Have you ever dealt with a stuck nut or bolt? Don’t know which tool will do the best job?

Let an impact wrench do it for you!

But, how do you choose between an electric and air impact wrench?

Air and electric impact wrenches do have their differences. An electric model is typically cordless, cheaper and more portable. On the other hand, an air impact wrench packs WAY more power, but does need to be attached to an air compressor.

Each variant provides different features and benefits. In this article, I’ll compare electric and air impact wrenches, and also guide you how you can make the best decision.

Are you ready to learn more? Let’s dive in!

What are Electric Impact Wrenches?

To make things clear, an electric impact wrench has an electric motor. It provides the necessary torque and force to deal with a stuck nut.

When you press the button on the electric impact wrench, it activates the electric motor. This turns the wrench attachment hard enough to loosen up the nut or bolt.

The interior of the impact wrench features an anvil connected to the wrench head, as well as a hammer that’s connected to the electric motor.

With every rotation of the motor, the hammer hits the anvil hard, and this turns the wrench head in turn. This applies a high force on the stuck nut, and it eventually loosens up.

Cordless electric impact wrench
Electric impact wrenches are often cordless, so their portability is their best asset

There are two types of electric impact wrenches: corded and cordless. The corded variant provides more power and torque and makes it suitable for removing larger nuts and bolts.

On the other hand, cordless electric impact wrenches are powered by a lithium-ion battery. This allows portability but requires charging every now and then.

They’re suitable for working on smaller nuts and bolts.

Benefits of Electric Impact Wrenches

Some of the benefits of choosing an electric impact wrench are as follows:

  • It doesn’t apply constant force on the nut, which may cause the nut to snap or break
  • It provides pressure in segments, which causes the nut to loosen up slowly
  • It helps you undo the toughest of nuts
  • Highly useful for use in warehouses and workshops
  • They can be used on rusted or corroded nuts

What is an Air Impact Wrench?

Air impact wrenches are also called pneumatic impact wrenches. They utilize the power of air to multiply the force that you apply. This makes it easier to remove or undo harder or tougher nuts and bolts.

They’re more suitable for auto mechanics, who have to deal with tough bolts on cars on a daily basis.

An air impact wrench is connected with a source of air, which is typically an air compressor. The air is used to power the motor, which in turn moves the wrench attachment.

While they offer more power, air impact wrenches must be connected to an air compressor as a power source

When you press the button on your air impact wrench, it will expel the air from the compressor with a high pressure.

When the air is released, it causes the hammer to move and hit the anvil with a higher force. This causes the wrench head to move rapidly, thus undoing the nut quickly.

The force is powerful and makes it easy to undo any stuck or stubborn nut.

Benefits of Air Impact Wrenches

Some of the major benefits of air impact wrenches are as follows:

  • They can remove nuts and bolts tightened with machines or power tools
  • They’re really powerful
  • Can be used to tighten bigger bolts on installations
  • They are used on various vehicles, such as cars, motorcycles, lawn mowers etc.
  • Can also replace large tyres with huge lug nuts

Main Differences Between Electric and Air Impact Wrenches

Let’s see how we can differentiate between the two, based on a number of factors.

Power Source

The power source for electric and air impact wrenches are different. The former uses electricity as its power source, whereas the latter is powered by air.

For electric impact wrenches, you just have to plug it in to a power socket or wall outlet. You can also find cordless electric impact wrenches powered by a battery.

On the other hand, air impact wrenches are powered by an air compressor.

Power Output

Air impact wrenches put out the most power. Their power depends on the air pressure provided, which in turn depends on the size of the air compressor.

On average, the pressure should be between 90 and 120 PSI to operate the wrench properly.

However, this also brings a lot of problems to the table.

You’ll have to carry the air compressor cylinder when using the impact wrench. If you have a longer hose, then the air pressure would decrease.

More the pressure, the more torque you’ll get. However, this also means that the more pressure you provide, the less controllable it’ll be.

Red Air Compressor
Air Impact Wrenches pack a much higher punch thanks to air compressors

As soon as you press the button, the air will instantly provide a high force on the wrench. This can cause your hand to shake, or the nut to break due to the excessive force.

On the other hand, electric impact wrenches are much more controllable. But, they have a lower power rating than their air-powered counterparts.

If you choose a cordless variant, expect the torque and power to be even lower. It may not provide the force you need to open up a tight nut, or to tighten a loose nut.

Ease of Use

Since impact wrenches provide a lot of torque and power, they vibrate and jerk a lot. Naturally, your arms and hands will bear the brunt, and you’ll be forced to take a break.

In this regard, electric impact wrenches take the lead. Mainly because you don’t have to carry an air compressor around when you’re doing the job.

I’d say cordless impact wrenches are easier to use, as there are no wires or cylinders to deal with.

However, referring to the previous factor, make sure that if you’re using a cordless impact wrench, it has enough power and torque to get the job done.

Price

Typically, an air impact wrench tends to be much more expensive than an electric impact wrench.

Plus, you also have to pay for the air compressor and the hose separately, resulting in the cost to go up.

For electric impact wrenches, the cordless models are similar in price to air impact wrenches. This is mainly due to their portability and convenience.

However, these are general price comparisons. You may be able to find an affordable air impact wrench or cordless impact wrench.

Application

Last but not least, your choice between an electric impact wrench and an air impact wrench should also depend on what you’ll usually use it for. As I mentioned above, air impact wrenches are better to unjam and loosen stuck or rusted bolts easily, since it provides just the extra torque you need for the job.

On the other hand, electric impact wrenches can be used by homeowners and handymen who work on regular jobs and have to tighten and loosen regular nuts and bolts that aren’t too large in size. Since they’re also cheaper, you can buy them if your use for an impact wrench is occasional.

Which One Should You Choose?

I’ve put down all the details regarding both electric and air impact wrenches. The final decision however rests upon you eventually.

If you need portability and ease of use, then choosing an electric impact wrench is in your best interests. However, if you’re looking for more torque and power, then you should go for the air impact wrench. But it won’t be portable, as it has an air compressor with it too. Moreover, if the pressure is too high, you’ll have difficulty in handling the wrench properly.

Conclusion

No matter which you choose, make sure to invest in some safety gear, such as gloves, masks, eye protection, and other essentials.Using such a high-powered tool makes you prone to injuries, which is why caution is advised.

I hope this article cleared all your doubts and questions about electric and air impact wrenches. It’ll help you choose better.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you liked this post, please consider checking out the related articles below.

Thanks a lot for reading, and have a great day!

-Craig