If you’ve ever had to change a flat tire on the side of the road, you know the pain of having to use a lug wrench to get the job done. Even if you’re changing your tires in more benign situations, using a lug wrench can take forever.
In the past, all impact wrenches were pneumatic, making them difficult to take on the road, and poor for home use. Today’s cordless impact wrenches are battery-powered, making them easy to keep on hand for emergencies, and powerful enough to leave lug wrenches in the dust.
However, it’s important to get the right one, or you may end up stranded with a dead tool, or one that’s not up to the task at hand.
Our reviews cover the best features and worst problems of each wrench we reviewed. With that in mind, you’ll be able to find the model for your needs.
|Milwaukee 2767-20 M18|
|Makita XWT11Z 18V LXT||3 lbs||4.7/5|
|VonHaus 20V MAX Cordless 1/2" Impact Wrench Set|
(Best for the Money)
|DEWALT DCF889B 20V MAX Lithium Ion Impact||5 lbs||4.4/5|
|Tradespro 837886 3/8" Drive Cordless Impact Wrench||5 lbs||4.1/5|
Some tools were born to do a certain job, and the Milwaukee 2767-20 M18 Fuel High Torque 1/2-Inch Impact Wrench was born to remove tires. It has many features that can make replacing flat tires a breeze. There’s a built-in LED light, which makes changing tires in the dark far easier. It also has multiple operating modes, but the most useful is the bolt removal mode. This mode starts with maximum torque until the tool detects the bolt is loose, at which point it drops the torque, allowing you an extra measure of control while taking the loose bolt off.
This is one of the most powerful impact wrenches in its class, providing 1,400 foot-pounds of removal force, and 1,000 foot-pounds of fastening force. It’s less than ten inches tall, making it a great choice for an emergency tool to keep in a vehicle. It does get hot during extended use, making it a poor choice for shop use, but changing tires typically doesn’t take long enough to hit that threshold. Overall, this is the tool to get for remote tire changes.
The Makita XWT11Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless 3-Speed 1/2″ Sq. Drive Impact Wrench is another model tons of people trust for their tire changing needs. This wrench comes with a brushless motor, which has multiple advantages over older types of motors. It’s more efficient than older brushed motors, and it runs cooler and tends to last far longer as well. This model is also much more compact. It’s less than six inches wide, and less than four pounds, which means you could store it in a glovebox.
Also included is a reverse auto-stop mode. This stops the impact wrench once the bolt is loose, to help keep you from accidentally spinning it off too quickly and slinging it somewhere. You can then restart the wrench at a slower speed to safely remove the bolt. Like the previous wrench, it has an LED light, which keeps you from having to work in the dark. What keeps this model out of first place is that it only has about a fifth of the power of the top model, though it still has more than enough to make tire changes easy.
The VonHaus 20V MAX Cordless 1/2″ Impact Wrench Set has everything you need to start changing tires. Most impact wrenches come as bare tools, but this set includes both a battery and a great storage bag, which make it ready for use or storage in a trunk or glovebox as soon as you get it. This tool produces up to 300 foot-pounds of torque when in use, which makes it strong enough to deal with just about any kind of bolt. It also doesn’t have any fancy modes to navigate. Just set it to forward or reverse, and you’ll be good to go.
What really sets this wrench apart is its low price. It’s far more affordable than either of the top two models on our list, and it includes a battery, which the first two don’t have. That’s an incredible deal that makes this model the best value for the money on our list. What we don’t like is that it weighs around seven pounds, which is many times as heavy as other options. Overall, this is a good cordless impact wrench, and the one bargain-hunters should get.
The DEWALT DCF889B 20V MAX Lithium Ion Impact-Wrench has some features that make it useful for changing tires, but also has some downsides that make it a poor performer in that area. It comes with an LED light, which is useful for changing a tire at night or in suboptimal lighting conditions. It also has a magnesium gear case, which is lighter than competing steel gear cases but provides a similar level of strength. You can get this model for a relatively low price, which makes it not a terrible deal in that area.
Unfortunately, this wrench has torque problems. The manufacturer claims it’s capable of 400 foot-pounds, but many users report that their units struggle with nuts tightened to 100 or even 75 foot-pounds. This seems to be a problem with a small but significant number of units shipped, which suggests a quality control issue may be at play. It also uses an older brushed motor, which means it weighs roughly twice as much as the higher-rated Makita. Overall, this is a decent tool, but quality control problems and its weight keep it from rising higher than fourth place.
The Tradespro 837886 3/8″ Drive Cordless Impact Wrench has some surface features that may make people think it’s a great choice for changing tires, but it has some serious problems that should give users pause. It does have a built-in light, which is a feature you’ll want on a portable cordless impact wrench. It also comes with a battery and charger, so you won’t have to spend anything extra to get those critical pieces. Plus, it comes at a very low price despite the inclusion of those pieces, which makes it one of the least expensive ready-to-use models you can get.
