Best 5 in 2020 – Air Impact Wrenches [February Update]
- 1 #1 – Ingersoll-Rand 231C 1/2-Inch Super-Duty Air Impact Wrench
- 2 #2 – Nitrocat 1200-K 1/2-Inch Kevler Composite Air Impact Wrench
- 3 #3 – Ingersoll-Rand 2130 1/2-Inch Heavy-Duty Air Impact Wrench
- 4 #4 – AIRCAT 1000-TH 1/2-Inch Composite Air Impact Wrench
- 5 #5 – Craftsman 9-16882 1/2in. Impact Wrench
- 6 How to shop for air impact wrenches
An air impact wrench is a must have tool in your workshop for 2020.
It will allow you to loosen fittings that are impossible to loosen manually and also tighten them of course. It will increase your efficiency by speeding up repetitive tasks and most importantly, it will reduce the risk of injury.
Hobbyists or first timers looking to shop for impact wrenches can get overwhelmed at the number of types, sizes and models in the market. You can easily end up with a model that is not the best of choices for your application.
That’s where we step in.
We have picked the best air impact wrenches in the market currently and created a small shopping guide. If you are a seasoned professional who’s looking for a replacement for an old air impact wrench that kicked the bucket, then you can skip the guide and go straight to our list of the best impact wrenches.
If you are the one who is looking for a portable impact wrench then you should have a look at our list of best cordless impact wrench of 2020.
#1 – Ingersoll-Rand 231C 1/2-Inch Super-Duty Air Impact Wrench
The 231C from Ingersoll-Rand has been around forever (More than 25 years to be exact) and still continues to outperform a lot of newer and swankier models. This ½ inch professional-grade air impact wrench is built like a tank and is packed with more features than you’d ever need.
Most importantly, it comes at an unbelievable price point that puts it within the reach of budget-minded shoppers too.
Comfortable and portable
There’s a general notion about air impact wrenches not being built for portability. Take a look at the Ingersoll-Rand 231C to know how untrue that statement is. This is a very comfortable and compact impact wrench that is easy to grip, can reach the tightest cranny and will not cause hand fatigue even in time consuming tasks. It weighs 5.3 pounds only and at 7.2 inches, it is one of the smallest models in the market. Check the pics here.
Designed for high torque applications
With a maximum torque of 425 ft./lbs and a speed of 8,000 RPM with an adjustable power regulator, the 231C is designed for use in a variety of applications. Irrespective of whether you are removing stubborn lugs or nuts or tightening screws without snapping the frame, the Ingersoll-Rand 231C will get the task done effortlessly.
Verdict: Despite our best efforts, we couldn’t find nits to pick with the Ingersoll-Rand 231C. It is one of the most perfectly designed air impact wrenches that has a proven track record. Go for it.
#2 – Nitrocat 1200-K 1/2-Inch Kevler Composite Air Impact Wrench
Aircat’s main USP is the budget friendly price point of its air impact wrenches which have features that are easily comparable to much higher priced brands like Snap-On and Ingersoll-Rand. Our #2 pick is the Nitrocat 1200K, which is one of their most powerful air impact wrenches in the 1/2” category. It boasts of 1295 ft-lbs of torque with an under $175 price tag. That is unbeatable value. The nearest competition is priced above $400 at least.
Brute Force and Incredibly Silent
With a maximum working torque of 1295 ft-lbs, the Nitrocat 1200-K is the strongest in its class. Be it 33mm lugs or even 1½ inch semis, the Nitrocat 1200-K is going to pop them off in seconds without the slightest of effort. But despite the brute force and power, it has an extremely quiet exhaust at 86 decibels. Most other brands would at least have 100-150 dB of sound but the Nitrocat works silently and it works like a beast.
Tough Kevlar Housing
It retains most of Aircat’s patented features that have become extremely popular in the past few years. You have the patented flip lever operation that lets you switch between forward and reverse torque, the patented ergonomic handle for a firm grip and a very smooth twin clutch mechanism for heavy duty tasks.
The Nitrocat 1200K is housed in a tough Kevlar housing that the manufacturers call the ‘body armor’. Well, it is called so for good reason because this can take more than a few bumps and knocks in its stride. An accidental fall or two will not even show on the impact wrench as some of the customer reviews indicate. This makes it an ideal choice for busy and demanding workshops.
Verdict: At the price point, the Nitrocat 1200K is a steal just like most other Aircat impact wrenches. It brings unbeatable force to the table without escalating the price tag. If you have never used an Aircat Impact Wrench before, try the Nitrocat 1200K. You may just be in for a surprise at the performance.
#3 – Ingersoll-Rand 2130 1/2-Inch Heavy-Duty Air Impact Wrench
Having worked in automotive repairs for years, we can vouch for the quality of Ingersoll-Rand tools and as strange as it may seem, our #3 pick also comes from what is undoubtedly, one of our favorite tools manufacturers.
The 2130 ½” air impact wrench has all the features of our #1 pick but boasts of a maximum torque of 550 ft-lb, is lighter than the 231C and uses only a fraction of extra air. Essentially, you get a lot more impact wrench for a few extra bucks.
Super-light composite housing
The Ingersoll-Rand 2130 features a composite housing that is lighter but gives you an impact-free grip even in more torque-heavy applications. It weighs a pleasant 4.2 pounds and is 7.2 inches in length allowing you to use it even in space constrained applications. To further reduce the bulk on the housing, the 2130 features a reinforced aluminum hammer case.
Heavy Duty Performance
The Ingersoll-Rand 2130 packs a punch with its performance without taxing the compressor. Be it rotating tires or removing lugs, the 550 ft-lbs torque allows you to complete most tasks effortlessly. For tasks that demand the bare minimum, you can adjust the output on the fly with a simple dial that is positioned perfectly on the rear side of the unit.
