When Not To Use an Impact Wrench

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Wanna learn when not to use an impact wrench?

This powerful, high-torque tool can help you remove stubborn and rusty nuts and bolts substantially improving your productivity.

However, it could also generate a variety of headaches, particularly if you use your impact wrench for tasks that are not actually suited to be used with such a powerful tool.

The best way to prevent all this problems from coming up is by learning what you’re supposed to do and, more importantly, what you aren’t supposed to do with an impact wrench. And that’s exactly what we’re going to help you with in this article.

How to Properly Use an Impact Wrench?

Before discussing what not to do with an impact wrench, it’s important to first talk about how you should properly use the tool.

In my experience, this is a common issue among tradespeople that can lead to mistakes which is very easy to fix.

Tip-first control for better results

I know what you’re thinking. “Tip-first control? What the hell is that?”

Well, it’s actually a super useful technique that can give you more control over the tool when you need to be precise and careful, which happens a lot when you’re a tradesman.

You see, when you hold the impact wrench at the tip of the handle, you’re able to make smaller, more precise movements with the tool, which are key to avoiding unwanted mistakes that could lead to expensive and dangerous errors.

Also, if you need more power to remove a nut or bolt that’s really stuck, you can move your hand closer to the middle of the handle which gives you more leverage, meaning you can use your own strength and transfer it to the impact wrench, which will easily remove the fastener.

Stop when you feel the friction

Impact wrenches are powerful tools that can get the job done quickly, but if you’re not careful, you can cause some serious damage as, at the end of day, they are high-torque tools.

So, the best avoid to avoid this is to stop when you feel that friction that comes when the fastened is already tightened.

Yeah, I know it’s tempting to keep on going until you hear that satisfying click, but overtightening with an impact wrench can mess up your fasteners big time. So, when you feel that resistance, it’s time to back off.

Trust me, taking that extra second to feel the friction and stop can save you a lot of headaches and money in the long run.

Don’t undertighten neither

Under tightening a fastener, whether you use an impact wrench or not, can cause serious issues down the line.

I mean, it’s not only about the quality of the job, but we’re also talking about safety hazards and potentially catastrophic damage.

So, what can you do to avoid under-tightening when using an impact wrench?

Well, for starters, you want to stop when you feel the friction that signals that the fastener is already fastened enough.

BUT! don’t stop until you feel the friction. That’s a common issue tradesmen make because of how scary they are of damaging the fastener or the impact wrench itself.

However, this could present serious problems. I mean, imagine a wheel detaching from the vehicle, causing damage not only to the car but also putting other cars and pedestrians at risk.

So, by stopping the impact wrench at the right time, you can ensure the lug nut or bolt is secured tightly without damaging the threads and that the quality of the job will remain in good condition in the future.

Firm grip for maximum impact

You should the handle of the impact with a firm and even grip, ensuring that your hand is positioned at the very end of the grip

When it comes to using a powerful tool like an impact wrench, you gotta have a firm grip.

I mean, this thing ain’t no toy, it’s a serious high-torque tool that can do some real damage if you’re not careful.

Grabbing the tool tightly will reduce any wobbling or movement that can lead to damages or inaccuracies.

And don’t just grab it anywhere – hold it at the very end of the grip. This’ll give you the most control to maximize productivity and safety.

And here’s another tip – hold the wrench with a flat palm facing the fingerboard as it will help prevent any twisting that can cause damage or inaccuracies.

Double-hand control for safety

I’m the kind of guy that thinks that safety should always be a top priority when it comes to using power tools.

That’s why I’m telling you about the importance of two-hand control when operating an impact wrench.

Not only does using both hands increase your overall control of the tool as you can evenly distribute the force applied to the object, but it also prevents any accidental over-tightening or under-tightening that could cause damage to the object you’re working on.

Plus, it’s especially useful when working on delicate or intricate objects where precision is key as you can avoid any accidents that may arise from losing your grip or losing control of the tool.

