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Air Ratchet vs Impact Wrench

The air ratchet and impact wrench are both tools that perform similar tasks, but there are many differences between them that will influence which one you choose. Both are designed to remove bolts, nuts, and other fasteners.

The power source for the air ratchet is compressed air, which means it will not work if there’s no power or pressure in the tank (you would need to bleed the tank). However, that same power source also makes it possible to generate reverse torque with an air ratchet and its ability to operate in low-speed conditions makes it a great choice for tightening bolts and nuts that require greater precision.

On the other hand, an impact wrench uses the kinetic energy created by the revolution of the tool. This makes it easy to produce reverse torque as well as forward torque (high speed). That means you do not need to slow down the wrench when removing nuts and bolts, allowing it to work faster.

Air ratchet vs Impact wrench:


The design of both tools is what determines their suitability for certain tasks. In general, an impact wrench will have a hex shank, which allows it to be used with different adapters. Air ratchets typically have a 1/4″ collet that has several detent positions (it can rotate clockwise or counterclockwise). This design allows the air ratchet to be used with different sockets.


The amount of force or torque generated by each tool depends on a number of factors, including the speed at which it is rotating. An air ratchet can produce reverse torque thanks to its design and multiple detent positions, but it won’t be as fast as an impact wrench with a cord. The latter will generate forward torque at fast speeds, but won’t be able to produce reverse torque.


Air ratchets offer a great amount of precision since they’re able to operate at low speeds. Impact wrenches tend to be less precise due to the impact drill mechanism that creates forward torque, which is ideal for removing bolts but does not allow for as much control as an air ratchet.


Since impact wrenches do not use air, they tend to be quieter than air ratchets.

Power source

Air ratchets and impact wrenches both run on electricity. Air ratchets also need air under pressure, while impact wrenches can work without any compressed air. Impact wrenches use a battery and rechargeable batteries work better than alkaline ones since the former will last longer. 


Both tools are portable, but impacts typically come with a cord while some air ratchets do not (they may instead use an external plug-in for power). This makes them more or less suitable depending on your workspace setup or project requirements (if you’re moving around).

Versatility vs speed

When choosing between an air ratchet and impact wrench, you’ll need to take into consideration the types of fasteners that will be loosened or tightened. Air ratchets tend to produce more torque than impacts, which means they’re good for larger bolts and nuts. On the other hand, impacts are great for removing nuts and bolts quickly as well as installing screws at a much greater speed.


Both air ratchets and impact come in different sizes to accommodate various tasks. You can choose between an impact wrench that has ¼ inches hex shank or 3/8 inches one for use with different adapters. Air ratchets are available in ½-inch drive, which makes them more powerful than 3/8 inch ones. It is also possible to find air ratchets with 1/4 or 3/8″ drive since they are lighter and more manageable for small tasks (such as assembling furniture).


Both tools will probably need some assembly before you start using them. However, impacts typically come out of the box ready to be used while most air ratchets will need some work before they”re ready to be put into action. This means that if you need a tool now, an impact wrench is the best choice. But if you have some time before you start your next project, an air ratchet could be the better option.


Impacts tend to come with a smaller range of sockets while air ratchets typically have a larger number. In other words, impacts usually come with 1/4″ sockets while air ratchets can use ½ inch drive sizes. Impact wrenches that have 3/8″ hex shank are not ideal for light tasks, but they’re great if you want an impact wrench that has a greater amount of torque and power. It is also worth considering the type of socket storage available on either tool before making your purchase decision.


Impacts are great for working with tires and other car repairs that require loosening or tightening nuts. Angle impacts are also available which means that you can tighten or loosen the bolts at an angle. They’re perfect for flush head bolts. However, air ratchets are useful for assembling furniture since they don’t produce torque when rotating forward (which makes them easier to control).


Impacts are ideal if you need to work with larger bolts and nuts at a high speed. They’re also perfect for use on cars and motorcycles, while air ratchets are more versatile since they can be used at almost any kind of task (and not just automotive maintenance). That being said, impacts tend to be easier to hold and control than air ratchets which makes them better suited for race car tires or other large projects. If you plan to use your tool for general household tasks such as assembling furniture or hanging pictures, an air ratchet will offer the best performance.


Impact wrenches tend to be slightly cheaper than air ratchets. This is due in part because they don’t require an air compressor. However, if you already have an air compressor at your disposal, then the price of an impact wrench is on par with that of a quality air ratchet. On the other hand, if you are short on space or funds for either tool, go for the one which has less power rather than more. This way, you can conserve space and money since they both work similarly for household tasks.


Impacts tend to be easier to find since they’re more popular among car owners. In contrast, air ratchets have a smaller range of uses so they can sometimes be difficult to find in hardware stores. However, if you plan on using your tool in a workshop with a compressor available, an impact wrench might not always be the best option because of its high power consumption rate due to continuous use. An air ratchet will serve you better in this case since you won’t have to worry about refilling it with air.

