Impact Wrench Recommendations

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  #1  
Old 03-04-13, 06:27 PM
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Impact Wrench Recommendations

I'm looking for a decent yet inexpensive impact wrench for general automotive use. I was thinking about picking one up from Harbor Freight, but don't really have a clue what I should be looking for as far as specs. Any advice would be appreciated. An electric one would be convenient but it needs to be powerful enough to remove suspension component bolts. I found a 1/2" corded electric gun with 240 ft lbs of torque. That seems like plenty. Any advantages of using air over electric? I've seen some for as little as $50 and others for as much as $300 but have no idea what the difference is. The tool would be very lightly used so I don't need the best quality gun. Is 1/2" necessary or is 3/8" enough for automotive use? For example, I will be doing a suspension lift on my truck and need something adequate for removing lower control arm bolts, leaf springs, and other high-torque bolts. Should I get a gun with variable speed or is this only necessary if I will be using it to install bolts as well as removing them?
 

Last edited by mossman; 03-04-13 at 07:07 PM.
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Old 03-04-13, 07:30 PM
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I had Rodac and Snap On air guns. I like the control with the air.

If you don't have air then the electric should work ok. Definitely go with the 1/2" gun. It should have an adjustable torque setting and better to have the extra torque when you need it.
 
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Old 03-05-13, 02:43 AM
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Agreed. I have an old hand me down craftsman, and it still works fine after 40 years. Granted, I don't use it very often. Maybe on the tractor or changing a trailer tire, etc. I do use my electric 1/2" on deck work, or wherever I need to insert lag bolts, etc. Much easier than a socket and ratchet.
 
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Old 03-05-13, 04:09 AM
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I bought a cheap HF impact about 30 or so years ago. It still works just as good as it did when it was new. The only complaint I have with it is it's only 240 lbs of torque. For most things that's enough but I occasionally run into a nut/bolt that requires more and I have to get out my breaker bar.

Another thing to consider; if you run an air tool with too little pressure, while it won't run as good as it's supposed too - it won't hurt the tool. Electric tools can be burned up by using too small or too long extension cord because of the voltage drop.
 
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Old 03-05-13, 04:43 AM
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So 240 ft-lbs isn't adequate then? What kind of torque capacity should suffice for removing heavy duty suspension bolts?
 
  #6  
Old 03-05-13, 04:52 AM
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It might be enough but occasionally you come across something stubborn and need more. I don't use my impact everyday, sometimes not every week. I need to break out the breaker bar and cheater pipe a few times a year. More torque cost more money so I'd let my pocketbook help with the decision. HF has stronger impacts than the cheap one I have. Their 'earthquake' model has a LOT of torque [750 lbs ?] They also have models in between. If I was to buy a new impact, I'd probably look at 400 lbs of torque. The only drawback to more torque is it increases the likelihood that you might strip or break the bolt.
 
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Old 03-05-13, 05:00 AM
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And what's the best type of anvil? Hog Rig? Detent Pin? Is "variable trigger speed" the same as a variable torque setting? If I can control torque with trigger position then I don't need a variable torque setting, right? From what I hear, the electric corded guns don't typically have a variable setting, and they are large and heavy. I'm still open to a air. I wouldn't think a cordless one would give me enough torque (would it?)
 
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Old 03-05-13, 05:10 AM
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"what's the best .. Hog Rig? Detent Pin?" I don't know

My impact doesn't have a torque setting and while it will turn with a partial trigger [slower speed] it's usually best to run it wide open. I'll use my air ratchet if I need much of a range of speed.
 
  #9  
Old 03-05-13, 05:27 AM
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Not sure if I'm actually going to get one or not. Electric is more convenient as far as portability, but they are larger and not as powerful as air, but air requires a large compressor and I need something portable (I don't have a garage and will be lugging it up from the basement when I need it). And I don't think battery powered is going to cut it. My trusty hand tools and breaker bar may be the way to go.
 
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Old 03-05-13, 06:06 AM
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I have an electric and a pneumatic and the pneumatic is the only one I use. It's harbor freight but it's their heavy duty one, regular price is something like $100. Darn if I can remember the name of the thing right now.... I'll look and post it back.
 
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Old 03-05-13, 06:27 AM
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Hmm... looks like HF has changed their line since I bought, they don't have one matching mine anymore.
 
