In today’s world of power tools, one device has revolutionized the way we tackle tough screwing and drilling tasks – the impact driver. Whether you’ve stumbled upon a manual impact driver at your grandparent’s garage or been dazzled by the high-tech prowess of brands like Makita and DeWalt, there’s no denying the game-changing utility of this tool. From the compact convenience of the small impact driver to comprehensive impact driver sets catering to various needs, the market is flooded with options. So, which one is the best impact driver for your specific needs? Dive into this blog post to explore the ins and outs of this mighty tool, and find out why every DIY enthusiast and professional craftsman should have one in their arsenal.
What is the Impact Driver Used For?
An impact driver is a specialized power tool primarily designed for driving screws and fasteners. Unlike regular drills, it delivers rotational blows (impacts) in addition to continuous torque. This combination of force and rotation makes it especially effective for certain tasks. Here’s what an impact driver is commonly used for:
- Driving Screws and Fasteners: One of the primary uses of an impact driver is to drive long screws into wood or other materials. The concussive blows delivered by the driver help to prevent the screw from camming out (slipping out of the screw head) or the material from being stripped, which are common issues when using standard drills for this purpose.
- Handling Tougher Materials: Thanks to its powerful torque, an impact driver can drive screws into hard materials with ease. It’s ideal for tasks like building decks, framing, and any other project where thick or dense materials are involved.
- Lug Nuts and Bolts: While an impact driver isn’t a direct replacement for an impact wrench, which is designed specifically for heavy-duty tasks involving nuts and bolts, for lighter applications or in a pinch, an impact driver can be used to loosen or tighten lug nuts or bolts.
- Self-Tapping Screws: When working with metal, self-tapping screws can be driven into place more efficiently with an impact driver.
- Specialty Fasteners: With the right bit or adapter, an impact driver can be used to drive specialty fasteners, such as lag bolts or concrete anchor bolts.
- Space-Restricted Areas: Due to their compact design, impact drivers are often more convenient than regular drills when working in tight or confined spaces.
While an impact driver excels in these areas, it’s worth noting that they are not designed for precise drilling tasks. So, if you need to drill holes, especially in metal or masonry, you would typically reach for a regular drill or hammer drill. However, for driving tasks, the impact driver often reigns supreme because of its unique combination of power, speed, and efficiency.
Best Impact Drivers
As 2024 rolls in, DIY enthusiasts and professional tradespeople are on the hunt for the latest and greatest tools to upgrade their arsenal. When it comes to power, precision, and reliability, DeWalt remains at the forefront, especially with its impact drivers.
In the realm of power tools, the Makita brand stands as a beacon of quality and reliability. If you’re on the lookout for the best Makita impact driver, 2023 has introduced some game-changing models worthy of your attention.
When it comes to high-quality power tools, there’s a brand that consistently stands out: Milwaukee. Among their range, the impact drivers particularly shine, bringing power, precision, and durability to any task at hand.
Best Ryobi Impact Drivers
When it comes to power tools, Ryobi stands out as a top choice for professionals and DIY enthusiasts alike. In the UK and beyond, the brand has consistently delivered quality, innovation, and reliability.
What is the Difference Between a Screwdriver and an Impact Driver?
Both screwdrivers and impact drivers are tools designed for driving screws, but they differ significantly in terms of design, operation, and application. Here are the primary differences between the two:
- Mechanism of Action:
- Screwdriver: A standard screwdriver, whether manual or powered, provides a continuous rotational force to turn the screw.
- Impact Driver: An impact driver not only provides rotational force but also delivers rapid, high-torque impacts (pulsating blows). These concussive blows help to drive screws more efficiently, especially into dense or tough materials.
- Screwdriver: Generally produces consistent, low to moderate torque suitable for light to medium tasks.
- Impact Driver: Produces significantly more torque in short bursts, thanks to its impacting mechanism, making it suitable for heavy-duty tasks.
