News center
We cater to custom orders with pleasure

Best Cordless Impact Wrenches for 2023, Tested

Dec 14, 2023

Our car experts choose every product we feature. We may earn money from the links on this page.

A 1/2-inch impact wrench is essential for any heavy-duty automotive work. We tested a bunch of the most popular brands on the market; here are the ones to buy.

A tool's value lies in its ability to ease demanding tasks. Among power tools, the impact wrench stands out for removing stubborn lug nuts and rusted bolts. It's a game changer for both DIY enthusiasts and pro mechanics, making the difference between a productive day and a struggle with obstinate hardware.

This article dives into the high-torque universe of cordless, battery-powered impact wrenches. We've evaluated various models on power, durability, usability, and cost-effectiveness.

There are three common impact wrench sizes for automotive work: 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, and 1/2-inch. The 1/4-inch impact wrench is great for small, delicate jobs; 3/8-inch wrenches are nice "do-it-most" tools; and 1/2-inch impact wrenches are for heavy-duty nuts and bolts. We strictly tested 1/2-inch cordless impact wrenches for this test, but most brands have offerings in different sizes.

Battery life is a big consideration for any cordless tool, and a good rule is to solve this with the batteries themselves, rather than the tool, as each brand offers batteries with varying capacity. (We tested all of these impacts with either 4- or 5-amp-hour batteries.) It's also worth being extra diligent when purchasing cordless power tools in general, as many come in full kits, some without chargers, and some are simply tool-only options.

If you're in the market for an impact wrench, it's a good idea simply to buy the tool that goes with your at-home cordless tool system, whether that be DeWalt, Milwaukee, or another brand. It's a better, cheaper option than brand-hopping and accumulating a bunch of different batteries.

Here's our test of top 1/2-inch cordless impact wrenches ideal for auto work. There's something here for all needs and budgets.

When evaluating the top juggernauts of the cordless impact wrench market, we considered what people are looking for in their impact wrenches. Most of us want a powerful tool to grapple with high-torque needs like rusty bolts, lug nuts, and time-bound jobs. In addition to considering what the average person wants in an impact wrench, we also concentrated on verifying manufacturer claims through an industrial-grade torque measurement tool from Inertia Torque.

During our tests we took detailed notes on the design of each tool, the time it took to remove an axle nut, and we measured their loosening and tightening torque output. We noted the following parameters during testing:

After running each 1/2-inch impact wrench through these testing parameters, we decided which ones proved their mettle and which ones fell short. Here are our picks for the best 1/2-inch cordless impact wrenches.

If you want serious, unbridled power from your 1/2-inch cordless impact wrench, this Makita is the one to get. Boasting both tightening and loosening torque measurements over 850 foot-pounds, it produces plenty of power for your automotive dirty work.

That power comes with additional weight—it was the heaviest of the bunch, actually. We noted that it felt balanced regardless and was more of a strain on our forearms than our wrists. The Makita hardly broke a sweat removing the axle nut, and the objective torque readings back it up.

The Ryobi surprised us a bit with its performance and price ratio. No, it's not built to produce 700 foot-pounds of torque—but it's not priced that way, either. With a respectable loosening torque reading, it'll tackle all but the most difficult jobs on your car.

We liked the grip feel and balance of the tool, and its low weight relieved some strain. While the objective numbers were lower than most, it still removed the axle nut with ease. For an entry-level 1/2-inch impact wrench, it's tough to beat this Ryobi.

If you're looking to reach good torque numbers at a lower cost, the Porter-Cable 20V MAX is a great option. It performed well in our test: Out of the mid-torque impact wrenches we tested, this one seemed to strike the best balance between power and affordability.

The loosening torque is adequate for just about every job on a car. However, the head is a bit long, which makes it tricky in small spaces. But if you need a solid impact wrench for the garage that won't break the bank, this is the best choice.

The DeWalt proved to be one of the top performers in our test in both numbers and comfort. We noted how rugged the grip felt, the trigger was smooth, and the battery interface is easy to understand.