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Old 03-05-13, 07:14 AM
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I have a Chicago Pneumatic 1/2" air impact, about 40 years old, and prefer pneumatic in this application, but have used electric ones at various times, and have not seen any shortcomings in them. The biggest thing with a pneumatic one is that in addition to an air compressor, you need enough air compressor, and that's where they can be disappointing, particularly in a DIY environment. With a pneumatic nailer, just as an example, you can sometimes "get by", waiting for the compressor to catch up before continuing, but an impact wrench needs to be able to maintain the "rat-a-tat-tat" in order to be effective. Most 1/2" impact wrenches will require something in the area of 7-8 cfm, which puts you into a 2 horsepower compressor, and you would want at least a 15-20 gallon tank, which yes, is a bit heavy to move up and down stairs. My primary shop air compressor a 5 horsepower on an 80 gallong tank, but I have used my 1 HP portable for small jobs, maybe a flywheel nut on a small engine, or something like that, and while it handles things like that okay, I am sure that it would fall way short on the type of jobs that you originally mentioned. One question though, since you mentioned anvils. Are you referring to the guts of an impact wrench, or as a tool? The reason I ask is that when I think of anvils in regard to pneumatic tools, I picture a zip gun, not an impact wrench; two separate tools.
 
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Old 03-05-13, 10:47 AM
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One question though, since you mentioned anvils. Are you referring to the guts of an impact wrench, or as a tool? The reason I ask is that when I think of anvils in regard to pneumatic tools, I picture a zip gun, not an impact wrench; two separate tools.
I was referring to the guts. Just something I saw advertised on the few guns I've looked at. Was wondering which is better.
 
  #14  
Old 03-05-13, 10:50 AM
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My electric is something like 240'# while my pneumatic is more like 600'# - you do have to be a little careful to protect your wrists with it.

I would get a 1/2" wrench, easier to find impact rated sockets with that drive, IMO.
 
  #15  
Old 03-05-13, 11:54 AM
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Go big...or go home...isn't that the saying? Behold the Thunder Gun, Nascar's New Secret Weapon - Popular Mechanics
 
  #16  
Old 03-05-13, 12:14 PM
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Dang, I want one now but I'm not a professional race team
 
  #17  
Old 03-05-13, 12:28 PM
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Shoot, I can't get 5 lug nuts off in 13 seconds, much less put them back on and run to the other side of the car to do it again
 
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Old 03-05-13, 12:30 PM
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I'm too afraid of dinging the wheels to even attempt doing this quickly.
 
  #19  
Old 03-05-13, 02:10 PM
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I ended up getting a cordless Dewalt DC830 from ebay. Got a good deal on a "bare tool". My drill is 14.4 and so is my nail gun so I have plenty of batteries. I realize it won't be powerful enough to do what I initially intended, but it will come in handy removing lug nuts and quickly getting bolts tightened before torquing them with my (out of calibration) torque wrench
 
  #20  
Old 03-06-13, 04:59 AM
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Mossman,

I didn't go back to read all the other postings, but I can tell you from personal experience that there is no comparison between electric tools and air tools. Once you use an air tool you will never go back to an electric tool. You want a real surprise? Take a 3 inch hole saw and chuck it into a 1/2 drill and drill with it. Now do the same thing with an "Air Drill". The difference will shock you.

Thank You
Amy
 
  #21  
Old 03-06-13, 05:33 AM
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I believe you. I just won't be using it that often so I think the cordless will suit me fine. If I had a garage, I would definitely get an air gun.
 
  #22  
Old 03-10-13, 08:50 AM
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I'll be returning the cordless Dewalt and exchanging it for a corded model (DW292 or DW293). Not sure whether I should get the hog-ring anvil or the detent pin anvil model though. Which one is better for automotive use? Do the different types use the same type of impact sockets?
 
  #23  
Old 03-10-13, 12:28 PM
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In my opinion the spring ring retainer is a less expensive and less effective method of holding the socket. Either type will work on any socket. I prefer the ball detent retainer.
 
  #24  
Old 03-10-13, 03:49 PM
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The hog-ring Dewalt model is actually about $25 more so I'm wondering if it is better. The cordless one I just bought has a detent pin but I can't get a socket on without pressing the pin with the tip of my finger. Kind of a pain. Hog ring you just push it on. I'm going to keep the cordless one because it is convenient for lighter jobs and I just ordered the DW293 (hog ring) corded model. Cordless is 125 ft-lbs max and corded is 350 ft-lbs max.
 

Last edited by mossman; 03-10-13 at 05:11 PM.
  #25  
Old 03-12-13, 08:35 AM
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Ok, I got the impact wrench but now I need to know what size impact sockets I need. I ordered a set of 1/2" Craftsman metric and SAE but a couple sizes are skipped. This seems to be normal among impact socket sets. For instance, the set I ordered comes with 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, and 22. Is 20 mm an uncommon size? Other sets skip 23, 25, and 26 (e.g. 22, 24, 27). Is there a reason for this? Is it based on the most common sizes used on today's vehicles? I believe the differential plug on my Tundra is actually 23 mm.
 
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Old 03-12-13, 09:16 AM
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Without going out to my tool box and double checking all the sizes, I can't say for sure which ones but some of the metric/sae sizes are interchangeable. A 13mm and 1/2" are basically the same size. I think 5/16" and 8mm are also close or the same. The same can be said about some of the other bigger size sockets/wrenches. You can also buy individual sockets if you find you don't have a size that will work.
 
