While a cordless impact wrench can be more maneuverable, sometimes you need the raw power of an air-powered impact wrench. These tools are unmatched when it comes to the difficult job of loosening rusted-on bolts or torquing wheel nuts to spec.
But with the market saturated with so many options for many different applications, which one is right for you? Your air impact gun should fit your needs — which is why I’m here to lay it all out for you.
These are our picks for the best air impact wrench across a number of categories based on customer reviews, expert opinion and hands-on experience. Unless otherwise stated, prices given are for the pneumatic wrench tools themselves; kits that include impact sockets and other accessories may cost more.
Our choice for best overall air impact wrench is the Ingersoll Rand 2235TiMAX. Weighing just 4.6 pounds and advertised as having the best power-to-weight ratio in its class, the 2235TiMAX’s 1,220 blows-per-minute twin-hammer impact mechanism with 1/2-inch drive delivers up to 1,350 pound-feet of torque for the toughest jobs.
Made in the USA, the Ingersoll Rand 2235TiMAX features a titanium hammer case and steel wear plate to withstand harsh work environments. An adjustable four-position power regulator means you can switch between power modes and adjust torque output for each task, while a one-handed forward-reverse mechanism enables direction changes at the push of a button.
Nearly 2,000 reviewers on Amazon gave the Ingersoll Rand 2235TiMAX air tool an average rating of 4.8 out of 5, with many recommending it for daily use, touting its light weight and reliability. Several of these reviewers note that it’s not their first experience with Ingersoll Rand, and some say the air impact wrenches they bought decades ago still work like a charm. The company backs its product with a two-year warranty.
That’s why I recommend the Ingersoll Rand 2235TiMAX as the best overall air impact wrench. Ingersoll Rand also advertises a more expensive but quieter version — the 2235QTiMAX — if money isn’t an issue.
Our runner-up choice for best overall air impact wrench is the Aircat 1150 Killer Torque 1/2-inch drive impact wrench. Featuring 900 pound-feet maximum torque and 1,295 pound-feet loosening torque, Aircat advertises the 1150 as the most powerful 1/2-inch impact wrench in its class.
The Aircat 1150 features a durable powder-coated composite housing, a twin hammer mechanism delivering 14,000 blows per minute and a patented quiet-tuned exhaust as well as a flip-lever forward and reverse selector for changing direction quickly.
More than 3,000 reviewers on Amazon gave the Aircat 1150 a rating of 4.8 out of 5, with several mechanics and hobbyists comparing it favorably to pricier models on the market.
Probably one of the best-known automotive mechanic’s tool brands in terms of name recognition, Snap-On has a reputation for making quality tools with prices to match. The MG725A features a machined magnesium housing and produces 1,190 pound-feet of breakaway torque and 810 pound-feet of working torque.
The ACDelco ANI405A Heavy Duty Twin Hammer 1/2-inch pneumatic impact wrench tool kit is a reliable entry-level air impact wrench for gearheads on a budget. With 500 pound-feet of nut-busting torque, this heavy-duty air impact wrench works well for hobbyist mechanics who do their own wrenching at home.
At the sub-$100 price range, you might expect a no-frills, feature-free experience, but this wrench boasts multiple speeds for different applications. The manufacturer also stands by its product with a limited one-year warranty.
Reviewers have given the ACDelco ANI405A an average review of 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Reviewers say this little wrench — while heftier than some other offerings on the market — gives them the power and utility they need without breaking the bank.
If you dabble in home wrenching but don’t want to invest a lot in a tool you might use infrequently, I recommend the TUZkozs 1/2-inch five-speed air impact wrench. Offering an advertised maximum torque of 520 pound-feet and five speeds at just over $50, it’s one of the most affordable offers on the web for the casual DIY wrencher.
With an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 on Amazon with more than 100 reviews, shoppers are generally surprised at the quality of a wrench in this price range. According to reviewers, this tool is big and loud, but works well for home DIY use — just remember to oil it.
