The Impact Driver is a new type of power tool, relatively speaking, and it has become very popular within a couple of decades. What it does, it does very well yet it is also a versatile, multi-purpose tool which accounts both for its popularity and the plethora of brands and models.
At its core, an impact driver delivers sharp blows as it delivers equally forceful rotational torque. Think of it as a cross between a hammer drill and an electric screwdriver. The upshot is that screws of all kinds can be efficiently and rapidly driven into softer materials like drywall without drilling a pilot hole, and stuck ones loosened. If some or another impact driver does not have the necessary torque to drive screws in harder materials, a pilot hole itself can itself be drilled with the appropriate drill bit in the impact driver before a screw bit takes over to drive in the screw.
Where the impact driver really comes into its own is when woodworking jobs require driving in longer screws and bolts, up to M16 bolts and M12 high tensile bolts. These power tools are ideal for driving in everything from anchors to carriage bolts. Thus, the impact driver shines when building decks, erecting block walls, and doing similar construction tasks.
This portable little power tool is of the battery-operated cordless type with 18 volts being virtually standard. An impact driver’s most telling spec is probably Newton-meters which is a unit of torque. Because the impact driver both rotates and percusses the bit, its RPMs and BPMs (Blows Per Minute) are equally important specs. However, it is not the RPMs or BPMs of an impact driver but its torque that reflects the ‘muscle’ or ‘horsepower’ of the tool.
What impact drivers have in common is a standard 1/4” (6.35 millimetres) hexagonal collet.
In the absence of a clutch, two features that are very nice to have are soft start and settable torques and speeds. A soft start does what you would otherwise have to do manually, i.e. by controlling pressure on the trigger. A soft start will let the screw-bit grip and gently start to rotate and impact the screw to give you more control and prevent screwhead stripping. When you are using an impact driver with small screws and bolts in softer materials, especially when tightening, you can set the torque and speed to the low setting to guard against excess torque and impact force damaging the screw or the material.
Last update on 2021-01-07 / Affiliate links / Images / Pricing from Amazon Product Advertising API
See our best pick models below:
Although the power specs may not blow you away, everything else will in this Makita kit; of superb build quality, in features and quality it is unmatched.
Makita’s entry-level impact driver runs on 18-volt Li-Ion batteries. It has 165 Newton-metres of maximum torque, a maximum no-load speed of 2,900 RPMs, and an impact rate of an impressive 3,500 BPMs.
It has two speeds selectable by a switch and also has a variable speed control trigger. The torque and speed rise and fall just about perfectly with the amount of pressure on the trigger, allowing for unusually fine control by way of the remarkably responsive trigger.
The twin LEDs turn on and off in conjunction with tool operation and they provide quite a powerful beam. Another feature worth a mention is the electric brake.
This kit’s remarkably low price and compactness are deceptive as it is more powerful than one may expect. Although not a professional-class impact driver it drives in long bolts with ease. The maximum bolt size it can handle is M16. It drives in high-tensile bolt to M12 size.
Bit retention is markedly secure. However, it lacks a holder, magnetised or otherwise, at the base to keep screws.
The ergonomics are top-class. Though it has all-metal gears you don’t need to know that to be able to tell that the build quality of the DTD152Z is superb.
This powerful little thing weighs all of 1 kilo. It comes with a belt clip.
Although it is a touch underpowered, the sheer quality, reliability, and durability of this impact driver puts it over the top to just edge the Dewalt DCF887N for our Best Pick spot – and it’s even very easy on the pocket.
Makita provides a 1-year warranty extendable to 3 years if the purchase is registered within 30 days.
- The overall look, feel, and handling bespeak sheer quality.
- Very responsive trigger provides very fine speed control.
- For a top-class kit, it is amazingly inexpensive.
- Perhaps it is a touch underpowered.
No frills but solid and reliable, Worx’s light-duty impact driver is a sharp choice for hobbyists, given that it is sold as a package deal at a budget price.
Cost: Price not available
Operating on a 20-volt Li-Ion battery, Worx’s WX290.2 has 107 Newton-metres of torque that generate a no-load speed of 2,500 RPMs and an impact rate of 3,000 BPMs.
