For do-it-yourself car repairs, one of the tools that give you the most bang for your buck is an air impact wrench. It will help you do more with less physical effort and will provide the power you need to loosen nuts tightened by a professional mechanic or bolts that seem frozen in place.
The battery-powered versions of these tools on the market may eliminate the clutter and annoyance of electrical cords and compressor hoses but often can’t offer air-powered oomph.
But there’s a bewildering array of choices out there, and it’s often difficult to choose an option that fits your budget and your needs.
We’re going to take some of the guesswork out of that. All brands reviewed use half-inch sockets.
Our selection of the best air impact wrenches available in the UK market!
2 – Sealey GSA02
What is an air impact wrench?
An impact-wrench allows you to do more work with less effort. It’s designed to provide a strong, sudden downward force to loosen tight or frozen nuts. The motor releases a spring that drives a hammer down while simultaneously twisting it, as opposed to a manual wrench that you have to put your shoulder into. The brrrrrp-brrrrrp sound an air wrench makes is the repetitive motion of the hammer.
Why do I need an air impact wrench for the home use?
This tool makes your life much easier if you like to do some of your own work on your car or if you do other work that involves loosening or tightening nuts. Professional mechanics use air wrenches to tighten down their work but it’s a time saver at home too. Trying to undo a nut that’s been tightened that way is difficult with a manual wrench, if not downright impossible. Air wrenches also reduce the amount of time it takes to tighten or loosen nuts, which frees you up for other projects. Whether you do only occasional work on your garage or the odd DIY work around the house, or if you’re a serious classic car restoration aficionado, this tool is for you.
What should I look for in an air impact wrench?
You need to know how much torque – or power – the wrench provides and what equipment you need in order to get that power. The higher the torque, the more power the wrench gives you and the less of your own effort you need to exert. You’ll want forward and reversible speeds to zip nuts on and off, and a handle exhaust to cut down on noise and save your hearing. Air wrenches also require a compressor, so you need to know how many pounds per square inch and how many cubic feet of air per minute the compressor will need to generate.
What type of compressor do I need?
No matter what type or brand of compressor you buy, you’ll want it to push a little more air than the tool requires. For example, if the air wrench you’re looking at is rated as needing 5.0 cfm at 90 psi, you’ll need a compressor output of at least 6 cfm, and you may want to go as high as 7.5 cfm to avoid problems. In general, a 1.5 hp machine should do the trick.
What safety measures do I need to take with an air wrench?
We’re guessing you’re not a power-tool novice, so take the usual common=sense precautions:
- Ditch the loose clothing, long hair, and jewellery while you work, but be sure to use any necessary accessories, such as safety glasses, hearing protectors, or a respirator if the work area is dusty.
- Read the instruction manual carefully before you begin working and use only accessories compatible with the tool.
- Don’t work on areas that may conceal gas or electrical lines. If you must use an air wrench in this situation, disconnect all supply lines first and put up signs to warn people of potential hazards.
- Never use an impact wrench in cold or wet conditions – a shock could be fatal.
- Match the capacity of the wrench to the difficulty of the work.
- Always unplug the wrench after use.
- Be sure your footing is solid before you operate the wrench, especially if you’re working in an elevated position.
The units we’ve reviewed aren’t the only brands to look at. Depending on what size socket you need and how much torque you want, you’ll find most manufacturers offer a number of quality choices. Some stand out more than others, though, so here are five of the top air wrench makers:
- AIRCAT offers a variety of sizes and torques from 80 to 2,300-foot-pounds. Its products are consistently ranked high by experts.
- Bostitch is an option for budget-conscious do-it-yourselfers. Sturdy construction, but less power than some more expensive brands.
- Chicago is the upscale choice: high torque, high power, high quality, high price. Lightweight, but very tough.
- Ingersoll Rand consistently makes the top-of-the-line lists, too. IR offers a variety of sizes and torques, with quality construction and safety features.
- NitroCAT has a Kevlar body and high torque. This company also makes the experts’ lists consistently.
The right air wrench can make your work easier and faster. Consider how often you’ll use it, what you need it to do, and whether you’ll need additional equipment for it — a more powerful air compressor, for example, or different accessories — to find the true cost. When you finally shell out your hard-earned cash, you’ll go home satisfied that you’re prepared for your many projects to come.