The numbers were impressive; its fastening torque was second only to the Makita's. We also love DeWalt's catalog of battery options, so adding it to your DeWalt collection of cordless tools is quite easy. This kit is frequently on sale too, so keep an eye out—it's a great buy.

This little 1/2-inch impact from Kimo was the quietest impact in our test, and its dimensions make it easy to see why. It's packaged in the same size as a 1/4-inch impact wrench, and we have our suspicions that Kimo simply swapped out the anvil for a 1/2-inch.

The torque numbers leave something to be desired, but it's meant for removing wheels on a quiet Saturday morning. It's extremely light, quick to use, and, with the lowest sound-level reading, maybe won't wake up the neighbors.

Milwaukee fans are a rowdy, zealous bunch, and it's easy to see why: This is an excellent tool. It hangs right up there with Makita and DeWalt, and the brand's reputation for quality provides some pedigree.

The Milwaukee impact wrench removed the axle nut faster than any other in our test, but the objective torque numbers were lower than expected. It's heavy but balanced, and the grip is comfortable enough for extended use. If you're part of the Milwaukee fandom, this is the cordless impact wrench for you.

The Craftsman V20 shares a lot of qualities with the Porter-Cable, including similar weight and size. We weren't a huge fan of the grip, and the directional button felt a little mushy.

The tool also produced lower torque numbers than its P-C counterpart but is also more expensive. We feel that the price point doesn't match the performance here, so we would, unfortunately, have to skip over this Craftsman.

It's worth noting that this is an older Craftsman model, and we will aim to test their newest impact wrench in upcoming updates. You can browse their other options here.

To appease the voracious brand loyalty of impact-wrench fans, we wanted to test as many top names as we could. You might notice the absence of Snap-on—the company asked to be excluded. Oh well, we got the rest of the big dogs.

To add an automotive spin, our first test required a notoriously pesky nut: the axle nut. We pulled in our battle-scarred 1997 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX and removed the wheels with our shop impact. Mitsubishi rates each axle nut at 167 foot-pounds, but for this test, we manually re-tightened the nut to 200 foot-pounds for a beefier demand.

With a full battery, we timed the removal of the axle nut by each impact wrench in seconds with the tool set at the maximum torque setting. Thankfully, each impact wrench was able to remove the nut, but the time differences are worth noting—you can see all the specs above.

Because the objective torque numbers are of the utmost importance with these tools, that's where we focused the most. Inertia Torque was kind enough to supply us with their L-1000-DG Torque Testing Unit. Once it was affixed to a proper workbench, we got to work.

The first step for each impact wrench was to insert the anvil into the testing unit. The L-1000-DG can measure both forward and backward torque, so we did both. We repeated a "five seconds running, three seconds rest" method four times and took down the peak measurement for both tightening and loosening torque. We performed this test on all impact wrenches at their maximum torque setting.

While we were running this test, we had our Brüel & Kjær G-4 Light Decibel Meter taking an average noise reading at ear level. We also weighed each unit with its battery attached to get a sense of how extended use would feel on the wrists. Throughout the test, we took notes on comfort and build quality.

Power and Torque: Ensure the impact driver delivers enough torque for your tasks, such as removing lug nuts or rusted bolts. Higher torque ratings mean seized nuts and bolts can be removed with less effort.

Speed and Control: Choose an impact driver with adjustable speed and/or torque settings for better control and precision during various automotive tasks.

Battery Life: Look for models with longer-lasting, quick-charging batteries to minimize downtime during work.

Size and Weight: A compact, lightweight impact driver is easier to maneuver in tight spaces and reduces fatigue during prolonged use.

Build Quality and Durability: Opt for a well-constructed impact wrench from a reputable brand to ensure longevity and reliable performance.

Ergonomics: A comfortable grip and well-balanced design can improve usability and minimize strain during extended use.

Noise Level: Some impact drivers can be quite loud. Look for models with lower noise levels, or use hearing protection during operation.

Warranty and Customer Support: Choose a brand that offers a solid warranty and reliable customer support to address any issues or concerns.

Price: Take into account your budget and weigh the features of each impact wrench against the cost to find the best value for your investment.

