You’ll find impact wrenches and air ratchets in auto shops and in many garages. They are useful devices for tightening and loosening bolts on vehicles. Both offer the advantage of making bolt tightening and removal a far less strenuous task.
However, while there are similarities between the two, there are also important differences as well.
Ratchet Vs Impact Wrench Comparison
|Design||The slim design allows it reach at tight spaces easily.||Similar to cordless drill but stubby.|
|Force||Comparatively less torque||High torque output due to impact force.|
|Precision||Good accuracy||Less control over output torque.|
|Noise||Relatively quiet||High noise pollution. Use ear protection.|
|Power Source||Pneumatic (compressed air) and Cordless||Air powered is more popular. Cordless version is also available.|
|Uses||Automotive industry and garages.|
To run in and out small bolts.
|To remove stubborn fasteners, lug nuts etc.|
To break loose frozen nuts.
|Sizes||1/4 in, 3/8 in, and 1/2||1/4 in, 3/4 in, 1/2 in and 1 inch|
|Sockets||Regular sockets can be used||Need impact sockets|
An impact wrench is a powertool that can deliver high rotational torque to tighten or loosen fasteners. They are generally powered by air or by electricity that includes battery powered cordless impact wrenches.
- Further reading: The complete guide on Impact wrench and its uses
Advantages of Impact Wrench over Ratchet
Plenty of Power
Even rusted or stubborn nuts are little match for a high-powered impact wrench. The additional power also comes in handy when speed is required, meaning it takes less time to do the work compared to other tools.
Because you have several different torque settings, the impact wrench allows you to adjust to the power requirements needed to tighten or remove nuts or bolts. This helps prevent overtightening when used correctly.
The issues with the impact wrench go hand-in-hand with its attributes. Its size and power make it more difficult to handle.
Plus, it’s also quite noisy with ear protection in many cases recommended.
You also need impact rated sockets to be used with this tool. The ordinary chrome sockets when used with impact tools can break and may cause injuries. Read more about impact sockets here.
Air and Cordless Ratchets
Cordless or air Ratchets offer considerable benefits in certain areas when it comes to the tightening or removal of bolts. This makes them the tool of choice for certain uses, especially when noise may be an issue.
Power Ratchet Advantages
Because of its relatively small size, the power ratchet is easier to operate in tight areas. Also, because it is lightweight it makes it easier to use over a longer period of time. For mechanics who work all day, a power ratchet will be far easier to handle over time.
Arguably the most notable benefit of the air or cordless ratchet is its precision. Because the device generates less power, it also means it is easier to control. When precision is needed to tighten or remove bolts, a ratchet has considerable advantages and helps the user move faster through the process.
Compared to many other pneumatic tools, which include impact wrenches, the air ratchet creates far less noise. This means it is less likely to cause harm to ear drums over time but is also effective where noise may be an issue.
The cordless impact wrenches also produce higher level of noise due to the continuous impact of the hammer inside.
Power Ratchet Cons
Where the cordless/air ratchet comes up short is in terms of power. It simply does not have the power to remove very tight nuts or bolts. Because of this lack of power, it does make the tightening or removal process slower when compared to impact wrenches.
But this is not always a bad thing. If you use an impact wrench to tighten a nut or bolt you always risk over-torquing and stripping the threads. With the less powered ratchet you will not damage the fasteners.
Besides, the air ratchet transfer the torque on to the end user. So, when you trigger the power anticipate the impact on to your arms. Otherwise the twisting of the ratchet may result in broken knuckles.
Air Retched Vs Cordless Ratchet: Which one is better?
For its intended use, you will find that both pneumatic ratchet and cordless ratchet works well. The difference is in convenience.
The air ratchet has a vane motor through which the compressed air is allowed to pass. This will spin the gears attached to the motor which will transfer the motion to the rectangular shaft at the end. The direction switch will regulate air-flow that will determine the direction of rotation of the output shaft.
The compressed air flowing inside the power tool will also keep the motor and internal parts cool. This is true for both ratchets and impact wrenches.
The reason why you need a power ratchet is to remove those pesky nuts that are located at difficult places. Often you will have to use the powered ratchet as a regular wrench to break-loose the screw first. Then you will pull trigger to power the ratchet to remove the screw completely. The air hose can be a hindrance and will annoy you.
Furthermore, air ratchets only run on compressed air. So, if space is an issue or compressed air is not available, then using this device will be limited at best.
A cordless ratchet is a very convenient tool. The presence of the electric motor usually means it can get heated up. But with modern brushless ratchets, heat is not a problem.
The only downside is the higher cost.
Ratchet or Impact Wrench, Which One Do You Need?
The differences between both devices are both subtle and quite apparent. The air ratchet is generally smaller, offers less torque, but has more precision compared to the larger and louder impact wrench.
You can also use them in conjunction with one another. Use the impact wrench to unfasten the stubborn nuts such as wheel lug nuts and bolts and use the ratchet to take it off completely. The ratchet can also be used to put it back since unlike the impact wrench it will not over-torque the fastener.
Air Vs Cordless
Generally speaking air tools offer more power than their cordless counterparts. The pneumatic power tools are also cheaper for most professionals who got an air compressor at their shop.
On the other hand cordless offers convince and ease of use. If you have ever used a cordless drill then you know what I am talking. For someone who doesn’t want to invest in compressor cordless also may prove cost effective.
Choosing the right one will depend on the job. So, if you need a more precise device to tighten and remove nuts and bolts, the air ratchet is the obvious choice. However, if you want more power, then the impact wrench should be by your side.
Impact Wrench: To remove lug nuts and to drive in/out stubborn nuts and bolts.
Power Ratchet: To remove and tighten smaller nuts and bolts at difficult to reach locations that require less torque.