However, that low price should serve as a warning. Like other low-price tools, the Tradespro 837886 3/8″ doesn’t always live up to its promises. It struggles with lug nuts, no matter how tight or loose they are. That makes it a poor choice for a tool to use on your car. Tradespro also has a reputation for poor customer service, which makes it hard to get any problems you run into resolved. Overall, this is a low-priced tool, but it’s likely to leave most users frustrated.
Hopefully, our reviews have already helped you understand what makes a great cordless impact wrench. If you’re getting one of these great tools for the purpose of changing your tires, you’ll want to make sure you get a tool that’s up to the task and won’t fail when you need it the most. In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about cordless impact wrenches. We’ve also included some information on getting great value for the money.
Torque is the most important thing to consider when shopping for a cordless impact wrench. It requires more torque to remove a lug nut than it does to tighten a lug nut. Consequently, you may see some cordless impact wrenches that offer more torque when in reverse than when in their forward configurations, which is perfectly fine.
Most lug nuts on vehicles are tightened to somewhere between 75 and 160 foot-pounds, though it depends on the size of the wheel, the lug nut’s shape, and the material from which the wheel is made. Sometimes, you’ll find outliers that call for even more torque. This is something you can look up in your vehicle’s user manual.
Because it takes more torque to loosen than to tighten, get an impact wrench that comes with more torque than required to tighten your lug nuts. Generally speaking, more torque will be better and will speed up the process. Be careful to not overtighten your lug nuts, as that may damage the lug nut or your vehicle.
If you’re going to keep your impact wrench in your car for use in emergencies, you’ll need a battery that can last for a long time without going dead.
While older nickel-cadmium batteries are largely being phased out of the tool industry, you may still come across some. Their biggest problem in this situation is that they have a very high self-discharge rate. Batteries that sit lose their power over time in what’s known as self-discharge.
Nickel-cadmium batteries can be expected to lose 10 to 15 percent of their charge in the first 24 hours, and then an additional 10 to 15 percent per month until they go dead. That’s significant, and you have to keep in mind that’s without them being used. To keep these usable, you’d need to recharge them three to four times per year.
Lithium-ion batteries have largely replaced nickel-cadmium batteries in tools. While they are more expensive, they’re more energy-dense. They can provide the same power with less weight, or far more power with the same weight.
They also only self-discharge around five percent of their energy in the first 24 hours, followed by around one to two percent per month. This means you don’t have to recharge as often but can still be confident that your cordless impact wrench will work when you need it.
It’s always nice to have an LED light on your impact wrench. These lights are very energy-efficient, which makes them great for battery-powered tools. They’re also very bright and can be small, but still effective.
If you ever have to change a tire at night, you’ll be extremely thankful that you have an LED light on your wrench. You won’t have to try to light the scene with a flashlight or your phone’s camera light.
Something else to look for is a wrench with modes designed to make removing lug nuts easier. Some models will automatically reduce the torque when the tool detects the lug nut is loose, so you can remove the nut slowly and safely. Others come to a dead stop so your lug nut doesn’t spin off and get lost.
Many people try to get great value by focusing on price tags, but unfortunately, that sometimes leads them to get tools they don’t like, which means they got poor value regardless of the price.
A better strategy begins with figuring out what features you need. How much torque do you need, and how much do you value special features like LED lights and extra operational modes?
Once you figure that out, limit your search to the models that come with those features. Then, create a shortlist ranking the remaining tools by price. When that’s done, choose the most affordable model. It has all the features your cordless impact wrench will need to provide a great experience, but at the lowest price, making it the best overall value.
Our other articles about impact wrenches:
The Milwaukee 2767-20 M18 is our favorite model due to its great LED light, excellent torque, and convenient bolt-removal mode. The Makita XWT11Z takes second place with its brushless motor, compact frame, and reverse auto-stop mode, though its lower power keeps it out of first place. The VonHaus 20V MAX Cordless 1/2″ Impact Wrench Set comes with a carrying case and battery. Its good torque and simple operation, combined with its great price, make it the best overall value for the money on our list. Fourth place belongs to the DEWALT DCF889B 20V MAX Lithium Ion Impact-Wrench, which has a low price and magnesium gear case but suffers from poor overall torque and its heavyweight. The Tradespro 837886 3/8″ Drive Cordless Impact Wrench has a built-in light and includes a battery and charger, but its problems with lug nuts and poor customer service drop it to last place.
We hope that our reviews and buyer’s guide have helped you find the right wrench for you, at a price your wallet will love.
we’ve also written a page about the best cordless impact wrench in general. This one is less specific and looks at the all-around uses of an impact wrench.