Impact Driver vs. Drill: All You Need To Know

Every vehicle owner and mechanic should have an impact driver and drill in their toolbox. Most people do not get the difference between an impact driver vs. drill. Drills and impact drivers are rotary tools we should have around at home, in garages, or in automotive shops. The two tools share some similarities, and that is why they are confused with each other.

Each of the two tools have their individual functions and its crucial to have both in your mechanic backpack or toolbox. The two tools will help you cover a wide spectrum of auto repair and building needs. Here we shall discuss the two tools, their types, uses, brands, pros, and cons. This information will be quite helpful to anyone who wants to buy an impact driver, a drill, or both.

What Is An Impact Driver?

Impact drivers have the shape of a drill, but they are smaller and shorter. This tool has similar features to a drill, such as a trigger, handle, and chunk known as a hex collet. An impact driver is a high torque tool used to drive screw and tighten nuts. The impact driver chunks only accept bits with a hex shank of ¼ inches.

Even if impact drivers are smaller than drills, they have more torque output and help you to do the work quickly. The tool provides sequential bursts automatically without requiring you to do anything. Impact drivers rotate their bits in a two-step forward and one-step backward pattern, which engages and drive the screws more effectively.

Types of Impact Drivers

You may assume that all impact drivers are the same, but this is not the case. Most of the impact drivers are cordless, making people think that this is their only option. However, we have different types of impact drivers to fit different needs. The 4 types of impact drivers include:

Corded Impact Drivers

It is challenging to come across a corded impact driver in the market, but that does not mean they do not exist. These types of impact drivers are connected directly to a power outlet. The advantage is that you do not have to worry about charging batteries or carry around spare batteries. On the downside, codeless impact drivers are less versatile. The power code’s length and fumbling can make it challenging to work in tight spaces.

Cordless or Wireless Impact Drivers

Cordless impact drivers are battery-powered. It is the most common variant of impact drivers in the market. Most people prefer this type of impact driver since it is versatile and easily portable. You can also work with it even when there is no power outlet since it is powered by batteries.

Cordless impact drivers are not the same. Therefore, you need to check some factors such as size and power before you buy. Some compact models may not be so powerful, but they are ideal when working in tight spaces. You, however, need to charge the batteries and have an extra charged battery at all times.

Pneumatic Impact Drivers

Pneumatic impact drivers are not so popular in today’s world that is electricity-driven. These impact drivers are powered by air pressure instead of electricity or battery. The genetic alteration makes pneumatic impact drivers more powerful and lighter. However, you need an air compressor for it to work.

Manual Impact Drivers

Unlike the other types of impact drivers, manual impact drivers are not power tools. When using this impact driver, you attach a bit on its nose and strike the tool creating a rotational force. This is similar to when you are using a chisel or a hammer. This type of impact driver is not ideal when dealing with extensive jobs.

impact driver vs. drill driver

Common Uses of Impact Driver

Impact drivers are used for fastening long screws and drilling holes in hard materials like drywall, concrete, metal, and hardwood. Since most impact drivers are compact, they help you to easily and quickly complete your tasks even when working in tight spaces.

Impact drivers use a similar rotational motion like drills; however, when driving in screws, it mixes the down and sideway hammering action. This makes it easy to get screws in tough materials. This also prevents the drive bit from sliding from the screw head, which could ruin the screw or strip its head.

Impact drivers are also suitable for removing stubborn bolts or screws by reversing the spin direction. Its hammering action also helps it to remove over-torqued or corroded fasteners. Therefore, impact drivers are commonly used in instances where you need more force.

How to Use an Impact Driver

Impact drivers are simple tools to use. If you have never had this tool before, you might be confused about exactly how to use the tools. Here is how to use an impact driver:

Step 1:

The first step when using any tool is to read the manual. This will help you to know more about the product and its settings. Impact drivers are not the same. Thus it is crucial to go through the manual and familiarize yourself with the tool. Also, ensure that you have taken all safety precautions before you start using the impact driver.

Step 2:

Before you start using the tool, attach a battery. Always ensure that the battery is charged. Check the impact driver’s settings and ensure that it is ready to run.

Step 3:

Connect the appropriate socket or bit adapter and a bit on the tool. Impact drivers come in a variety of bits. The way to get the right screw is by looking at the shape on its head. After matching the bit with the head of the screw, make sure you have the appropriate length and install it in the chunk.

