The most common versions use compressed air, while recently some standalone versions use electricity and are finding their way into the home and visiting contractor use. A few models use hydraulics.
- Here you can find the best air impact wrench:
- 1. The Aircat 1/2-Inch Impact Air Wrench
- 2. The Ingersoll-Rand 2235TIMAX impact wrench
- 3. Ingersoll Rand 231G 1/2-Inch 550-Ft.Lbs Edge Series Variable Speed Air Impactool
- 4. NitroCat 1200-K 1/2-Inch Kevlar Composite Air Impact Wrench with Twin Clutch Mechanism
- 5. ACDelco ANI405 1/2-Inch Impact Wrench 500-Feet-Pound
- 6. Ingersoll-Rand 231C Air Impact Wrench
- 7. Ingersoll-Rand 232TGSL Air Impact Wrench
- 8. DEWALT DWMT70773L Impact Wrench- 1/2″
- 9. BOSTITCH BTMT72391 1/2-Inch Impact Wrench
There is a pulse version, where the tool acts as a hammer, pulsing the energy to open a stubborn nut and bolt. However, pulse tools are not considered to be impact wrenches.
Impact wrenches come with a standard tool attachment feature. This means you can attach any socket head from small ¼” to 3½” and larger square drives.
What to look for
The bottom line for choosing which brand and model is to consider the following features:
Environment: where are you going to use your tool? Is it in a closed shop environment or are you going to travel around? Some really high-performance models are great for serious mechanics and professional use, if you are only a home user, you don’t need to buy such a serious model. So, homeowners, go for a less expensive and lower torque model for your residential needs.
Size/Scope: What is the nature of your work? Do you deal in automotive or in heavy industry? Or perhaps just home appliances and electronics. If your work is fast paced, you need a high RPM unit providing high torque, the only way to remove and replace lugs without worrying about those 20-year-old rusty bolts.
Unit weight/Torque ratio: what is the weight torque ratio, in other words, how heave is your unto to hold and how much power can it deliver? For most cases, 500 to 800 ft-lbs torque is enough, however, if you work in an industrial setting with machinery that has stood around for 50 years, or if you work in a car mechanics shop, then you should buy a high torque low weight unit. Don’t buy a unit weighing over 5 lbs, hefting something big and heavy might look cool, but it will wear you out.
Versatility: Do you need full control over direction and power? Does the unit have different output modes? It’s always best to buy a model that has a selector switch for immediate forward to reverse and back operation, and even better if your unit has a power controller knob.
Power Source: If you are in a shop can you access compressed air? If not, will electric units be powerful enough? Some models come with a backup battery cell for off-site work. This should be considered if you work in an environment that is mainly shop or home-based, and you have access to compressed air, but, you sometimes (rarely) need to take the tool off-site.
You will be able to focus your required tool type once you have answered these questions. Now let’s take a look at the best-compressed air impact wrenches that we tested and found to lead the pack. Take into account that certain brands introduce various models on a regular basis with upgraded performance, so you need to buy a recent model to enjoy all the latest upgrades and accessories.
I will start each review with the products weight and torque, so you can see the immediate weight/torque ratio as a common function for comparison.
Here you can find the best air impact wrench:
- Weight: 4.5 lbs.
- Torque: 1,295 ft-lb
- RPM: 9,000
I open up my review with a monster, a powerhouse of a performance. The AIRCAT 1150 is lightweight, high torque and fast air powered impact wrench. This model comes in an aluminum body for extra durability and provides a “silent” delivery. While it is a conscious budget tool its stands way up at the top, competing with all the big names for power/weight delivery ratio.
This model uses a twin hammer, and its noise muffler keeps the sound below 86 decibels. This is an easily maintained wrench, which is a marvel since it only requires a few drops of oil to keep it operational. There is only one downside in my experience, the AIRCAT 1160 uses up twice the air when compared to other models.
My take: The AIRCAT 1150 is one of the best ½” impact wrenches available and delivers a big punch at an affordable price. The mazing torque and light weight makes this tool a personal favorite, and not just to me, but to serious mechanics all around the world. That’s why I started my review with this beast.
- Weight: 4.6 lbs.
- Torque: 1,350 ft-lb
- RPM: 8,500
What can be said, the words Ingersoll Rand say it all. This is a powerhouse product design by a reliable tool manufacturing company that delivers quality every time. While this is a costlier tool due to its pedigree, it is perhaps one of the most powerful pneumatic wrenches around, delivering a mind-boggling 1,350 ft-lb torque with only a 4.6 lb. Body weight, the ratio of power to weight is truly magnificent.
This is the automotive industries preferred tool of choice, and you will find it in thousands of tool shops, tire shops and car mechanics around the world.