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Old 03-12-13, 09:38 AM
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I don't use my impact wrench a lot but I've always had the right socket with just two small (8 piece?) SAE and metric sets. Couldn't tell you off the top of my head what size sockets are in either set.
 
  #28  
Old 03-12-13, 10:41 AM
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Main reason I'm asking is because the differential drain plug on my Toyota Tundra is 23 mm and the socket set I bought doesn't have that size. I'll just pick one up at the hardware store.
 
  #29  
Old 03-12-13, 12:13 PM
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FWIW, I would not use an impact wrench on an oil pan drain plug, I would only turn that by hand.

Edit: Oops, you said differential, not oil pan.... Sorry, I'll try to read more carefully next time
 
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Old 03-12-13, 12:25 PM
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I'd hope you'd never have to use an impact gun on a drain plug. I've never needed more than a 3/8 socket in most cases. Antiseize is a wonderful thing....
 
  #31  
Old 03-12-13, 01:59 PM
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Looks pretty rusted/corroded so I may use my cordless impact to get it off, but likely just my breaker bar.

On a different note, I'll be installing new coil-over shocks in the next week or so...how do I tighten the nut on the top of the shock to the proper torque if I have to hold the tip of it with vice grips so that it does not spin? Is there such thing as an open-ended torque wrench? Should I just tighten by hand until it does not turn anymore?
 
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Old 03-12-13, 02:45 PM
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You don't need to torque every bolt application. A little common sense goes a long way. Most bolts/nuts work fine if you have them fairly tight but not enough where you really have to bear down on the breaker bar or wrench. You'd lighten up on the smaller bolts or thinner metal.
 
  #33  
Old 03-13-13, 07:56 AM
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I learned a term at the side of my mechanic grandfather - snug. After a while, you know what this means and that ends up being a pretty good torque for a lot of applications.
 
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Old 03-13-13, 10:14 AM
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When I needed to replace the bearings I took my struts out and hauled them to a local shop who just removed the nut and installed my new bearings for me. No way could I break the nut loose even after trying with every tool I had and buying a big new box end wrench and putting an allen in the end to keep the shaft from spinning. My wimpy impact gun didn't do squat. 2 trips since I only had one compressor...but they did it in 2 minutes each for a 6 pack.

I asked how they kept the strut shaft from spinning...big a$$ vise grips and a rag was the answer. I'm sure their pro model gun helped as well. They grabbed right at the top where it would never compress that far.
 
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Old 03-13-13, 04:46 PM
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Better start soaking with some catalyst now then and give it a few days. I bought all the tools to do the coil swap myself so I'm determined to do it on my own.
 
  #36  
Old 03-14-13, 10:46 PM
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for car repair, we need at least 500 ft lb, I got one from HF for$100. I Dly my car shocks, timing belts, sispension, etc. My old 240 ft lb is useless. and if possible get the slim wrench as less space in car engine.
 
  #37  
Old 03-15-13, 07:12 AM
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I personally do not like cordless tools. I usually don't work in areas with no electricity, so I like the piece of mind that I have power when I need power. If youre the same way I have a corded kobalt 1/2 impact driver that I have had for around 8 months. It has 350 ft/lbs of torque which has never let me down yet. The downside to this tool is it is kind of big and bulky, but never the less it has gotten the job done for me with ease. I have used this doing a new suspension on my SRT4, coilovers on my brother-in-laws SRT4, suspension on my wifes car, pinion seal on my dakota, and also to drive long lag bolts when building new driveway gates, not to include other projects it has been used on when friends and family have asked to borrow it. Each time they bring it back, they said "I need to get one of those!". It also came with some impact bits and a case which is always a plus.

Shop Kobalt 8-Amp 1/2-in Corded Impact Wrench at Lowes.com
 
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Old 03-15-13, 10:35 AM
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I already bought a Dewalt DW293 1/2" drive impact wrench. Haven't had a chance to use it yet, but will here shortly as soon as the rest of my suspension components are delivered. Thanks for the recommendation though.
 
  #39  
Old 03-17-13, 03:27 PM
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...and how the heck do you torque a bolt to a specific torque using an impact wrench if the impact wrench doesn't have such a setting? It's either full power forward or full power reverse. Is this something you can set on an air tool but not electric? I'd like to replace the compression rods on my wife's car but my torque wrench doesn't go above 125 ft-lbs. My electric impact wrench goes to 350 ft-lbs but I have no way of knowing exactly how much I torqued them.
 
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Old 03-17-13, 04:44 PM
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I think shops (at least the ones I use) have calibrated extensions. I used smaller versions in the Navy and saw the ones my normal shop uses.

Or just buy a higher rated torque wrench. I bought one from Grizzly for exactly the same reason.
 
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