Impact Wrench vs Torque Wrench

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Last Updated on September 22, 2022 by John Smith

There’s a lot of confusion regarding the differences between impact wrenches and torque wrenches.

This guide will compare each tool’s differences and similarities to help you decide which is best for your needs.

Let’s get started.


Impact Wrench vs Torque Wrench

Here are the main differences between impact wrenches and torque wrenches.

Torque and Efficiency

The myth that impact wrenches and torque wrenches are replaceable is entirely false.

In fact, these tools are fundamentally different, particularly in terms of torque output.

Impact wrenches have internal motors that use either compressed air or electricity to spin their anvils and sockets at high speeds with high levels of torque, allowing them to quickly remove rusty nuts and bolts.

Torque wrenches, on the other hand, are tools used to tighten or remove a fastener by applying manual force through their handles. 

They have torque scale markings to set the desired torque, and once that torque is reached, they stop tightening the fastener. As a result, they are ideal for mechanics or maintenance workers who require maximum torque accuracy and put torque power aside.

Torque wrenches are much slower and less powerful than impact wrenches because they lack internal motors.

Control and Accuracy

Another significant difference between impact wrenches and torque wrenches is their control and accuracy.

Torque wrenches are manually operated by setting a desired preset torque and stopping the tool from spinning the socket once that torque is reached.

This gives the user complete control and accuracy over the torque output, which is essential when working with delicate mechanical parts (e.g., motors or car suspensions).

Impact wrenches provide significantly more torque than torque wrenches, but the torque levels cannot be controlled. In most cases, you have a variable speed trigger, but it only allows you to control the speed at which the anvil spins, not the torque output.

Common Use

We recommend that workers use torque wrenches to work on a few nuts and bolts that require a specific torque.

Why?

Because, as previously stated, torque wrenches have torque scale markings on them that allow users to set a desired torque level to apply to the fastener when tightening it. This allows for maximum accuracy, which is essential for mechanics and maintenance workers.

Furthermore, these aren’t power tools, so they don’t have internal motors to make their socket spin quickly; you have to do it manually. So, if you plan on removing hundreds of nuts and bolts with a torque wrench daily, you’re in for a world of hurt.

Impact wrenches, on the other hand, are ideal for removing hundreds (or even thousands) of nuts and bolts per day because they have powerful internal motors that spin their anvils with high levels of torque, which is ideal for removing rusted nuts and bolts with next to no hand or arm fatigue.

Power Source

One of the most significant differences between impact wrenches and torque wrenches is how they are powered.

Torque wrenches are manually operated, which means they do not require electricity or an air compressor to function. All you need is your arm to exert force through the handle.

Impact wrenches, on the other hand, have internal motors that can be powered by an air compressor, a battery, or a power outlet.

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Noise

Torque wrenches not only provide maximum torque accuracy due to their internal mechanisms but also produce no noise because they lack noisy internal components (i.e., motors).

Impact wrenches, on the other hand, make a lot of noise when in use, regardless of their power source, because they have a motor that makes a lot of noise when in use (especially their pneumatic versions)

Ease of Use

In terms of usability, I’d say both tools are very simple to use, but in different ways. Allow me to explain.

Impact wrenches are powered by internal motors that cause their anvils to spin quickly and with significant torque, allowing them to effortlessly remove nuts and bolts with minimal hassle.

As a result, workers can use impact wrenches for more extended periods of time because they do not need to exert physical force to use this type of tool, they press the trigger, and that’s it!

Torque wrenches are simple tools that are operated manually, making them very easy to use in the short term as you don’t have to hassle with batteries or cables. Still, they are not designed to be used repeatedly because they require physical force to operate, which can get tiring.

Price

There is a significant price difference between them.

Impact wrenches are significantly more expensive than torque wrenches due to their costly internal components (e.g., brushless motors).

You could argue that pneumatic impact wrenches are more affordable since they have fewer internal components, but they do rely on expensive air compressors, which not everyone has lying around.

Corded and cordless impact wrenches are by far the most expensive ones.

Torque wrenches, on the other hand, have simple and mechanically-oriented designs that are easy to fix and cheap to replace.


Comparison Table

Torque WrenchImpact Wrench
Torque and EfficiencyMore torque and more efficientLess torque and less efficiency
Control and AccuracyLess controlMore control
Common UseTightening and removing a few nuts and bolts with maximum torque accuracyRemoving lots of nuts and bolts without torque accuracy
Power SourceManualPneumatic, Corded, and Battery-powered
NoiseNo noiseHigh noise
Ease of UseEasy Easy but tiring
PriceLowMedium to high

When to Go for An Impact Wrench

You can use an impact wrench for tasks that require a lot of torque and speed because it has internal components (such as brushless motors) that allow the anvil and sockets to spin at higher RPMs with a lot of torque.

Changing tires is an excellent example of how an impact wrench can be used, as this job typically requires the removal of hundreds of nuts and bolts per day.

Another excellent example is the construction industry, where employees spend their days removing and screwing in thousands of bolts. A solid impact wrench can make their lives much easier in these situations.

However, you should be aware that an impact wrench should not be used for sensitive machine parts that require torque accuracy because these tools lack torque scale markings to ensure that a nut or bolt is tightened to a specific torque level.


When to Go for A Torque Wrench

A torque wrench, once again, is a tool that allows us to set the desired torque level for tightening a lug or bolt, and once that level is reached, the torque wrench stops the socket from spinning, ensuring maximum accuracy.

