Electric vs Air Impact Wrench: 7 Main Differences To Know

If you have ever dealt with a stitch bolt or nut, you probably know the best tool for the job.

A wrench is one of the essential tools a craftsman and home repairman has to have in their toolkit.

However, while standard, some wrenches are challenging to work with when it comes to certain tightly installed bolts.

They are impossible to loosen or remove using muscle power alone.

You start wondering how to choose between an electric and air impact wrench.

Electric is typically cordless, more portable and cheaper, while air impact ones have way more power and don’t need to be attached to the air compressor.

Tough choice.

We know.

But we’ll help you analyze the features and benefits of each variant so you can compare them and make the best decision.

Electric Impact Wrench vs Air Impact Wrench
The main difference between the Electric and Air Impact Wrench is that the former is used on regular nuts and bolts while the latter is for stuck and rusted bolts. The power source is different, too: an electric impact wrench requires electricity to function, while an air impact wrench needs compressed air.

What is an Electric Impact Wrench?

An electric impact wrench has an electric motor that provides the necessary force to deal with a stuck nut.

The electric motor is activated when you press the button on the electric impact wrench.

The motor then turns the wrench attachment enough to loosen a nut.

An electric impact wrench could be either corded or cordless.

The corded version is very similar in size and speed to the air impact wrench.

Besides, the corded electric impact wrench can obtain more power than its cordless counterpart, which allows you to remove large screws and other bigger objects. 

However, the eclectic cable attached to this version of the electric wrench makes it difficult to manage and operate.

If you need a wrench to get to hard-to-reach places, a smaller portable cordless electric wrench is your best choice.

But note that while it is convenient, you need to charge it overnight to take it anywhere. 

The downside is that the cordless electric wrench doesn’t have the same power as the air impact wrench or its corded counterpart.

So it’s best for smaller jobs.

Finally, once you choose an impact wrench for your home toolkit, you’ll notice that electric impact wrenches are the most expensive on the market.

What is an Air Impact Wrench?

An air impact wrench or pneumatic impact wrench uses air power to multiply the power you apply.

This helps to undo harder nuts and bolts and makes air-impact wrenches the best choice for mechanics.

The air impact wrenches are connected to an air compressor. 

The air is then used to power the motor, which turns the wrench attachment.

When you press the button on the air impact wrench, it expels the air from the compressor with hard pressure.

To operate an air impact wrench requires a constant connection to the air source, typically a large air compressor.

While it provides an adequate supply of air necessary for the wrench to work, it ties you to a fixed location. 

It’s a downside that you can’t take the air impact wrench for traveling or on-the-go repairs. 

Besides, some suggest that air impact wrenches are hard to control since there are no variable speed triggers.

Nonetheless, air impact wrenches significantly reduce the time and effort required to accomplish even the most difficult tasks.

The most stubborn nuts and bolts are removed easily without stripping or harming them.

Differences between Electric Impact Wrench and Air Impact Wrench

Now that you clearly understand what electric and air impact wrenches are, choosing might be even more challenging. Each has its benefits and downsides. 

So to make a final decision, you should draw your objectives clearly and see which fits your requirements. 

We’ve outlined the most common differences between electric and pneumatic impact wrench to make it easier.

1. Power Source

Electric and air impact wrenches have different power sources.

An electric impact wrench is powered by electricity and comes in cordless or corded varieties.

A corded impact wrench provides more power than cordless impact wrenches and can remove larger sizes of bolts and nuts. 

On the other hand, air impact wrenches, as the name suggests, use compressed air to power the hammer inside and turn the driver. 

The air impact wrench doesn’t rely on the inner motor since the air does all the work.

But you need a powerful air compressor plugged into this wrench to function.

2. Power Output

While air impact wrenches put the most power, it depends on the air pressure provided.

And the air pressure correspondingly depends on the size of the air compressor. 

To operate the air wrench properly, the pressure should be 90-120 PSI.

But it also causes many problems since you must carry the air compressor everywhere and find a smaller hose to maintain adequate air pressure.

Although you get high torque with more pressure, it might be hard to control.

The air will force the wrench high as soon as you press the button.

Your hand could shake or the nut could break due to excessive force. 

That being said, choose an electric impact wrench instead since it is more controllable.

But, on the other hand, they do have a lower power rating (cordless impact wrench is even lower than corded).

Pulling out a stuck nut or bolt might be hard.

3. Portability 

As we’ve already mentioned, pneumatic impact wrenches are perfect for stationary work or a single worksite because of the air compressor.

Auto mechanics’ garages are a great spot for this kind of wrenches. 

No doubt, air impact wrenches are more cumbersome than cordless electric impact wrenches.

But they have more power, so it’s worth it.

However, if you seek portability cordless electric impact wrench is the best.

They are small in size and don’t take much of your workspace.

They are perfect to use in hard-to-reach places. 

But note that the power might not be sufficient for all kinds of work with the cordless electric wrench.

4. Ease of Use

Impact wrenches vibrate and jerk a lot to provide a lot of torque and power.

So it is obvious your hands will beat the brunt, and you’ll have to take a break after a while. 

Electric impact wrenches would be the best mainly because you won’t have to carry an air compressor around to do the job. 

Cordless electric impact wrenches, in particular, are easier to use as there are no wires or cylinders.

Still, this factor only applies if you know the power provided by the impact wrench you choose is sufficient to get the job done.

5. Price

Air impact wrenches tend to be much more expensive than electric impact wrenches.

Besides, in the case of the former, you’ll also have to pay separately for the air compressor and the air hose.

So the price will go up.

Both corded or cordless wrench are similar in price mainly due to their convenience and portability.

Please note that these are just general estimations.

You will be able to find an affordable air impact wrench as well as an electric one if you take your time to do the research.

6. Application

Once you go through this list of differences between electric and air impact wrenches, you shouldn’t jump to conclusions before considering the application.

What do you plan to use an impact wrench for? 

As mentioned, electric impact wrenches are best for homeowners who tighten and loosen regular bolts and nuts that aren’t too large. 

On the other hand, an air impact wrench is better for stuck or rusted bolts and provides maximum torque. 

So, if you occasionally use an impact wrench, go for an electric one.

7. Maintenance

As you might have guessed, a cordless electric impact wrench is an absolute winner in maintenance.

They don’t have enough parts to maintain.

All you need is to ensure the batteries are charged. 

However, even if the battery loses its capacity, you can easily replace it at some point.

Besides, you don’t have to worry about regular wear and tear if you use it sporadically. 

An air impact wrench is not that convenient in this regard.

It is bigger and needs to be lubricated regularly.

Besides, some internal parts need to be replaced from time to time. 

Nevertheless, if some part breaks, it would be much harder to find them for electric wrenches than for the air impact wrench.

Electric Impact Wrench vs Air Impact Wrench: Are they the same?

Both electric and air impact wrench are helpful when it comes to removing and tightening nuts and bolts.

But, at the same time, they differ in so many things

We recommend determining what you plan to use the impact wrench for before looking into other benefits. 

Electric impact wrenches apply the best for small home tasks, while air impact ones will work for stuck, rusted, and stubborn bolts and nuts.

The power output is also significant here.

Next comes portability

Choose the cordless electric impact wrench if you don’t want to be tied to any fixed location.

It won’t require you to carry around an air compressor. 

These are the most important things to look for when you choose between an electric and air impact wrench.

The choice is yours.

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