Impact Driver vs Impact Wrench – What’s The Difference ?

Whether it is a DIY craft or working on something like an automobile, you will often have to end up turning objects like nuts and bolts. While a wrench might help sometimes, the particular job you have will require you to apply more torque.

This is where you’ll end up needing the assistance of two popular tools known as impact drivers and wrenches. While both do the same job, they have some differences in how and where they are used.

This impact driver vs. impact wrench guide will shed light on their differences and aid you in deciding which one is ideal for you.

General Overview of Impact Driver and Impact Wrench

Impact Driver

An impact driver resembles a long screw of sorts with a large outer sleeve. Its job is to produce a sudden, strong rotational force when struck by a hammer. The core of the driver has teeth that allow it to mesh with the outer sleeve.

When a force is exerted, this causes the driver to spin, allowing it to act as a temporary drill. This allows it to serve two primary purposes.

One is that it can be used to loosen large screws that are stuck in objects because of over-torquing. The other is the reverse, where it can be used to apply force on larger screws in an attempt to tighten them and make the hold more secure.

These tools are often cordless, allowing them to be carried and use more freely, although it should be noted that cordless ones often only used to tighten screws.

Impact drivers often use a one by four-inch hex drive screw (a screw which has a hexagonal recess), but there exist (and are often supplied when purchased) extensions to the tool known as bits and adapters which allow it more versatility.

One such adapter allows it to use one by two-inch square drives, which are widely used.

Impact Wrench  

These tools are much bulkier than impact drivers and resemble a gun, hence their other name being an impact or air gun. As its appearance suggests, it works similar to a gun in that it exerts a sudden burst of energy at the output shaft. It operates by using a motor to rotate a mass.

The mass gains energy. After gaining sufficient energy, it is then connected to a part known as the anvil at the output through which a high-torque impact is made. The anvil doesn’t remain locked, allowing it to be used again.

You might have guessed from the working principle that this tool is used to provide a large force in a small amount of time, and it is that power that is the main draw of impact wrenches.

Impact wrenches require a power source with compressed air being a common choice. Electric and hydraulic powered impact wrenches also exist along with slightly weaker cordless versions.

Unlike impact drivers, the socket wrench size for an impact wrench is often fixed. There are no extensions to change it, and while there is a great variety in socket wrench size and type, you will often need to buy a new one in case it doesn’t meet your needs.

Impact Drivers Vs. Impact Wrenches 

Below we are going to compare both impact drivers and impact wrenches feature-by-feature to help you choose among them.

  • Torque Output

Impact wrenches are the clear winner in this case. They’re known for their power and are used for heavy-duty work. They can produce about 2200 inch Lbs of torque, and some even around 13000.

  • Ease of Use

Impact wrenches, due to their shape, are much more comfortable to hold and use. Impact drivers require the use of a hammer. Impact wrenches require very small input, and so are definitely easier to handle and use. People who don’t have much experience can easily pick up an impact wrench and handle it with minimum help.

  • Versatility

Impact drivers have an inherent advantage due to often coming with a case of various adapter bits and extensions. This allows them to handle different screws of shapes and sizes, and you do not need to buy a new driver for this. Impact wrenches have fixed shapes and sizes and only work with one or two different wrench socket sizes.

  • Efficiency

Impact wrenches have a much higher efficiency being able to produce a large amount of force with very small mechanical input due to their design. Impact drivers, to an extent, depending on how much force the user can apply, and so, their efficiency varies.

  • Durability

Both tools are quite durable, and you need not be concerned with their longevity. However, due to the strong body constructions, impact wrenches barely edge out the impact drivers.

  • Usage

General household chores and DIY crafts can be handled with impact drivers. Their general versatility and respectable power allow it to handle many different scenarios, be it fastening objects or removing screws.

Heavy-duty work, like in automobiles or construction, is where the high power of the impact wrench shines. Often an impact driver cannot produce enough torque to remove lug nuts from a chassis of a car or fasten steel beams. Impact wrenches are used for these.

Final Thoughts 

Hopefully, this article helps you get familiarized with both these tools as well as get an idea of where you should use which one.

So, now you should know exactly which one to choose among them.

Let me know which one is your preferred tool in the comments below.

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