The Best Air Wrench That Makes an Impact
If you've ever had a project to finish, but there was a single, stubborn bolt that just refused to loosen up, you understand depths of frustration and annoyance which the average individual can only hope to never have to deal with. This is the sort of job for which the air impact wrench is designed.
An air impact wrench has a bunch of other names, some of which might be more familiar to you. It's also known as an impactor, an impact gun, an air wrench, an air gun, a rattle gun, a torque gun, or even a windy gun. Operator preference aside, these names are generally regional, or else based on the manufacturer. The air impact wrench is a socket wrench power tool, which delivers high torque with minimal effort on the part of the operator, by applying leverage through the use of a rotating mass. An air impact wrench stores up energy using a motor, rather than relying on being manually cranked; this allows for a lot more stored energy, and for the operator to use it for longer periods of time without becoming exhausted.
The automotive repair industry, the heavy equipment maintenance industry, and the construction industry all see considerable use of the air impact wrench. Air impact wrenches are available in standard socket sizes, from small ¼” tools on up through 3½” and larger (some applications within the construction industry, in particular, may use larger varieties). They are one of the most common pneumatic power tools, and are present in virtually every auto body shop.
|Ingersoll-Rand 2235TIMAX||5.4 lbs.||1250 feet-pounds|
930 feet-pounds (reverse)
|4.8 out of 5 stars160 reviews||$245 - $280
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|Ingersoll-Rand 231C||6.46 lbs.||425 feet-pounds||4.6 out of 5 stars431 reviews||$102 - $120
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|Nitrocat-1250-K||4.7 lbs.||1300 feet-pounds||4.8 out of 5 stars71 reviews||$192 - $225
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|Campbell-Hausfeld TL050299AV||6.2 lbs.||260 feet-pounds||4.5 out of 5 stars51 reviews||$24 - $54
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|NitroCat 1200-K||5.25 lbs.||1295 feet-pounds||4.7 out of 5 stars285 reviews||$140 - $169.99
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Our Five Top Picks for Air Impact Wrench, Available Today
We've combed commercial websites, expert blogs, affiliate reviews, and even a few assorted opinions (yeah, right, on the internet?) as to the wide range of air impact wrenches available on today's market. We were actually somewhat taken aback by how many options are available – as well as the amount of inconsistent information and overall disagreement on what they're for, how they work, or which tool is best for which job. After some intensive effort, we put together a list of the five options that we feel best cover the breadth and span of the function of the air impact wrench. These five tools, listed below, are each presented with a subsequently longer review – and at the end of our air impact wrench reviews, you'll find our choice for the best air impact wrench on today's market.
It's there, now... waiting for you. Just in case you want to skip the middle-man and get right to the point, although – in fairness, after all the legwork we've done? We do think the other four also deserve a fair chance. Who knows? You might want a backup model in your toolbox, or a particularly economical and flexible option as a supporting power tool in your professional workshop, mechanic's shop, or industrial setting.
- The Ingersoll-Rand (2235TIMAX) ½-Inch Drive Air Impact Wrench is a solidly built and powerful air impact wrench from one of today's finest power tool designers. It enjoys a 4.8 star rating on Amazon after 112 reviews. This tool offers operation on a battery.
- The Ingersoll-Rand 231C ½-Inch Super-Duty Air Impact Wrench is a smaller and less expensive option, manufactured by the same company that makes the 2235TIMAX. With a power level more suited for most car shops and home repair operations, the 231C offers a lot of bang for your buck, and is considered by many reviewers an excellent choice.
- The NitroCat 1250-K Air Impact Wrench incorporates multiple patented components for lower volume operation, durability, and a more comfortable grip. This wrench offers significant enhancements in comfort and operation, as well as in overall durability and longevity, over earlier models.
- The Campbell Hausfeld TL050299AV ½-Inch Impact Wrench Grab-N-Go Tool Kit is a very affordable air impact wrench offering convenient, one-handed operation, including directional changes via a conveniently located switch. The kit includes a handy storage case for the tool and its accessories.
- The NitroCat 1200-K ½-Inch Composite Air Wrench is a slightly heavier, mid-priced, very powerful option. A good choice for those working on heavy vehicles such as large trucks, the NitroCat 1200-K is the most affordable of the three options offering more than 1200 feet-pounds of torque.
Air Impact Wrench Reviews
Ingersoll-Rand 2235TIMAX ½-Inch Drive Air Impact Wrench
The Ingersoll Rand 2235TIMAX is a ½-inch air impact wrench from one of the most reputable producers of power tools available on today's market. More than 100 reviews have left it with a nearly five star rating on Amazon (4.8 to be precise, as of this writing). It costs $515 normally, but current to this writing is being offered at a 51% discount – a recurring sale price. If the customer feedback is any indication, however, even the regular price offers substantial value.