Step 4:

Hold the impact driver with your dominant hand. Hold the tool in the most comfortable position.

Step 5:

Apply downward pressure as you try to turn the impact driver to the direction you desire the screw to turn. When tightening a screw, go to the clockwise direction. When loosening the screw, turn in the anti-clockwise direction.

Step 6:

Once you are through with the task, keep your impact driver safely in the storage area. Remove the bits using the same process you used to fix them. Slide the battery to remove them from the impact driver and charge them if needed. Clean the impact driver using a dry cloth and put it back in its case or storage area.

Pros of Impact Drivers

Impact drivers are the ideal tool when driving in most fasteners except when using the short ones. It is the best tool to drive screws into the knotty or dense wood. The benefits of an impact driver are:

  • The tool is small and compact, making it easy to access smaller workspaces
  • They reduce the risk of stripping screws
  • Can remove stripped screws easily
  • The torque is applied by the tool, making it easy on the arm and wrist
  • It offers high power for difficult tasks
  • Drives long and large screws with little effort

Cons of Impact Drivers

Impact drivers have many advantages, but they are not suitable for driving in short screws. It is, therefore, crucial to know the situation on when not to use an impact driver. The cons of impact drivers are:

  • They do not have variable speeds
  • Not ideal for precise drilling
  • They need expensive and special bits
  • They are more expensive compared to drills

What is a Drill?

Drills are similar to screwdrivers nuts. They use torque and rotational force to fasten bolts, nuts, and screws and create holes. A drill features a slip clutch that disengages when it reaches a given torque, thus avoiding stripping and snapping the fasteners. Drills enable the user to drill holes of different sizes in different materials.

Therefore, a drill can be defined as a machine or tool with a reciprocating chisel or hammer or rotating cutting tip used to make holes. Drills have evolved from the large ones to the compact drills found in the market today. Most of the drill manufacturers have worked hard to reduce their size and increase efficiency.

Drill Driver

Types of Drills

Drills are of many types. The type of drill you use should depend on the type of work and materials you are working on. They differ in sizes, features, and also functionalities. Below are some types of drills you might come across:

Hand Drills

This is a manual drill which is ideal for anyone on a tight budget. Hand drills are portable, and they do not need a power source. Therefore, this type of drill can be used anywhere. There are, however, a few powered hand drills.

These drills fall under this category due to their handheld form factor and compact design. Hand drills include reversible drills, straight air drills, brace drills, breast drills, push drills, and D-handle drills.

Electric Corded Drills

This type of drill relies on electricity. They have a cord that you should connect to a power outlet when using the drill. Corded electric drills are high performance and are ideal for tasks that need a powerful drill. However, on the downside, you cannot use it in a place where there is no power output.

impact driver vs. drill driver

 

Cordless Drill

Cordless drills are powered by batteries. They provide the same function as the electric drill, but they are more versatile. Some of the drills have in-built batteries, while another drill has removable batteries. With this type of drill, you can use them anywhere, even where there is no electricity accessibility. Most of the cordless drills are small and can work even in tight workspaces.

Air Pneumatic Drill

The air pneumatic drill is similar to other pneumatic tools you might have come across. The drill is powered by compressed air. Therefore, if you choose to buy this type of drill, you will need to buy an air compressor. This can be a little expensive unless you already have an air compressor. The drills, however, are more powerful compared to electrical corded drills.

Manual Drills

Just like the name suggests, manual drills need manual about to work. You either use a push motion or twist motion for you to drill a hole in an object. Manual drills are mainly used for tasks where you need precision, such as woodworking. However, on the downside, you have to use your muscles, thus making you quite tired.

Common Uses of Drill 

Drills are mainly used for woodworking, home improvement tasks, and DIY projects. They are used to drill holes and tighten screws and set nuts. Drills work better than impact drivers when working with short screws. They are also ideal when you need more precision.

How to use a Drill

A drill is a dangerous tool when used in the wrong way. It is, therefore, important to learn the process of using a drill before you use it. Before you use a drill, make sure to follow all the safety measures. Use hearing protection and hand gloves for protection.

If the drill lacks an auxiliary handle, hold it from the bottom of its pistol handle with your free hand. This helps in counteracting the rotation. Once you have taken all safety precautions, follow these steps:

Select the Drill Bit or Driver

If you are using the drill to drive screws, use small driver bits with the shape of an end of a screwdriver. Most drills are sold together with starter driver bits and flat head screws. However, you can buy additional driver bits with different shapes for versatility. It’s recommendable to use sharp drill bits for safety and more precise and clean drilling.