- Design and Size:
- Screwdriver: Tends to be straight and elongated. Powered screwdrivers might be bulkier than manual ones.
- Impact Driver: Typically more compact with a stubbier design, which often makes it suitable for tight spaces.
- Screwdriver: Ideal for light-duty tasks such as assembling furniture, attaching hardware, or any application where precision and control are necessary.
- Impact Driver: Perfect for demanding jobs like driving long screws into hardwood, fastening lag bolts, or any situation where a high torque burst is beneficial.
- Bit Holding:
- Screwdriver: Usually uses a straightforward chuck or slot system for holding bits.
- Impact Driver: Typically uses a collet that accepts hex-shanked driver bits, providing a more secure grip, especially during high-torque applications.
- Noise Level:
- Screwdriver: Operates relatively quietly.
- Impact Driver: Due to its impacting mechanism, it can be much louder, especially when driving screws into resistant materials.
In conclusion, while both tools can drive screws, an impact driver is specifically designed to handle tougher, more demanding tasks with speed and efficiency. Conversely, a screwdriver offers more control and is suitable for less intensive applications.
Is an Impact Driver the Same as a Hammer Drill?
No, an impact drill (or impact driver) and a hammer drill are not the same, though they both apply additional force beyond simple rotation. They serve different purposes and operate on distinct mechanisms. Here’s a breakdown of their differences:
- Mechanism of Action:
- Impact Drill (Impact Driver): It delivers rotational blows (impacts) to the bit. This means that in addition to the continuous rotational force, the tool adds rapid, high-torque pulsations that assist in driving screws.
- Hammer Drill: This tool provides forward hammering or pounding action (like a series of small hammers striking rapidly) while the bit rotates. This hammering action helps the bit chisel and break through tough materials like concrete or masonry.
- Primary Use:
- Impact Drill (Impact Driver): Primarily designed for driving screws, especially long ones or those going into dense materials. It can handle bolts and nuts with the appropriate bits or adapters.
- Hammer Drill: Used mainly for drilling holes into hard materials like concrete, brick, or stone. The hammering action helps the drill bit penetrate these tough surfaces more easily.
- Bit Holding:
- Impact Drill (Impact Driver): Uses a collet that typically accepts hex-shanked driver bits.
- Hammer Drill: Uses a conventional chuck, similar to regular drills, that can accept a wide variety of drill bits.
- Size and Design:
- Impact Drill (Impact Driver): Generally more compact and suitable for tight spaces.
- Hammer Drill: Often bulkier and heavier due to the mechanism needed to produce the hammering action.
- Noise Level:
- Impact Drill (Impact Driver): Produces a characteristic noise due to its impacting mechanism, especially when driving screws into resistant materials.
- Hammer Drill: Also loud, with a distinct rapid pounding noise when the hammer function is engaged.
Why Use an Impact Driver Instead of a Drill?
Using an impact driver instead of a conventional drill offers several advantages, especially when it comes to driving screws or handling certain tough tasks. Here’s why one might opt for an impact driver:
- Higher Torque: Impact drivers generally produce more torque in pulsating bursts compared to regular drills. This makes them especially effective for driving large screws or fasteners into dense materials without stalling.
- Less Strain on the User: The rotational impacts of the driver effectively separate the torque felt by the user from the torque driving the screw. This means that the user feels less wrist strain and kickback, making it easier to handle, especially over extended periods.
- Prevents Camming Out: The impacting action reduces the chance of the bit slipping from the screw head (a phenomenon called “camming out”), which can strip the screw or damage the bit.
- Compact Design: Impact drivers are typically more compact than regular drills, allowing users to work more easily in tight spaces.
- Self-Tapping Screws: When driving screws into metal, the impact driver’s pulsating torque can assist with self-tapping, making the process smoother.
- Speed: For repetitive tasks like decking, framing, or any project that requires many screws in rapid succession, an impact driver can often drive screws faster than a conventional drill.
