If you spend much time on auto repair or DIY projects that involve repetitive tightening or loosening of nuts and bolts, an impact wrench is a handheld tool that will save you a great deal of strain. Kyle Shirley, owner of Sol Vista Roofing, remarks, "Impact wrenches and their attachments come in many shapes and sizes, depending on how they will be used. Before buying one, first understand exactly what you need. Be sure you are looking at the right type of wrench for the job you need to do.”
We evaluated impact wrenches based on power, impacts per minute, reliability, and overall performance. Our top pick, the Milwaukee Fuel High Torque 1/2-Inch Impact Wrench, is versatile, durable, and surprisingly compact.
Here are the best impact wrenches across a variety of categories.
Best Overall: Milwaukee M18 FUEL 1/2-Inch High-Torque Impact Wrench
Durable, sturdy construction
Who else recommends it? CNET also picked the Milwaukee M18 FUEL 1/2-Inch High-Torque Impact Wrench.
What do buyers say? 4,500+ Home Depot reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
From assembling the patio furniture to removing stubborn lug nuts on vehicles, the Milwaukee Fuel High Torque 1/2-Inch Impact Wrench can handle almost any job. The cordless high torque wrench has a four-mode drive control with bolt removal that makes it a stellar choice for serious weekend warriors. You'll appreciate the L-shaped handle with rubber overmold that offers a comfortable grip while plowing through lengthy jobs. It even has a handy LED worklight that lights up your work area to make the job easier when working in dim or tight quarters.
The tool is just over 8 inches in length; it's one of the most compact impact wrenches in its class, but that certainly doesn't mean it lacks power. The friction ring cuts back on difficult socket changes, and the Redlink Plus intelligence prevents the tool from overheating or overloading, which could damage the many moving parts. It is one of the more powerful wrenches on the market for its size and has 1,000 foot-pounds of fastening torque and 1,400 ft-lb of nut-busting force.
Best Budget: PORTER-CABLE PCE211 7.5-Amp 1/2-Inch Impact Wrench
Easy to use with one hand
Few complaints of freezing up during use
Just because a tool isn't expensive doesn't necessarily have to mean it's low on power or performance. PORTER-CABLE makes a powerful line of tools, and they are affordable to boot. The tool company’s PCE211 7.5-amp ½-inch impact wrench is one of the better reviewed models on the market. It has 450 ft-lb of torque with 2,200 rpm, so you're not sacrificing anything with this impact wrench. The forward-and-reverse rocker switch is easy to manipulate with one hand, and the grip is comfortable to hold. This is an ideal tool for removing lug nuts on commercial vehicles as well as quickly changing out nuts and bolts on lightweight items such as furniture, shelving, and door hinges.
Best Kit: DEWALT DCF899M1 20V Max XR Brushless High-Torque Wrench Kit
Reasonably light in weight and compact in size
For those just starting out or who want to buy an all-inclusive starter package that includes the battery, charger, and carrying bag, this wrench kit deserves attention. Designed for comfort and power, the DEWALT DCF899M1 20V Max XR Brushless High-Torque Wrench Kit packs a punch. And it has all the high-end features that you would want in a wrench kit.
With up to 700 ft-lb of fastening torque, 1,200 ft-lb of nut-busting force, and 2,400 impacts per minute, the DEWALT kit is powerful. It is small and lightweight, measuring just 8-13/16 inches and weighing in at 7.2 pounds. The impact wrench is versatile with multi-speed control to be used in a wide range of odd jobs. It has a bright LED light with a 20-second delay for tight, dark spots and a half-inch anvil with detent pin.
