Makita XDT16 News & Opinion

How Much Torque Do You Need on an Impact Driver?


How Much Torque Do You Need on an Impact Driver? More Is Always Better, Right?

In today’s world of power tools, pushing the envelope of more power is more than just a 1990’s Tim Allen sitcom. When you look at two impact drivers with the same price tag and one has more power than the other, you want more power, right?

Maybe not.

High-Torque Impact Driver Pros

  • High-torque impact drivers can replace the need for a light-duty impact wrench
  • Perfectly capable of general screwdriving in lower speeds

High-Torque Impact Driver Cons

  • Requires an adapter that breaks easily on hard metal fastening

Recommendation

Generally speaking, an impact driver in the 1500 to 1800 in-lb range that puts more emphasis on higher RPM will do 95% of the work faster than one with more torque and slower speeds.

Our rule of thumb is that if you need to reach for a socket adapter, you’re better off grabbing an impact wrench. 

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What an Impact Driver Does

Most manufacturers expect their impact driver to drive screws. Self-tapping screws and deck screws are common with ledger screws and timber screws making up the largest fasteners we use with ours. Anything much bigger than that forces us from screwdriving bits and nut drivers to sockets.

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More Torque Means More Jobs with One Tool

The most powerful impact drivers in our shootout crushed 2656 in-lbs of fastening and 4200 in-lbs of breakaway torque. A quick conversion to ft-lbs puts those figures at 221 and 350 ft-lbs, respectively.

 

In other words, they’re putting out light-duty impact wrench numbers. With that kind of power, you can skip the 3/8″ impact wrench and just keep a 1/2″ on hand for larger fasteners. There’s no doubt that replacing a tool increases your impact driver’s value.

The Problem With Too Much Torque

But an increasing pile of broken 1/4″ hex to 1/2″ square drive adapters shows us the inherent problem with using an impact driver as an impact wrench replacement. When it comes to metal fastening especially, you blow through adapters quickly.

 

 

They may only be a few dollars each, but after a few dozen, you’re getting to the price of a new impact wrench to pair with the batteries you already have.

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So How Much Torque Do You Need on an Impact Driver?

We start consistently breaking adapters on impact drivers that spec 1700 in-lbs or so. An impact driver with more torque is absolutely still useable, though. We just bump down from full speed into one of the medium modes unless we’re driving large screws into wood.

Generally speaking, an impact driver in the 1500 to 1800 in-lb range that puts more emphasis on higher RPM will do 95% of the work faster than one with more torque and slower speeds.

Our rule of thumb is that if you need to reach for a socket adapter, you’re better off grabbing an impact wrench.

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