Create space to work safely

Let’s talk about the importance of creating enough space to work safely when using an impact wrench.

Keeping the object you’re working on as far away from you as possible is not only important for safety reasons but it can also help you maneuver the wrench easily and prevent inaccuracies.

With enough space, you can make precise movements with your tool, work faster, and avoid the possibility of damaging your wrench or the object you’re working on.

Picture this: you’re working on a car engine, and you don’t have enough room to maneuver your impact wrench which increases the risk of you hitting other parts of the engine or accidentally overtightening the bolt, which could cause damage to both the engine and the wrench. But if you create more space to work, you can make precise movements and avoid any unwanted damages.

So, make sure to clear the area you’ll be working on to create the necessary space you need to operate the impact wrench safely and efficiently.

When Not To Use An Impact Wrench?

Now we get to the good stuff.

As I mentioned earlier, there are certain things you should avoid doing with an impact wrench. Let me guide you on when not to use an impact wrench, so you can prevent any potential issues that may arise from improper use of the tool.

Don’t Use Impact Wrenches and Delicate Materials

I know you may already know this, but, if you’re working with delicate materials, you better not be thinking about using an impact wrench.

I mean, these are very powerful tools output high levels of torque that can damage your delicate materials (e.g. aluminum or magnesium alloy) faster than you can say “oh crap.”

Think about it – you wouldn’t use a sledgehammer to hang a picture, would you? It’s the same idea.

I mean, let’s say you are attaching metal brackets to an aluminum frame. The aluminum frame is relatively soft and lightweight compared to the metal brackets, which are heavier and denser. If you use an impact wrench to tighten the bolts that secure the brackets to the frame, the high torque output of the wrench can easily damage the aluminum frame or even deform it. You should do that manually.

Impact wrenches are designed for heavy-duty applications like tightening bolts and lug nuts, so leave them for those tasks and use a more delicate tool for your delicate materials.

When Precision Counts

Here’s the deal: an impact wrench might be great for tightening bolts on a car or truck, but it lacks the precision and control you need for delicate work.

An impact wrench is all about brute force, delivering high levels of torque in a flash to remove stubborn nuts and bolts. But when it comes to finesse and accuracy, this is not the tool for you.

Let me give you an example. Say you’re an automotive technician working on a delicate engine component that requires a steady hand and utmost control. You need to tighten every nut and bolt just enough to hold everything in place, but not so much that you strip the threads. This is where an impact wrench would be a disaster. It’s simply too powerful and unwieldy for such a delicate task.

With Small Fasteners

Steer clear of using an impact wrench on small fasteners, as the powerful torque produced by the tool can potentially lead to their damage

Small fasteners are weak and can be damaged or stripped very easily.

So, if you’re dealing with small fasteners, using an impact wrench could be a costly mistake.

You see, an impact wrench outputs a high level of torque, which is great for heavy-duty tasks like removing tough bolts and lug nuts.

But, when it comes to small fasteners, that same torque can be too much to handle. Thus, using an impact wrench on small fasteners can lead to over-tightening or damage to the fastener itself which would bring you all sorts of headaches.

In Tight Spaces

You ever use an impact wrench on small fasteners? That’s like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.

Those small fasteners are weak and can get stripped very easily. You gotta be gentle with them.

Using an impact wrench on them can lead to over-tightening or damage to the fastener due to the high level of torque outputted.

In those cases, a hand wrench or other appropriate tool should be used instead.

While Dealing With a Stuck Nut or Bolt

Listen, we’ve all been there – you’re trying to loosen a stubborn bolt or nut, and no matter how hard you crank that impact wrench, it just won’t budge.

Here’s the thing, if you keep trying to remove that stuck bolt with an impact wrench, you might end up doing more harm than good. In fact, you could end up breaking that expensive tool, and that’s not a good feeling, my friend, especially for your wallet.

So, what do you do when this happens?

