Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Will a electric impact driver remove lug nuts?

I was thinking of buying a electric impact driver that uses a cord, instead of a cordless one, because I am sick of taking off my lug nuts by hand. I was going to get eithor a 1/4 inch or 1/2 electric model by porter cable or craftsman. Will this be strong enough to remove and put back on lug nuts without having to use a tire iron at all?

The impact driver that I have (a 15 year old, no-name product from Taiwan) is very capable when it comes to removing lug nuts. I also use it to put the lug nuts back on, but I only use it to tighten them part-way, and I use a torque wrench in order to finish the job properly. So while I can’t attest to the quality of the ones offered by Porter-Cable and Sears, I would assume that they are at least as good as my old no-name impact driver.

Incidentally, the tool that you use currently to remove lug nuts is not a tire iron, as that specific tool went out around the time that high-button shoes and “clincher” auto tires disappeared–i.e.–many decades ago. A tire iron was used to peel those old tires from the wheel, so that they could be repaired–as punctures were very commonplace in those days, and de-mountable rims had not yet come to pass. I think it would be more accurate to call your tool a lug nut wrench, or something to that effect.

The $650 snap-on 18v units are nice. My old 120v impact has about 70lbs of torque. It is useless. New? Don’t know.

While VDC is correct, I think the common usage of the term 'tire iron" for removing lug nuts came from manufacturers using these types of “tire irons” in their cars for years.

I have a Ryobi 1/2" electric impact driver that uses a battery and works well for removing tire nuts and disk brake bolts, even with a universal adapter. I need the universal to remove the caliper bolts on my brakes since I don’t have a lift. Get as much power as your wallet can stand. A corded electric model should be much less expensive than the battery model. If this is DIY, you don’t need professional grade equipment since you won’t use it every day, or even every week.


I agree Snap-on 18V cordless impact wrenches are nice

I have a few

What’s NOT so nice is when you finally have to batteries.

I bought some Chinese 18V lithium-ion batteries on ebay for a low price, and I’ve been very happy with them. The performance is just fine, and my wallet is happy. In fact, I’m thinking of buying some more, because I have several tools that use the identical battery. I always like to have at least one battery on the charger, ready to go, when the one I’m using needs a charge. That way, there’s little downtime, just a few seconds

The reason that I buy those Lithium-ion batteries on ebay . . . my tool can use both ni-cad and lithium-batteries. The factory lithium-ion batteries are no longer available, not even “refurbished.” The factory ni-cads are still available, but the price is well above $100 a pop. So a $50 chinese lithium-battery seems like a comparable bargain to me. And I’d rather spend $50 on a battery, versus giving up on my tool and buying a new kit for probably around 5 bills or so. Planned obsolescence? Not if I can help it

I also agree that those corded 1/2" drive impact wrenches were a cruel joke. Very heavy and cumbersome, and they weren’t even strong enough to get any real work done. I would never dream of using them to do any kind of suspension work. I suspect I would just take a sledgehammer to those tools and throw them in the trash, where they truly belong.

“I think the common usage of the term 'tire iron” for removing lug nuts came from manufacturers using these types of “tire irons” in their cars for years."

Yes, but “common usage” does not make something correct.
Think about how many people nowadays say (or write) “I could care less”, when they actually mean that they “couldn’t care less”. This bit of very common usage actually means the exact opposite of what they are trying to say!

Going off on a tangent here…

Yes, but “common usage” does not make something correct.

But isn’t common usage how words make their way to the dictionary?

So should I get a corded or cordless impact driver? Let’s forget about the tire iron debate.

Corded because when you want to use it you don’t have to wait for batteries that need charged. It isn’t like you are going to use this thing every day is it?

When buying a drill, I made a mistake and listened to my friend and got a cordless. The problem is I don’t use it daily, maybe once a month at most and every time I need it the battery is low on charge. I would had been perfectly fine with a cord and extensions.

As far as the impact wrench, I have had issues with shops tightening the lug nuts too much, but a schedule 40 one inch PVC pipe as “extension” has always done the trick. Still looking for an excuse to buy the electric impact wrench though.

“> Yes, but “common usage” does not make something correct.”

Actually, it often does. That’s how language evolves. Even “ain’t” was eventually accepted by the powers that be… due to its common usage.


Buy a cordless

Corded impact wrenches are pretty gutless, IMO.

Milwaukee cordless would be just fine for diy use, for example

My son has been buying several new tools & he has been buying Rigid brand . Rigid has a lifetime warranty on the tools & even on the 2 batteries that come with the set . Almost all of my tools of this type are Milwaukee & they are great but if I was in the market I’d take a long look at Rigid because of their warranty .

I like my cordless Ryobi as I mentioned earlier. I’ve had it for about 2 years, and haven’t had to recharge it yet.

I believe the replies saying cordless is more powerful than a corded, but it puzzles me.

Is it because the cordless battery can deliver a larger surge of current than the corded?

OP may find other uses for an impact wrench, but I don’t think an impact wrench is required just for removing lug nuts. But don’t use the lug wrench that comes with the car either, those tend to be poorly designed and frustrating to use. Instead purchase a 24 inch long 1/2 inch breaker bar configured w/ a universal-joint tip and appropriate sized 1/2 inch drive socket. Removing & installing lugs nuts is simple as pie with that tool. Once you get the nut loosened using it in the 90 position, then you just tip it to the straight-on positing and twist the nut off. Takes very little time. If you have a really rusted-on lug nut, you can always add a length of 1 inch pipe cheater to increase the leverage.

I’ve had my DeWalt 18 volt impact gun for years.

Not only does it remove lug nuts, but other hardware on a vehicle.

I take it to the U-pull yard to quickly disassemble vehicles for parts.

I’ve had people at the yard ask me if they could use it because of how it breaks fasteners lose.

Also, one winter evening with the wind chill at -30, the wife calls from work saying she came out to a flat tire. I grabbed the floor jack and the impact gun with proper socket.

I had that tire replaced in five minutes.

So, when you invest in a tool, make sure it’ll work in all circumstances.


Unless you plan to use this on a very regular basis or have other uses for it, I can’t see why you’d buy one. What does it take to remove lug nuts from a standard passenger car wheel by hand? Maybe 30 seconds? And if you’re installing them properly you’ll be hand-tightening them anyway to ensure proper torque. You’ll always want to hand torque when using a cordless gun because a weak battery may affect how tight you get things.

So how many hundreds of dollars are you willing to spend to save 2-3 minutes on a tire rotation?

But to answer your question, most quality cordless 1/2" impact wrenches will loosen lug nuts.

I have been using a Harbor Freight 1’/2 " corded electric impact gun for more than 15 years and am very happy with it. I use it to rotate my tires and to change from summer wheels to winter ones and back. I got it for $35. It is also great for taking the blades off my riding mower to sharpen them. I do put the lug nuts on with it but only snug them. I tighten them with a $10 Harbor Freight 1’/2 in drive click type torque wrench.
At my age and girth it is too hard bend over and read my Craftsman beam type.