Compact and stubby impact wrenches are — you guessed it — smaller than your typical pistol-grip air impact wrenches, which gives them an advantage in confined, hard-to-reach areas.
The Hazet 9012M Extra Short Impact Wrench is our choice for those who find themselves wrenching in tight or hard-to-reach areas. Boasting a maximum 811 pound-feet of loosening torque and a maximum 500 pound-feet of tightening torque, this compact German air impact wrench packs a wallop for being just under 4.5 inches in length.
With an average customer rating of 4.8 out of 5 on Amazon with nearly 2,000 global ratings, reviewers are saying this impact wrench has the power to remove rusted chassis bolts with ease, but small enough to work in some pretty tight spots.
A more affordable option among stubby air impact wrenches on the market, the Sunex SXMC12 1/2-inch mini air impact wrench features a small form factor of under 4.5-inches and just under 3 pounds while still producing 500 pound-feet of breakaway torque and up to 350 pound-feet of working torque. This wrench boasts three speeds with convenient one-handed forward/reverse control.
Reviewers on Amazon gave it a 4.8 out of 5 rating, recommending it due to the good quality for the price as well as its low profile and surprising torque.
Astro Pneumatic Tool
Air impact wrenches come in all shapes and sizes, but the angled format is particularly useful for reaching into those super tight spaces that a normal air wrench couldn’t clear.
The Astro Pneumatic Tool 1832 Onyx Nano angle impact wrench gives home wrenchers and professional mechanics the reach and flexibility of an air ratchet with the powerful torque of an air impact wrench.
Featuring a low-profile head measuring just under 3.5-inches long and weighing less than 3 pounds, Astro Pneumatic Tool advertises that the 1832 Onyx Nano produces an industry leading 415 pound-feet of max torque.
More than 250 reviewers on Amazon gave it a 4.7 out of 5 rating, stating that it’s a great tool — at a great price — for those hard-to-maneuver spots, with plenty of power for stubborn bolts.
Not many hobbyists will need a 3/4-inch or 1-inch drive air impact wrench, but for those who find themselves working in commercial settings on 18-wheelers or on construction sites, those larger drives and harder-hitting wrenches become indispensable.
The 1-inch drive Ingersoll Rand 285B-6 Pneumatic Impact Wrench is built for heavy duty automotive and industrial applications where a smaller 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch drive impact wrench would struggle. Featuring two handles for control and maneuverability and a 6-inch anvil for extra reach, the 285B-6 delivers 1,475 pound-feet of max torque with 1,000 pound-feet of fast torque for stubborn bolts. At nearly 28 pounds, this thing is a beast.
More than 300 reviewers on Amazon gave this Ingersoll Rand impact wrench a 4.8 out of 5 rating, with several reviewers saying it can handle the toughest jobs from snapping off bolts on structural steel to torquing wheel nuts on commercial fleet vehicles.
Comparison of the best air impact wrench for 2021
|Make||Model||Drive size||Max breakaway torque|
|Best air impact wrench overall||Ingersoll Rand||2235TiMAX||1/2-inch||1,350 pound-feet|
|Best air impact wrench overall runner-up||Aircat||Killer Torque 1150||1/2-inch||1.295 pound-feet|
|Best entry-level air impact wrench on a budget||ACDelco||ANI405A||1/2-inch||500 pound-feet|
|Best cheapest-of-the-cheap air impact wrench||TUZkozs||T-288||1/2-inch||520 pound-feet|
|Best compact air impact wrench||Hazet||9012M||1/2-inch||811 pound-feet|
|Best affordable compact air impact wrench||Sunex||SXMC12||1/2-inch||500 pound-feet|
|Best angle air impact wrench||Astro Pneumatic Tool||1832 ONYX||1/2-inch||415 pound-feet|
|Best heavy-duty air impact wrench||Ingersoll Rand||285B-6||1-inch||1,475 pound-feet|
5 things you need to know before buying and using an air impact wrench
How will you be using it? You’ll need to pick your air impact wrench based on the application you want to use it for. Are you a weekend wrencher tightening the occasional lug nut or loosening a stuck chassis bolt, or are you going to count on your tools to make a living?
