Anyone who has ever been laid out on their back, straining until the veins in your forehead are ready to pop thanks to a stubborn or corroded nut or fitting, will know the value of an impact wrench. They seem like overkill for the average guy, until you absolutely have to have one. By the same token, if you need to tighten something beyond the reach of human muscles, you must be able to hit it with God’s own thunder to keep it locked down tight, or lives could be lost.
Choosing the right wrench has a few factors, such as how much force you need to apply and where you need to apply it. They are different than impact drivers in that they don’t provide the same downward force that a driver does. Drivers also typically have a female hex chuck that is removable while impact wrenches use 1/2″ or 3/8″ square drives to get the job done. There’s some overlap, but make sure that an impact wrench is what you need for your work, or even choosing one our 8 favorite picks below won’t help you.
Craftsman 9-17562 Nextec 12V Right-Angle
Pro: 1/4-inch clamp allows rapid bit changes
Con: Battery life is laughable
Driver Beware: We confess, this is an impact driver rather than a true impact wrench. The trouble is that no impact wrench does what this can, which is reach into the tightest of spaces to pull stripped screws or oxidized bolts. The low price and right-angle design for this is not to work on a job from start to finish, but to be your go-to for tight spots and odd bolts. It’s made with an LED light, because it’s meant to be used in dark corners where other tools fear to tread. With 700 Inch/Pounds of torque on a reversible drill that only truly becomes a driver when in a tough spot, having this as a backup is never a bad idea.
Milwaukee M12 Fuel
Pro: Well balanced for use by hand hand size
Con: Batteries lack fuel gauges
Light and Comfy: Sure, you want your wrench to pack in 1,400 Inch/Pounds worth of twisting power attached to a 3/8-inch head and two settings for working harder or working smarter, but you also want it to be comfortable. With an ergonomic handle and rubberized grip that wraps around the hilt of the M12 Fuel, you’ll be able to work for hours without fatigue or strain setting in. For Milwaukee, the Fuel is an advancement from their earlier works and they’ve managed to add amperage hours to this generation for longer battery life without losing the 0-2,650 RPM speed. It’s all backed up by a brushless POWERSTATE motor that works smooth as silk.
Bosch Bare-Tool 18V Brushless Hybrid
Pro: Comfortable, slender grip
Con: Not ideal for those who prefer impact drivers
Double Down: Ordinarily, hybrid tools do two things badly instead of doing one thing well, which is why we generally avoid them. In this case, you won’t be at all disappointed with this impact driver/impact wrench offering from Bosch. It can take both your 1/4-inch hex screwdriver bits and 1/2-inch impact socket drivers without the need for an adapter. The strange nose does stick out a bit, but if you swap between sockets and screws on a regular basis, the added size and inconvenience is nothing compared to fetching a whole new tool. The triple-speed brushless motor goes from 400 to 1,650 Inch/Pounds with as much as 2,800 RMPs.
Makita XWT02Z 18V LXT
Pro: BL Brushless Motor comes with electronic control
Con: Holding pin tends to be inconvenient
Most for the Money: Go into just about any professional garage in this country and you’ll find more than a few Makita tools lying around. Among impact wrenches, they are beloved by pros who know the wheat from the chaff. For a small fee you’ll have 2,520 Inch/Pounds worth of torque at your disposal. While not quite as small as we had hoped, it comes in at about 5 and 3/4 inches, and a bit under 4 lbs. when you add in one of the glorious 4.0Ah batteries that churn out hours and hours of runtime. Those same batteries also charge in minutes for quicker refractory time.
Milwaukee M18 Fuel
Pro: Professional torque power
Con: Nearly worthless lower setting
Nut Buster: We’re not sure why, but Milwaukee decided to put two settings on the M18 Fuel. The first only goes up to 1,200 Inch/Pounds which is fine if you’re working on a doll house, but anything bigger needs some man-sized torque. Thankfully, that’s why the second setting is there. It carries up to 8,400 Inch/Pounds worth of power that hits like a hammer. If that still doesn’t satisfy you, go ahead and throw on the nut-busting setting which delivers more than 13,000 Inch/Pounds for those stubborn bolts. Yes, it’s probably more than you need, but certainly not more than you want.
Dewalt DCF883M2 20V
Pro: Batteries have their own charge gauge
Con: Torque is only passable
Lil’ Twist: These wrenches can follow the same pattern as many mobile electronics, which is to say that the price rises as the size goes down. This model from the masters of mobility at DeWalt gives you just 1,560 Inch/Pounds of torque, which is far from astounding, but it does it using a 3.4 lbs. package that is slim enough to go in your handbag for a night of ballroom dancing. A 3/8-inch hog ring anvil allows for rapid swapping that feels much more like a cordless drill. Make note that getting the bare tool is unlikely, so here you’re buying a whole kit to start from scratch.
Ingersoll Rand W7150-K2
Pro: Air impact power in a cordless
Con: Size and placement of directional switch is odd and uncomfortable
The Chosen One: Ingersoll Rand runs the table when it comes to air impact wrenches, but since we’re discussing their cordless cousins, they were mostly silent. Except for the W7150-K2. As expected, it bears a premium name-recognition price tag, but once the sticker shock fades, the beauty emerges. You have 13,200 Inch/Pounds of nut-busting torque should you need it, but since the standard running tops out at 9,360 Inch/Pounds, it’s a serious nut you’re running into when you’ve got to push the overdrive. A soft-touch molded grip, heavy-duty construction, a steel case that is bombproof, and the IR logo on the side backed by their service and warranty means you can’t go wrong.
Makita BTW450 18V
Pro: Nearly indestructible
Con: Lack of variable speed
Industrial Grade: This is much more of a specialty product for those who need an impact wrench exclusively for larger jobs where big bolts need a motor and a device that can handle them. No wilting lily, the BTW450 is intended for taking armor plates off a tank. It redlines at 1,600 RPMs with 3,900 Inch/Pounds worth of torque attached to a 1/2-inch square drive that works with impact-rated socket sets. Go ahead and use it on the lugs of your big rig, the bolts on your girders, and the nuts of your Boeing Dreamliner. It can take it.