The reverse torque is around 930 ft-lbs. And it operates at a 98-dB level. The hammer case is a titanium alloy, making it light, strong and durable as well as corrosion resistant. This baby can operate in any environment under the sun, or under the ground.
My take: The Ingersoll-Rand 2235TIMAX can tackle any stuck bolt, and fast. The balance between weight and true ratio makes this a monster of a tool and easy to hold. This model is larger than Ingersoll Rands previous model which can sometimes confuse users when upgrading to this model. While it is a costlier model, the power and impact this machine outshines all its competitors. This is well worth the expense, and I recommend it to all serious mechanics.
- Weight: 5 lbs.
- Torque: 500 ft-lb
- RPM: 8,000
This is another great Ingersoll-Rand model, but part of their budget-friendly “Edge” series. This means these models were designed for a much lighter budget. This model is amazing, it provides great torque to weight ratio, and at the cost, its offered at is a bargain. If you don’t need those excessive torque impacts and require a decent model that can help you open and close quickly, then this is model for you. A classic home user and garage device.
- Weight: 4.5 lbs.
- Torque: 1,295 ft-lb
- RPM: 8,000
The NitroCat 1200 is one of the best ½” air impact wrenches on the market. It stands proud of its amazing weight to torque ratio, and at 8000 rpm is fast and furious. This model is built up with Kevlar, so its light, durable and strong. One outstanding feature is its noise level, so low you wonder if you have it on at all, at 86 dB it’s a very quiet device.
The NitroCat 1200 come with a twin clutch mechanism and a flip lever rotation direction control. The exhaust goes out the bottom too, so you don’t get that pesky wind and particles in your face. This model is found in most car racing team toolboxes.
My take: Silent, fast and powerful. The ultimate triangle of excellence. If you want a really amazing tool in your box, one that can beat hands down any competitor, then don’t wait, buy one now, you might even give it a pet name too.
- Weight: 6.15 lbs.
- Torque: 500 ft-lb
- RPM: 7,000
The ACDelco Impact Wrench is a great budget tool that provides a solid service, reliable and steadfast with no frills. This is a very affordable (literally) tool that will be great for a home enthusiast or as a backup tool for a garage or mechanic in case their main unit breaks down.
This model comes with a novel impact mechanism and provides 4 speeds (3 forward and 1 reverse). The casing is aluminum, and the exhaust is placed in the handle for safer blowback. The overall design is a compact, easy to replace impact socket.
My take: This is a great starter tool as well as back up tool to have. Its price makes it very affordable, and it delivers a great result, although at 7,000 rpm is slower than the more advanced models.
- Weight: 5.8 lbs.
- Torque: 600 ft-lb
- RPM: 8,000
If its quality and power you are looking for, then Ingersoll-Rand will provide it, again and again. This is their twin hammer 8,000 rpm 231C Air Impact Wrench that provides 600 ft-lbs of torque.
So far sounds OK, but it gets better, this is a sturdy and durable model that rarely fails and so long as you maintain it properly, grease the trigger and metallic ring that holds the socket. This model is a tad on the high price range, but only due to the fact it is a brand model and comes with all the support that Ingersoll-Rand provides.
My take: this model comes with some interesting features, including a contoured handle for easier operation, making your work less tiring. A pressure-feed lubrication system that greases while working and an adjustable power regulator. This is a heavy-duty model, light and strong. However, based on personal experience, don’t take this one over 100 psi for optimum performance.
- Weight: 6 lbs.
- Torque: 625 ft-lb
- RPM: 10,000
This is aptly named the Thunder Gun, the Ingersoll-Rand model 232TGSL is the Thor of air impact guns. If you want to stun everyone with speed, strength and quality results every time, don’t waste your time thinking, just buy it and get it done.
Let’s start with the obvious, its 10,000 RPM, and that is why you will find this hefty unit in NASCAR, as well as sounding like a Nascar itself. In fact, most people think it sounds absolutely beastly, and that is great. Add to this the 25 torque and a hefty weight of 6 lbs, and you understand that this baby is in for business.
One amazing feature is its versatility, this model will go from full power in reverse to forward half power in one flip of the switch. It is so fast that you can zip off a lug in a second when the model is set of 110 torque.
This gun will work furiously at the full forward power and reduce the removal of four car wheels in under 20 seconds. (one second per lug, multiplied by the number of lugs in a wheel by four wheels). After which you can still operate it, it doesn’t need the compressor to kick in, unless you hit a stubborn bolt.
Apart from being a thunder gun in operation it even looks good with that flashy yellow and red cover. Unfortunately, this cover gets greasy very quickly, and even if you do clean it after every use, it eventually becomes too black to clean up. The only real downside of this tool.
