s 2-Ah battery runs the middle ground between weight and run time and can go from empty to fully charged in 60 minutes.
The POPOMAN has a 3-speed controller to accommodate a wide range of tasks from precision applications to automotive repair. You can even keep it in the car while it’s safely housed in its durable carrying case, ready to use on jobs that come up.
Safety Tips for Using a Cordless Impact Wrench
All power tools should be used with caution—and cordless impact wrenches are no exception. The first step of using an impact wrench safely is to read the user’s manual for instructions on proper use and recommended safety considerations. Be sure to select the recommended torque setting for the sockets you’re using, and don’t force the tool to operate beyond its stated performance specifications.
You should also avoid using your impact wrench for complex tasks that far exceed your current skill level since that greatly increases the chance of an accident. Make sure you’re equipped with all the necessary safety accessories (like hearing protection, safety goggles, and gloves), and take frequent breaks to avoid fatigue. Using your impact wrench for only its intended purpose with the proper safety equipment will go a long way toward keeping you safe, but here are a few more tips:
- Inspect the impact wrench for damage before you use it, and if you discover any defects, either fix or replace it.
- Make sure the sockets you’re using are rated for use with an impact wrench since if they’re not, they can break and cause injuries.
- Don’t use your impact wrench in wet conditions since electrical shock can result.
- Dress appropriately, avoiding baggy clothes, loose jewelry, and free-flowing long hair.
FAQs About Cordless Impact Wrenches
A cordless impact wrench can be a considerable investment, so it’s natural to have some questions. Since there are many factors to consider and options to choose from, discovering the answers to these common questions might help bring more clarity to your decision.
Q. What is a cordless impact wrench used for?
Loosening and tightening nuts and bolts, especially those that are too difficult to adjust with a manual socket set.
Q. How does a cordless impact wrench work?
It applies short bursts of intense twisting force to loosen or tighten.
Q. Which voltage should I choose for a cordless impact wrench?
That depends on what you’re going to use it for. If you’re mostly going to be working in tight spaces, a 12-volt impact wrench should be sufficient. On the other hand, if you’re working with 1-inch drive sockets, you’ll probably need a 20-volt impact wrench. For general-purpose use with the greatest versatility, an 18-volt impact wrench is probably your best bet.
Q. Will a cordless impact wrench remove lug nuts?
Absolutely! You can easily remove lug nuts with a 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch anvil.