How to Use an Impact Wrench: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to use an Impact Wrench
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Impact wrenches are sometimes confused with impact drivers which are mainly used for driving screws into surfaces and drilling holes into hard materials.

In this article, we’ll tell you all about the impact wrench and its different kinds. Next, we’ll walk you through how to use an impact wrench. It’s only 7 simple steps!

What Is an Impact Wrench?

Cordless Impact Wrench

An impact wrench is a power tool that can be used to loosen or tighten lug nuts faster and easier than a standard lug wrench. They’re especially helpful with tough jobs like loosening, stripped screw heads, a nut that’s overly tightened, or frozen or rusted nuts or bolts

You may think that they’re just used to remove the bolts on your car wheel to change a tire, but they’re now an essential tool in car repair shops, construction projects, product assembly, maintenance of heavy equipment, home improvement projects, or any high-torque job.

The idea behind the impact wrench is producing high torque by storing energy in the rotating mass and suddenly delivering this energy to the output shaft.

7 Steps to Use an Impact Wrench

As with any other tool, you need to read the manual to get to know your tool’s specific features, settings, and instructions.

Step 1: Select the Right Impact Wrench

Impact wrenches are powered by electricity or air compression. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages.

Air Impact Wrenches

Air impact wrenches use compressed air to deliver powerful and fast hammering motions to loosen and tighten bolts.

Air impact wrenches are the cheapest kind of impact wrenches and they’re also the most durable. The circulation of the compressed air cools the tool parts down, so overeating isn’t an issue here.

Having said that, we have to tell you that air impact wrenches aren’t portable, because they have to be used with air compressors.

They’re mostly used in car repair shops, automobile assembly lines, and maintenance of heavy equipment

Electric Impact Wrenches

Electric impact wrenches are equipped with electric motors that drive the hammer units. The motion of the hammer units is then transferred to the output shaft.

Electric impact wrenches are commonly used in home improvement projects, for changing car tires, and in construction projects.

There Are two types of electric impact wrenches. Each has its pros and cons.

Corded Impact Wrenches

Although they tend to overheat and they’re more expensive than air impact wrenches, they have many benefits.

Compared to air impact wrenches, they’re easier to carry and use because you don’t need to have it attached to an air compressor.

Cordless Impact Wrenches

Cordless impact wrenches are battery-powered. They’re portable and can be used in small spaces.

However, they’re the most expensive and the heaviest kind of impact wrenches. Besides, the batteries tend to get drained fast with heavy use.

Step 2:  Prepare your safety gear

Although impact wrenches are relatively safe tools, you should always wear proper safety gear.

  • Safety earplugs or earmuffs, because this tool is known for its loud whirring sound.
  • Safety goggles and gloves to protect your eyes and hands from flying metal shrapnel.

Besides, make sure to wear fitting clothes to prevent loose fabrics from getting caught into the machine.

Step 3: Choose the Right Impact Socket

You need to use impact sockets, not manual wrench sockets. Your impact wrench package may include a set or you can buy one yourself.

Compared to manual wrench sockets, impact sockets have thicker, hardened walls. This feature enables the sockets to withstand the power of the tool and the resistance of the bolts or nuts.

Choosing the right socket size is important. Using the wrong size may damage the bolt or the nut.

Before plugging in your corded wrench, try different sockets until you find the one that perfectly fits over the bolt.

Once you find the right one, press it firmly into the square-shaped holder.

Step 4: Set Up your Tool

Electric Impact Wrench

They don’t need much setup. Just plug it in and you’re good to go.

Air Impact Wrench

Air Impact Wrench

  • Plug-in the air compressor.
  • Add a few drops of air tool oil into the air inlet.
  • Turn up your air pressure to 90 PSI.
  • Connect the air hose to the air compressor
  • Connect the air hose to the impact wrench.
  • Extend the hose length.
  • Make sure the hose is not twisted or kinked to avoid air stoppage.

Step 5: Loosen a Nut

  • Select the speed and torque level depending on the project you’re working on.
  • Use the designated switch or dial to change these settings.
  • Set the tool to “Reverse” mode to loosen a nut or bolt using the direction dial.
  • Pull the trigger once to make sure that the wrench is spinning counter-clockwise.
  • With a firm grip hold your wrench and place the socket around the nut.
  • Pull the trigger in short bursts until the nut is loosened and removed.
  • At this point, you can remove the bolt by hand.

Step 6: Tighten a Nut

  • Select the speed and torque in the same way mentioned above.
  • Set the tool to “Forward” mode to tighten the nut.
  • Pull the trigger once to make sure that the wrench is rotating clockwise.
  • Find the right socket and place it firmly onto the wrench square drive.
  • Hold the nut in place by hand. Make sure it’s not cross-threaded to avoid damaging it.
  • With a firm grip hold your wrench and place the socket around the nut.
  • Pull the trigger in short bursts to build up torque until the nut tightens.
  • Avoid over-tightening the nut to avoid damaging the workpiece.

Step 7: Turn off the Tool and Put It Away

After you finish your job, turn off the wrench. How to turn it off depends on its type.

Corded Impact Wrench

  • Unplug your corded impact wrench after you finish your job
  • Wrap the cord to avoid safety hazards.

Cordless Impact Wrench

  • Remove the rechargeable batteries
  • Place them on the charger.

Air Impact Wrench

  • Disconnect the hose from the air compressor and wrench to turn it off.
  • Remove the socket and return it to the toolbox.
  • Store the wrench in a clean, dry place.


Impact wrenches are easy to use and they help you finish many tasks easily and quickly.

There are different types of impact wrenches and each type works best for particular purposes.

Make sure to choose the right one for you and, most importantly, you should learn how to use an impact wrench safely.

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