Most impact tools function in generally the same fashion. That is, they provide repetitive impact based torque to drive fasteners. However, there are some noticeable differences from tool to tool as well. Perhaps the largest difference from impact wrench to impact wrench is the power supply. If you don’t have an air compressor setup in your garage, chances are that you are interested in electric impact wrenches. Electric impact wrenches come in two forms: battery powered and corded. When it comes to the differences between battery powered impact wrenches versus corded impact wrenches, the best impact wrench for an individual mostly comes down to how they weigh the trade offs of each type. As we are asked the question often, we have taken some time to write a short article describing the advantages and disadvantages of both battery powered and corded electric impact wrenches.
Corded Impact Tools
Corded impact tools typically have a higher maximum torque output on average compared to their equivalent battery powered counterparts. Power input it typically supplied by either a cord that plugs into your 120V wall outlet or a 12V adapter that hooks into the cigarette lighter port in your car for when you need to make a repair on the road (although 12V impact wrenches are not common and tend not to generate very much torque and thus we recommend sticking with 120V impact wrenches). One of the biggest advantages of being plugged into your wall is that (barring any power outages) you pretty much have permanent power to your impact wrench which saves you the hassle of having to swap and charge batteries.
While the corded impact tools offer a lot of beneficial features in the power delivery department, one of the disadvantages is that the power cord must be managed so that it doesn’t become a trip hazard or become tangled somewhere. Often times the cord is short as well, so this necessitates the use of an extension cord which can increase overall cost and inconvenience.
Battery Impact Tools
Battery impact tools are getting better day by day in the torque department. In fact, they have almost caught up to their corded brethren in terms of torque output but without the hassle of a cord or associated extension cord as a bonus. They are very portable, are easily carried between work sites, and offer a little more flexibility because they don’t have to be attached to a wall outlet full time.
The battery power does bring associated disadvantages though. Batteries do have a finite amount of charge that will require recharging at some point. If you can’t afford to wait for one battery to recharge before continuing your project, you’ll need to purchase a second (or more) batteries to use while the first is recharging. Some manufacturers do offer multiple sets with varying numbers of batteries included, and the price of the set will be reflective of how many are included so it’s good to check before making a purchase. Batteries will also have a limited lifetime for use and tend to wear and fail over time (just like the batteries in your old cell phones). In light of this, there may be more long term cost associated with battery powered impact wrenches due to the occasional battery purchase. There is also risk of obsolescence if a manufacturer ever stops making replacement batteries for your particular impact wrench.
In the end, when it comes to choosing a battery powered impact wrench versus a corded impact wrench, the performance between the two is only of secondary concern since these tend to be pretty close either way. In addition, they also used the same types of attachments such as impact sockets and impact extensions. The biggest trade is whether you want to spend your time charging a battery or dealing with a cord that may occasionally get in the way. Either way, having a good impact wrench tends to be far more convenient in general than using hand tools, so it’s hard to go wrong.
If you want to check out some impact tool options, click here to see our impact tool buyer’s guide. Happy wrenching!