Well, you gotta switch to a more appropriate tool, like a breaker bar or something similar. That way, you can apply the right amount of force without damaging the bolt or the wrench itself.

With Stud Bolts

Stud bolts provide a more secure connection than regular bolts, and they’re easier to install. However, when it comes to removing them, things can get a little tricky, particularly if you’re planning to do it with an impact wrench which is not recommended at all.


If you attempt to use an impact wrench to loosen the head of a stud bolt, there is a risk that the bolt will also start to rotate with the nut, damaging the bolt itself and making a whole mess.

So, what should you do instead?

Well, you can try using a regular socket wrench or a pair of pliers to hold the stud in place while you loosen the nut. And if that doesn’t work, you could use a special tool called a “stud extractor” which grips the stud and allows you to turn it without rotating the entire bolt.

Common Mistakes of Using an Impact Wrench

Tradesmen always make mistakes when using high torque tools like an impact wrench.

Let me give you a rundown of the most common mistakes when using an impact wrench so you can avoid them, thus making sure everything goes according to plan.

Neglect Workspace Preparation

If you neglect to prepare your workspace where you’ll use your impact wrench, you’re asking for trouble.

These tools are no joke, they are powerful enough to send things flying around while causing some real damage. You need to take some precautions to avoid accidents and ensure your safety.

Here’s what you should do:

  • Clear your workspace: Remove any objects that could get in your way or be knocked over. Make sure you have enough space to move around comfortably.
  • Secure moving objects: Use clamps or other holding devices to secure any small moving object that could be easily sent flying by the impact wrench.
  • Wear proper safety gear: This includes safety glasses, earplugs, gloves, and any other gear recommended by the manufacturer. Don’t take any chances with your safety.

Wrong Impact Wrench Size

If you use a smaller impact wrench than the one you need, you’ll strip fasteners and damage the tool by causing unnecessary wear and tear while if you use a larger impact wrench than you need, you’ll risk over-tightening fasteners and creating a huge issue.

So, what should you do? Well… you need to choose the right size impact wrench for the job.

Generally, for smaller bolts, a 3/8-inch drive impact wrench is sufficient, while larger bolts may require a 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch drive. It is essential to consider the job requirements and the maximum torque output of the impact wrench before making a decision on the appropriate size.

Weak Socket Connection

Use impact-rated sockets & proper power source to prevent damage of the tool and surroundings

Having a weak socket connection on an impact wrench can cause some serious problems as it could come loose during use, causing damage to the tool itself, the fastener, and everyone nearby.

I mean, if you’re a mechanic using an impact wrench with a loose socket connection to remove a bolt, the socket could detach and go flying, potentially hitting you or someone else nearby.

Also, a weak connection can cause the impact wrench to vibrate excessively, which can lead to fatigue and discomfort for the user, as well as potentially damaging the wrench itself over time

That’s why it’s important to check the tightness of the socket before using the impact wrench. Make sure it’s tightened securely and use a torque wrench if necessary.

Improper Torque Setting

Using the wrong torque setting on your impact wrench could cause issues like over-tightening, under-tightening lug nuts or bolts, and even damaging to the tool itself.

To avoid this, make sure you’re using the right torque setting for the job, and double-check it before you start working. This will ensure that you get the job done right and avoid any unnecessary damage or safety hazards.

How do you know what torque setting to choose?

See what the manufacturer says for the tool and fastener you’re using. You also gotta think about the material and the diameter of the fastener, and how tight you want it, that will give you a better idea on the torque setting you’d need.

The general rule is starting low torque and slowly increasing the setting as you need it.

By doing this you’ll work more efficiently, and increase productivity while ensuring that your expensive impact wrench is properly secured.

Working Without Wearing Safety Gear

Using a high-torque tool like an impact wrench without proper safety equipment can be really dangerous and I’m not talking about just a little cut or a scratch.

No… I’m talking about serious injuries.

Imagine a piece of debris flying into your eye because you weren’t wearing safety goggles, or your hand getting seriously injured because you weren’t wearing safety gloves and you lost the grip of the tool?

