by Joshua Thomas
Also referred to as an air gun, impactor, windy gun, rattle gun, or torque gun, an air impact wrench is a high-torque socket wrench that operates with less exertion from the user.
This high torque output makes the tool ideal for loosening or tightening large bolts, frozen/rusted fasteners, lug nuts, and other stuck nuts or bolts.
However, you need to pick the right one for the job, and in this article, we look at the best air impact wrenches in the market. Read through, then take your pick!
|1. NitroCat 1355-XL (Best Overall)||
|2. Ingersoll Rand 231C (Best 1/2-inch)||
|3. NitroCat 1200-K (Best for Breaking Bolts)||
|4. Ingersoll Rand 2235TiMAX (Most Powerful)||
|5. Aircat 1056-XL (Best under $100)||
|6. Ingersoll Rand 2115TiMAX (Best Compact)||
|7. Aircat 1000-TH (Quiet)||
A powerful, durable, lightweight and safe design makes the NitroCat 1355-XL our best overall air impact wrench. It has a hard-hitting 3/8-inch drive with a twin-clutch mechanism and a twin hammer.
This system delivers 1,350 blows per minute at 10,000 RPM, with 700 ft-lbs of nut loosening torque, making it one of the best 3/8-inch air impact wrenches in the market.
Despite this powerful performance, the wrench weighs only 2.75 lbs. due to its lightweight and durable Kevlar-reinforced composite housing.
Other than that, you get a patented, safe through-the-handle exhaust that keeps debris from flying to your face, thereby preventing injury or breathing in air particulates.
This exhaust is quiet-tuned using muffler technology, which allows discharged air to pass through without developing back pressure. As a result, the tool retains more power while producing very little noise (86 decibels).
The control flip-lever is patented for easy operation and is used to switch between forward & reverse. It also adjusts the speed to slow, medium, or fast.
However, even though the wrench has an ergonomically-designed handle with finger grooves, the surface is not fully covered in soft rubber material to minimize vibrations to your palm.
As a 1/2-inch drive wrench, the 231C stands out because it has an adjustable power regulator with a 6-speed system. This makes it easy to find the ideal speed for perfect tensioning of lug nuts every time.
The tool is also very easy to service. It has an ergonomic 2-piece design that can be easily dismantled for maintenance purposes. However, before you get to this, the pressure-feed lubrication system keeps the internal mechanisms working optimally for a long time, thereby reducing maintenance requirements.
A twin hammer mechanism delivers a maximum torque of 600 ft-lbs on the drive, which is enough to install/remove hardy fasteners such as stubborn bolts and lug nuts.
On the downside, the piece is quite heavy (5.8 lbs.), and it has a smooth metal handle that can be slippery if you have sweaty palms.
With a no non-sense hard-hitting but smooth twin clutch mechanism, NitroCat's 1200-K delivers a whopping 1,295 ft-lbs of torque, which is enough to break bolts. That said, the unit has a 9/16-inch bolt capacity and turns at a free speed of 8,000 RPM, which is very fast.
A flip lever is built-in for reverse setting or to adjust the speed/torque to three levels for different applications. This switch is patented for easy use.
Air from the system is channeled through a patented quiet-tuned exhaust muffler, which eliminates back pressure. This mechanism retains more power while producing very little noise (86 decibels).
Next to this exhaust system is a swivel 1/2-inch NPT/BSP air inlet, which allows you to move around easily with the air hose attached. The entire system is housed in a durable Kevlar-reinforced composite housing. However, the tool is relatively expensive but is worth the money.
Ingersoll Rand 2235QTiMAX is the most powerful air impact wrench in its class because it delivers 1,350 ft-lbs of forward torque and 930 ft-lbs of reverse torque.
This performance is made possible by a finely-tuned twin-hammer impact mechanism, and a 4-position power regulator helps you control the output for precision use. You also get a one-handed forward/reverse button, giving you complete control.
The hammering mechanism is housed in a hard titanium case and steel wear plate, while the other section is packed in a composite cover. These materials protect the wrench from the harshest environments to prevent damages.
Coming in at 4.6 lbs. in weight, the unit is balanced and has an ergonomic handle for comfortable use. The only issue is that it is expensive, but it is worth the money and is backed by a 2-year warranty.
At less than $100, the 1056-XL is very affordable, and despite this, it has some impressive features. For starters, the unit is very lightweight (2.5 lbs.). This enables you to work on your project while experiencing minimal fatigue.
A patented ergonomic grip handle further enhances this user experience because it has finger grooves for comfortable holding. You also get a trigger-mounted forward/reverse and power management switch for easy use.
The exhaust system consists of patented silencing technology, which reduces the noise output to 85 decibels. This ensures the tool retains maximum power while being very quiet.
