How to Choose the Best Air Impact Wrench

Air Impact Wrench

It can be difficult knowing which air impact wrench is going to be the best investment for your needs. You already know a good air impact wrench should have enough torque to handle rusty bolts as well as the durability not to break after a month or so.  Bulky, heavy wrenches can be really frustrating even though their low prices might sound initially attractive. There is nothing more annoying than opting for the cheapest tool and then realizing it isn’t even going to make it through the week never mind the year.

All that means is you will have to replace it with whatever you should have bought in the first place. It’s well worth taking your time to choose the best air impact wrench so it’s comfortable and easy to use and as durable as can be.

That doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. In fact, read on and find out which are the top 10 air impact wrenches for sale on Amazon right now as well as their star ratings out of five.

What is an Air Impact Wrench Exactly?

An impact wrench, also known as an impact gun, air wrench, rattle gun, windy gun, torque gun, air gun, or impactor, is a useful tool. It delivers high torque output by storing energy in a rotating mass before delivering it to the output shaft. This means minimal exertion is required from you. This tool can be battery-powered, pneumatic or corded electric.

This tool is used in various industries including automotive repair, product assembly, heavy equipment maintenance, large construction projects, or any situation a high torque output is necessary. A pulse tool is typically used in product assembly and this uses oil to transfer kinetic energy from the hammer to the anvil. A pulse tool isn’t an impact wrench however, so we won’t be looking at those.

Impact wrenches come in every socket wrench drive size from 3½ inches and above for major construction work down to small ¼ inch drive tools for much smaller tasks. These are one of the most common air tools.

Most cheap air wrenches are a poor investment because they’ll be fiddly to use and probably break when you try to loosen an overly rusty bolt. However, there are several good choices on the market if you’re looking for a reliable and ergonomic tool which isn’t going to break the bank. Let’s look at the top ten choices so you can make the best choice!


Aircat 1056-XL ½-inch Compact Composite Cheap Air Impact Wrench

This is the most popular choice, offering 750 ft-lb of loosening torque as well as 550 ft-lb max torque. You won’t find a rusty bolt this air impact wrench can’t tackle!

It’s handy, comfortable to use and only weighs 2½ pounds. The power management switch offers control as well as one-handed use. The ‘silencing technology’ makes the noise just 85dBA.

Even if you have to use this for hours, the grip design keeps it comfortable. Nearly 500 reviews on Amazon give this tool an average 4.8 out of 5 rating.

If you need to use an air impact wrench in a confined space, the stubby design of this one means you won’t have a problem with lack of space.

Do you remember when air impact wrenches used to be huge, heavy monsters that made your wrists ache? Today there are lightweight composite ones such as the Aircat 1056 which is really powerful and surprisingly affordable.

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Ingersoll Rand Model 231C ½-inch Heavy-Duty Air Cheap Impact Wrench

This is a budget option but don’t worry about that. This one is still powerful enough to loosen any bolt.

The 600 ft-lb of torque and twin-hammer mechanism makes it strong enough for nearly any task. It’s ready for use straight from the box which is always a handy feature to have.

The handle on this air impact wrench is ergonomically contoured for your comfort and it has an adjustable power regulator. More than 1,200 Amazon reviewers give this air impact wrench a 4.7 out of 5 average.

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Aircat 1076-XL 3/8-inch Compact Composite Cheap Air Impact Wrench

Despite its affordable price, this is a seriously good air impact wrench. It offers a 750 ft-lb loosening torque as well as a 550 ft-lb max torque which is easily enough to handle tough nuts and bolts. Although heavy air impact wrenches can make your arms ache, this one is only 2½ pounds.

Its ergonomic grip along with the light weight means it is comfortable to use, even for extended periods. More than 275 Amazon reviewers rate it an average of 4.6 out of 5.

