Electric vs Air Impact Wrenches

Electric vs Air Impact Wrenches: Which One Packs a Punch?

Have you ever had to deal with stuck or rusted bolts? If you have, you know how time-consuming and problematic it is to get them to budge. Sometimes, not even the most powerful tools can get them moving. But one thing that can surely make them come out is the impact wrench.

Impact wrenches are powerful tools that have been around for quite a while. Over the years, people started creating various types of impact wrenches they could use for specific needs. You can find electric impact wrenches, pneumatic or air impact wrenches, hydraulic impact wrenches, cordless and corded impact wrenches, etc.

If you want to learn more about the differences between electric and air impact wrenches, you have come to the right place. Let's get right into the guide and discuss everything that makes these impact wrenches different and the benefits of each one!

What are Electric Impact Wrenches?

electric impact wrench

Electric impact wrenches have an electric motor that helps them function. When the electric motor starts working, the tool sends strong torque out, helping loosen stuck nuts and bolts or tighten them.

There are two types of electric impact wrenches. When looking online or in a particular tool store, you will come across both corded and cordless impact wrenches. Both are great options, but the cordless one is more convenient because it is portable.

If you go with a corded impact wrench, you should know that you will have to use it near an electric socket. That is because this type of electric wrench will not work without being connected to a power source.

As opposed to this, you can use a cordless impact wrench wherever and whenever as long as the battery is charged. Whenever the battery runs out, you can always recharge and get it back and running in no time.

What is an Air Impact Wrench?

milwaukee air impact wrench

Air impact wrenches are tools that use a powerful air compressor to work. They also generate torque to help loosen or tighten bolts and nuts. Once you connect the tool to a big air compressor or something similar, you will need to push a button to get the tool working.

The biggest problem with air wrenches is that a person must use them with an air source. There is no option to use them in a particular place or at a specific time without them being connected to air compressors. That makes things difficult for people who are often on the go and need to use wrenches during that time.

Still, this is a potent corded tool you can use to do many different things. You will often see auto mechanics use air impact wrenches to repair cars, but people can also use them for various other things.

What Is the Difference Between an Electric and an Air Impact Wrench?

There are quite a few things that separate electric and air impact wrenches. A person could tell as much just by looking at each short description. One is electric, the other pneumatic. One is portable, the other - not so much.

But before I mention more differences, I want to tell you that knowing the differences is essential for everyone interested in getting such a tool. So, let's discuss these differences further to help interested buyers decide which type of wrench would be best for their needs:

Power source

The power source has to be the most significant difference between these two tools. Pneumatic impact wrenches use air - electric impact wrenches use electricity to work. It is as simple as that.

When discussing power sources, I have to say that electric impact wrenches are the better option. For the corded ones, you should be able to find an available power outlet to plug them in. For the cordless ones, you can charge the battery at home and take the tool wherever you need to.

This is not the case with pneumatic impact wrenches that need an air compressor to work. Unless you have a compressor, you will not be able to use the wrench. And compressors are not cheap, so that is another thing to keep in mind.

Power output

The power output means how much power the tool provides or the maximum torque a tool can give the user.

A pneumatic tool of this kind can give you up to 3000 ft-lbs of torque. That is quite a lot, meaning you will be able to use the excessive force to remove rusted or stuck nuts.

Contrastingly, the electric counterparts can give you around 300 ft-lbs. or torque. That will be enough power in most situations, but sometimes, you will have no choice but to turn to pneumatic wrenches to get you through the most challenging conditions. So, this is also something to keep in mind when choosing between the two.


The price tag is also something to consider, especially if you are on a tight budget or do not want to spend much money on an impact wrench. While the prices of some air and electric tool models might be similar, that will not always be the case.

Let's put it this way - the older, corded electric impact wrenches are the least expensive. Their cordless counterparts are a bit more expensive. Air impact wrenches are the most costly, not only because of the tool itself but because of the added expense of getting an air compressor.

When you have an electric impact wrench, you do not consider the cost of charging the battery at home. The fee is added to your electric bill, and you do not think much about it. But when it comes to pneumatic tools, you definitely feel the cost of buying that air compressor.

Air compressors can also come at various prices. The larger they are, the more expensive. There are differences in the model, features, materials, convenience, portability, etc. These are all things that you have to keep in mind when buying a pneumatic wrench.

So, when it comes to the price, the electric impact wrench is the clear winner.