Verdict: You cannot go wrong with Ingersoll’s air impact wrenches. If you found the 231C lacking in torque, then go for the 2130. The versatile usage and the heavy duty performance make it a great choice for hobbyists and professionals alike.
#4 – AIRCAT 1000-TH 1/2-Inch Composite Air Impact Wrench
Despite being an entry level offering from Aircat, the 1000-TH ½” Air Impact Wrench is undoubtedly the most popular product from their range. That’s partly due to the amazing 1000 ft-lb loosening torque that it features and also because of the great customer reviews that it has managed to garner in the past few years.
In a market that remains largely dominated by Ingersoll-Rand and Craftsman, Aircat has managed to carve a niche for itself with this versatile and powerful air impact wrench.
The Best in-class
The Aircat 1000-TH is the strongest ½ inch impact wrench in its class with 200-800 ft-lb working torque and 1000 ft-lb reverse torque. Club that with an under $150 price tag, a patented silent operation and a compact design and you have an unbeatable package that rivals many higher priced air impact wrenches. From automotive repairs to fabrication, you will never feel the need for the extra power while removing lugs or nuts.
Despite the extra power, it weighs a very comfortable 4.6 pounds and has a durable composite housing that is designed to sustain the wear and tear in a workshop.
The Aircat 1000 TH is designed for easy operation even with extended work hours. An intuitively placed lever allows you to change the torque on-the-fly and the ergonomically designed handle with grooves allows a comfortable grip.
Aircat’s patented exhaust system through the handle keeps debris away from the face and prevents the user from inhaling particulate matter.
At 8.7 inches, it is not the smallest air impact wrench. But the slight extra length does not compromise the ability of the Aircat 1000 TH to reach into tight spaces. It is easy to hold on to and control.
Verdict: With nearly 100% positive customer feedback on most online retail portals, the Aircraft 1000 TH is one of the best choices you have when you need the extra power without spending a bomb for it. It has a very impressive feature list, is durable and will run through even a dead lug nut in minutes.
#5 – Craftsman 9-16882 1/2in. Impact Wrench
A list of the best air impact wrenches would not be complete without a Craftsman and our #5 pick is one of the lowest priced options in the market currently. The Craftsman 1/2” Impact Wrench is perfect for shadetree mechanics and weekend hobbyists who are not looking for the extra power that some of our other picks feature.
But it is a great tool for basic repairs and restoration work. It has 400 ft-lbs. of max torque, an ergonomic design and a composite body. The best part is that it is priced under $40.
Perfect for home and basic garage use
Let’s face it. At this price point, you cannot expect to get a heavy duty impact wrench. So, the Craftsman ½ “ Impact Wrench 9-16882 is not an Ingersoll-Rand or an Aircat. But, if you are looking for something that can tackle your tire rotation tasks, remove a few rusted lugs or installation tasks around the home, this will be more than sufficient.
It has a heavy duty composite housing that makes it lightweight and durable. It weighs just 4.2 lbs and has a contoured grip that allows you to hold it and reach tight spaces with ease. The ergonomic trigger allows flawless operation.
Silent Exhaust through the handle
The exhaust is directed through the handle and features an internal silencing mechanism which keeps the decibels in control during operation.
Some customers have noticed that the torque output seems lacking even when it is connected to a 150 psi compressor. But that’s mostly because the task demands a more heavy duty air impact wrench with higher torque output. The Crafstman ½” Impact Wrench 9-16882 will tackle anything that can be completed with 400 lbs-ft of torque output.
Verdict: If you are looking for a powerful and durable air impact wrench for use around your home garage, you’ve just found it. It is a Craftsman and it is priced under $40.
How to shop for air impact wrenches
The most important aspect of buying an air impact wrench is to determine the type of grip and the amount of torque you will need to generate for your tasks. There are a variety of grips in air impact wrenches but the most commonly used ones are In-Line and Pistol styled.
- Pistol Grip: As the name suggests, these are designed to resemble a handgun making them easier to grip and use even in awkward angles and crammed spaces. The advantage of a Pistol grip is that it is designed to be used in higher torque applications. So, if your intended task demands high torque, then a pistol grip air impact wrench will be your best bet.
- In-Line: An in-line grip impact wrench looks like a large sized screwdriver and your hand positioning while using these will be very similar to that when you use a screwdriver. For this reason, it is not the easiest of tools to control particularly when the task demands high torque.
Torque: More the torque, better the impact wrench especially when your task involves removing fasteners. The bare minimum torque you will need is 150 ft-lbs. Having said that, look for adjustable torque output to prevent over torquing tasks where you need reduced output.
Ergonomics: Think about the amount of time you will be holding the wrench while working in tight spaces. You need something that is lightweight, comfortable to grip without slipping and does not strain your fingers.
Impacts per minute: Impacts per minute correlates to the number of times the hammer will strike the anvil in one minute. The higher this number, the faster the wrench will be able to tighten screws and loosen tightly torqued nuts and bolts.
Drive size: Last but not the least; the drive size will determine the type of socket that can fit bolts and screws of different sizes. The most commonly used drive size is ½” which is normally found in pistol grip air impact wrenches. The second most commonly used one is 3/8”. These can be as big as 2” but those socket sizes are used only in heavy industrial applications.
These factors should help you understand the most suitable air impact wrench for your intended use. To make the selection process easier, here’s our pick of favorite air impact wrenches in the market currently. Apart from these factors, we have also considered the price point and the average customer rating for these wrenches. You can be rest assured that irrespective of which one you pick from this list, it will be a reliable and durable choice.