June 18, 2021

Professional Tool Reviews for Pros

How Much Torque Do You Need on an Impact Driver?

Makita XDT16 brushless 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


Generally speaking, an impact driver with 1500–1800 in-lbs of torque puts more emphasis on higher RPM. It will do 95% of the work more quickly than a tool 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.

What an Impact Driver Does

Most manufacturers expect their impact driver to drive screws. Self-tapping screws, deck screws, and structural screws (ledger or timber screws) make up the largest group of fasteners we use. Anything much bigger than that forces us from screwdriving bits and nut drivers to sockets.

Makita XDT16

More Torque Means More Jobs with One Tool

The most powerful impact drivers in our best impact driver reviews article 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. 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 in particular, 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.

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 more. 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 with 1500–1800 in-lbs 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: If you need to reach for a socket adapter, you’re better off grabbing an impact wrench!

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Roman Metcalf

I bought a gen5x ridgid combo kit. The impact driver is rated for 2250 in. That’s 188 ftlb. Why will it not break my tires loose or tighten them down? The more I read on this the more i think i need to measure the torque. But if they have been torked to 200lb is it dangerous to back them off at 140?

Last edited 8 months ago by Roman Metcalf

Where do the oil-filled hydraulic drivers like the M18 surge at 450 in-lbs fit in? Will they get you up to the point you can crossover to a 3/8 or 1/2 impact wrench or do you still need a traditional impact driver as a step between an M18 Surge and an M18 impact wrench?

Can you go from wrist powered screwdriver to hex screw like the M12 2402 up to the M18 surge then jump up to an M18 3/8 or 1/2 impact wrench or do you need some steps in between?


Great article, many people have this question ( I certainly did)

With regard to the broken 1/4″ hex to 1/2″ square drive adapters, does this include “impact-rated” ones or some low-grade ones, curious since I was hoping to replace my impact tool?


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