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Tool suggestion - Cost effective impact wrench

Hello folks,

Recently started working on the car by myself and still collecting the tools. The impact wrench was on my list but I met the budget rather quickly, so it was left out.

Now, I have reached to the point, I need impact wrench but don’t want to spend a lot as I am already over the budget. So which ones do folks recommend?

Plus, 3/8in would work or must go for 1/2in? The primary goal is going to be for the wheels and random nuts I come across while working on the car.

Home Depot lists, ($120)
and ($150)

Are these any good and will last for irregular DIY person? Are there any cheaper than this that will do such jobs as well?

Thanks in advance.

Edit: For sockets, should I go for deep sockets or shorter ones?

Either I missed it or they don’t say what the torque is on the Rigid one.

That said, the Ryobi will be more than enough for your lugnuts assuming you don’t take it to a tire shop that goes too rock’n’roll on their air guns.

And THAT said, a breaker bar is 13 bucks at Harbor Freight and will also be more than enough for your lugnuts. Unless you have something specific that needs an air wrench, you might consider putting that money into something else.

To your edit: You’re probably going to get into situations in which you need both. If you’re trying to ratchet a nut off of a long bolt, a deepwell is needed. But a deepwell is too big to get into some spaces, in which case you need a shorter socket.

Thank you shadowfax,

Ridgid’s torque is 325 ft lbs.

Once I have impact wrench, I do not plan to take it to trigger happy tire shop but at this moment, the installation is from the mechanic. I don’t know if he is a trigger happy guy but will know quickly.

I have breaker bars, but I am not a strong guy so sometimes have had a tough time with breaker bars and penetrating liquid. Regarding air wrench, I do not have air compressor, so I guess, thats out of question.

1/2 inch ALL the way! Go big or stay home! You want something that can provide big torque for the big jobs to make your life easier. 3/8’s is just a grunt and twist away from coming off. Ratchets are better for the 3/8’s stuff.

Buy the highest torque you can afford … which seems like the Rigid. You will never complain of too much torque.

If you only get one set of sockets, go deep-well 6 point impact sockets. The impact wrench itself won’t fit in tight places so the extra length of the deep-wells won’t hurt. Plus they are more useful for lug nuts. I use my deeps 95% of the time with the impact. AND the cheap HF ones really are’t too bad.

Are you saying you are going to take your wheels off and haul them to the tire store for new tires and then haul them back home and put them back on. That is just silly.

Get a compressor first then you can get air tools instead of an electric impact.

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Since it hasn’t been mentioned yet, you need impact sockets if you’re gonna use 'em with an impact gun. Otherwise you risk shattering them.

I do that all the time. I’d rather not have people messing with my car. Eliminates the “it was broken when you brought it in”

Can’t do that with my truck because that’s the vehicle that hauls my wheels, however.


No Sir, I am not hauling wheels. I don’t know about others but I change tires once in 3 to 4 years but rotate every year. So for rotation purpose, I can do it at home.

I am an apartment dweller in NYC. The space is limited. I don’t know how big these compressors are, but the ramps are in my trunk. So you can imagine how limited space I have.

For the price and the torque, I’d go with the Rigid impact gun.


Neither one of them is going to do you a lot of good. A good pneumatic 1/2" impact wrench will develop 600 ft/lbs of torque and there will be situations where that will not be enough. I have seen some 1/2" drive now rated up to 1100 ft/lbs but I don’t know much about them.

If you are just rotating your tires once or twice a year, just use a breaker bar or a 4 way. A 4 way can remove tough nuts easier than a breaker bar and it gets them off fast and they don’t cost that much. Be sure to have a 1/2" torque wrench for torquing them back down.

BTW, when you break the nut loose, you just rest the end or the 4 way opposite of the nut in your left hand and slap the nearest perpendicular end with your right hand and the nut just spins off, almost as fast as the impact wrench.

The Rigid impact provides enough torque to remove lug nuts if they’re torqued correctly to begin with.

And if you carry the impact in the truck, you know how handy it is to change a tire when it’s pouring rain or when it’s -10 degrees?

I do!


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I own the Ryobi unit and it works for me. Removing bolts on my brakes is difficult. I can’t use the 18" breaker bar in the wheel well on my Accord when it’s on jack stands. I can even use a u-joint attachment for the sockets if a slight offset is needed. When I use the u-joint, I apply power momentarily. I’m concerned about breaking the sockets or wrench applying power in that configuration. If you like the Rigid better, then buy that one. Neither is probably acceptable for a professional. But as a DIYer, a tool like this works well.

You might consider torque limiting extensions as an addon.

I agree with that. For added torque, get a 2" plumbing pipe a couple of feet long, that fits over one of the 4-ways and it should hardly ever be a problem getting the lug nuts off.

I find keeping a separate battery for a tool charged up and ready to use is difficult. I have a 1/2" impact wrench that hooks up to the cars battery in the car for emergencies, mainly for my wife.

Of the two options presented by the OP, I would select the Ryobi. It may only have 300 ft/lbs compared to Rigids 325, but there are a lot of other handy tools in their 18V one+ system, like two different air pumps for tires, area and flash lights etc. The batteries are all interchangeable.

But I still stick with the advice in my original post.

All options are feasible but as @Tester rightly noted, changing a flat in winter is a nightmare and as luck would have it, every time I have gotten a flat its either in January or February. $75 a pop because in winter, I get Raynaud’s like symptoms so every bit of cold I can avoid, I am all in.

I agree with you.

Price of air compressor is similar to price of the electric impact.

And there are so many tools you can get for it.

And there are fewer parts to break down.

Before buying a compressor, look at the SCFM that any air tool requires @90 PSI.

That spec will dictate the price of a compressor.


Since he’s an apartment dweller, I guess no room for a compressor. I’ve got the cheap air impact and usually not good enough to unbreak a lug nut or other frozen nuts, but I just unbreak them by hand first and then use the impact to quickly take the nuts off and put them back on again, then torque by hand. But then there is the air ratchet, and the blow guns, and the sanders, and spray guns, and so on. Air is essential for me and my garage and even basement is plumbed for air lines. I’ve got two, one stationary and a little one I can carry around. Couldn’t hardly go a day without it.