The 2235TIMAX offers 930 feet-pounds of maximum reverse torque, and 1250 feet-pounds of nut-busting torque. It uses a finely-tuned proprietary twin-hammer impact system to deliver maximum torque with minimal effort, which maintains a significant improvement in efficiency over many of its peers. Its hammer case is made from titanium, while high-gauge steel plating and composite materials have been used in the housing, keeping the mechanism safe from even the harshest of work environments.
The Ingersoll Rand 2235TIMAX is an electrically powered air impact wrench which runs on a battery, offering the added convenience of cordless operation. It is #2 in Amazon's air impact wrench category under automotive tools and equipment, and #3 in air impact wrenches under power and hand tools in the home improvement category. It is manufactured to exacting specifications within the United States. For information about its warranty, please click here; in short, it offers a one-year warranty on the tool itself, the battery, and on the battery charger, with a two-year warranty on the high capacity battery.
Ingersoll-Rand 231C ½-Inch Super-Duty Air Impact Wrench
Manufactured by the same company responsible for the 2235TIMAX, the Ingersoll-Rand 231C is a more affordable option which will more than suffice for many in need of an air impact wrench. While the price point makes it especially appealing for hobbyists or other non-professionals, positive reviews come from many pros as well, including auto mechanics who use the 231C regularly in their shops. Reviews are highly positive for the very popular 231C – while they come in a bit lower than the 2235TIMAX (4.6 as opposed to 4.8), about four times as many people have reviewed the 231C as have reviewed the 2235TIMAX.
The 231C delivers a maximum torque of 425 feet-pounds. Ingersoll-Rand themselves have published a helpful guide to determining how much torque you need for a given project. In short, it is not necessarily the case that you will need the thousands of feet-pounds of torque that something like the 2235TiMAX delivers. In fact – and this is important – many sources say that lower levels of torque are actually better for many purchasers of air impact wrenches. When you're working with the levels of torque that the 2235 TiMAX provides, the frames you're working with need to be heavy-duty so as not cause problems.
In any case, it's worth noting that the 231C offers about a third of the torque the TiMAX does. Since one of the most common usages for an air impact wrench is loosening bolts and fasteners such as lug-nuts, the reversing torque comes in a little stronger, at around 600 foot-pounds. It also comes equipped with an adjustable power regulator, allowing you to change the power in one direction and use full power in the other direction.
Small and lightweight, the Ingersoll-Rand 231C provides a speed of 1,200 BPM and is easy to service. Many reviewers also claim that the 231C is highly strong and resilient, requiring almost no maintenance and lasting for years. Some reviewers report that it is not powerful or strong enough for professional application, and others report problems with individual devices that suggest on the whole that it's a little less reliable than some more expensive options. However, the vast majority of reviewers say that the 231C is an almost unprecedented deal – far stronger and longer-lasting than the price would have you think.
NitroCat 1250-K Air Impact Wrench
The NitroCat 1250-K is a compact and powerful air impact wrench. As of this writing, 60 reviews have left it with a nearly five star rating on Amazon. It lists as $488, but is being offered at a 58% discount for $206.49 on Amazon (current, again, as of this writing). Multiple patented innovations make the NitroCat 1250-K a popular and innovative air impact wrench, particularly favored in residential basement and garage workshops.
NitroCat's air impact wrench incorporates patented technology into its sound suppression design as a standard feature; this is the kind of innovation which is either unavailable with many air impact wrenches, or else it costs extra. Its sound suppression takes its operational volume down to about 86 dB, or just barely above the threshold at which point hearing protection is suggested. Thus it is still a requisite for the 1250-K's use, but the sound is also less likely to carry far outside of the workshop.
Kevlar has been worked into the patented grip of the 1250-K, which is more comfortable to handle than many of its peers; the Kevlar also contributes to long-term durability. The tool is resistant to many forms of impact, fire, electrical, and chemical damage thanks to its Kevlar component, and it can be used long-term for extensive jobs. Its reinforced twin clutch mechanism contributes significantly to the longevity of the tool, which will last for years – including through regular use – if it is cared for appropriately.
Multiple instances of buyer feedback and consumer responses suggest that NitroCat's 1250-K air impact wrench is quite capable of removing lug nuts from large vehicles, as well as bolts rusted onto nearly inaccessible vehicle components. It is advertised as offering 1300 feet-pounds of torque, and would seem to be born out by the vast majority of feedback; negative reviews would appear to be instances of individually defective products, which should be covered under the manufacturer's warranty.
Campbell Hausfeld TL050299AV ½-Inch Impact Wrench Grab-N-Go Tool Kit
The TL050299AV from Campbell Hausfeld is an extremely affordable ½-inch air impact wrench. It packs a lot of power into a small package, and offers several innovative features, designed to both enhance its convenience and to provide for long-term durability. With a rating of nearly 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, its critical appraisal has been extremely high so far; other sources fall into line, with several points being consistently praised across the board.