It can drive in 150-millimetre screws without pilot holes. In sum, it is powerful but not powerful enough. This light-duty impact driver is a very good choice for now-and-then home use and DIY projects and at the price, it just can’t be beaten.
It has two speeds. Whichever speed you choose it must be said that this baby is noisier than most other impact drivers.
On the ‘plus’ side, ampere-hour for ampere-hour, compared to other impact drivers this one goes gentle on the juice; it gives noticeably good battery life even with the supplied 2 Ah battery.
It has a built-in LED that does a good job.
Weighing only 1.2 kilogrammes, this solid and reliable no-frills kit is a wonderful value for money and even more so as it comes with a 2 Ah battery, charger, and even a screwdriver bit.
It selects itself as our Value Pick and it may be seen as a very good starter kit.
- No frills, yes, but also no worries.
- Goes easy on the batteries and works longer on a single charge.
- Not only is the price very low, it comes ready to go with accessories that put other impact drivers to shame.
- Even by impact driver standards, this is a noisy little beastie.
- Perhaps a touch underpowered.
The name of the game is power, durability, heavy-duty and ‘pro use,’ yet Dewalt’s kit has unexpected refinements such as torque settings and precision drive.
Operating on 4 Ah or 5Ah 18-volt batteries, the Dewalt DCF887N has a brushless motor with 280 watts of power. It has serious torque of 205 Newton-metres which drive the bit at a healthy no-load speed of 3,250 RPMs and impact rate of 3,800 BPMs. It can drive bolts of a maximum size of M12.
Although this impact driver is one of the most powerful ones in our set of reviews, it is as good as any of them for working in tight spaces.
It has a mechanical switch with three torque and speed settings among which ‘1’ is the lowest and gentlest to drive screws into delicate materials. This is a seriously powerful impact driver so choose the speed setting carefully to avoid over-tightening and stripping. The variable speed trigger on top of the speed settings further controls torque and speed within each setting.
To guard against damage to delicate materials and fasteners, this kit provides additional control by way of its ‘Precision Drive’ mode.
It has one of the best and brightest built-in lights courtesy of a ring of three LEDs. Touch the trigger and the LEDs will light up before you actually start up the kit.
The battery does not fit tightly and snugly, it has some play which is a bit annoying. The hex bit collet, however, is excellent.
It weighs 1.24 kilogrammes.
With its all-metal gearing, this is a durable impact driver. It is a heavy-duty kit that is good enough for tradesmen. While we chose the Makita DTD152Z as our Best Pick, it was almost a dead heat between it and this Dewalt.
It comes with a TStak carry case.
Dewalt provides a 3-year warranty provided the purchase is registered within 30 days.
- Boasting serious power, this is a heavy-duty kit suitable for professional use.
- Over and above three settings, it provides even further control of torque and speed.
- Although built-in lighting is not usually considered worth a mention, on this kit it’s so good as to be a standout.
- The battery does not fit tightly and snugly and has a bit of annoying play.
Ryobi’s semi-pro kit may not be the most reliable but it is the most ‘musclebound’ driver whose ‘impact’ is softened by niceties like auto speed control.
Cost: No products found.
Running on an 18-volt battery and with a 200-watt brushless motor, in raw power, the R18IDBL-0 takes pole position. No matter the type of size of screw or bolt and the material, the massive 270 Newton-metres torque of this impact driver will drive it in – all the way in.
It has a three-speed selector ranging from a low of 0 to 650 RPMs to a high of 3,000 RPMs no-load plus a fourth ‘Deck Drive’ mode to auto-select the speed and BPMs best suited to driving decking screws into soft woods. It has an impact rate of up to a huge 3,900 BPMs.
Further refinements include a soft start to catch hold of the screw head and automatic speed reduction as the fastener encounters resistance, all of it capped by three gears for the motor to adjust to various applications.
It has very good LED that turns on at a light touch on the trigger.
There is no magnetic bit holder but a single bit can be wedged into the base.
The manual has several explanatory diagrams but beginners may find it sketchy and short on helpful information.
The R18IDBL-0 has pretty solid build quality. It weighs 1.2 kilogrammes.
This kit is more than sufficient for hobbyist purposes and perhaps it is suitable even for professional use. However, like the musclebound guy who gets a heart attack, some units of this ‘musclebound’ model flame out after a few months; durability is not its strong suit.
