What is an impact driver and what is it used for? It’s a question we’ve all had to learn the answer to at some point and we’re happy to help! Whether you are adding to your personal tool collection or are new to the construction industry, these are incredibly useful and increasingly versatile tools.
What is an impact driver?
Let’s start with the basics: what is an impact driver?
Like a drill, an impact driver rotates a little. It uses an internal mechanism called a hammer and anvil to spin anything you load into the collet (the impact version of a chuck). The hammer strikes the anvil, creating impact and forcing rotation.
Most impact drivers have two hammers and two anvils. Metabo HPT has a few models with three. Some are capable of creating more than 4000 impacts per minute thanks to higher speeds than drills!
What is a hammer drill?
Some people call an impact driver an impact drill. Most of the time they refer to the same tool. Some people may think of a rotary hammer, but that’s less common.
There are several key differences between an impact driver and a drill. The main thing is that a drill uses steady rotation and creates a smooth spinning motion. An impact driver uses the hammer/anvil mechanism and spins as the impact occurs.
Another big difference is how they hold the bits. A drill press has a chuck with teeth that close and open as you turn it. An impact driver has a 1/4 inch hex collet that you pull to insert or release a bit. When you release it and it snaps back into place, the bit locks.
Due to design differences, impact drivers are generally lighter and more compact, but impact vibrations are very noticeable compared to a drill.
There are also other differences to consider. Learn more about them here.
What is an impact driver used for?
An impact driver is the king of attachment to most tool collections. Whether you’re building a deck, installing hinges, installing long screws, or performing a host of other wood and metal fastening tasks, chances are your impact driver is your tool of choice.
There are times when you shouldn’t use it, though. For example, the high speeds and hard impacts they generate are not suitable for small screws like the ones you use on cabinets.
In recent years, accessory makers have put 1/4 inch hex shanks on drill bits, spade bits, and even step bits with a handful of others. This makes the impact driver even more versatile because you can make holes in addition to screwing. Just be aware that the impact creates more vibration in the handle, so it won’t feel as smooth as a drill.
How to use an impact driver?
Using an impact driver is similar to using a drill with a few major differences. The first one we already talked about – how you load the snare. Pull it up to load or unload your bit and let it snap back into place to lock the bit. You can perfectly tug on the bit slightly to make sure it is secure.
Many impact drivers have multiple modes. If you’re used to how a drill press works, it’s a little different. During an exercise, when you shift into high gear, you lose torque as a result. When you put it in low gear you get more torque.
On an impact driver, low speed also has the lowest torque. When you shift to higher gears, you get more torque.
Once you’ve matched the bit to the hole you want to drill or the fastener you want to drive, select the gear you want to use (if applicable, some are single-speed) and pull the trigger.
The trigger on most is a variable speed design, which means it speeds up the more you pull it. Gently pull the trigger at the start to help control the start and ensure you are going straight. Once you’re there, go ahead and pull the trigger all the way down until you’ve completed your hole or drive.
We hope this helps you understand the basics of what an impact driver is and how to use it. There’s a lot more to learn, though. If you have a question, feel free to drop it in the comments below and we’ll get back to you!
Do you like the look of the tools we used in our photography? They are from HART and you can find them at your local Walmart. Check out the full program here.