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Does the average mechanic need a high-torque impact wrench? No. With how far cordless tools have come, a mid-torque or even a compact impact wrench is likely enough for 95 percent of the situations you'll find yourself in.
What about that last five percent? Every job is one bolt away from becoming a total nightmare. And there's nobody reading this who has yet to come across that one freakishly stubborn piece of hardware that put production to a halt for days on end. While that's generally a sign that something has gone terribly wrong, it sure is nice to have a tool that can blast it free in seconds—even if that means shredding things to bits.
In all seriousness, there are odd jobs that call for an impact wrench that can lay down some gnarly torque. And though pneumatic and hydraulic tools are historically the better option for massive power, cordless impact wrenches are rapidly climbing the ranks. How good are they? Well, I'm on my way to finding out. DeWalt sent me its 1/2-inch High-Torque impact wrench for review. But before I go and see what kind of madness I can get into, I want to give you an honest take on my initial impressions.
Big. That's the first word that comes to mind. Even before I pulled the shrink wrap away from the packaging, I knew this thing was a monster. In comparison to the Atomic 3/8-inch impact I received at the same time, the box is absolutely massive. Obviously, the same reigns true when pulled from their cardboard vessels.
The mighty DeWalt high-torque impact weighs in north of six pounds. It's got an overall height of 10.5 inches with the battery and roughly 8.5 without. The head measures approximately 7.75 inches long without the anvil figured in and right around 8.5 inches with. It dwarfs the Atomic impact wrench and even makes the mid-torque I've been using look like a cute little toy.
All of that bulk comes in the name of sheer power, though. Where those other tools are sized aptly and lay down just enough juice for the cars I regularly work on, this high-torque impact delivers an astounding 700 foot-pounds of fastening torque and 1,200 foot-pounds of breakaway torque.
All of that power can be easily controlled with three power levels and a variable speed trigger. This is a good thing, as I won't immediately vaporize the relatively small hardware I'm usually up against. And despite what you might expect on account of the massive gap in power delivery from the Atomic model—which delivers 300-foot pounds fastening and 450 loosening—the two tools share the same 20-volt battery as they’re part of DeWalt's 20V Max 250+ tool ecosystem.
Where the Sledgehammer Meets the Breaker Bar
My initial thoughts are that I'll rarely, if ever, need to use this thing. It's overkill for almost anything I'd ever get into. Now, that's not a knock on the tool. It's just honestly not really meant for folks like me who work on light-duty passenger vehicles. It’s obviously meant for heavier equipment. In fact, I don't know that the most stubborn bits of hardware that roll into my shop are too much for the DeWalt mid-torque impact wrench, but it will be fun to unleash the max potential on the stuck nuts and bolts that catch me on a bad day.
That said, there is one slight criticism I have out of the box, particularly in comparing it to the Ryobi High-Torque impact I was sent for review about a year ago. That's the lack of one control feature. The Ryobi has it beat with the four-mode speed control settings, including Ryobi's auto-mode, which rivals DeWalt's precision wrench function found on the other impact wrenches in my possession.
Either of those modes allows the tool to apply just as much torque as it deems necessary based on resistance and will even slow the RPMs as resistance drops so as not to send hardware across the shop floor. DeWalt's high-torque impact foregoes this feature and instead only has three power settings to work with. This comes as a surprise, considering the DeWalt has a retail price of $259, which is $40 more than the Ryobi.
Then again, an automatic power feature doesn't necessarily make sense for a tool like this. Any time you need to send that kind of torque through a half-inch drive, you're not necessarily worried about precision. It's also not like it just automatically blasts out max power in any mode. Impact wrenches take time to reach their upper threshold, so why complicate it when you don't need to?
All in all, this is a solid tool, typical of what DeWalt delivers. I'm just going to have to get creative when coming up with a real workout for it. It's going to eat up anything I can throw at it in a normal setting. If you have any ideas as to how I should test it, drop a comment below and stay tuned for the full-length review.