It is sold as body only but an impact bit and a 3/8″ socket adaptor are included. The socket adaptor is a nice-to-have bonus and gives this Ryobi a little leg up on its rivals.
Ryobi provides a 3-year warranty if the purchase is registered online.
- Such raw power as to drive in any old bolt into the stoutest timber.
- Unexpected refinements with features such as four speed settings and soft start.
- The motor is brushless and has three gears.
- Some units are not long lasting and call it quits.
- Beginners will feel short-changed by the manual and instructions.
Not easy to categorise, Bosch’s medium-duty kit belies modest specs as it is a real workhorse, and at one and the same time it is so robust yet so ergonomic.
Cost: No products found.
Accepting 18-volt batteries of 1.5 to 6 Ah, the Bosch GDR has 180 watts of power. With a torque of 160 Newton-metres, this impact driver is not quite as powerful as other impact drivers in its class, with a no-load speed of up to 2,800 RPMs and impact rate of up to 3,200 BPMs.
However, that should not be taken to mean that Bosch has hatched a weakling: it is rated to handle bolts up to M14 and it actually does drive in 100-millimetre screws without straining.
Among its special features is a useful battery charge indicator. The LED puts out a hard white light.
Rated to withstand drops of up to two metres, this rugged kit is indeed robust and tough enough to survive hard knocks that would put paid to many another impact driver.
The soft rubber grip makes it comfortable to handle for extended work on top of which its perfect balance makes it a pleasure to use. Where ergonomics are concerned this kit is the clear winner.
It goes easy on batteries and, ampere-hours being equal, runs longer on a single charge than most of the competition. On a cautionary note, the screw bits do not pop out of the collet and, in fact, can get stuck and may need to be forced out.
Counter-intuitively, this medium-duty 1.7-kilogramme kit is a real workhorse, and is long-lasting and durable.
Bosch provides a 1-year warranty extendable to 3 years if the purchase is registered within 28 days.
- Among the most robust impact drivers, it is also among the most ergonomic.
- One of the more durable and long-lasting impact drivers.
- Stands apart in having a hard white LED and a battery charge indicator.
- It is somewhat underpowered but excellent design and materials make up for it to an extent.
- Screw bits sometimes do not pop out easily and can get stuck in the collet.
How To Put A Drill Bit In An Impact Driver
Although an impact driver is meant to accept screw bits, you can use it with standard 1/4” (6.35 millimetre) hex shank drill bits. The procedure for putting in a screw bit or a drill bit is the same.
Although the word ‘chuck’ is popularly used for the socket in an impact driver that accepts bits, these are really collets. Simply pull the collet back, push in the bit, and release the collet so that it falls forwards to lock the bit.
How To Use An Impact Driver
An impact driver is one of the more straightforward power tools to operate but wear ear protectors because they are noisy critters. Also, wear goggles – you never know when a screwhead may shatter or a flake may shear off.
• Slide the correct screw bit into the collet.
• Set the rotation selector to the correct position depending on whether you want to loosen or tighten. If you are at all in doubt, slightly depress the trigger to ensure that the rotational direction is correct – you do not want inadvertently to tighten an already too-tight screw.
• If your impact driver has torque settings, refer to the manual to decide which one to choose. Most likely it will have a chart identifying the correct setting for different classes of screw or bolt diameters and lengths and, perhaps, the material too.
• Hold the impact driver by the handle with one hand. You may further support it or stabilise it with the other hand; you can do so by cupping it over the rear of the impact driver.
• Rest the tip of the screw bit in the screw head.
• As most triggers are variable speed, if you are loosening press gently and gradually to guard against suddenly stripping the screwhead. Even if you are tightening a fresh or loose screw, it is still smart to start slowly and ramp up the torque so that you can start off with more control and drive the screw straight.
• Hold the impact driver steady and firm as it will both rotate and percuss.
• As most impact drivers do not have clutches, if you are tightening you will have to decrease pressure on the trigger when the screw is becoming flush with the material’s surface so as not to over-tighten or strip the screwhead.
• Once the screw is tightened or loosened, release the trigger and move the rotation selector switch to the central ‘off’ position.