- Hex-Shanked Bit Holding: The quick-release collets on impact drivers are designed for hex-shanked bits, ensuring a tight grip and minimizing slippage.
However, it’s important to note that impact drivers have some limitations:
- Drilling Limitations: While they can be used for drilling with the right bits, they aren’t typically the best choice for precise drilling tasks, especially in metal or masonry. For such tasks, a regular drill or hammer drill would be more suitable.
- Lack of Clutch: Most impact drivers don’t have an adjustable clutch for torque control, which is a feature found on many regular drills. This means that for tasks requiring delicate or controlled screw driving, a regular drill might be preferable.
Can You Use an Impact Driver on Screws?
Yes, you can—and often should—use an impact driver on screws. In fact, driving screws is one of the primary functions of an impact driver. Here’s why impact drivers are particularly suited for this task:
- High Torque: Impact drivers deliver high rotational torque in pulsating bursts, making them especially effective for driving screws, even large ones, into dense materials.
- Prevents Camming Out: The concussive impacts from the driver reduce the likelihood of the bit slipping out of the screw head, which helps prevent stripping of the screw or damage to the bit.
- Speed: The rapid rotational impacts of an impact driver can drive screws faster than a conventional drill, especially beneficial for tasks that require inserting many screws in quick succession.
- Less Wrist Strain: The impact mechanism reduces the strain on the user’s wrist, as the tool absorbs much of the reactionary force.
- Compact Size: The generally compact design of impact drivers makes them suitable for driving screws in tight or confined spaces.
However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:
- Control: Impact drivers typically don’t have a clutch for torque control like many standard drills. This means that for tasks requiring a delicate touch or precision, a conventional drill might offer better control to avoid over-driving or damaging materials.
- Bit Compatibility: Impact drivers use a hex-shank bit system, so you’ll need to ensure you have the right bits. However, this design often provides a more secure grip on the bit, reducing slippage.
- Noise: Impact drivers can be louder than regular drills, especially when driving screws into harder materials.
Do I Need Both a Drill and an Impact Drill?
Whether you need both a drill and an impact driver (often called an impact drill) depends on the range of tasks you plan to undertake. Each tool has its distinct advantages and is designed for specific applications. Here’s a breakdown to help you decide:
- Versatility: Drills are versatile tools that can both drill holes and drive screws. With a chuck that can accommodate a wide range of bit sizes and types, they can handle diverse tasks.
- Adjustable Clutch: Many drills have an adjustable clutch, allowing users to set the torque for precise screw driving, reducing the risk of over-driving or damaging material.
- Drilling Precision: For precise drilling tasks, especially in materials like metal, plastic, or masonry (with a hammer drill), a conventional drill is preferable.
- High Torque: Impact drivers deliver high-torque impacts, making them especially effective for driving large screws or fasteners into dense materials.
- Efficiency: They can often drive screws faster than regular drills.
- Compact Design: Generally more compact and lightweight, they can be more suitable for tight spaces.
- Less Strain: The tool absorbs much of the reactionary force, reducing wrist strain for the user.
- Hex-Shank Bits: Impact drivers typically use hex-shank bits, providing a firmer grip and reducing slippage.
Do You Need Both?
- Professional or Regular DIYer: If you frequently take on diverse projects, having both tools can be beneficial. Use the drill for precision drilling and controlled screw driving, and the impact driver for rapid, high-torque screw driving tasks.
- Occasional Tasks: If you only occasionally work on DIY tasks or just need a tool for basic home repairs and assembly, a drill might suffice due to its versatility.
- Budget & Space: If you’re limited by budget or storage space, you might want to start with a drill because of its broader range of applications. Later, if you find yourself often working on tasks that require driving long screws or dealing with harder materials, consider adding an impact driver to your toolkit.
Luke is the founder of Buildiro.com and he is passionate about construction and building. His mission is to show people how to make things done fast and easy.