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Acdelco Ani405A Heavy Duty Twin Hammer ½-inch 500 Ft-Lb 5-Speed Pneumatic Cheap Impact Wrench

This heavy duty air impact wrench has a free speed up to 8,000 along with 1-speed reverse. This means you can choose the speed you need depending what you’re doing. It has a max torque of 500 ft-lb.

This slim, highly ergonomic impact wrench is designed to reduce vibrations. The soft-grip handle means you can use it for hours with ease. Nearly 450 reviewers on Amazon give this an average score of 4.5 out of 5.

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Workpad ½-inch Composite Air Impact Wrench With Twin Hammers, Pneumatic Tools

This air impact wrench has a free speed of 7,000 rpm and a max torque of 950 ft-lb, so it definitely offers plenty of power. This impact wrench comes with a handle exhaust and muffler to keep the noise down and prevent air blowing around in the work area.

It has composite housing and an ergonomic grip so you can use it for hours without an issue. It’s super-durable because it’s made of Anvil and heat-treated. More than 60 Amazon reviewers give this air impact wrench an average score of 4.5 out of 5.

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Aircat 1150 “Killer Torque” ½-inch Air Cheap Impact Wrench

When shopping for a cheap air impact wrench it’s important to make sure it’s powerful enough. You will want to make a good investment and this one offers a great performance.

It has a 1,295 ft-lb loosening torque as well as a motor with a 900 ft-lb output. This makes it a breeze to handle any bolt or nut. The ergonomic handle adds to its comfort and it maxes out around 86 dBA which isn’t too noisy. Nearly 2,000 Amazon reviewers have given this one an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

For top precision, control, durability, and power, the Killer Torque is a great wrench to choose. Aircat is one of the best brands to choose and this model is another popular Aircat impact wrench.

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Astro Pneumatic Tool 1822 Onyx 1/2-inch Nano Air Cheap Impact Wrench

This powerful wrench can easily handle stubborn nuts and bolts. It offers 350 lb-ft working torque as well as 450 ft-lb maximum torque. It has 6 total speeds – 3 forward and 3 backwards. This impact wrench is easy to use, portable and only 3 pounds in weight. Nearly 800 reviews on Amazon place this as 4.6 out of 5 stars average.

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Ingersoll-Rand 2130 ½-inch Heavy-Duty Air Cheap Impact Wrench

There are plenty of cheap impact wrench options on the market these days but some won’t have anywhere near enough torque to loosen tough nuts and bolts. This one has a 550 ft-lb twin hammer mechanism output though, so you won’t be disappointed with the performance.

It’s ergonomic and lightweight too. This impact wrench weighs 4.2 pounds so you can use it to work in small spaces. The reinforced aluminum case is lightweight but strong.

The composite housing offers great ergonomics so you can use it for hours without stopping for a rest. The average Amazon score from over 300 reviewers currently stands at 4.6 out of 5 stars.

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Dewalt Dwmt70775 Air Cheap Impact Wrench 

Although a lot of the cheapest impact wrenches offer less than stellar power, this Dewalt wrench comes with a potent motor. It delivers 300 ft-lb of breakaway torque and runs at 11,000 rpm.

The adjustable power regulator offers max control, while the composite body is highly durable as well as shock resistant. 200 Amazon reviews give it an average 4.7 out of 5 rating.

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Nitrocat 1200-K ½-inch Kevlar Composite Air Cheap Impact Wrench

This wrench offers 900 ft-lb max torque and 1,295 ft-lb loosening torque, so it’s not short on power. This handy tool has an ergonomic design and its Kevlar housing makes it lightweight and durable.

It’s not that noisy and won’t go over 86 decibels even at top speed. Over 600 Amazon reviews place this air impact wrench at 4.7 out of 5 on average.

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The best cheap air impact wrench has to be the Aircat 1056-XL ½-inch Compact Composite Cheap Air Impact Wrench.

It performs the best on stuck and rusted bolts, is durable enough to last a long time, and is portable and lightweight to be comfortable even when using it for hours.