Best Compact: Ingersoll Rand 36QMAX ½-Inch Ultra-Compact Impact Wrench
Compact size for use in tight spaces
Relatively quiet for this type of tool
Requires air compressor for use
The Ingersoll Rand 36QMAX ½-Inch Ultra-Compact Impact Wrench is an absolute workhorse. Its stubby shape can easily maneuver in tight spaces, and it packs a powerful punch with 640 ft-lb of torque and up to 8,000 rpm despite weighing a mere 2.6 pounds. Use it to pull out stubborn stripped screws or oxidized bolts that are squirreled away in an inconvenient location. It's the perfect tool for working on transmissions or other deep-in-the-engine car parts.
The tool has a one-hand operation trigger with three position settings that come in both forward and reverse. Plus, this tool works well for people who are left-handed and right-handed. Remember that it requires an air compressor that can deliver at least 5 cfm at 90 psi for power, which is not included. Preferably, you should have a much larger air compressor for optimum performance.
Best Cordless: DEWALT 20-Volt Max Cordless Impact Wrench Kit
Light in weight and compact in size
Includes two batteries
Not for the heaviest-duty tasks
For jobs that require power but no fuss, the DEWALT 20-Volt Max Lithium-Ion Cordless Impact Wrench Kit offers maximum torque without the inconvenience of a long cord. The tool has 130 ft-lb of maximum torque and 2,700 ipm that works on fasteners in even tough wood, masonry, and metal in no time. It is a breeze to use in small spaces, and cuts through rusted bolts or oxidized lug nuts quickly and easily. It is also stocked with items for long-term use in places that may not have easy access to power.
The kit includes two 20-volt lithium-ion batteries with built-in fuel gauge so you can go longer and faster on those difficult jobs that put you in a tight squeeze. The three front-facing LED lights offer brightness to dark workspaces. It’s also one of the smaller impact wrenches with the most torque at 3.4 pounds.
Best Hybrid: Bosch Freak GDX18V-1800B12 Cordless Impact Driver/Wrench
Two tools in one
Not for the heaviest-duty tasks
Sometimes a tool that is required to do two things at once actually does one thing better than the other. This isn't the case with the Bosch Freak 18-Volt Impact Wrench. It’s both a driver and a wrench, and it makes quite an impact at both.
It uses ¼-inch hex screwdriver bits and ½-inch impact sockets. The practical tool quickly switches between screwdriver and nut-driver bits (as well as sockets), so you won’t have to search around for an adapter for the more complicated jobs that require different tools. The powerful brushless motor delivers a maximum of 150 ft-lb of torque and up to 4,200 impact-per-minute for professional power and impact.
The Freak comes with battery, charger, and soft case, as well as a belt clip to keep it near at hand.
Best for Lug Nuts: DEWALT 20-Volt Max 1/2-Inch Cordless Impact Wrench Kit
Sturdy and durable construction
Few complaints about detent pin breaking
Removing stubborn lug nuts can be a painstaking task, so you'll want to invest in a heavy-duty tool that can get the job done quickly. Our top pick is the DEWALT 20V Max XR Lithium-Ion Cordless Impact Wrench because it has 700 ft-lb of maximum fastening torque, 1,200 ft-lb of nut-busting torque, and a brushless motor that will extend its life. Choose from three speeds—0-400/1,200/1,900 rpm—depending on your needs.
A ½-inch anvil with a detent pin makes the wrench resistant to breakage and the annoying shearing that so often comes with lug nut removal. It can handle drops from as high as 8 feet with its compact design and durable casing. This impact wrench also has an LED light with a 20-second delay for use in dark spaces.
Best Pneumatic: Ingersoll Rand 2235TiMAX Drive Air Impact Wrench
Very powerful performance
Compact in size and reasonably light in weight
Requires air compressor for use
Few complaints about ergonomics
If you're looking for a high-performance tool that is lightweight but still able to pull off big jobs, the Ingersoll Rand 2235TiMAX Drive Air Impact Wrench is a great option. It has a well manufactured drive mechanism to put out serious spin ability with 1,350 ft-lb of nut-busting torque. Ingersoll’s ½-inch air impact wrench is known for its power-to-weight ratio, as it weighs in at only 4.6 pounds and has a four-position power regulator (which makes the torque easy to adjust).