Chuck in the Drill Bit or Driver

Most drills have a keyless chunk function. If your drill has this feature, turn the drill’s collar in an anti-clockwise direction to loosen it and chunk in the drill bit or driver. Turn the collar in the clockwise direction to tighten and keep the bit or driver securely in place.

Drill a Pilot Hole

If you are driving screws into woods that are prone to cracking, start by drilling a pilot hole. Put in a slightly smaller bit than the screw you want to drive. Drill the hole and then drive the screw. This step is optional but recommendable when working on tough materials.

Place a Driver Bit or Driver

Use your finger to place a drill bit on the spot you want to drill. If you want to drive a screw, put the bit on the top of a screw.

Start Driving or Drilling

Drills feature variable speed options. The speed on the drill rotation will decrease or increase based on the pressure your finer puts on the trigger. When driving or drilling, start the process slowly. This helps the user to maintain better control over the work materials and the drill.

Start by bracing the drill with your free hand and pull the trigger gently. When driving screws, reduce the drill’s torque setting. This enables you to work at a slow speed but with increased power. 

Press On the Drill

In most cases, when one drill downwards, the weight of the drill exerts enough pressure helping the tool to drill through the material. In some cases, however, you need to press the drill gently towards the work material.

Finish the Action

Drill the bit through the work material and then remove it by pulling it outward while it’s not rotating. If the drill bits happen to be stuck, turn the tool to the reverse mode and pull the drill out while rotating the drill slowly.  Once you are done with the drill, keep it safely in your toolbox.

Pros of Drill

A drill is a right tool for drilling into masonry or driving small fasteners in softwood. A drill gives the user some control, thus preventing them from screwing screws deeper than expected. The pros of a drill over an impact driver are:

  • It is a great multi-purpose tool
  • Ideal for jobs that need precision and care
  • Use a variety of drill bits and screws
  • It is affordable
  • Have a slip clutch that helps you to control torque
  • It is suitable for handy accessories like rotary sanders and wire wheeled brush
  • Use a constant torque

Cons of Drill

There are some applications when you cannot use a drill, like when driving long screws. Drills do not offer as much torque as impact drivers do. As much as drills have their advantages, they also have some cons. The cons of a drill include:

  • Bits can become loose when in the chunk
  • Can cause damage to screws
  • It stalls when used with large or long fasteners
  • It can be strenuous to the user’s hand and wrist

Differences Between Impact Driver vs. Drill

Now that we have discussed a drill vs. impact driver in detail, what is their difference? The two tools seem to look the same and to perform the same tasks. Whey them would you need to have both tools as a mechanic. The differences between drills and impact drivers include:

Impact Driver vs. Drill driver

Size

One main difference between a drill vs. driver is their physical size. Impact drivers have a very short body due to their internal workings. This helps them to access tight spaces and also reduces the weight of the tool. This size makes it ideal for working inside cabinets, between joints, or other overhead applications.

A Drill, on the other hand, is much larger than an impact driver. You can describe it as a motor joined to a chunk through a gearbox. Its main purpose is to drill. The most common feature for a drill is its variable speed trigger.

Front End

The front end of a drill and an impact driver is the other visible difference between the two tools. An impact driver features a ¼ hexagon bit retainer. This makes the changing of bits fast and effortless.

A drill has a three-jaw chuck that holds its accessory. It holds triangular, round, and hexagonal-shaped shanks. The three jaws ensure that the bits are held tightly, while the dead-center of the chunk ensures precision drilling.

Working Mechanism

The working mechanism of the two tools is quite different. Impact drivers provide bursts of torque by releasing energy from a spring. This makes the hammers rotate and strike the anvil many times in a second. It is, therefore, suitable for applications that need high torque without having resistance pass back to the user. On the other hand, drills use gears to maintain constant turning torque.

Torque

One thing that people look at when purchasing power tools is the highest torque number and fastest RPM. Impact drivers have a high torque even with their compact size. Drills do not have such high torque, but they maintain their torque through the entire turning process.

Noise

Noise is another way you can tell an impact driver from a drill. Impact drivers are noisier compared to drills, and this is one of their disadvantages. It is, therefore, recommendable to wear ear protection when using an impact driver. Drills also have some noise from the gearbox and motor, but it is bearable.

