Cordless impact wrenches, a buyers guide

21st November 2021, 7:06am
5 min read
Cordless impact wrenches, a buyers guide

Impact wrenches are an important tool for any garage, particularly if you like to work on car or truck projects. These powerful wrenches are also helpful for maintaining other machinery like home lawn equipment.

In this article, we compare five of our favourite impact wrenches you can buy today and look at what an impact wrench is for.

Our pick of the best cordless impact wrenches

1. NoCry 20V cordless impact wrench

NoCry 20V cordless impact wrench

Estonia-based NoCry offers an attractive impact wrench option in its 20V impact wrench. It’s more powerful than most of the options on our list, outputting a superb 400 N-m (295 ft-lb). It has a belt clip, insulated grip handle, and variable speed control of up to 2,200 rpm.  

It’s also the heaviest cordless impact wrench on our list. But if you need a more powerful workhorse cordless impact wrench, NoCry’s black-and-red offering is impressive, especially considering its excellent price point.

Drive size1/2 inch
Torque400 Nm (295 ft-lb)
Weight2.59KG
Power20V, 4.0A lithium-ion battery

2. Ryobi 18V ONE+ cordless 3-speed impact wrench starter kit

Ryobi 18V ONE+ cordless 3-speed impact wrench starter kit

The Ryobi ONE+ ticks a lot of boxes. It’s relatively lightweight, has three speed settings, and has very little reactionary feedback through the handle.

What’s most impressive, especially considering its light weight, is the 400 N-m (295 ft-lb) maximum torque. It’s tied as the most powerful cordless impact wrench on our list.

Built solid, the ONE+ makes stripping brakes and shocks a breeze, especially with the inclusion of three LED lights that can keep dark areas illuminated.

Drive size1/2 inch
Torque400 Nm (295 ft-lb)
Weight2KG
Power18V, 2.0A lithium-ion battery

3. Milwaukee 18V cordless impact wrench

Milwaukee 18V cordless impact wrench

The M18FIWF12-0 from Milwaukee is the lightest option on our list, at nearly half the weight of the Ryobi ONE+. Despite this, it still manages to output an impressive 340 N-m (250 ft-lb), which is more than enough for almost any home garage.

The impact wrench isn’t usually supplied with a battery or charger, so factor the additional cost of these purchases into your decision. 

The M18FIWF12-0 has three modes for precision work, damage prevention, and maximum performance. There’s also a fourth intelligent mode where the device shuts down automatically when it’s been used for a second on a fastener, reducing the chance of over-tightening.

Drive size1/2 inch
Torque340 Nm (250 ft-lb)
Weight1.2KG
Power18V battery

4. Makita DTW190Z 18V impact wrench

Makita DTW190Z 18V impact wrench

With a variable speed trigger, LED light, electric brake, and battery protection circuit, the Makita DTW190Z is the option for the buyer who wants a precise, safe, easy-to-use impact wrench. With a maximum tightening torque of 190 N-m (139 ft-lb), it’s powerful enough to get the job done but less likely to strip bolts from misuse.

The 5 amp hours of use makes it a convenient tool you don’t need to recharge too often, and it comes already paired with a battery and a charger.

Drive size1/2 inch
Torque190 Nm (139 ft-lb)
Weight1.7KG
Power18V, 5Ah lithium-ion battery

5. DEWALT DCF880N 18V XR compact impact wrench

DEWALT DCF880N 18V XR compact impact wrench

A similarly-powered option is the DEWALT DCF880N. It’s a bit heavier than the options outlined so far, but it has well-positioned lights for making working in dark areas a breeze. It has an intelligent trigger that allows for versatile use over various applications, and it feels very balanced in your hand.

The DEWALT DCF880N is a solid choice for the enthusiast that prefers a physically shorter impact wrench with a long battery life.

Drive size1/2 inch
Torque203 Nm (149 ft-lb)
Weight2.22KG
Power18V, 5Ah lithium-ion battery

What is an impact wrench?

Impact wrenches go by many other names, including torque guns, air guns, air wrenches, impactors, and impact guns. An impact wrench is a power tool with socket attachments that delivers a high torque output with little-to-no exertion from the user.

Most impact wrenches for home use have a simple pistol-grip for ease of use. Pull the trigger, and you get rapid torque from the output shaft.

Impact wrenches are often powered by compressed air, but electric and hydraulic devices are also used. Recently, there’s been a rise in the use of cordless electric impact wrenches. Though these can’t compete with compressed air impact wrenches, they’re convenient and usually powerful enough for home use. 

Why use an impact wrench?

Impact wrenches may seem like an extravagance. That is until you come across a lug nut that’s wound too tightly in place or a screw head that’s been stripped. No matter how strong you are, you won’t be able to get it to budge, but an impact wrench will make short work of it.

Besides providing extra force to boost the impact wrench’s torque, the pressure from the power source helps the wrench work much better on a fastener than manual wrenching alone. Put simply, an impact wrench can tighten bolts better than more traditional methods.

Of course, the use of an impact wrench also dramatically speeds up any maintenance tasks you need to perform. If you’re working on cars, trucks, ATVs, or other machinery regularly, you can save hours of time thanks to how quickly your impact wrench can get the job done, not to mention save yourself a lot of elbow grease.

What to look for in an impact wrench

The correct impact wrench for your needs depends on your requirements. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How will you plan to power the impact wrench in your workshop?

  • What range and precision of torque do you need?

  • Will a heavy impact wrench be tough to use over long periods?

  • Does the wrench need to be particularly rugged?

  • What levels of sound and vibration will be too much?

From the answer to these questions, you can build an idea of the perfect torque wrench. 

Drive size

Impact wrenches in hardware shops range from ¼-inch to 1-inch in diameter.  Smaller wrenches work better in tight spaces and can deliver better precision. Generally, we recommend ½-inch impact wrenches, as they offer the best balance between power and precision. Larger wrenches are more powerful, but the extra power won’t be used often for home projects.

Torque

The torque you need depends on the project. Too much torque can over-tighten bolts or lead to cracking. Impact wrenches with adjustable torque are an asset as they’re much more versatile.

  • Compact impact wrenches can output around 320 N-m (250 ft-lb) of maximum torque. This is enough for most light applications.

  • Mid-range impact wrenches will output up to around 610 N-m (450 ft-lb). This covers almost all industrial-level automotive jobs.

  • High-torque impact wrenches sit around 1000 N-m (750 ft-lb.) They’re heavy and more expensive, but they’ll always get the job done.  

Considering that removing a typical set of rims on a vehicle only requires around 100 N-m (73 ft-lb), most users can err on the side of choosing a cheaper, lighter, and more compact impact wrench.

Weight

There’s always a payoff between the weight of the impact wrench and its power. Cordless impact wrenches are handy, but you should also check the weight of the battery.

Power

How an impact wrench is powered makes a big difference to the convenience of using it. While compressed impact wrenches are more powerful, most day-to-day tasks can be easily performed by a compact, wireless impact wrench.

If you choose a battery-powered impact wrench, note how long the batteries last and how long they take to charge. It may be worth investing in a second battery if you have a busy garage that needs access to the impact wrench at all times.

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Written by Raymond Burrett

Raymond is the quintessential car enthusiast. Motorsports and sports-cars have played a prominent role since a young age. He can now be found tinkering with his Japanese sports cars, at local car meets or out on a track-day.