On the inside are reliable alloy steel hammer and anvil parts, which are triple-heat-treated for maximum durability. However, the hammer is a jumbo type, which is inferior to a twin hammer mechanism in terms of torque.
Measuring less than 6 inches in length, the 2115TiMAX is a very compact air impact wrench that can fit easily in tight spaces. The tool is also lightweight because it weighs only 2.48 lbs. As such, it minimizes hand fatigue during long periods of use.
Despite its small size, the unit delivers 1,500 blows per minute at 15,000 RPM. This results in fast hammering for quick fastening or loosening.
An optimized airflow system ensures you get maximum output, and a 7-vane motor is built-in to complement this system. Controls are done via a feather-touch trigger, and there is a patented one-handed forward/reverse button for easy use.
You also get a 4-position power regulator to enable you to adjust the speed for perfect tensioning.
On the downside, the tool has a low torque output of 230 ft-lbs and 300 ft-lbs on forward & reverse, respectively. This means less driving power on every impact. Also, it is quite loud because it produces 104.2 decibels.
Aircat's 1000-TH features a patented tuned exhaust muffler technology that allows air to pass through the outlet under the handle without developing backpressure. This reduces its noise emission to 86 decibels while retaining more power.
That said, the unit produces 800 ft-lbs of torque at 8,000 RPM using a twin hammer mechanism. This can be dialed down to 200 ft-lbs or reverse torque via an easy-to-use rear-mounted flip lever for better control.
These mechanisms are housed in a durable metal & composite housing in a unique limited-edition camouflaged design. You also get an ergonomically designed handle with finger grooves for comfortable use.
However, measuring 7.5 inches long, the tool is not very compact and might not fit in very tight spaces.
While we recommend the highest torque for superior performance, you should consider your application first.
For tasks like tightening and loosening lug nuts, 80 - 100 ft-lbs is enough for both forward and reverse directions. However, if the nuts are stuck, and you want to undo or even break them for replacement, the higher the torque, the better.
For this reason, you should consider getting a powerful wrench with adjustable settings, which gives you more control over the torque for specific applications. The more the adjustment settings, the better.
Aside from torque, consider the air impact wrench's speed for performance purposes because they go hand-in-hand.
This factor determines how fast the drive turns, and therefore, you should balance speed and torque for quick loosening or tightening. Also, it should be adjustable for better control, with a maximum of around 8,000 RPM.
Since these tools are handheld, their weight matters, especially if you have to hold them for long periods as you work on your project. Lightweight pieces that weigh less than 3 lbs. are the best for such tasks because they cause less hand fatigue.
That said, powerful wrenches are usually heavy, and therefore, you should not compromise this by getting a lightweight unit for commercial use. For instance, Ingersoll Rand 2235QTiMAX weighs 4.6 lbs. Though quite heavy, this is reasonable for its performance.
A good grip over the wrench is a must-have for safe and accurate use. Also, the hammering mechanism in the wrench causes some vibrations, and thus, you have to hold the tool firmly.
Ideally, the best handle should have a soft rubber-molded grip with finger grooves. This design will minimize vibrations, reduce fatigue, and prevent slipping.
Most air impact wrenches have a 3/8 or 1/2-inch drive, and each is for different uses.
That said, 1/2-inch drive wrenches are ideal for working on large fasteners such as lug nuts. On the other hand, the 3/8-inch drive is suitable for light fasteners. These include those found in timing belt assemblies, front covers, oil covers, and cam covers.
There is also a smaller 1/4-inch wrench drive, but this is suitable for very light fasteners like those found in control module covers and interior trims.
This factor is a no brainer. The more quiet the air impact wrench is, the better because it will be more gentle to your ears. Measured in decibels, we recommend ratings that are lower than 100 dB. However, if they exceed this, they should not go past 110 dB.
In conclusion, NitroCat's 1355-XL is the best overall because it has the perfect balance between power and weight. The tool churns out 700 ft-lbs of torque but only weighs 2.75 lbs. It is also very durable and safe to use.
For extremely heavy-duty use, though, such as in assembly lines and commercial use, you should check out Ingersoll Rand 2235QTiMAX. It has a finely-tuned twin hammer that produces 1,350 ft-lbs of torque.
However, if you are on a tight budget, Aircat's 1056-XL is the best air impact wrench to consider because it costs less than $100.
About Joshua Thomas
Joshua Thomas just simply loves cars and willing to work on them whenever there's chance... sometimes for free.
He started CarCareTotal back in 2017 from the advices of total strangers who witnessed his amazing skills in car repairs here and there.
His goal with this creation is to help car owners better learn how to maintain and repair their cars; as such, the site would cover alot of areas: troubleshooting, product recommendations, tips & tricks.
Joshua received Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at San Diego State University.