The Aircat brand was founded in 1998 and offers impressive torque and power with reduce noise levels. The company patented their ergonomic handles to relieve fatigue and stress on the hands, arms and wrists. The tuned exhaust muffler technology is also patented. This means discharged air is able to pass without back pressure, resulting in less noise and more power.

Most Important Air Impact Wrench Features

Air Impact Wrenche closeupWhichever you are thinking about buying, there are a few must-have features to bear in mind. A strong torque is essential if you want to be able to remove rusted or stuck bolts. An impact wrench lacking the necessary power won’t measure up and will cause nothing but frustration for the user.

Remember that different bolts need different speed and torque. Choose a wrench with easy speed customization and speed level options so it can tackle any nut or bolt.

The weight is also important, especially if you will be spending hours working with the tool. A bulky, heavy tool is going to make your hands and arms ache after just a short period. A portable, compact body made of lightweight materials is the best choice here.

Look for an air impact wrench made with the best materials since this helps determine whether the tool lasts for years or whether it barely makes it through the first week.

Air Impact Wrenches vs Cordless Impact Wrenches

ryobi air impact wrench cordless

Although they are both types of impact wrenches, there are some differences between the two. An air impact wrench is powered by an air tank instead of electric.

This means they’re durable because there is nothing electrical which can break but the hose can be a tripping hazard. A cordless impact wrench is battery powered. This makes them more expensive to buy and also maintain. There is no hose though so they are more convenient as well as portable.

Impact Wrenches vs Impact Drivers

Impact wrenches have more power and a higher torque than impact drivers. That is the main difference. Jobs that require more power, such as removing rusted bolts, would call for an impact wrench.

As you would expect, impact wrenches cost more than impact drivers. As you can see from the above reviews though, there are plenty of wrenches offering all the power you need at a very affordable price.

What do Torque, IPM and RPM Mean?

It can be tricky to pick out the best impact wrench if you are comparing unfamiliar features. The torque means the force which is used when the machine works. It is typically measured in feet per pound.

The IPM means impacts per minute, and this is how many impacts per minute the tool gives. Finally, RPM is how many rotations per minute. This gives you a good idea of how powerful or not the tool will be.

What are Max Torque and Nut-Busting Torque?

These terms can get confusing. Nut-busting torque means the torque the wrench outputs to unlock a rusty nut via repeated shocks. Max torque is the maximum force the tool can output when placing the proper tool setting.

What Torque Do I Need For Air Impact Wrench?

Torque is one of the main features to look at before deciding on a new air impact wrench. The required torque depends on the size of the bolts you are going to be using the machine on. This is how much max torque you need for each bolt size:

  • N8 bolt – 45 Nm torque (¼  inch)
  • M10 bolt – 90 Nm torque (3/8 inch)
  • M14 bolt – 260 Nm torque (3/8 or ½ inch)
  • M16 bolt – 400 Nm torque (½ inch)
  • M18 bolt – 550 Nm torque (½ or ¾ inch)
  • M20 bolt – 800 Nm torque (½ or ¾ inch)
  • M24 bolt – 1300 Nm torque (¾ or 1 inch)
  • M27 bolt – 2000 Nm torque (1 inch)
  • M30 bolt – 2700 Nm torque (1 inch)
  • Bigger than M30 bolt – More than 2700 Nm (1 or 1 ½ inches)

How to Use an Air Impact Wrench

dewalt air impact wrench

You are most likely to find an air impact wrench in a tire shop or mechanic’s shop. They are often used to change a car’s wheels. These high-powered socket wrenches are used under high air pressure to tighten or loosen nuts. They typically operate with compressed air which explains the hissing sound they make as well as the whirring noise. This tool is easy to use.

First you need to assemble the wrench. It will look like an old fashioned drill with a metal body and trigger release switch allowing the user to exert the correct amount of torque pressure and air.

The wrench connects to a long rubber hose which connects to the air pressure unit. When hand pressure is applied to the trigger, the pressure is released.

