You’ll most often see an impact wrench in the hands of a construction worker or auto mechanic, but these tools can be helpful for people in a variety of industries. However, if you don’t know how to use an impact wrench safely, then this is one tool you won’t want to handle just yet. Our step-by-step guide will help you learn the differences between two types of impact wrenches and how to use them correctly and safely for different projects.


KNOW THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF IMPACT WRENCHES

Our first stop in this guide is explaining the difference between two types of impact wrenches you’ll encounter: the electric impact wrench and the air impact wrench. Both work similarly, but an air impact wrench doles out a lot more force than its electronic counterpart, so it’s essential to understand what situations in which each one works best.


ELECTRIC IMPACT WRENCH

Electric impact wrenches are compact and best for home use to loosen and remove nuts and bolts from projects where using a manual wrench or socket would be cumbersome. They’re sometimes confused with impact drivers, which are instead for driving screws into surfaces.

These tools are especially handy for removing stuck bolts that you couldn’t otherwise remove manually with a socket set. They’re usually cordless, which makes them easy to transport where you need them to go without worrying about electric outlets and cords.


AIR IMPACT WRENCH

An air impact wrench is the type that you’ll usually find in a car repair shop. They’re typically larger and heavier than electric impact wrenches, but they also deliver a lot more torque.

An air impact wrench can handle some of the toughest jobs, which is why mechanics look to them for removing the bolts on car wheels to change tires. Instead of using electricity for power, they use compressed air that delivers powerful and quick hammering motions to loosen bolts.


HOW TO USE AN ELECTRIC IMPACT WRENCH

As with most power tools, there’s a bit of a learning curve that comes along with using an electric impact wrench correctly and safely. Follow the steps below to learn how to use your electric impact wrench the right way to loosen nuts and bolts quickly.


READ THE MANUAL

Read the manual that came with your electric impact wrench. The instructions will have steps specific for your model to help you understand its settings and best practices for operation.


PUT ON SAFETY GEAR

Before you begin using an impact wrench, you should protect your eyes and hands. Although uncommon, it’s possible for the tool to slip while you’re working, or for pieces of metal shrapnel to fly break away from the surface.

Protective gloves and safety glasses are the two pieces of safety gear you should put on before powering on the tool. Impact wrenches can also be loud, so a good pair of noise-reducing headphones can help protect your hearing.

Also, be sure to wear snug-fitting clothing that doesn’t pose a risk of getting caught in the impact wrench as you use it.


PICK A SOCKET

Choose a socket that fits the nut or bolt you want to loosen. Your impact driver may have come with a set or you can purchase a set of sockets separately.

Select different sockets until you find the one that fits snugly over the bolt. It shouldn’t give any wiggle room or be too tight, as it can damage the bolt or get stuck on it.

Install the socket by pressing it into the holder, which will be in the shape of the square to hold the square base of the socket.


LOOSEN THE NUT

Place the impact wrench in reverse. There should be a switch to do this but refer to your owner’s manual if you’re unsure.

Place the socket over the nut or bolt while maintaining a firm grip on your impact wrench. Hold the wrench steady and pull the trigger in small bursts, which will cause torque to build in the wrench to loosen the nut.


REMOVE THE NUT

Once the nut is loose, you can completely remove the nut from its bolt. You’ll need to maintain steady pressure on the trigger, which causes torque from the impact wrench to spin the nut counterclockwise.

Once the nut is removed, stop pulling the trigger and turn off the power once you’ve loosened all the nuts. You can usually remove the bolt by hand at this point.


TIGHTEN THE NUT

An impact wrench also allows you to tighten nuts on bolts by switching the setting to the forward direction.

Find the right socket for the nut and install it. Place the bolt in the hole manually. Hold the wrench with a firm grip and place the socket over the nut.

Use the trigger to build up torque, allowing the wrench socket to rotate clockwise and spin the nut over the bolt until it tightens.


TURN OFF POWER AND STORE

Always turn off the power to your impact wrench once you’ve completed your project. If it’s cordless, remove the battery and place it on the charger. If you have a corded impact wrench, unplug it after use and wrap the cord so that it doesn’t lay on the ground.

Store your impact wrench in a safe, dry location.


HOW TO USE AIR IMPACT WRENCH

Learning how to use an air impact wrench is different than learning how to use an electric impact wrench because of its settings and high amount of power it needs to do its job. Here are the steps to take to learn how to use air impact wrench safely:


READ THE MANUAL

Your manual will be the single most helpful piece of information you can use to learn more about your air impact wrench, its parts, its settings, and how to use it correctly.

Familiarize yourself with the names of the parts and the specific functions your tool has and how to change its settings based on the instructions.


PUT ON SAFETY GEAR

Safety gear is just as important for someone using an air impact wrench as it is for someone using an electric impact wrench.

Safety goggles and gloves can protect your eyes and hands from slipping or shrapnel. Noise-canceling headphones can reduce the sound you hear from the tool.


ASSEMBLE AND CHECK THE AIR IMPACT WRENCH

Unlike an electric impact wrench, the air impact wrench requires some assembly before use.


Attach the air hose from the tool to the compressor unit. Both ends should be tight on their connections to ensure the proper pressure buildup to power the device.


Once you have the unit assembled, you should check the air pressure to make sure it’s functioning correctly before use. First, check your hose for any holes or kinks that will affect air pressure.


Then, pull the wrench’s trigger to check if it has power. If your wrench begins to rotate, you’re ready to start.


SELECT THE SPEED

Most air impact wrenches have speed settings to control how fast the socket spins. The speed you’ll need depends on your project.

You can usually change the speed using a dial. Rotate the dial to select the speed before you power on your wrench.


LOOSEN THE NUT

Choose the right socket for the nut by testing out the set that came with your wrench until you find a socket that fits snugly over the nut. Make sure it’s not loose or too tight to prevent it from damaging, or getting stuck on, the nut.

Turn the setting onto reverse. You can find out how to use this control in your owner’s manual.

Place the socket over the nut as you hold the wrench firmly. Pull the trigger and hold it in place until the nut comes loose.


REMOVE THE NUT AND BOLT

Once the nut has loosened enough, you can usually remove it the rest of the way with your hand. Then, remove the bolt with your hand.


TIGHTEN THE NUT

Place your wrench on the forward setting. Find the right socket to fit the nut you need to tighten.

Manually place the bolt in the hole and put the nut on the end. Put the socket over the nut and pull the trigger of your wrench until it tightens the nut.


TURN OFF POWER AND STORE

After you’ve finished your project, remove the hose from the air compressor and wrench so that no power flows through. Store the wrench in a clean, dry area.


CONCLUSION: HOW TO USE AN IMPACT WRENCH

Electric and air impact wrenches work similarly, but there are a few differences that require some learning to ensure that you use them correctly.


Now that you know how to use an impact wrench safely, you should be able to complete a variety of projects with these handy tools. Remember to use your safety gear when you operate the wrench and refer to the owner’s manual if you’re unsure of anything.