Trust me, you don’t want to go through that.

Just ensure you have all the necessary safety gear, such as gloves and safety glasses, before starting your next project, it will only take a few seconds and it could save you and your family a big headache.

Don’t Unplug After Completing the Task

Now, I know you’re all busy tradesmen. You’ve got things to do, and places to be. But let me tell you, you need to take your time and take proper care of your impact wrench like it’s your own child.

One of the caring tasks you must do is unplugging it after you’ve completed your task.

If you keep the impact wrench plugged on after use, you’re asking for trouble as the tool could overheat, leading to less durability and potentially even burning out the motor.

I had a friend who learned this lesson the hard way.

He kept his impact wrench plugged in after he was done using it, and the damn thing overheated and died on him. He had to shell out hundreds of dollars to get it fixed and, of course, he wasn’t too happy about it.

Safety Tips for Using an Impact Wrench

Nobody wants to get injured when using a high torque tool such as an impact wrench. I mean, the injuries are not nice at all.

This is why I thought it’d be cool to give you these safety tips to follow when using such powerful tools:

Protect Your Eyes: Wear Safety Gear When Using Impact Wrenches

If you’re gonna be using an impact wrench, you gotta protect those pretty eyes of yours. I mean, you don’t wanna end up with debris flying into your eyes and causing some serious damage, do you?

So, here’s what you gotta do: wear some proper eye protection, like safety goggles or face shields as these are engineered so they are impact-resistant as they are made of sturdy materials such as polycarbonate, which can withstand high-speed impacts and prevent debris from penetrating them.

And make sure they fit properly, you don’t want them sliding down your nose every two seconds.

Also, check for any damages or scratches before you start using them, and if you notice anything, get ’em replaced ASAP.

Safety First: Keep Children and Pets at a Safe Distance

I don’t wanna hear any stories about kids or pets getting hurt because you weren’t paying attention.

To avoid this, you should keep the impact wrench and all its accessories out of their reach, while making sure the area around you is clear of any sharp objects or loose items that could be sent flying around by the tool.

Also, don’t let anyone stand too close to you while you’re using the impact wrench, as they could get potentially injured by flying debris.

And most importantly, have a clear escape path in case something goes wrong.

Don’t Use an Impact Wrench When You’re Exhausted

Now, this one’s important.

You don’t wanna be using an impact wrench when you’re feeling exhausted or sick. That’s just asking for trouble.

Make sure you’re well-rested and mentally alert before you start using the tool as exhaustion can lead to a lack of focus, concentration, and coordination, which can increase the chances of accidents and injuries.

Take frequent breaks if you need to, don’t push yourself too hard.

If you start feeling unwell or dizzy during use, stop what you’re doing and take a break. Otherwise, you run the risk of not only doing a bad job but also injuring yourself.

Hands Off! Keep Your Hands Away from Moving Parts

I know it’s tempting to want to touch the moving parts of your impact wrench.

I mean, they’re right there, spinning around like some kind of mechanical ballet. But trust me on this one: KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF.

Those moving parts can cause serious injury, especially if you’re not paying attention.

So, always keep your hands away from the moving parts of the impact wrench. And while we’re on the topic, make sure you’re using the tool with both hands and have a firm grip on it at all times. Safety first, people.

Turn It Off: Shut Down Impact Wrenches When Done

When you’re finished using your impact wrench, make sure you TURN IT OFF and unplug it from the power source.

Don’t just leave it running and walk away like some kind of amateur. That’s how unwanted accidents happen.

And speaking of accidents, NEVER leave the impact wrench unattended while it’s still connected to the power source as there are all sorts of things that could go wrong.

Instead, store the impact wrench and its accessories in a safe and secure place when not in use.

And don’t forget to inspect the tool regularly for any damages or wear and tear. If you notice any issues, don’t try to fix it yourself. Seek professional help.

