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Ever been on that drive home from the jobsite, and your arm is still vibrating from all the tools you use?
One of the biggest culprits of this is your cordless drill, especially if it’s a bottom-tier model. Those vibrations are transferred into your arms, which can not only cause ligament damage over time, but it just makes it uncomfortable and numbing to use these tools.
Then again, you could always go with a different tool that can perform many of the same tasks.
I’m talking about getting the best pneumatic impact wrench to deliver high torque with just about zero kickback.
You’ll carry out your tasklist with more efficiency, all while adding an epic new tool to your kit without overspending on your budget. They have the drivers to get the job done, so what are you waiting for? Let’s take a look at the best of the best.
Best Pneumatic Impact Wrench – Reviews & Buying guide for 2020
Best overall: Ingersoll Rand Super-Duty Air Impact Wrench
What goes into a pneumatic impact wrench anyway, apart from the air compressor hose?
Apparently, that’s difficult to figure out for a lot of people, because we couldn’t even find information about the blows per minute on the box or manufacturer’s website.
What we do know is that it’s a two-piece design that’s ridiculously easy to use, which is one of the reasons that Ingersoll made the top of the list.
As the best air impact gun we used, you get the benefit of an exclusive impact mechanism that other brands don’t use, which allows for pressure-feed lubrication and a maximum power of 600 foot-pounds.
You’re going to find that some of the other impact wrenches on this list have much higher torque, but Ingersoll comes in with a balance of features, which is what put them at the top.
For one, it’s just a sleek-looking design. Everything is nice and sturdy, well put-together, and doesn’t exhibit any weaknesses even as the motor heats up.
The temperature distribution is top-notch, so you won’t have to worry about burning your hand on the chamber when you go to move it or position for another cycle.
I will say that it’s a bit on the heavier side though, which was to be expected because of the amount of metal that they use, but it still impairs functionality every so slightly. You’re going to feel this in your wrist after extended use.
There’s little to no vibration issues even as the chamber spins, but the heat from the bolt on the air hose will be noticeable, so be careful when removing that.
In terms of pricing, balance, and overall durability, they take the cake, even if it’s not the most powerful air wrench you’re ever going to use.
Runner up: AIRCAT Killer Torque Impact Wrench
Stepping up to the plate to snag that second place trophy is Aircat, and they’re no strangers to making things premium. Impact wrenches aren’t cheap, but they have a lot of price point justification to make up.
To start, you get a whopping 1,400 blows per minute, and a 15% larger rotor than most impact wrenches out there to help you drive it home.
That extra size allows for up to 900 foot-pounds, which I doubt you’re going to need all of. You have up to 1,295 foot-pounds of torque for loosening as well.
Aircat didn’t win our spot for best air impact wrench for the money, but they did win in terms of overall value.
You get a two-year warranty on parts and labor, so even if you encounter an issue, all you’re going to have to worry about is shipping. This impact wrench is also fairly lightweight at 4.6 lbs, so it feels nice and comfortable in your hands.
While they tried their best to manufacture a comfortable, grippy handle, I would say that they did a mediocre job.
If you look closely, you can see what’s called a raindrop pattern that’s built into the plastic/rubber, but it just doesn’t have that tactile feel that you need in a pneumatic impact wrench.
You have the option of going for a kit with an adapter, extension bar, both, or even bulk packs up to four wrenches per container.
If you’re equipping guys for an entire job, this could be a good way to ensure everyone’s geared up. Bulk buys do save you a bit per impact wrench.
Power tools were never designed to be quiet, but after a while, you can still hear that ringing and buzzing through your ear gear. Aircat did a decent job at keeping it quiet, but 86 decibels is still pretty loud for the exhaust.
Alternative: Ingersoll Rand Drive Air Impact Wrench
Yes, they stole the number one and number three spots, but that’s because their power can’t really be contested.
Ingersoll gives you an unmatched 1,350 foot-pounds of power, and while you’re definitely going to pay a premium price for it, depending on the job you have in mind, it’s definitely worth it.
In our quest to make these air impact wrench reviews, we wanted to see just how much power you could buy before it became unnecessary, and this is right on the fence.
For your reverse torque, you have 930 foot-pounds, which is a big disparity. In fact, price-wise, it’s a lot less value than the others we’ve reviewed so far. However, it’s still enough to get the job done.
The cold blue coloration on this is prone to scratching, so it’s not going to win points for longevity when it comes to aesthetics.
