Using an impact driver - Pro Construction Guide
Using an impact driver

Using an impact driver

Using an impact driver

Makita’s compact 18V LXT brushless three-speed impact driver with Quick Shift Mode weighs 3.3 pounds and combines precision control and 1,550 inch-pounds of fastening torque.

You’re going to line using an impact driver. It’s one of the most awesome, time- and energy-saving tools you can buy.

When using an impact driver for driving big, long screws, you’ll notice that it definitely has the more conventional drill-driver beat. The reason? Its hammer action delivers several times the torque of the drill driver and is virtually non-reactive in your hand. So long screws seem to be sucked into the job with no effort. Driving screws by hand? Forget it.

The impact driver is distinguished by its quick-change hex drive – it doesn’t have a drill chuck, as in the drill driver. So you’ll need a set of hex screwdriver bits. It also has a very different feel when driving the screws. Initially it will drive the screws as a conventional driver. But once the screws start to bind as they drive into the job, the hammer action will start and the screws will be pounded in.

Some care needs to be exercised when using an impact driver as the screws bottom out – especially if you’re driving drywall screws into sheetrock. But a little practice (and a drywall screw stop) will get excellent results every time.

There’s another benefit when using an impact driver. In addition to the rotational hammer action, there’s an axial motion that drives the bit into the screw head. This means far less chance of “cam-out” especially when driving Phillips-head screws, which are more susceptible to this aggravating problem.

With less chance of the bit jumping out of the screw head and ruining the screw, one-handed, long-reach screw jobs are more likely to be successful. But it’s not a substitute for a hammer drill. Hammer drills deliver far heavier forward blows than an impact driver.

Using an impact driver

RIDGID’s new Stealth Force brushless 18V three-speed driver uses a unique hydraulics oil pulse mechanism to make
it twice as fast while generating half the noise. Three speed settings provide adjustable power and speed.

The latest generation of cordless impact drivers is remarkable for the hundreds of long screws they will drive on a single charge. With two batteries and a charger, you’ll be driving screws all day, stopping only for a battery swap.

At the end of the day, using an impact driver you’ll feel the difference, too. The lack of reactive torque on hand and wrist mean there’s little effort expended in driving screws with the impact driver. All the work is done by the tool and its hammer action and up to three or four times the torque you’ll get from a drill driver.

You can forget drilling pilot holes in 2x4s or ledger boards. Just drive those screws straight through − an enormous timesaver. The available torque is up to 1,500 inch-pounds (125 foot-pounds) on the higher voltage drivers, which will drive lag screws with ease.

An adaptation of the cordless impact driver has a ⅜- or ½-inch square drive.  The cordless electric drivers are generally lighter than the air tool, but the biggest benefit is the lack of a heavy hose getting in the way. These square-drive tools have quite amazing torques of up to 700 foot-pounds for a 20V ½-inch driver.

The impact driver can also be used as a drill using hex shaft bits when the fast speed of the driver will drill a small hole very quickly. For larger holes the driver may go into impact mode and drive a large bit or hole saw very quickly.

Choosing and using an impact driver

Most of the cordless tool manufacturers include drill drivers in their lineup and while they perform in the same way, each offers differing features. Because they are Lithium battery powered, the choice may well come down to what battery charger system you’re using. The following impact drivers use most of the features you’ll want in an impact driver.

The cordless RIDGID Gen5X 18V ¼-inch brushless impact driver provides 2,250 inch-pounds of torque and superior run time. The impact driver features 50 percent longer life, triple protection electronics, extreme weather performance and a fuel gauge. Three speed settings provide adjustable power and speed, the tri-beam LED lights eliminate shadows around the bit, and a one-handed quick-load bit holder makes bit changes quicker and easier.

Ryobi’s One+ 18V impact driver delivers 3,200 impacts per minute

Ryobi’s One+ 18V impact driver delivers 3,200 impacts per minute and more than 1,600 inch-pounds of torque. It’s 33 percent faster and more powerful than the previous model.

Ryobi’s One+ 18V impact driver delivers 3,200 impacts per minute and more than 1,600 inch-pounds of torque, and is 33 percent faster and more powerful than the previous model. Features include auto-load chuck, one-handed bit changes, variable-speed trigger and a tri-beam LED light that illuminates the work area, eliminating shadows. The MagTray magnetic holder keeps screws and bits within easy reach, Ryobi’s compact, lightweight One+ Lithium-ion batteries recharge in as little as 60 minutes and can be stored on the charger when not in use for peak performance.

Makita’s compact 18V LXT brushless three-speed Impact Driver with Quick Shift Mode weighs 3.3 pounds and combines precision control and 1,550 inch-pounds of fastening torque. The three-speed control allows users to match speed and impact energy to the job. The brushless motor is electronically controlled to increase battery use up to 50 percent. Quick Shift Mode has an automatic electronic controller that downshifts, and reduces rotation and impact speed prior to driving a screw, and is engineered to minimize screw thread stripping, screw breakage and damage to work.

Milwaukee’s M18 Fuel ¼-inch hex impact drive

Milwaukee’s M18 Fuel ¼-inch hex impact driver features four-mode drive control to provide greater control over output speed and power. The impact driver delivers 1,800 inch-pounds of fastening torque.

Milwaukee’s M18 Fuel ¼-i hex impact driver features four-mode drive control to provide greater control over output speed and power. In Mode 1, the impact driver delivers 0-850 rpm; in Mode 2, 0-2,100 rpm; in Mode 3 and 0-3,000 rpm. Mode 4 is a self-tapping screw mode that reduces walking of the screw tip when starting self-tapping screws, as well as overdriving, breaking and stripping out screws. The driver delivers 1,800 inch-pounds of fastening torque and Milwaukee’s Redlink Plus intelligence prevents damage to the tool and battery due to overloading or overheating.

Selecting and using an impact driver bit

All impact driver bits use hex shafts to fit the quick-change drive on the tool. So you’ll need a set of driver bits that may include drills and nut drivers, ⅜- or ½-inch square drive converters and maybe some other specialty bits. The impact driver is a very versatile tool and choosing a wide variety of bits will allow you to explore every opportunity to use the speed and ease of the tool.

The driver bits are subject to incredible stress and cheap bits won’t cut it – especially when driving Phillips head screws. In fact, if you can, think about the tool bit when choosing screws. You’ll get far better performance when using a hex-head, six-point or even a proprietary design screw head that resists cam-out of the bit.

The driver bits will last longer and you’ll avoid the frustration of a screw with a ruined head that has to be backed out replaced with a new one.

−By Pam Sturgess, Chief Editor


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