Choose Wisely: Use High-Quality Oil or Grease

Your impact wrench needs the right kind of lubrication to run smoothly and prevent damage.

So, make sure you’re using high-quality oil that’s recommended by the manufacturer. Don’t cheap out on this one.

Always use the correct type and amount of oil to prevent any damage to the impact wrench. And don’t forget to check the oil levels regularly and top up when necessary.

Lastly, avoid using low-quality or incompatible oils that can damage the impact wrench.

Keep Your Distance: Stay 16 Inches Away from Objects

Alright, now we’re getting into some serious stuff. When using an impact wrench, you need to make sure you’re keeping your distance from the object you’re working on.

We’re talking at least 16 inches, people, which is enough space to prevent safety hazards and to allow you to properly see the area you’re working on.

Don’t get too close, or you could end up getting hurt. And make sure the object is properly secured before you start wrenching away.

Breathe Easy: Work in a Well-Ventilated Area

You gotta take care of your lungs.

When you’re using an impact wrench, you’re generating a lot of dust and debris, and that stuff can cause some serious respiratory problems if you’re not careful.

That’s why it’s important to work in a well-ventilated area as you want to be able to breathe air that’s free of these particles avoiding any health issues that could arise from inhaling that nasty stuff.

Open some windows, turn on a fan, do whatever you need to do to keep the air moving.

And if you’re working in a particularly dusty area, you might want to consider wearing a mask as it will act as a filter that will impede dust particles form entering your lungs.

Performance Tips for Using an Impact Wrench

Here are some tips I always recommend for tradesmen who want to make the most out of their impact wrenches:

Firm Grip for Tight Bolts

The last thing you want is to lose control of a powerful tool, such as an impact wrench.

I mean, one slip-up and you could end up with a broken wrist, or even worse, a bolt embedded in your skull.

So, what can you do to avoid a trip to the hospital and a huge scare to your family?

Simple. Use work gloves to ensure a secure hold on the tool which in addition to providing a better grip, can also help to protect the hands from cuts, punctures, and abrasions.

I mean, they can be lifesavers, especially if you have sweaty palms or are working in wet conditions which make grabbing tools securely an issue.

Plus, a firm grip allows you to apply more force to the lug nut or bolt with the impact wrench, making it easier to loosen or tighten.

Extend Socket for Stubborn Nuts

There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to remove a rusty, stubborn nut in a tight space.

But fear not, my friends, because there’s a solution: an extended socket.

Extended sockets are designed to tradesmen like us to reach lug nuts that are difficult to access with a standard-length socket.

Also, the added length can give you more leverage to break loose a stubborn nut which is a secondary yet not-very-known advantage.

But here’s the thing: make sure you got the correct size extension for your socket. You just need to check the size of the square drive on your impact wrench and match it with the corresponding size of the square drive on the extension. It’s that easy.

Lower Torque for Delicate Materials

If you’re using a high-torque impact wrench to fasten lug nuts or bolts on delicate materials such as soft metals, well, you’re playing with fire. That’s just asking for trouble.

So, here’s what you need to do: lower the torque setting on your impact wrench and slowly increase it as you need it to achieve the lowest torque setting you need to successfully do your job.

This will give you more control over the tool and help prevent damage to delicate materials like aluminum.

And here’s the kicker: lowering the torque can also help you avoid stripping bolts or damaging threads which is a headache you don’t want to deal with.

Wear Gear for Safety

We all know an impact wrench is a powerful tool that can substantially increase your productivity (particularly if you’re a mechanic), but it can also be a dangerous one if you’re not careful.

And I’m not just talking about the damage you can do to your fasteners or your tools. No, no, no. I’m talking about the damage you can do to yourself.

I’m talking about everything from broken bones to smashed fingers to flying debris. I’ve seen it all.

So, if you’re gonna be using an impact wrench, you better make sure you’re wearing the right gear. Eye protection, gloves, ear protection, you name it. You don’t want to mess around with this tool.

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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