LAST UPDATED: June 27, 2019
Best Automotive Power Tools: Add Some Power to Your Workshop
Consider these power tools to make automotive work easier
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON June 27, 2019
Automotive maintenance can require a lot of different tools to complete in an efficient and timely manner. Power tools can make maintenance even easier by speeding up repetitive processes like fastening nuts and bolts. In some cases, a power tool is also better suited for certain tasks than the hands alone. Since there are many power tools you can use for automotive maintenance, here's our guide to come of the best, most important ones to consider adding to your garage.
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Why Buy an Automotive Power Tool
- Work more quickly. When you add some electricity into your workflow, things naturally become more efficient. While speed isn't always warranted or wise for certain automotive tasks, there are plenty of times where a power tool makes sense. Fasteners, for example, go much faster when you have the right electric screwdriver or impact driver in your hands.
- Tighten or loosen fasteners with more torque. A car has a lot of components that rely on basic torque and friction to stay together. Fasteners like lug nuts secure different parts that need to stay in place to work properly. If a fastener requires a high degree of torque, certain power tools will be more capable than tightening it down by hand.
- Avoid fatigue. The more you use your hands when working on a car, the more you work your muscles. Over time, lengthy automotive tasks can fatigue the muscles or even increase the risk of minor injuries. Since power tools can take the major load off of the muscles, they are a smart investment when you want to protect your health as much as possible.
Types of Automotive Power Tools
Drivers tend to be the most common type of power tools used for automotive applications. Tightening and loosening fasteners, drivers take out the need for hand-driven screwdrivers. Most are either electric screwdrivers or impact drivers; the right choice depends on the amount of torque you need since impact drivers can deliver greater amounts of force.
Drills tend to be useful when it comes to making upgrades to certain parts that can't be mounted directly. Accessories and performance upgrades, for example, may require pre-drilled holes in order to be secured to the vehicle.
Saws and Grinders
Extensive upgrades or automotive alterations can require a saw or grinder to cut away body panels, smooth surfaces, or otherwise alter the vehicle in drastic ways. Restoration projects also tend to require heavy-duty tools like these if there is a significant amount of damage or rust.
Top Brands of Automotive Power Tools
Milwaukee Tool is a company that has made a name for itself when it comes to reliable power tools. In particular, the company specializes in cordless power tools with a focus on interchangeable, sharable batteries and charger accessories. For automotive work, we recommend options like the Impact Wrench, which can be used for automotive and general work.
It's no mistake that Black+Decker has become a staple of many power tool sets. Starting as two separate shops and companies, Black+Decker has the development of portable power tools in its DNA. Check out the Black+Decker 20V MAX Cordless Drill/Driver.
Automotive Power Tool Pricing
- $50 and under: This can be a challenging range to find power tools with enough power for automotive work, but some impact drivers that scrape the top of this range can get the job done. Most options, however, tend to be geared more for general DIY use around the home instead of the garage.
- $50-$100: There are plenty of great impact and drill options in this price range for automotive work. Most power tools here will be just the tool itself, lacking major accessories or even a battery.
- $100 and above: The high end of automotive power tools offers the most options in terms of powerful tools capable of handling most automotive tasks. More importantly, many come in complete kits that include all of the accessories and batteries necessary to get going from the start.
The right power tool is all about performance and design. This varies depending on the type, but nearly all power tools need to have an ergonomic design in order to feel comfortable in the hands for long periods of time. This is why great power tools sport contoured grips and surfaces that conform to the shape of the hands. With some power tools, like saws and grinders, the design also should have safeguards and barriers to protect the body from harm.
Given the need for electricity with power tools, the power supply type is extremely important to consider. Some automotive power tools only have a cord you will need to plug into a wall outlet or generator to use. This can limit the range of the tool but eliminates any issues with running out of juice if you are working on a vehicle for a long period of time. Battery-powered tools, on the other hand, extend the range of the tool at the expense of running time. For the best of both worlds, choose a battery-operated tool with swappable batteries to extend the life.
Many power tools are designed to accept different types of attachments, such as bits, saws, and sockets. The type of power tool will largely dictate what accessories it can accept, so consider what you need in terms of functionality and versatility.
- Capability: All power tools have limitations when it comes to performance. The capability of a tool is largely determined by the motor and design. Tools with more powerful motors run faster, deliver higher amounts of torque, and perform longer. Pay attention to the specifications of each tool since different types and options vary in what kind of capabilities and limitations they have.
