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As the output of an impact wrench, when hammering, is a very short impact force, the actual effective torque is difficult to measure, with several different ratings in use. As the tool delivers a fixed amount of energy with each blow, rather than a fixed torque, the actual output torque changes with the duration of the output pulse. If the output is springy or capable of absorbing energy, the impulse will simply be absorbed, and virtually no torque will ever be applied, and somewhat counter-intuitively, if the object is very springy, the wrench may actually turn backwards as the energy is delivered back to the anvil, while it is not connected to the hammer and able to spin freely. A wrench that is capable of freeing a rusted nut on a very large bolt may be incapable of turning a small screw mounted on a spring. "Maximum torque" is the number most often given by manufacturers, which is the instantaneous peak torque delivered if the anvil is locked into a perfectly solid object. "Working torque" is a more realistic number for continually driving a very stiff fastener. "Nut-busting torque" is often quoted, with the usual definition being that the wrench can loosen a nut tightened with the specified amount of torque in some specified time period. Accurately controlling the output torque of an impact wrench is very difficult, and even an experienced operator will have a hard time making sure a fastener is not under-tightened or over-tightened using an impact wrench. Special socket extensions are available, which take advantage of the inability of an impact wrench to work against a spring, to precisely limit the output torque. Designed with spring steel, they act as large torsion springs, flexing at their torque rating, and preventing any further torque from being applied to the fastener. Some impact wrenches designed for product assembly have a built-in torque control system, such as a built-in torsion spring and a mechanism that shuts the tool down when the given torque is exceeded. When very precise torque is required, an impact wrench is only used to snug down the fastener, with a torque wrench used for the final tightening. Due to the lack of standards when measuring the maximum torque, some manufacturers are believed to inflate their ratings, or to use measurements with little bearing on how the tool will perform in actual use. Many air impact wrenches incorporate a flow regulator into their design, either as a separate control or part of the reversing valve, allowing torque to be roughly limited in one or both directions, while electric tools may use a variable speed trigger for the same effect.
Remember when we stated there was an exception to the big air power torque? This is it: Ingersoll Rand’s 1/2-inch drive W7150K2 packs a whollop. It has a maximum output rating of 780 foot-pounds and it’s powered by a 20-volt Lithium Ion battery. Part of the secret to it’s big power is the rare earth magnet motor. This isn’t an inexpensive impact wrench, but the kit includes two batteries along with a charger.
Grip – Impact wrenches can actually come in a few shapes and sizes, but in this guide we’ve concentrated on models that – if you squint – look like standard power drills. We’ve done this as most cordless style impact wrenches are of this type. They are also simple to use. Because of their shape they do need a good grip, so make sure you bear that in mind. A good grip should be ergonomic, so it’s comfortable to hold, with good trigger placement and a raised or rubberized surface so you can orient the tool in your hand by touch only.
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With a corded electric impact wrench, you just plug it in and turn it on. Slip on the socket and extension and you’re ready to rock. An electric impact wrench can prove be one of the go-to tools in your shop that allows you to fly through difficult jobs. Just keep in mind that corded electrics won’t have the nut-breaking torque of an air tool. Fair enough.
In operation, a rotating mass is accelerated by the motor, storing energy, then suddenly connected to the output shaft (the anvil), creating a high-torque impact. The hammer mechanism is designed such that after delivering the impact, the hammer is again allowed to spin freely, and does not stay locked. With this design, the only reaction force applied to the body of the tool is the motor accelerating the hammer, and thus the operator feels very little torque, even though a very high peak torque is delivered to the socket. (This is similar to a conventional hammer, where the user applies a small, constant force to swing the hammer, which generates a very large impulse when the hammer strikes an object.) The hammer design requires a certain minimum torque before the hammer is allowed to spin separately from the anvil, causing the tool to stop hammering and instead smoothly drive the fastener if only low torque is needed, rapidly installing/removing the fastener.