The interior is really what we want to focus on here, and with a steel-wear plate and composite housing, you’re not going to endure any damage to the twin-hammer impact mechanism, or the titanium hammer casing.
Ingersoll made this fairly lightweight at 4.6 lbs, so you won’t feel it weighing down on your wrist. Ingersoll went a bit weird with the warranty though.
Most impact wrenches come in around three to five years, but Ingersoll split up different coverages into different year terms.
You only have one year on the charger, for example, but two years on battery replacement. It’s a bit weird, and I recommend looking it over before committing to a purchase.
Last but not least, it operates at 90 psi on average, though it can handle a bit more. Generally, you’re not going to need more power. Between the air compressor and the twin mechanisms, this thing is loud as can be.
Once you turn it off, you’re going to feel like the entire world just went silent in an instant. While they could work on soundproofing, it correlates to the power that it outputs, so we’ll deal with it as a trade-off.
ALTERNATIVE: Chicago Pneumatic Stubby Impact Wrench
Medium price, medium power. Chicago Pneumatic brings you the Stubby: a small impact wrench that packs a little bit of power, but comes with some perks for its miniscule size.
The first perk would definitely be the noise, because it only runs 450 foot pounds, the air compressor can be around a 70 to an 85 psi without causing issues. The quiet operation makes it nice for at-home use if you’re not planning on bringing this to a job site.
Is it the best air wrench?
No! It comes with that lesser torque, making it good for lightweight to medium-grade tasks around the home, but I wouldn’t purchase this for commercial use.
With a lightweight size and plastic casing, it only weighs 2.9 lbs, so if you’re still getting used to the feeling of a pneumatic impact wrench in your hands, this is a great beginning wrench that you can graduate from at a later date if you choose.
The interior body is made from steel and aluminum, so even though it doesn’t look like it on the outside, this is built fairly tough. You have three settings positions, and simple one-hand operation. The ease-of-use is definitely a selling point.
It just takes two fingers to operate. As a heads-up, you’re not going to get anything other than the impact wrench, which means no case to store it in. You should have a spot in your rolling tool chest already thought of for that.
ALTERNATIVE: Ingersoll Rand Impactool Quiet Tool Extended Anvil
I don’t want to hear it. Ingersoll just does an amazing job, okay?
For real though, their Extended Anvil Impactool is actually really quiet in comparison to their other models, which is a pretty big plus right out the gate.
If you’re wondering how that low-budget impact wrench above beat this one, it’s because the price is hard to justify for what you get.
Ingersoll’s top rated air impact wrench has a lot of similarities to the Extended Anvil, but there’s one major design flaw. The plastic on the casing is meant to bring down the weight, which is 5.8 lbs.
That’s definitely on the heavier side, and when you’re using one of these all day long, it really adds up. Furthermore, it throws off the weight distribution with the way it’s designed.
You can hold it steady, but it’s going to tilt forward based on the way it’s designed. Definitely a flaw.
Whatever they did with this version of their impact wrench, it doesn’t hit all of the torque that it promises. Still hits a lot of it, still one of the strongest impact wrenches out there, but not fully as advertised.
The more than a product claims it exceeds expectations, the more healthy skepticism you should have going into it.
For this price and this hardware, I think a two-year warranty is a bit of a slap in the face. It’s not an introductory impact wrench you’re getting here. That warranty mostly just covers manufacturer defects as well.
The saving grace here,and why it made it onto the list in the first place, is because it’s durable.
You’re not going to have to replace this anytime soon, because Ingersoll designed it to never give up on you. This could be your forever impact wrench, if you can love its flaws.
Pneumatic Impact Wrench Buying Guide & FAQ
How Does a Pneumatic Impact Wrench Work?
Whether you get the best pneumatic wrench for the money, or you go for a top-tier model that blows every competitor out of the water, they use the same power process.
Being pneumatic means that energy is taken from one source, in this case an air compressor and tubing, and pushed into the internal mechanism.
This is usually a system of dual hammer pins that work based on the air pressure, which revs up the machinery and allows you to just gently tap the trigger, and release all that stored-up force.
It’s a fancy way of saying, “That’s why they call it an air wrench for short.” Air pressure forces those hammer pins to work, which may also be nuts or bolts depending on the specific brand and model you get.
But not all impact wrenches are operated using an air compressor. In fact, many of them actually work through nothing more than 120V connections.
