As cordless power tools become more and more popular, impact drivers and impact wrenches are making their way from the jobsite into the mainstream. They’re similar tools, and because of this, many folks don’t know much about what separates them, and what they’re best used for. Don't worry - your friends at WEN are here to help clear things up.
On the surface, impact drivers and impact wrenches share a lot of similarities. They’re often battery-powered and use a motor to drive a hammer and anvil. The hammer is a spring-loaded block that sits behind the anvil. When the motor spins, the hammer is forced up and over the anvil. When it clears the anvil, the spring causes it to snap back into place, colliding with the anvil and making it rotate. This rotating hammering action is what gives impact drivers and impact wrenches their characteristic loud rattling sound during operation.
WEN 20V MAX impact driver, model 20135 (left), and 20V MAX impact wrench, model 20107 (right).
At this point, however, the similarities start to fade. Impact drivers are lighter-duty tools, and are very good at driving a lot of fasteners very quickly. They usually have a spring-loaded chuck on the end that can accept driver bits. These bits usually come with a 1/4” hex-shaped shank (which is the part that is inserted into the chuck), and are usually specially marked as being rated for impact use.
Impact wrenches are heavier-duty tools, and their anvils reflect that. Usually a solid piece of metal with a 3/8”, 1/2”, or 3/4” square drive, they feature either a hog ring (as on model 20107 shown above) or pin detent to attach to specially-designed impact sockets.
Whether a hog-ring design or a pin-detent design is best for you is a matter of choice. Generally, if you’ll be switching socket sizes often, a hog ring anvil may be easier for quick swaps. If you’ll be up on a ladder, or in a situation where one socket size is required and it needs to stay on no matter what, a pin detent anvil is probably the way to go. Regardless, ALWAYS use impact-rated sockets or accessories when working with one of these tools. Accessories that are not rated for impact duty could shatter under the extreme forces being applied, and could hurt you or others.
Impact drivers and impact wrenches are usually rated according to three main measurements:
Depending on the job at hand, one tool may be a better fit than the other. Below are some common use cases.
Commonly used to drive a lot of fasteners very quickly, or to work in tight spaces. These are great for driving lots of deck screws or small lag bolts, or torquing or loosening fasteners that aren’t extremely tight. Speed is the name of the game here - they deliver a lot of small blows very quickly, and can put out a decent amount of torque.
In contrast to impact drivers, impact wrenches are slower, heavier hitters, throwing haymakers round after round. Popular for automotive work to remove highly-torqued, rusty, or stuck nuts and bolts (or quickly zipping off wheel lug nuts), and for driving large construction fasteners (e.g. long lag bolts into pressure-treated lumber), they’re used when large amounts of torque are required.
In short, these tools, while they look pretty similar, have a lot of differences when you look under the hood. If you have any questions about what tool is right for you, or want to find out more about our 20V MAX line of cordless power tools, please give us a call at 1-800-232-1195 (M – F, 8 – 5 CST), or drop us a message here to talk to our friendly and knowledgeable technical support time. Also, check out some of our other handy articles about cordless power tools.
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