Impact Driver vs. Hammer Drill

Impact drivers are different from hammer drills both in the way they function and also in their applications. Here are the differences between a hammer drill vs. impact driver:

Working Mechanisms

Impact drivers have a hammer and avail design which helps them to accomplish their tasks. Impact drivers feature two or three hammers. Its motor turns the spring-loaded hammer, compresses the spring, and the avail and hammer plates push apart and are slammed together by the kinetic energy from the spring.

This makes them produce high torque, which passes to the bit and turns the fastener. Impact drivers increase the force been conveyed perpendicularly to the bit. Hammer drills have less torque and forward force. The hammer drill delivers greater force to the bit directly, making it hit the material being drilled.

Applications

Impact drivers are ideal for driving hex bolts and screws of all kinds. Its high torque enables it to remove and drive tough fasteners that a hammer drill cannot. Hammer drills, on the other hand, are right for drilling in masonries such as concrete, block, and stones. Hammer drills are lightweight and compact than rotary hammers.

Impact Driver vs. Impact Wrench

Impact drivers may look the same as impact wrenches, but they have their differences. Impact wrenches are used for loosening bolts and nuts. They are mainly used to remove lug nuts from vehicles, among other tasks. The differences between an impact driver vs. an impact wrench include:

Torque

Impact wrenches deliver more torque than impact drivers. However, some of the impact drivers with a voltage of 18V or 20V tend to deliver more power than 12V impact wrenches. If you need a power tool with more torque to remove your bolts, then an impact wrench is the right tool.

Speed

Impact drivers have a higher speed compared to impact wrenches. Some of the best impact drivers have a maxing out of approximately 3600 RPM. Top-quality cordless impact wrenches have a speed of below 2000 RPM. Pneumatic impact wrenches, however, offer around 8000 RPM.

Size

Impact wrenches and impact drivers have the same foundation but different drives. Impact drivers are lighter and smaller than impact wrenches. Impact drivers are also easy to use. The size and weight of an impact wrench increase with its power level. Impact wrenches feature a ½ square drive, but impact drivers feature a ¼ hex collet.

Applications

Impact drivers are used mainly to drill screws in metal or wood, while impact wrenches are for tightening or loosening nuts. Impact drivers will mostly be used in DIY projects and renovations, while impact wrenches are mainly used during car reparations.

Impact Driver vs. Drill: Top Brands

The number of drills and impact drivers in the market has increased due to the many upcoming manufacturers. People often get confused about which exact brand they should buy. Each company advertises its impact drivers as the best but making the buying process more difficult. Here are some of the top 4 best brands for drills and impact drivers in the market:

Makita

Makita is one of the most reputable brands for power tools in the USA market today. Makita was founded by Mosabura Makita in 1915 at Nagoya, Japan. They, however, become more popular after they made the very first powered drill in 1969. This company has remained to be the battery-based innovator.

It was the brand to introduce lithium-ion batteries in the market. Makita cordless drills feature long-lasting batteries. They also have inbuilt LED lights and are lightweight. Makita drills are made with a unique ergonomic grip. This makes them an ideal choice for professionals since they reduce straining.

Makita cordless impact drivers are well known for their fast speed and high torque. Makita impact drivers are made with precision fastening applications. This means the tool will not damage the screws when in use.

Dewalt

Dewalt is another well-known brand for drills due to its high quality. It started its invention in the radial arm in 1923. This brand mainly concentrated on woodworking equipment. In 1960 Dewalt was bought by the Black Decker brand. It has since then upgraded its power tools, including its drills.

Dewalt drills are ideal for anyone looking for an innovative battery pack. Their drills are made with reliable brushless motor systems which do not burn up even with excessive use. They reach up to 1,500RPM even after years of usage in harsh environments such as construction settings.

Dewalt makes compact impact drivers with an ergonomic design. This allows the tools to easily access tight places. They are designed with inbuilt LED lights for increased visibility.

Dewalt impact drivers are super lightweight but offer you a lot of power. Most of their impact drivers come with a rechargeable battery, a charger, and a carrying case. The company has different impact drivers for different needs, but you can never go wrong with this brand.

Bosch

When you talk about tool brands, Bosh is one of the oldest brands in the industry. This brand started in 1886 when they first produced the first-ever magneto engine systems. Bosch concentrated on automotive industry needs up to the year 2000. In 2003 they started diversifying their efforts to include the invention of screwdrivers powered by lithium-ion batteries.