While you’d be hard-pressed to find a 20V detachable, rechargeable battery pack on an impact wrench, there are a few out there, they just don’t offer as much driving power.
With corded 120V impact wrenches, electricity powers the rotational pieces instead.
Both methods of powering a pneumatic impact wrench will make the wrench run hot after a while.
Whether it’s heat from the electricity surging through metal, or the pressure of air and the friction that it causes, I don’t really know any impact wrench that doesn’t start to get hot after using it for a while.
This is an unavoidable design element that you can’t escape regardless of what brand you buy from.
Do You really Need Impact Sockets?
The short answer is no, but if you want to know why, then I’ve got that as well.
People often think that selling impact sockets is just a sales gimmick by the brands and manufacturers of impact wrenches, but that’s not the case. In fact, if you put regular sockets on your impact wrench, they’re going to be put through hell.
Regular sockets are made with a lower grade steel than impact sockets. Steel isn’t just steel: there are dozens of different grades, or hardness levels, that they’re each rated for. It all depends on how the steel is melted down.
For impact sockets, they end up costing more because they’re made with higher grade steel, and that’s why people often mistake this as a gimmick.
It’s also why they’re usually not included in a kit with your air wrench, because it would drive the price up just a bit too much.
You might read this, then grab your older impact wrench, and put a standard socket on it just because a guy on the internet told you not to. Yes, it will fit, and yes it will work… for now.
Those regular sockets will buckle, and under the pressure of over 900 inch-pounds from your new impact wrench, it will bend, snap, and possibly fly out like shrapnel, though that last scenario is admittedly difficult to come across.
Can an Impact Wrench be Used as a Drill?
Yes, you absolutely can use an impact wrench to drill holes. It makes you wonder why you ever need a cordless drill in the first place, right? Well, it’s not like they’re equal on this front.
A cordless drill is designed to drill holes. An impact wrench just happens to allow for the same thing, under the right circumstances.
If you want to drill with an impact wrench, you need special bits and drivers, which can end up costing you more money in the long haul.
What Should I Avoid Doing With my Impact Wrench?
We have an entire cabinet of tools at home for a reason.
One specific job requires one specific tool, and every now and again you get lucky with multitools that can be dually functional without making the task harder. Your impact wrench is powerful, but it’s not almighty. Here are some things you should avoid.
Avoiding Eye Protection
Impact wrenches are powerful, and I’ve seen far too many people refuse to use eye protection while operating an impact wrench.
Those same people will wear eyewear when using a framing nailer with the same psi and overall power. It boggles my mind. You’re still at-risk for injury, because you have a motor with potentially over 8,000 RPM in your hands. Handle it wisely.
Not Starting the Bolt
Driving a bolt with an impact wrench?
Good, that’s kind of why you probably bought one in the first place. Dialing back to the power of this tool, you can make a huge mistake by relying on it to handle all of the work when you’re trying to get a bolt down.
Start it with your hand and make sure it’s in there a bit, so you can’t jiggle it back and forth too much, and then use your impact wrench.
Not all sockets are designed for impact wrench use. You have to understand exactly what you’re dealing with before you ever decide to fire this up. It’s possible to get non-fitting sockets stuck in your impact wrench if you aren’t careful, so exercise caution.
Will Impact Wrench Break Bolts?
There’s no hard yes or no on this. An impact wrench can break bolts, and everyone’s experiences with how often this happens are going to be different.
If I have a single bolt to remove, I might use my impact wrench for it and roll the dice. However, I’ve had non-rusted, seemingly newer bolts break on me.
If you want to remove a rusted bolt, I would strongly recommend using something that isn’t a pneumatic impact wrench. Rusted bolts have their own set of problems, and for this, I would saw the head off with an oscillating tool, and then remove it with pliers.
Impact wrenches provide a lot of pressure, and even if some bolts are installed with a lot of pressure, that doesn’t translate to it withstanding that much when trying to remove it.
Your impact wrench can break bolts, it won’t break every one, but it’s still a risk to run which could elongate your project.
Ecstatic About Pneumatic
It all depends on what you need, but a pneumatic impact wrench suits the needs of most carpenters and DIY warriors.
Cut down on the hardcore vibrations that rattle your hands, and get back to focusing on the task at hand. Pneumatic impact wrenches will quickly replace many tasks that you were previously relying on your drill for.