Impact drivers are commonly found on construction sites, delivering a hammer and anvil approach to tasks that require considerable torque and force. They excel at driving long screws into wood, metal, and fastening concrete screw anchors.
You can use an impact driver even for drilling and lug nut removal.
However, despite their versatility and power, there are certain tasks for which impact drivers are not suitable.
7 Situations to Avoid Using an Impact Driver
Let’s explore these seven specific scenarios where you should avoid using an impact driver and opt for other tools instead.
1. Delicate Work
When dealing with delicate screws or materials that might easily be damaged, impact drivers are simply not well suited for the task.
For example, if you work with trim, veneers, thin plywood, or building delicate furniture, you’ll want to avoid using an impact driver.
The impact driver’s force would cause splintering, cracking, and damage to the surrounding area.
This is also true for drilling holes in delicate work. Impact drivers can drill holes, but that’s not their primary function.
That leads us to our next situation.
2. Precision Drilling
Impact drivers can drill using hex-shank drill bits, but because of their nature, they are not good at delivering accurate results. When you need absolute precision, the impact driver is not the tool of choice.
If you need to drill a long, straight, and narrow hole into the material, the impact driver is not going to allow for that. While a standard drill allows for precise control, an impact driver is built for force and torque, which can make it less suitable for tasks requiring pinpoint accuracy.
Besides, the hex-shank drill bits designed for impact drivers are available in limited sizes, meaning you may not find the exact size bit needed for your job.
Since precision and delicacy are not the strength of impact drivers, you will need to find another type of tool for the task at hand.
If you need to simply drill holes, then use a standard drill/driver.
3. Small and Short Screws
Small and short screws are delicate in and of themselves. But when screws are particularly small—such as those used in repairing smartphones, tablets, electronic PCB boards, or eyeglasses—an impact driver’s excessive torque is likely to strip or break the screw head.
This is because impact drivers are designed with long screws in mind, particularly screws that are placed in hardwood and metal studs.
The amount of torque and force needed means that applying an impact driver to short screws would be too much power, and that is where stripping or breaking of the screws might occur.
4. Non-Impact Rated Bits
Impact-rated bits are designed to be used with impact drivers. Using non-impact rated bits in an impact tool could result in damaging or breaking the bit.
While standard bits are solid and hard, they’re not engineered for the torque and force impact drivers produce. Impact-rated bits, on the other hand, have a hard exterior for wear resistance and a softer interior to withstand impact forces.
To avoid confusion, as non-impact drill bits and driver bits can look similar, it’s best to keep your impact-rated bits stored with your impact driver.
5. Where Loud Noise is Not Allowed
While impact drivers are popular in construction sites, the noise that the internal hammer mechanism creates makes them unsuitable in locations where quiet is needed. Residential areas and particularly apartment buildings, are not suited at all for impact drivers under normal circumstances.
Exceptions are when the home is unoccupied or if a larger section around the work area in an apartment building is unoccupied.
You may have to get special permission or notify residents who are nearby when the impact driver will be used. Otherwise, you should find alternate means to do the job that can replace the impact driver.
In environments where noise is a concern, consider using quieter alternatives like an electronic screwdriver or electric drills with noise-reducing features (or even a manual screwdriver) to perform similar tasks without disturbing others.
6. Tasks that Require Clutch Control
Standard corded and cordless drills or drivers have an adjustable clutch. This allows for controlling the torque so that you do not overtighten screws or strip away their heads. Impact drivers do not have a clutch control which limits torque.
Without the adjustable clutch, you do not want to use screws that are not rated for use with impact drivers. And if delicate work is required, you may want to consider another type of drill instead of an impact driver. Given that impact drivers are often used as blunt force instruments, anything requiring precision or delicacy should not use this type of tool.
For tasks like installing delicate trims, assembling furniture, or working on delicate DIY projects where torque control is crucial, a cordless drill/driver with an adjustable clutch is a more suitable choice.
7. Material Prone to Cracking
In addition to the screws or fasteners, if the material itself is prone to cracking, you should not use an impact driver. Materials such as glass, plexiglass, and tiles may be strong, but they are often fragile and prone to cracking due to impacts.
The impact driver is not the proper tool to use on materials such as tiles which can crack easily. The same is true for glass and plexiglass which tends to crack or break as well. Consider using other types of tools in the place of the impact driver.
Conversely, soft materials such as softwood are not suitable for the impact driver as well. Because of the limited control, imprecision, and overall power, it is likely that softwood would crack or become damaged by the impact driver.
Use a standard drill/driver with clutch control when working with materials prone to cracking, like softwoods.
Impact drivers are versatile and powerful tools indispensable for specific tasks like driving long screws into dense materials or fastening concrete screw anchors. However, their force and torque can be a drawback when working on delicate or small-scale projects.
If you’re working on tasks that require a light touch—such as assembling furniture, creating toys, or installing delicate trims—consider opting for alternative tools like a cordless drill/driver with an adjustable clutch or a manual screwdriver.
By understanding the limitations of impact drivers and opting for the right tool for the job, you can ensure a successful and efficient project.