- Size: For automotive work, the size of a power tool can influence how useful it is around a vehicle. Smaller tools can reach into cramped spaces around the engine bay or undercarriage. Larger tools are generally fine for exterior work and most interior projects that don't require getting into the dashboard.
- Storage: When you aren't using your tools, a proper place to store them is essential for an organized garage or workspace. Power tools can be more difficult to store than hand options, given the larger size, but the right toolbox or case is more than enough to keep everything in one place without taking up floor space. If you buy a power tool kit, you may also get a case included in the package you can use for other items as well.
Best Automotive Power Tools Reviews & Recommendations 2020
A good torque wrench is absolutely necessary when doing some serious automotive work. While many mechanics will take an air-powered wrench any time of the day, battery-powered wrenches are a great solution for automotive DIYers working in the home garage. Milwaukee's 2454-22 3/8 Impact Wrench is one such power tool that gets a lot done around most automotive parts.
The wrench sports a pistol-grip design that is quite comfortable to hold for long periods of time. Delivering up to 117 foot-pounds of torque, the impact wrench can handle a good majority of fastening tasks found in typical automotive maintenance or upgrades. The two separate fastening modes it provides (variable power and variable speed) also make the impact wrench flexible in how you approach tightening different fasteners.
Unfortunately, its comfortable pistol design makes it a bit difficult to use in some cramped areas around a vehicle. The bulk of the top, in particular, may be difficult to squeeze into some areas of the engine bay or undercarriage without getting it stuck. Some other-brand socket sets also fit with a little give, making it difficult to apply high amounts of torque safely.
KIMO's cordless drill driver has two variable speeds and is designed for screwdriving, drilling, and impact drilling. The all-copper motor is lightweight and efficient and has a maximum torque of 330 pounds per inch. It is compact to fit into tight spaces and features a built-in LED light and a 46-piece accessory kit with drill bits, screwdriver bits, and driver bits. It also has a forward and reverse switch.
This drill has a good grip, and the handle feels nice in your hands. It's a great tool for the price, it's not too heavy, it has good power, and it charges quickly. The light is convenient when you use it in dark areas. It's also easy to carry due to its compact size, and it's easy to maneuver in small spaces.
One complaint about this drill is that drill bits may not attach securely and often need to be re-tightened. The chuck comes loose during operation, which is a big hassle. There have also been instances where it starts sparking and smoking after a short period of use.
The DEWALT Cordless Drill/Driver Kit comes with one 3.6-pound, 20-volt cordless drill driver that can handle a wide range of DIY and professional applications. This is mainly because the drill features a high-speed transmission, which offers two speeds of zero to 450 rounds per minute for regular tasks, and 1,500 rounds per minute for fast drilling and fastening applications. It also comes with a high performance, smooth running, brushless motor that pushes out 300 watts of power. This translates to about 57 percent more runtime than a standard motor.
For enhanced gripping strength, the drill is designed with a ½-inch, single sleeve, ratcheting, keyless chuck for securing your bits. This will help you work faster while being safe. Another important feature is the ergonomic, 1.9-inch handle that feels comfortable in the hand, offers a better grip, and helps to keep the drill balanced even when you are working for long hours. Also included in the kit are two rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, a charger, and a carry case.
The drawbacks are few, but worth noting. First, the carry case doesn’t have a slot for storing your drill bits. It’s not designed for drilling tough surfaces such as concrete or steel, because it’s a bit underpowered for such applications. You also run the risk of damaging your bits. Lastly, the batteries don’t hold a charge for long—that’s probably why it comes with two batteries.
This kit comes with a 1/2-inch compact drill/driver and a 1/4-inch hex compact impact driver, two batteries, one charger, a belt clip, and a storage bag. The drill/driver produces 400 inch-pounds of torque, while the impact driver has 1,400 inch-pounds of torque. The tools are lightweight, have built-in LED lights, battery gauges, and variable speed triggers.
The fit, finish, and feel of these tools is excellent. The lithium-ion batteries last a long time and stay charged between uses. They provide full power until the last second instead of gradually dying down. The 1/4 impact has plenty of torque for jobs involving lots of nuts and bolts, and the drill is great for a variety of tasks.
One downside is the charging unit isn't the best design. It's unclear if the battery is properly in the charging position. There have also been some complaints that It is hard to switch from and to low to high speed.
This two-in-one cordless drill and driver features a switchdriver head, so you can quickly change between different bits. It has a two-speed variable gear train, automatic torque control, and a battery that works with both 20V and 40V tools. It features a trigger-activated LED light, and it's lightweight and compact, weighing just 2.75 pounds.