Impact wrenches deliver more torque than impact drivers and are used for heavy-duty tasks such as removing lug nuts or large bolts. Impact drivers, on the other hand, are more compact and used for driving screws and smaller bolts.

Yes, impact wrenches are designed to remove stubborn lug nuts quickly and efficiently, making them ideal for tire changes and other automotive tasks.

It depends on your needs. Cordless models offer mobility and convenience, while corded ones provide consistent power with no need to ever recharge batteries. A cordless model may be more suitable if your workspace has limited access to outlets or you need to move around a lot. There are also impact wrenches powered by compressed air. These tend to have higher torque capabilities and don't cost as much, but of course they're not very portable and you must have a compressed-air setup with enough capacity to get the tool to its maximum output.

For most automotive applications, an impact wrench with a torque of around 100 to 500 foot-pounds should suffice. However, you may need a tool with higher torque for heavy-duty tasks like removing rusted axle nuts.

While impact wrenches are powerful tools, using them on smaller or more delicate bolts could lead to damage. Always use the right tool for the task, and consider the torque requirements of each bolt and nut.

Yes, there is a risk of over-tightening, which could strip threads or damage parts. Many impact wrenches come with adjustable torque settings to help prevent this. It's also a good idea only to use impact wrenches to get nuts and bolts snug before using a torque wrench to get to your desired torque specification.

Hearst Autos combines the talent, resources, and expertise of three of the largest, most influential automotive publications in the world. The Gear Team has tested a wide variety of automotive products, parts, accessories, and gear, such as GPS trackers for cars, OBD-II scanners, and electric car chargers. We get our hands on each and every product we test. Most are purchased; some are supplied by manufacturers.

Hearst Autos doesn't need to game algorithms for traffic or promote lousy products to earn a buck. Instead, we're more concerned with our legacy, our reputation, and the trust that our readers have in Autoweek, Car and Driver, and Road & Track to deliver honest opinions and expert evaluations.

Visit our Tested & Trusted page to see the very best in automotive gear. Read more about our product testing and evaluation process here.

Katherine Keeler is an Assistant Testing Editor at Hearst Autos. By day she evaluates tools for your enjoyment; by night, she Frankenstein's her ever changing fleet of rust-bucket-oddities back to repair. Her dream is to open a roadside attraction where the public can view, drive, and learn repairs at her emporium of curious cars.

Gannon Burgett loves cameras, cars, and coffee: a perfect combination for his Hearst Autos work. His byline has appeared in USA Today, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, Digital Trends, the Detroit Free Press, and more.

Collin Morgan is an Associate Commerce Editor at Hearst Autos, where the former Rust Belt mechanic and gadget enthusiast presents the best gear for your automotive endeavors.

Best Sim Racing Wheels 2023

Best Motorcycle Phone Mounts

TRD Watches Make an Awesome Gift for Dad

Truck Tonneau Covers for Every Need and Budget

Top-Rated Bike Racks For Your Car or Truck

Best Electric Coolers for 2023, Tested

Memorial Day Deals on Auto Parts, Tires, and More

Keep Your Paint Pristine with a Ceramic Coating

Reach Awkward Bolts With a Bent-Handle Ratchet

Fix It Like a Pro With These Mechanic Tool Sets

Best Power Inverters for 2023, Tested

How to Clay-Bar Your Vehicle Properly

1/4-inch impact wrench 3/8-inch wrenches 1/2-inch impact wrenches cordless impact wrenches Inertia Torque best 1/2-inch cordless impact wrenches Makita Ryobi Porter-Cable 20V MAX DeWalt Kimo Milwaukee Craftsman V20 removal of the axle nut torque numbers Inertia Torque noise reading weighed comfort and build quality. Power and Torque: Speed and Control: Battery Life: Size and Weight: Build Quality and Durability: Ergonomics: Noise Level: Warranty and Customer Support: Price: What's the difference between an impact wrench and an impact driver? Can an impact wrench remove lug nuts? Cordless, corded, or air—which type of impact wrench is better for automotive work? What level of torque do I need for my impact wrench for automotive work? Can I use an impact wrench for all automotive bolts? Is there a risk of over-tightening bolts with an impact wrench? Tested & Trusted