Air Ratchet Advantages and Disadvantages

Air Ratchet Advantages:

  1. The ability to work with multiple tools without changing between sockets
  2. The ability to use a tool at an angle for hard to reach bolts and nuts
  3. A lower price than impacts that serve similar purposes
  4. Ease of use: air ratchets are easier to handle and control compared to impacts
  5. Easier assembly process since most air ratchets don’t need pre-assembly before they can be used

Air Ratchet Disadvantages:

1. Noisiness: They tend to be louder than impacts due to the fact that the user’s hand is closer to the motor inside the tool. This means that your ears will take a beating throughout prolonged projects using this tool, so ear protection would be advisable.

2. Occasional loss of power: Air ratchets can sometimes lose power due to an insufficient amount of air pressure, so you may have to stop and refill the tank every now and then.

3. A limited range of sockets: Air ratchets typically require 1/2 inch drive sizes while impacts can be used with both 3/8 and ½ inch drive sizes.

Impact Advantages and Disadvantages

Impact Advantages:

  1. Higher Maximum Torque: Since impacts are driven by impact forces rather than torque, they’re able to generate a lot more raw power than air ratchets which rely on torque as well as air pressure for generating higher speeds.
  2. The ability to use larger compared to those available for an air ratchet
  3. The ability to tighten or loosen bolts without having to reposition the tool. This is best suited for use on cars and motorcycles, especially when it comes to mounting tires which are hard to access due to their positioning under the car.
  4. Impact wrenches tend not to lose power at all since they’re driven by impact forces rather than torque like an air ratchet which creates a significant decrease in the required effort for heavy-duty jobs that require continuous use of the wrench.

Impact Disadvantages:

  1. Noise level is higher than other tools which makes it unpleasant for prolonged use (especially if you’re working with a bad back or are hard of hearing). It’s not as bad as an air ratchet, but hearing protection would certainly still be recommended if you can’t work in a quieter environment.
  2. Requires pre-assembly before using it unlike air ratchets which don’t require any prior set up on the user’s end before they can be used. In addition, some impacts have long cords that make them difficult to handle when working with large projects such as automotive repair tasks. This means that some forms of car maintenance might require an extension cord for optimum flexibility.
  3. Maximum torque is limited to the maximum amount of torque indicated on the impact wrench’s specs (which isn’t much compared to how much an air ratchet can handle). If you need more, then it’ll be necessary to buy a bigger model with a higher maximum torque rating which incurs a very high cost.

Note: Impact wrenches are best used by experienced DIYers who don’t mind spending time assembling and aren’t afraid of noise levels that go beyond 85 decibels. An air ratchet might seem daunting at first because most users expect it to produce as much power as an impact wrench with its ability to turn bolts from any angle and rotation speed of up to 1,700 RPMs, but after a few uses, it’ll become as natural as using an impact wrench which can boreholes.

In addition, air ratchets are cheaper compared to impacts and despite their lack of torque, they’re still capable of handling most tasks thrown at them by a DIYer who needs a good substitute for a power drill.

Impacts are much better suited towards heavy-duty tasks such as automotive repair and construction work that require much higher levels of torque due to the fact that this tool requires less effort to use since its speed is dependent on how much force you put into it. Even so, there’s no denying the convenience of being able to control an air ratchet from any angle without having to reposition the wrench before continuing your task.

Ratchet or Impact Wrench: Which One Do You Need?

Both ratchets and impacts serve the same purpose so it boils down to preference.

If you’d rather work without cords and go for a lighter tool because you don’t want to invest in something expensive, then an air ratchet would be your best option since they’re cheaper than high torque impact wrenches which require spending more money on upgrading if you need something stronger than average. If noise isn’t much of an issue and you just want to retain as much power as possible, then impacts are definitely recommended even though they’re considerably heavier than other tools that operate based on the amount of effort required instead of impact force like impacts do. However, this doesn’t mean that impacts generate less power compared to ratchets; it’s simply their design that requires more physical effort to use.


Both ratchets and impacts are great tools for DIYers who need something to make their work easier.

Ratchets are cheaper, lighter, more versatile, quieter, require less effort to use, but have lower torque levels compared to impacts.

They both have pros and cons so it all boils down to which job needs doing first. For instance, if you want something you can use to bore holes in concrete, then an impact wrench’s your best option. If this isn’t the case and you just want something that’ll get the job done or if you’re just fed up with using a power drill all the time (because other cordless drills aren’t as flexible), then either one of these tools would make an excellent addition to your toolbox.

And finally, there are some other forms of car maintenance where neither impacts nor air ratchets make any sense since they both require applying too much pressure which could damage certain parts like gaskets and seals (such as coil replacement). This is when it’s recommended to use a manual ratchet before an electric one like an air rat or impact wrench. Other examples include car maintenance where you need to tighten bolts (especially small ones) like tightening the exhaust tube since neither impacts nor air ratchets are capable of fitting into tight spaces due to their design, but this doesn’t mean that there’s no use for these tools.

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