This air impact wrench from Campbell Hausfeld is ideal for the attachment and removal of lug nuts and bolts. It excels at handling situations where rust or corrosion have resulted in a bolt being firmly stuck into position, as it brings significantly more torque to bear than a typical man with a standard wrench is capable of matching. Its single-hammer impact mechanism is of a specifically patented design, providing 20% more torque, and its conveniently located switch for forward and reverse function make it easily operable with one hand.
The TL050299AV weighs a little bit more than some of the other models we looked at. However, the tool itself is ergonomically designed to be more comfortable for the user, even over the course of longer continuous operation than what a single series of bolts might call for. Its proprietary exhaust diffuser allows for quieter operation than most of the competition, making this an excellent choice of air impact wrench for residential workshops. In terms of its overall capacity, it comes recommended for residential use – as well as for overall auto body work, light truck work, farm use, and light-duty manufacturing.
NitroCat 1200-K ½-inch Kevlar Composite Air Wrench
A relative of the NitroCat 1250-K Air Impact Wrench, the manufacturer reports that the 1200-K is popular among many NHRA Top Fuel Race teams. 91% of Amazon reviewers give the 1200-K either four or five stars (with 79% delivering a 5/5), and only 2% of reviewers gave it 1 star. Beyond this, at $177.71, it's pretty much at the middle of the price range.
With a maximum torque of around 1,295 feet-pounds, the 1200-K is comparable in strength to many of the other air wrenches we've reviewed. In fact, it's so strong that some reviewers report that it is only recommended when working on very heavy duty frame work, such as the kind you can find on medium to heavy-duty trucks. However, if you're looking for a serious air wrench, the 1200-K might be a good choice. Many reviews report that the 1200-K was able to take care of problems, such as rusty lug nuts, that other, more expensive air wrenches couldn't deal with.
The NitroCat 1200-K is relatively quiet for what it does – it generally runs below 80 dB. It's also specially designed with Kevlar housing (hence “Kevlar Composite Air Wrench”), which makes it highly durable, with an ergonomically-designed handle and twin-clutch mechanism, which brings a softer blow without sacrificing power. In the same way that many reviewers report that it's able to take care of problems that more expensive models can't, many reviewers report that it lasts longer than many higher-priced, supposedly better-made air wrenches. If you're looking for a truly powerful air wrench in the middle price ranges, the NitroCat 1200-K might be a good bet.
Our Pick for Top Performing Air Impact Wrench
Honestly, our job was made pretty easy this time around. The winner has to be the Ingersoll-Rand 231C ½ Inch Super-Duty Air Impact Wrench. While the other wrenches had their pros and cons, on the whole, the Ingersoll-Rand 231C came across as the best all-around pick by far. There's simply very little room for comparison, as hundreds upon hundreds of reviews across dozens of different websites, blogs, and review sites will attest. We actually went further than we usually do, trying to find something – anything – by way of a substantial negative, but there simply wasn't anything consistent.
- Convenience: The 231C's multiple power settings allow its enormous power to be brought to bear on a broad variety of jobs, which it can finish with speed and efficiency. Add to that its relatively quiet operation, and its comfort-enhancing design, and it's the perfect tool to have on hand for any time when an air impact wrench might be needed. It's a little bit heavier than the competitors, but what it lacks in lightness it makes up in durability. A number of reviews report that the 231C is highly portable, making great for on-call jobs like roadside repair services.
- Power: The 231C offers a level of torque and power which will get the kinds of jobs done that the general-purpose auto enthusiast or car shop is likely to have. As Ingersoll-Rand themselves report, “it's a mistake to assume a 'when in doubt, apply more torque' attitude.” While incredibly high-torque devices such as the Ingersoll-Rand 2135TiMAX are useful in specialized cases, such as unscrewing rusty or over-tightened bolts, tools operating at its level are not useful for safely putting bolts back on. In this case, a power rating like the 231C's will give most users more options, not fewer.
- Value: While not as cheap as the Campbell Hausfeld we reviewed, the Ingersoll-Rand 231C seems to be in the absolute sweet spot in terms of the ratio of price to quality. Coming in at just over $111, competitors like the 2135TiMAX cost more than twice as much.
So, there you have it. Each of the items on our list, including our clear favorite, is a popular, widely sold, and high-value item about which a great deal has been said already. Each has their place (our pick for best in show occupies several places at once, and does so with style). All are solid investments in the quest to assemble the ultimate assortment of power tools – there simply isn't anything else which will do what an air wrench will do, let alone do it half as well.
Give our list another perusal, then vote your conscience (as it were). If you feel like we left anything out, feel free to use our convenient contact form to let us know about it – but we're pretty sure that, if you give our selection a chance, you'll find the air impact wrench that is perfect for your needs.