Follow the instructions that come with your air impact wrench to ensure it is set up correctly. The hose needs to be attached to the pressure unit before you attach it to the wrench, so you can use the quick-release clip any time you want to remove the wrench from the hose.

Next you should check the unit is exerting the correct pressure for the wrench. Set the PSI (pounds per square inch) to somewhere between 90 and 100. Check the hose is kink-free. Gently press the trigger to see which way it turns. There will be a latch somewhere on the wrench which you can flip to change direction. You will want clockwise to tighten or counter-clockwise to loosen.

Set the switch or dial to the correct speed for whatever task you need to perform. Once the torque and speed are set you can then attach the right size of socket to the bit on the wrench’s front side. After slipping the socket bit on to the wheel nut, push the trigger.

After ensuring it is working properly, you can use the wrench on the nuts, which should loosen enough so you can remove them easily.

Can Air Impact Wrenches Remove Bolts in Good Condition?

Just because you want to remove a bolt that doesn’t mean you want to snap it in half. As long as you take care to pick the right speed setting on the impact wrench, the bolt you are trying to release should not break. If you aren’t sure about the speed, start with something low and increase it gradually until you reach the correct force.

Why Should I Buy an Air Impact Wrench?

There are no electrical parts in an air impact wrench which means it’s unlikely to need repairs. This makes it safer and more durable. This tool is hooked up to an external air tank.

The fact it doesn’t run on electric means a smaller size and more portability. The lack of electrical parts is also reflected in the affordable prices of this tool. If you are looking for an inexpensive impact wrench, an air impact wrench is a winner.

How to Maintain an Impact Wrench

Just like any other tool you invest in, you will want to make sure your air impact wrench lasts as long as possible and that means looking after it. The main causes of failure in these tools are debris and moisture getting inside.

These can negatively affect various parts of the motor and cause the wrench to break or at least not run properly. An air dryer is good to clear out any moisture while a quick once-over check that all surfaces are smooth and clean before use is good practise.

It is important to keep this tool well lubricated for best performance. Unless you have an inline oiler you should oil the wrench every day you use it. Use non-detergent oil and let it run through the air inlet. Let the wrench run for half a minute before using, so the oil can be properly distributed. Some people prefer to oil the machine after a day of use (rather than before) since the oil will then have the chance to run into all moving parts.

Never drop the impact wrench, leave it somewhere it can be run over or tug it by the hose. Air wrenches do break eventually but using a good non-detergent oil regularly and perhaps using an air tool conditioner mean you should expect to get years of good use out of it.

How Much Air Pressure is Needed to Run an Impact Wrench?

Most modern air impact wrenches will use about 90 pounds a square inch of PSI. if you don’t stick to this recommended air pressure you risk the longevity of your air impact wrench so check the documentation that comes with it to make sure.

An impact wrench is a very useful tool and it doubles up as an impact driver. Since impact wrenches are much more powerful than impact drivers though, you won’t get the same result since they’re designed to loosen and fasten bolts and lugs.

Air Impact Wrench Troubleshooting

impact wrench clutch parts

  • Just like with any other device, impact wrenches can have issues. Let’s look at some of the most common ones and how to solve them.
  • When the wrench won’t run, you need to check the hose to see if it’s blocked or if there is another reason the air supply isn’t running.
  • If the air motor is blocked, you should replace the air motor blade.
  • The automatic tool starts when connected to the compressed air, the trigger or speed controller is not working properly. Disassemble the machine and clean it out.
  • If the torque reduces, you might need to clean out the inside of the machine in case dust has got in there.
  • If the housing is hot and the machine is vibrating abnormally, this means the bearing is damaged or the machine has insufficient lubrication. Replace the bearing and lubricate with oil. Many users prefer to add a couple drops of oil to their air impact wrench each time it’s used.

Wrapping Things Up

Now you have a better idea not only what an air impact wrench is capable of but the top-rated ones available today. Check out picks for best air compressors in case you need to upgrade.

Take care to choose the best cheap air impact wrench and you can expect it to perform well and last for many years.