Air impact wrenches are a bit difficult to use. They take some getting used to in the beginning, but even after using them for a long time, it will be challenging to deal with the power and vibrations they produce.

Electric wrenches are easier to use and do not take long to get used to. They vibrate less but are not as powerful, which might make them off-putting to some people.

So, the one you get depends on the type of work you need to get done with the wrench. If you need it to be powerful - you should go with the air impact wrench. You can go with the electric impact wrench if you need it for light work.


If you want to know more about the portability of the tools, I would have to start with the electric impact wrench. That wrench is a clear winner - especially the cordless type!

The cordless impact wrenches can be taken wherever, whenever. They are light, so transporting them will also not be a problem. Most of them come with a special case for transport that you can use whenever you are on the road with your cordless tools.

The corded ones also come in cases, but they are less convenient because you must plug them into an electric power socket. They are less convenient but are still better than pneumatic impact wrenches.

If you get a pneumatic impact wrench, chances are you will not move it at all. These wrenches usually end up in auto repair or similar shops, where they stay in one place. People with such shops are the only ones that consider these pneumatic models, so keep that in mind.


Maintenance is another huge difference between the wrenches. Both types are durable and lasting, so you should be able to use them for years after buying them. In the case of the electric wrench, you might need to make a few tweaks over the years.

The cordless electric wrench is a bit problematic to maintain because of the battery. You need to charge it often, but you also need to replace it every few years because it will become less and less powerful.

The corded electric impact wrench needs the least maintenance. If you take care of the extension cord and do not use it in faulty wall sockets, you should not have any issues. All replacement parts for cordless and corded impact wrenches are not that expensive either, and you can find them in various stores.

That brings me to the pneumatic tools, which are difficult to maintain. First of all, all replacement parts are expensive and difficult to replace. Then, the air compressor will likely run out every few years, depending on how often you use it. You will need to buy a new one or refill the old one if that is even allowed.

These air-powered tools have so many parts you need to maintain and lubricate often that you will be putting in a lot of work. So, make sure you are okay with that before getting a pneumatic wrench.


This is what I have gathered over the years: air tools are best for serious auto repair and similar shops, while electric tools are better for home repairs. While you can find them used in different settings, this is the most common application.

Depending on what you need the tool for, this distinction should help you decide if you want to go with one or the other. Choose wisely!

What are the Benefits of Electric Impact Wrenches

Benefits of Electric Impact Wrenches

You might be able to guess the benefits of electric impact wrenches by looking at some of the properties and capabilities given above. But to make things more convenient for you, I have compiled a list of the crucial benefits to keep in mind. Here is that list:

  • Better portability
  • Often cheaper
  • No need for constant strong pressure
  • Effective at removing any stuck nut
  • Rely on an inner motor to work
  • Easy to control

What are the Benefits of Air Impact Wrenches?

Benefits of Air Impact Wrenches

Now that you know the benefits of the electric impact wrench, let's look into the benefits of the air impact wrench:

  • Much lighter (without the air compressor)
  • Smaller (without the air compressor)
  • More long-lasting
  • Cannot overheat from constant and long use
  • Constant powerful air pressure provided
  • Quicker at removing stuck, rusted, or regular nuts

Which To Choose?

That is all you need to know about pneumatic and electric impact wrenches. Choosing a better one just for the sake of it is not possible. You must think about your situation and needs to decide which one you should go with. Here is a quick overview of the differences between the two options and the better choice in each category:

  • Power Source - the more convenient option is the electric impact wrench that uses electricity. The air impact wrench must be used with an air compressor.
  • Power Output - the air impact wrench is much more powerful than the corded and cordless impact wrench.
  • Price - the corded electric impact wrench is the least expensive, whereas the air impact wrench is the most costly when bought together with an air compressor.
  • Use - the electric impact wrench is best because it has straightforward commands and does not vibrate as much.
  • Portability - the cordless electric impact wrench is the most portable, the corded counterpart is less portable, and the air impact wrench is the least portable.
  • Maintenance - the electric impact wrench is easier to maintain than the air impact wrench.
  • Application - the air impact wrench is best suited for auto repairs, whereas the electric impact wrench is best for home repairs.


I hope this guide taught you a lot about impact wrenches in general and the distinction between electric and air impact wrenches. If you ever need one of these wrenches, make sure to go over the differences and benefits of each one to easily decide which one you like best.

If you have any electric or air impact wrench models you would like to share with interested parties, feel free to do so in the comments below. I appreciate your input on the topic!

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