What is an Impact Driver?
An impact driver is the perfect tool if you now use a drill/driver to drive screws. It will not damage the screw heads like a drill/driver and is much faster if you have many fasteners to install. It really speeds up tasks like building a deck or drywalling a room. Everyone who works around the house, remodels or does construction can benefit from an impact driver.
by: Paul Sikkema
There is a lot of confusion over impact drivers. The confusion comes from the name. Over the years many tools have had the label “impact” including one you strike with a hammer and one you use with an air compressor. These older tools have always been used to remove nuts and bolts. The impact drivers in this article are not for removing nuts and bolts, but a tool for speeding up your home remodeling and construction projects.
So what are impact drivers? Basically it is a high speed screwdriver that gives the screw a “tap” as it is being set. They allow you to quickly and easily screw in even the longest screw.
Impact drivers are rated in inch/pounds. Besides the inch/pound rating some manufactures also list the RPM and beats per minute.
Do you need an Impact Driver?
Impact drivers or impact screwdrivers for everyone but they do take a little practice to use them consistently without breaking the screw, sinking the screw too far or bending the screw and not getting it set correctly. If you do buy one and haven’t used one before, take some scrap wood and the screws you will be using and drive a few dozen to get used to how it works. Impact drivers have a lot more power than drill/drivers so take some time to get used to it before driving screws into your favorite woodworking project.
Remember, just like using your drill/driver, if you are screwing into trim, hardwoods or even thinner pieces of pine, always pilot drill the hole or you may end up splitting the wood. To make the screw go into hardwoods easier, my secret is to this is to put a little bar soap on the threads. I keep a bar of Ivory soap right with my assortment of screws.
A cordless impact driver works really well for sheet metal construction like installing a tin roof, drywall on metal studs, and metal barn siding. Most are powerful enough to drive lag bolts and sensitive enough to drive sheet metal screws into duct work. In combination with your drill/driver these impact drivers will greatly speed up your home remodeling tasks.
Here are three videos that shows the Craftsman Right angle impact driver. The videos not only show you the features of this tool, but gives you a little demonstration of how one should work for you.
I have had a chance to use or demo quite a few impact drivers over the last few years. The market has changed dramtically from only a few to over 50 different models. These include impact drivers from Bosch, Craftsman , Hitachi, Makita, Milwaukee, Dewalt and Panasonic. The majority are now cordless and use the latest in battery and motor technology.
Of course the Panasonic is the best, but it also is the most expensive. The three speeds make this the most versatile. The batteries are the best. If you use an impact all day long and especially if you use it for different tasks the Panasonic is still the best choice. The Craftsman C3 19.2 v is the hardest for me to use. It is one of the most powerful available. I broke a few 1/4 inch stove bolts before I got used to the variable speed trigger and power. DeWalt and Milwaukee continue to add features like coreless motors and high capacity batteries. The Craftsman NEXTEC right angle impact driver is my favorite around-the-home tool. I use it for just about every fastening task. Most of these impacts are available by themselves or in a drill/driver/battery combo kit.
The rest I tried all work about the same as the low priced Craftsman or the standard DeWalt. So if you like Makita, or already have lithium batteries, buy a Makita.
I’ve selected three impact drivers for you that I recommend.
Unless you have an existing drill/driver that still has good battery packs (say, buy an 18v Dewalt impact driver if you have a good 18 volt Dewalt Drill) I would strongly suggest going with the impact drivers that have the new lithium ion batteries. These impact drivers are much lighter in weight than Ni-cad powered ones and recharge quickly.
My Current Choices:
There are many, many brands and sizes of impact drivers on the market but based on my personal use and what my contractors use here are some very good choices for you. I know, I know I left your favorite out…..
Homeowner – You need a drill/driver to hang pictures, do a little fix-it around the home.
I also really like this set for woodworking and small engine work. I use my right angle impact drive daily. In fact I pick it up before I reach for screwdriver or drill.
Homeowner Heavy Duty – You use it every weekend. You want to build a deck or storage shed. – Good tool at a good price.
Remodel/Construction Grade – You use your tools to make money. You don’t use it all day long but you do use it every day.
Industrial/Commercial Grade – You use it all day long. The best there is.