When not to use an impact driver for DIY


The trusty impact driver is a staple of most toolboxes, but it’s commonly misused in both DIY and professional settings. It bears a striking resemblance to a drill, but it serves a slightly different purpose.

Using power tools correctly is key to achieving the desired finish in any scenario. In this article, we‘ll take a look at how impact drivers from established brands like Milwaukee work, when shouldn’t you be using one, and when you should.

How does an impact driver work?

To understand why and when you shouldn’t be using an impact driver, it helps to understand how the tool works.

Like an ordinary drill, its head rotates to drive in screws or tighten fasteners. But it creates an impact with a hammer mechanism behind the chuck to create a forceful rotation as opposed to just a smooth rotation on a drill.

The force of the impact helps to secure and loosen fasteners that are stuck or deeply embedded, but that also makes the tool inappropriate for certain tasks.

When shouldn’t you use an impact driver?

  • Drilling holes – They can technically be used to drill holes, but you’re better off using a proper drill if you can. Impact drivers can be harder to control than drills because of the greater torque, so you run the risk of drilling too deep or not straight.
  • Precision work –Impact drivers are better where force is needed more than precision because of the impact mechanism. As such, avoid using them where a delicate touch and accuracy are required.
  • Soft materials – The force created by this power tool is often overpowering for softer materials, particularly soft woods such as pine. Impact drivers are best suited for hard materials such as metals, masonry and hardwoods.
  • Using short screws – With less control, the fastener is often put under more strain the shorter it is. As such, short screws are more susceptible to stripping, snapping or over-tightening. Longer screws are more suitable for impact drivers.

When should you use an impact driver?

Tasks requiring more power and rotational force are where the impact driver really shines. Fasteners that meet a lot of resistance usually need the added torque to be driven or loosed sufficiently.

Where screwing or tightening is needed on mass, impact drivers do a good job of powering through the workload. For example, building decking or putting up stud walls doesn’t need that much precision but an impact driver can help to fix screws into hardwood used for the frame.

Impact drivers are handy power tools for when you need that added force to get your job done. Make sure you use them correctly to avoid damaging elements of your project.