This heavy-duty tool has a 4-position power regulator, so you can fine-tune the power to your needs, and it's very easy to switch the forward/reverse mechanism with just one hand. Note that you will need an air compressor capable of delivering at least 6 cfm of air at 90 psi for reliable performance of the impact wrench.
The Milwaukee Fuel High Torque Impact Wrench is one of the most powerful impact wrenches for its size; it makes quick work of even the toughest nuts and bolts, letting you loosen or tighten them with ease. But if you merely need an impact wrench for simple tasks around the house or garage, and don’t demand the utmost in power and torque, you’ll find the PORTER-CABLE PCE211 is very reasonably priced and a great choice for the average DIYer.
What to Look for in an Impact Wrench
There are three basic types of impact wrenches: those powered by air, AC current, or batteries.
Pneumatic, or air-powered impact wrenches, are standard in auto-repair shops, but aren’t so popular for at-home or DIY use. These tools are very powerful, lightweight, and generally less expensive than electric impact wrenches, but require an air compressor to work and are generally more tool than required outside of a professional auto shop.
Corded impact wrenches are next in line when it comes to power, but tether you to the closest electrical outlet. Still, if you need a lot of power and don’t want to be bothered keeping track of a battery’s charge level, this could be the right choice for you.
Cordless impact wrenches are the most popular type for homeowners, DIYers, and those who do car repair as a hobby. On the plus side, these tools give you the utmost in freedom to use them wherever needed. On the downside, you’ll need to keep track of the battery life, cordless tools tend to be heavier than the other two styles, and they are a little less powerful when it comes to torque.
An impact driver is all about torque; that’s the tool’s twisting force. Some manufacturers state the torque in foot-pounds of force, while others use inch-pounds. Don’t automatically assume that you need the highest amount of torque; too much torque and you’ll find your fasteners snap in half.
As a general rule, you’ll find impact drivers with torque as low as 100 foot-pounds (1,200 inch-pounds) and as high as 1,000 foot-pounds, as well as everything in between. But for most people not working in professional auto shops, a tool towards the lower end of that range is more than sufficient, while a tool in the mid-range is suited for most automotive work.
Kyle Shirley, owner of Sol Vista Roofing, adds, “When using an impact wrench, the most important tip is to take care and not over (or under) tighten. Impact wrenches are great when you apply just the right amount of torque, but overtightening can result in needing to re-do the work.”
The rate at which an impact driver spins is measured in revolutions per minute. As a rough guideline, most cordless impact wrenches have maximum speeds of anywhere between 1,000 and 3,000 rpm, with the middle of that range being average. Some impact drivers have variable speed controls so you can choose from two or three different settings depending on your needs.
The “impact” in an impact wrench is a burst of additional power that adds to the tool’s turning strength, and is measured in impacts per minute. As a general rule, most cordless impact wrenches deliver anywhere from 1,500 to 4,000 impacts per minute.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article is edited and updated by Michelle Ullman, the tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience not only in writing about all things related to the home, but also in carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs. For this roundup, she considered dozens of impact wrenches, evaluating each for basic features, extras, and customer feedback. Kyle Shirley, owner of Sol Vista Roofing, offered further input and advice.
What is an impact wrench used for?
Impact wrenches are used to affix or remove lug nuts from car wheels. They help tighten or loosen nuts, bolts, and other threaded fasteners on large machinery during construction or remodeling.
Do impact wrenches need special sockets?
The steel of an impact wrench socket is slightly softer than the steel used for regular sockets. The brittle steel of a standard socket is prone to cracking or shattering when exposed to excessive force but is well-suited to the power of your handheld ratchet.
What size air compressor do I need with an impact wrench?
The air compressor you need depends on the size of your impact wrench. The most common size is the 0.5 inch impact wrench, which has enough power to turn the lug nuts of a typical car.