With this tool, you no longer need a separate drill and driver. You simply spin the drill holder to rotate to the other chuck, which is loaded with another drill. It's powerful, comfortable to hold, and convenient to use. The battery is also strong and lasts a long time. It's ideal for people who want to work more quickly and efficiently.
However, there are a minimal amount of special fitting drill bits available, and you have to purchase them separately. It doesn't come with a case, and it can be hard to remove the battery, especially if you have gloves on.
This tool kit comes with a 20V 1/2-inch cordless drill, 20V 1/4-inch cordless impact driver, a 2.0 AH lithium-ion battery, and a storage bag. The drill has a two-speed gearbox, while the impact driver provides 1,460-inch pounds of torque. The impact driver also has a drop-and-load feature to change bits with one hand. Both tools have LED lights, and they're ergonomically designed to feel comfortable in tight spaces.
These tools have a lot of power and a decent battery life. The battery charges very quickly, and both tools work very well for the price. There's also a battery charge indicator button, so you know how much battery life remains. The light stays on after you pull the trigger, and you can fine tune the speed by using the trigger.
One downside is the storage bag is very small and barely holds the drill, impact, charger, and batteries. Another issue is that these tools are heavier than some other brands. They are not brushless, so they produce sparks. Plus, it can be difficult to use them in reverse mode.
This cordless drill/driver is compact for small spaces. It has a high-performance motor, high-speed transmission with two speeds, and a keyless chuck. It weighs 3.6 pounds and comes with a 20V lithium-ion battery pack, charger, and bag. It also features an LED light for dark areas.
The batteries last a long time and charge quickly. The tool is balanced and stable and feels good even if you have large hands. It has nearly the same amount of power as a bigger and heavier drill and doesn't fade; instead it performs at 100 percent capacity before the battery dies. The light also stays on for several seconds after the trigger is released, and there is more than enough power for home or garage projects.
However, the plastic chuck feels cheap, has a tendency to loosen, and does not hold drill bits very well. Also, there's no bit holder below the handle, and it doesn't come with any drill bits. It's also a little heavier than some of its competitors. Some users have also complained that the grip is uncomfortable.
This high-torque, 1/2-inch impact wrench has a brushless motor for optimal performance and durability. It has a maximum torque of 700 foot-pounds and features a three-speed switch for more control. The LED light has a 20-second delay for added visibility in dark spaces, and the wrench can withstand a 6-foot drop. The battery and charger are sold separately.
This tool is solid and powerful and removes standard passenger lug nuts and wheel bolts almost instantly. It's relatively quiet, very high-quality, and very strong. The light is in a great spot and lights up exactly where the bolt is, and the wrench is relatively compact considering how much torque it has. Overall, it's well worth the money.
The biggest complaint about this tool is that it is heavy, and if you hold it above your head for a long time, it can bother your arms and shoulders. Also, the smaller 3.0ah battery may only last a few tire rotations compared to a 5.0ah battery. The wrench may also hurt your wrist if you're not used to the amount of torque it delivers.
- Choose the power tools you need the most for the type of automotive work you do. Anything that saves some time and effort is worth the investment.
- You can use general-use power tools for a good majority of automotive maintenance tasks, but you may need something specific to vehicles for certain tasks.
- Buy several batteries if you plan on using battery-operated power tools for long periods of time. They are easy to swap out and keep charged on the go.
- Buy small power tools if you want to carry them around the garage or even in your vehicle. Tools meant for off-site use are perfect for portability.
Q. What kind of tools do I need?
A. While you don't need power tools to work on a vehicle, small tools like electric screwdrivers and impact drivers are versatile enough to be used on almost any project. Saws and grinders, on the other hand, tend to be used less.
Q. What comes in power tool kits?
A. Power tool kits tend to be designed for general-use and include the most common, most useful tools for tasks around the house. Basic kits offer some combination of drills, impact drivers, electric screwdrivers, and maybe a small saw.
Q. Are power tools better than air-powered tools?
A. Not necessarily. Power tools are more convenient since you don't need an air compressor running the entire time you are using the tool. Air-powered tools, however, can be more capable and generally require less setup in terms of cords and batteries, since a single compressor is necessary.
Our top power tool pick is the Milwaukee Impact Wrench for its flexibility in use and unique design.
For something more straightforward and more affordable, choose the KIMO Cordless Drill Driver Kit instead.