Best Hand Impact Driver Set
Professional mechanics depend on air tools, especially a pneumatic impact wrench to get their work done. When working on stubborn nuts and bolts, an impact wrench can quickly loosen what would otherwise require massive amounts of sweat (and probably a few busted knuckles along the way). The only drawback with pneumatic impact wrenches is you need a pretty good sized air compressor to power them.
For the rest of us, there are hand impact drivers. These wonderful and inexpensive tools allow you to take hammer force and convert it to rotational force. Attach a socket or bit, and you can suddenly loosen that stubborn fastener. Not only that, but since you are applying the hammer to the back of the tool, you are insuring that the bit or socket doesn’t come off the fastener.
One added advantage of using a hand impact driver is the frustration relief provided by being able to hit the fastener that’s giving you so much trouble. It's going to take a good whack to break it loose, so you'll be able to take out all your aggression and frustration on it, rather than slamming the door and kicking the cat. That makes it an all-around better alternative.
Because these tools take a lot of abuse, quality is important. While a fairly simple device, if the metal is too thin or not properly tempered, it can break rather easily. Of course, how often you have to use it becomes a factor as well.
The most common size for these sets is with a 3/8 inch drive. There are a few out there designed for a 1/2 inch drive, but they're not common. Make sure that you use impact sockets with them, if you need to use a socket. Impact sockets have thicker walls and aren't chrome plated, so they're much less likely to break from the force of the blow.
Stanley Proto J7099A 13 Piece 3/8" Drive Hand Impact Driver Set
OTC 4608 3/8" Hand Impact with Bits & Holder
SG Tool Aid SGT14950 3/8" Hand Impact Driver
Lisle 29200 3/8" Hand Impact Driver With Bits & Case
K-D Tools 1140 3/8" Hand Impact Driver & Bits
I picked Proto's set as number one mostly based upon their quality. This is a company that manufactures tools for the professional; maybe not in the same league as Snap-on, but definitely as high as Armstrong and Mac. This is a 3/8 inch drive impact driver; which comes with two different sizes of hex adapters and 10 bits. As best I can tell, they're the only manufacturer that gives you two different sizes of hex adapters. Everything comes in a plastic case for ease of storage and to prevent loss. The impact has a heavy-duty spring for added torque.
OTC is a well known and respected supplier of specialty automotive tools. One of the great things about this tool is the handle, which is cushioned for good grip, but also includes a flange to protect your hand. If you’ve ever tried to use one of these without the protector, or even a chisel without a protector, and gotten your hand with the hammer, you’ll understand the importance of this option.
This set comes in both 3/8 inch and 1/2 inch drive. I picked the 3/8 inch drive over the 1/2 inch drive simply because most people have 3/8 inch drive sockets, even though many don’t have 1/2 inch drive tools. This kit comes complete with several bits to accommodate most standard screw sizes.
SGs unit is almost identical to the OTC unit mentioned above, with all the same options and benefits I’ve mentioned. I especially like the comfort-grip protective handle. The soft grip helps you hang onto the tool and the flange protects your hand from those inadvertent misses. To me, that sets these tools apart.
This is also a 3/8 inch drive unit, allowing you to use standard sockets or the included bits. It comes with eight bits; four shorties and four extended reach ones. The nosepiece on the driver is an adapter, hiding the square drive head.
Although this unit doesn’t come with the comfort-grip safety handle of the previously mentioned units, the knurled bands on the body make it easy to hang on to. Even though I prefer having that hand protection, it can get in the way, especially if you're trying to use the tool in tight spaces. It’s also easier to keep clean than those with a plastic band. Lisle provides their kit in a nice plastic case, to help insure everything stays together. I don’t know about you, but personally I like kits that come with a case.
For those that are seeking simplicity, KD Tools provides a basic hand impact driver. There’s nothing fancy about this unit, but there’s nothing fancy about the price either. It comes with the adapter and bits, just like the more expensive units; and works the same way. This is a 3.8 inch drive unit, so it will fit all your standard and metric sockets. A good pick for those who don’t have to use it very often.
Before embarking on the current stage of my life, I spent 15 years as a Manufacturing Engineer in both the medical equipment field (medical electronics) and automotive engineering (city transit buses). After that, I owned a small construction company, mostly doing residential remodeling and commercial tenant finishes. I am no longer in either of these fields, but still get my hands plenty dirty as a consummate do-it-yourselfer; working on everything from remodeling my own home to rebuilding my car’s engines. My hobby (when I can find the time) is woodworking; making everything from toilet paper holders, to shelves, to music stands for my own home. My wife long ago gave up the idea that a two car garage is for parking two cars; it is my workshop.
While I cannot claim to having worked professionally with all types of tools, I have worked professionally with some. This comes from my previous careers, where I had to specify, buy and at times live with those decisions. Additionally, I would have to say that my engineering background has given me a thorough understanding of the construction of such tools. So, while I may not have used a particular type of tool personally, I have the knowledge to cut through all the advertising hype and statistics; in order to get at the truth of how well a tool will operate and last.
In my current career as a writer, I've written over 90 books. This includes my own titles and those I've written on contract. I've also written a complete website on how to build your own home.