My take: If beauty is not an issue and you want true power with speed and reliability, then you need to buy this Ingersoll-Rand 232TGSL Air Impact Wrench Thunder Gun without delay. Take note, this is used by Nascar mechanics and is a fast operator, so be careful when using it for the first time.
- Weight: 5.3 lbs.
- Torque: 650 ft-lb
- RPM: 7,500
The DeWalt DWMT70773L ½” is a square drive air impact wrench designed for steady heavy duty. DeWalt is a great tool manufacturer, and they are known for their ergonomically designed power tools. This one is no exception. The double hammer does the trick, and it doesn’t even use too much air pressure to reach peak performance.
The handle is coated with a black rubber grip, and the unit comes with an adjustable power regulator as well as a fast action forward-reverse selector. The mechanical/pneumatic action of the double hammer gives this model more effectivity than some higher torque models. The relatively lower RPM does not affect speed when considering its ability to handle stuck lugs nuts.
My take: If there is a tank for every type of tool than this is the tank of air power wrenches. It is steady, solid, and efficient. It’s a great tool for the mechanic in any setting, the best performance in a garage and maintenance department in any manufacturing site.
- Weight: 5.9 lbs.
- Torque: 500 ft-lb
- RPM: 8,000
If you are looking for a versatile and sturdy model than this is your tool of choice. Versatility is its name, and the reason being is that it comes with a nickel-metal hydride battery that allows you to use it in electric mode when you don’t have any air pressure around. So, this means it’s a kind of hybrid, which makes this one hefty tool to carry around with you for off-site jobs where there is no air compressor or electricity available.
There is one concern with this model, and it’s the overall power you can coax out of it. Sometimes, especially with those stubborn lugs, you need to pound loose, the 500 torque is not enough. Yes, some will argue that 500 ft-lbs of torque are more than enough for any wrench. However, in reality, the reason you get higher torque wrenches is not for showing off, it’s for action-packed power.
The Bostitch delivers very consistent performance, with its slightly hair-trigger action but remember, this is the unit for a beginner or amateur that wants one in the toolbox but doesn’t really use it for more than replacing wheels.
My take: this unit is up here with the rest because of its reliability and constant work output, its price and performance levels are OK, and this is a great beginners power tool. If it’s your first buy and you haven’t used a compressed air wrench before, start off with this one, get the hang of using it first.
Impact Tool Operation
The impact tool head is rotated through an accelerating motor that stores energy and then releases it in a sudden spurt to the output shaft, this creates a high-torque impact on the nut and bolt. The hammer mechanism is released after impact, spinning freely until its re-impacted. This system delivers an exertion free experience to the mechanic, even though the tool is delivering a series of high torque impacts.
The basic design is either a hammer directly routed from the motor or a gear reduction system that allows you to control the torque. Although the most common design is a single-stage planetary gearset combined with a heavier hammer, that delivers a constant speed with higher “spin” torque.
The most common source of power is compressed air (pneumatic), this is a corded system, and you will find these in use in all manufacturing sites, mechanic shops, and tire shops. The tool requires a compressed air source that is linked to the base or handle, providing the hammer mechanism with the necessary driving energy.
Electric power is a standalone (cordless) energy source. However, the tool output power is significantly less powerful than compressed air.
Hydraulic power is used where extremely high-torque for heavy equipment is required. Hydraulic power gives a much stronger power to weight delivery ratio than a pneumatic wrench.
Size and Type
There are a variety of types, including the inline, pistol grip, D-Handle grip, T-Handle, and butterfly design. All these types come in various size ranges, that start at ¼” to 1″ and go higher.
The smaller tools are held like a screwdriver, while the larger versions require a stronger grip and come in the “pistol” shape that is most commonly seen. Butterfly grips are less common, and they have an integrated directional button that can change the direction of the tool while in operation.
As a general guide to grip types, there is a direct relation to the torque and method of gripping the tool.
- Inline Grip: from ¼.”
- Pistol Grip: from ⅜.”
- Butterfly Grip: from ⅜.”
- Pistol Grip: From ½.”
- D-Grip: from 1.”
- T-Grip: from 1¼.”
The D and T grips are added handles used for heavier tools, giving the operator a stronger and harder grip to match the needed torque dispersion.
There are some attachment methods (loading) to connect the socket to the anvil, these include:
- Spring-loaded pin: this requires a slightly forced pressing of the socket over the anvil, where a small ball is held in place by an internal spring, this ball enters a hole in the side of the anvil and attaches the socket to the wrench. This is used in most impact wrenches.
- Hog ring is the method used when you connect a socket by friction or by snapping them into pre-machined indents in the socket. This method is used for lower torque units and inline types.
- Through-hole is a system that attaches a socket by inserting a pin through a pre-bored hole in the socket and anvil. This system is slowly disappearing as it is replaced by the more common Spring Load and Hog Ring methods.