How much torque do you need? As you see above, torque varies greatly by manufacturer, wrench size and application. You’re not going to need a heavy duty 1-inch drive air impact wrench with nearly 1,500 pound-feet of torque to loosen a rusted leg bolt on your barbecue grill.
How much air pressure do you need? A general rule of thumb is that most air tools need around 90 PSI of continuous pressure to do the job they were designed for. This means a 3-gallon pancake air compressor and a 1/4-inch hose probably won’t cut it. Make sure you invest in an adequate air source before investing in air tools.
What size drive do you need? Air impact wrench drives come in a multitude of sizes, but remember that 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch will do just fine for most garage applications. Save the 3/4-inch and 1-inch drives for the heavy-duty jobs.
How do you stay safe while using your air impact wrench? Nothing beats common sense — such as wearing appropriate eye and ear protection. Also, read the manufacturer’s manual for more specific information about safely using your new toy.
Air impact wrench FAQs
What is an air impact wrench and how does it work?
An air impact wrench is the classic automotive mechanic’s tool. If you’ve ever been anywhere near an automotive shop or watched a pit crew at just about any race, you’ve probably seen — or heard — one in action.
Where it differs from cordless or electric impact wrenches is the requirement for an air compressor that can run a steady 90 PSI to run most air tools. Despite this, there are several advantages to choosing air impact wrenches over cordless or electric impact wrenches.
“An air impact wrench has a higher power-to-weight ratio than a cordless electric impact wrench,” said David Dobersztyn, global product manager for Ingersoll Rand power tools. “The power-to-weight ratio is the foot-pounds of torque the tool can generate, divided by the tool’s weight. Air and electric tools weigh about the same, but the air impact still delivers more power due to the limitation of compact batteries.”
Dobersztyn said that while electric impact wrenches have increased significantly in power and torque during the last decade, they still can’t match the power an air impact can deliver. As battery technology continues to improve with technical innovation, electric tools will continue to become more robust.
Air impact wrenches also have high duty cycle ratings — meaning they last a long time and can perform many duty cycles. For example, if you take a nut off and the tool runs for 10 seconds, that’s one duty cycle. Our top pick for this list, for example, is rated for more than 25,000 duty cycles for the life of the tool.
Dobersztyn also mentioned that air tools can usually be serviced and refurbished more easily, which means buying used can be a viable option depending on how much the tool was used and maintained through its life.
What kind of air impact wrench is right for me?
The first and most common consideration when buying an air impact wrench is the size of the fastener you’ll be using, as well as the torque range required to secure or remove that fastener, meaning the nut size determines the size of the drive you’ll need on the tool.
“A 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch drive can take care of most DIY applications, including changing small lug nuts, tire changing, brake replacement, installing and changing shocks and struts, or repairing and maintaining lawn and garden equipment like a lawn tractor,” Dobersztyn said.
When it comes to tightening lug nuts using an impact wrench, he recommends using the impact wrench to snug-tighten the nut and then use a calibrated manual torque wrench to set the nut to factory specs.
He added that the wrench’s build is another consideration. If you need access to small, compact spaces, the tool should be small and easily maneuverable to match. Similarly, you’ll need to keep in mind the frequency of use, since the tool’s weight can determine the fatigue you might feel if you’re using it hour after hour every day.
What size air compressor do you need?
Pair your tool with an air compressor that delivers the airflow and power your air impact wrench needs. Check the requirements of the tool to make sure the air compressor can deliver the correct psi pressure the tool requires, as well as the cubic feet per minute of the air supply. Both PSI and CFM are essential factors to consider. A 3/8-inch drive or 1/2-inch drive impact wrenches usually needs 20 to 30 CFM of air supplied at pressure to run at peak power.
Written by Andrew Kidd for Roadshow.