Bosch drills are made to offer exceptional durability. Their Brute Tough drill line has all the specifications of corded drills but with a cordless configuration. The drills have a collection of right-angle drills with an elongated form factor which enables you to reach tight places more easily.

Bosch Company has some of the most compact impact drivers. Their size and design make it easy to work on tiny spaces and hard-to-reach areas.  Impact drivers from this brand have optimized torque limits which prevent them from stripping the screws head.

Most of the impact drivers from Bosch Company have inbuilt LED for illumination when working in dark places. Bosch best impact drivers feature electronic cell protection, which prevents it from damaging in case of misuse. This also increases their battery life.

Milwaukee

Milwaukee is the industry innovator of hand drills. They introduced the M12 and M18 cordless systems that later bore the cordless drills. This brand has over 70 drills differing in size and style. They have a line of portable drills which uses the Bosch REDLINK intelligence system.

Milwaukee brand also has a variety of hammer drills. They use Milwaukee REDLITHIUM battery packs which are quite reliable. The hammer drills also come together with auxiliary handles. This brand offer professionals various drill options that they will not get with other brands.

Some of Milwaukee’s best impact drivers use lithium batteries. They are among the few brushless impact drivers you will get in the market at an affordable price. Most Milwaukee impact drivers have different settings, which makes them versatile.

Milwaukee brand gives the user freedom to use impact drivers on a range of tasks without messing with the surfaces. This brand is becoming more popular due to its reliable and high-performance tools.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Can You Use an Impact Driver Like a Drill?

Impact drivers are made for driving in screws, while drills are for drilling holes. Whether you can use an impact driver instead of a drill will depend on the type of task. If the task requires precise drilling and the use of small screws, then impact drivers are not ideal.

Impact drivers have a high torque that can damage the head of small screws. Impact drivers are not made to drill holes and thus do not fit all accessories that a drill can. It is therefore advisable to use the right tool for their designated task.

Q. Do I Need an Impact Driver Or a Drill?

An impact driver differs from a drill in terms of size, torque, working mechanism, and applications. Therefore, you do not choose in between the two, but you need to buy both an impact driver and a drill. The work of an impact driver is to drive in or loosen bits or screws in hard materials.

A drill’s main purpose is to drill holes. Impact drivers have more torque than drills, and there are instances they cannot be used, especially when dealing with small screws or when you need precise and clean drilling. Drills are not ideal for driving in large screws, for they can cause stripping. Therefore having both tools will helps increases versatility.

Q. Is It Worth Buying An Impact Driver?

If you do repetitive jobs that need you to drive in screws, then you need to buy an impact driver. Impact drivers will help you to drive screws more reliably and quickly. It also delivers high torque, thus making the job easier for your body. Impact drivers are compact and lightweight and thus highly portable. It is, therefore, worth buying an impact driver, for it will make your work easier.

Q. Can You Use Impact Driver for Drywall?

An impact driver is not designed to use on drywall, but you can still use it. The best tool to use on drywall projects is a drywall screw gun. Using the right tool for the project will speed it up and make it easier. However, if you do not have the drywall screw gun, you can still use an impact driver or drill.

Q. Are Hammer Drill and Impact Drill the Same?

Hammer drills are different from impact drills. Hammer drills have a hammer function, while an impact drill has an impact function. The difference between the two tools is the force that transfers to the drill head. Powerful hammer drills make bigger holes and also increases the speed to go through the concrete.

Q. Do You Need Special Screws For an Impact Driver?

The use of special impact driver screws depends on the task. You can use impact drivers to make small holes on softwood or light gauge wood using the standard hex-shark bit. However, you will need special screws if you want to make holes larger than ¼ inch in hardwood or heavy steel. In this case, there are special bits specifically rated for impact drivers.

Final Words:

It is always a common question among people on which one to buy between an impact driver vs. drill. People lack information and always think that impact drivers can be used in place of drills and the other way round. The truth is though the two tools look similar, they are different. Impact drivers are used for driving screws, while drills’ main purpose is to drill holes. If you have both applications in your shop then, you need to buy both tools.

Learn More:

Tito

Hi There, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanic (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I have been working as a mechanic for over fifteen years. I worked for a long time at Global Rebound Automotive companies (Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others ) as a Mechanic and Mechanics Supervisor.

Recent Posts