Because it lacks an internal motor that automatically allows it to spin the socket with high torque, it is best suited for tasks that require torque accuracy but not efficiency or speed, as the torque wrench is operated manually.

A torque wrench is commonly used by mechanics when working on internal parts of a car (e.g., motors or suspensions), as they require maximum torque precision.


What is The Best Impact Wrench?

I actually made an article that goes about the best impact wrenches. But, if you want a quick answer, I’d say the DEWALT 20v XR impact wrench is the best available.

DEWALT 20V Max XR Impact Wrench 

Features

  • Max torque: 700 ft-lbs of max torque
  • Breakaway torque: 1200 ft-lbs of max breakaway torque
  • Anvil size: 1/2 inches

One of the primary reasons I chose this Dewalt impact wrench as the best overall is because of its exciting features, such as its powerful motor, which produces 700 ft-lbs of max torque and 1200 ft-lbs of breakaway torque to remove rusted nuts and bolts.

It has a very compact design and only weighs 6 pounds, so it will not only fit in tight spaces but will also be easy to hold for long periods of time to avoid fatigue and similar issues.

I like the multi-speed trigger because it allows me to set the desired speed with one finger.

Finally, its LED lights stay on for 20 seconds, which is ideal when I’m removing nuts or bolts in low-light conditions.

Pros

  • 700 ft-lbs of max torque and 1200 ft-lbs of max breakaway torque
  • Compact design of 8-13/16-inch length and it weighs only 6.0 lbs, which is perfect for fitting into tight spaces
  • Multi-speed control thanks to variable speed trigger (0-400/ 1,200/ 1,900 RPM)
  • LED light with 20 second delay for enhanced visibility in dark spaces

Cons

  • No cons over here

Customer Reviews and Scores

There are more than 4,813 reviews on Amazon.com about this product at the time of writing and they have given it a 4.8 out of 5 rating on average. These reviews are positive overall.



What is The Best Torque Wrench?

GEARWRENCH 1/2″ Drive Micrometer Torque Wrench 30-250 ft/lbs.

Features

  • Torque accuracy: +/- 3%
  • Design: Thin profile, sealed, teardrop head
  • Scalings: Easy-to-read scale markings

This Gearwrench torque wrench is a wonder in that it includes easy-to-read torque scale markings for those of us who don’t have the best eyesight.

Furthermore, its thin profile and teardrop head design allow me to easily use this torque wrench in tight spaces, which is a very common issue for me.

It has a torque accuracy of +/- 3 percent, which is ideal as I like to have maximum accuracy when working with a torque wrench (otherwise, I’d use an impact wrench).

And while I don’t like the fact that it’s made overseas, features like its ergonomic handle, which allows me to use the tool repeatedly while avoiding hand fatigue, more than make up for it.

Pros

  • Accurate in Clockwise direction with +/- 3% of torque accuracy
  • Pull adjustment collar for easy torque adjustments
  • Thin profile, sealed, teardrop head design for easy access
  • Easy to read scale markings
  • Ergonomic handle to avoid hand fatigue

Cons

  • Manufactured overseas

Customer Reviews and Scores

There are more than 1,115 reviews on Amazon.com about this product at the time of writing and they have given it a 4.7 out of 5 rating on average. These reviews are positive overall.



Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most frequent questions regarding the comparison between impact wrenches and torque wrenches.

Can you use an impact wrench instead of a torque wrench?

You can, but you must take some precautions.

An impact wrench is a power tool with a motor that spins its anvil and socket at high speed and torque, whereas a torque wrench is a manually-operated tool that allows you to set a desired torque and then stops tightening the fastener once it is reached.

An impact wrench does not provide the same level of torque accuracy as a torque wrench, which means that if you need to tighten a fastener to a specific torque, it could easily exceed that torque and break the nut or bolt being fastened, causing a major headache.

As a result, if you want to use an impact wrench instead of a torque wrench, ensure you’re only removing a fastener. And, if you decide to tighten a nut or bolt with an impact wrench, use extreme caution and go very slowly.

Is an impact wrench the same as a torque wrench?

No, they are entirely different instruments.

Impact wrenches are power tools commonly used to unscrew many nuts and bolts because their motors provide extremely high RPMs, maximum torque, and breakaway torque levels. They are widely used to remove rusty nuts and bolts and to change tires.

Torque wrenches are manually operated tools that allow the user to set a desired torque level to ensure that a fastener is tightened correctly. Torque wrenches are commonly used by mechanics and engineers when working on very complex machines that require maximum torque accuracy.

Should you use an impact wrench to tighten lug nuts?

I’d say no. It would be best if you didn’t tighten lug nuts with an impact wrench.

Why?

Impact wrenches have very powerful motors that provide high torque levels that are challenging to control accurately. That is, it will be extremely difficult to tighten a lug nut to a desired torque level, which could result in the fastener breaking and causing a huge mess.

This is why I would tighten a lug nut with a torque wrench.

But, if you must use an impact wrench to tighten a lug nut (which I don’t understand why), go slowly until the lug nut is tightened correctly. That would be my recommendation.

Author
Hi, I’m John Smith, a proud husband, and father of two little beautiful girls. After a long time of thinking I made up my mind to build a website around my passion.. helping people who need smart advice from handymen with years of experience.

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