difference between impact driver and drill: The Difference between an impact driver and a drill

Technology advances daily, and with every surge of progress, it becomes harder to keep up to date with what exactly has improved, and why. An example of such a confusing product set would be an Impact Driver and a Power Drill. They can be hard to draw distinctions between as they both are, essentially the same tools. They both make holes in surfaces and immerse fasteners securely. Why invest in a new product when your old one fulfills the same purpose? And what exactly is the difference between impact driver and drill?

It’s important to fully consider the difference between an impact driver and a drill, deciding whether it’s worth sacrificing a drill’s place in the tool-box for something new, or whether the two indeed complement each other.

Technical Differences

Let’s now consider the technical differences between power drills and impact drivers in some detail.

Drills use their motor to provide a rotational motion, and it is this motion that drives the screw through the surface. Impact drivers too use a rotational motion, however (this is where the difference comes in), are able to employ a hammering force that works together with the rotational motion to provide linear and frontal torque. This results in a machine capable of working with even the largest of screws, and the densest of surfaces, quickly and effectively. The impact driver also eliminates any worry one might have for the drive bit slipping off the screw head; potentially stripping the head and ruining the screw. The added benefit of resource conservation in the absence of damaged screws again increases an impact drivers efficiency, not only in speed, but in cost. To put things simply, one of the main differences between an impact driver and drill is that an impact driver will hammer and screw, and a drill will simply screw.

The Noise Issue

So far, the impact driver has been heralded as a faultless improvement on the power drill, and yet, it too has its downfalls. Its industrial attributes come at a price, it is extremely loud. The typical sound from a drill is amplified and joined by a loud clicking from the hammering action and this, although very efficient can be unpleasant. The clicking sound can be reduced according to the speed you set the impact driver at – the slower the speed the fewer the clicks. Alternatively, you could also wear ear protection and this too would make the impact driver more comfortable to use. Comparing back to a traditional power drill, a power drill used with pressure to ensure the screw doesn’t slip has no increase in noise and therefore is much more home friendly. However, if you’re a keen DIY-er and looking for a device that can complete tasks a power drill would struggle with, investing in an impact driver seems very practical.

Fastener Removal

Another difference between impact driver and drill is the impact driver’s improved ability at removing stubborn screws or bolts. By reversing the spin direction of either a drill or an impact driver, one can remove screws or bolts with varying ease. A power drill often struggles with larger screws/bolts and screw heads themselves upon slipping can be a major hazard. Impact drivers are far more sturdy and able to deal with larger screws/bolts quickly and efficiently. Impact drivers are also better prepared to deal with over torqued or corroded screws/bolts. This can be invaluable not only on an industrial level but in the home for repairing older machinery or items. This is not to say that power drills are incapable of fulfilling this function, rather, that under some circumstances (such as a larger or stubborn screw/bolt) it may be easier to use an impact driver.

Precise Drilling

Power drills are exceptionally better in one area, in particular, precise drilling. Power drills’ unique gear feature ensures that the user is in full control of the drill. There are two gears; one is slower with more torque for the initial driving in of a screw. The second gear is faster and is perfect for drilling holes, or switching to after a screw is securely driven into a surface. This feature ensures that the user can confidently adapt to the function of the power drill to the task they’re completing; making the power drill extremely versatile for home use.

In contrast, an impact driver has only one gear. This can be a nerve-wracking switch for the inexperienced home DIY-er and practicing controlling the variable-speed trigger is advised. So, successful use of an impact driver depends on precision on part of the user, whereas power drills themselves relinquish some of the expertise needed, by allowing the user control with gears.

The impact driver’s hammering function becomes obsolete when one intends to solely drill a hole. One feature which makes a power drill so versatile and perfect for drilling, is its chuck. A chuck is a device at the end of a drill that has claws which can open and close to accept a variety of drill-bits in different sizes and shapes. Impact drivers, in contrast, have a quick-change sleeve which only accepts bits with 1/4-inch hex shanks. It is possible to source drill bits with hex shanks, but they have a limited availability and range.

The Final Verdict

Impact drivers and drills despite their apparent similarity in function, actually occupy very different roles. In finalizing the difference between an impact driver and a drill we will focus on the benefits of each, as well as the downfalls. An impact driver is perfect for larger screws/bolts, or ones that have corroded away. Impact drivers are also great for taking some pressure off from the user, by applying automatic linear pressure there is little chance of a screw coming out of place.

Power drills also relinquish pressure from the user, through having different gears that allow control. Power drills are perfect for precise drilling and are often accompanied upon purchase with an array of drill bits to allow for flexible use. Power drills, however, aren’t nearly as efficient at driving as an impact driver as there is no linear pressure (unless manually applied). Impact drivers are unlikely to have the necessary range of drill bits for precise drilling, and the lack of gear makes control something of a learned skill.

The main factor is, of course, efficiency. Impact drivers are far more efficient and reduce strain on the operator by providing linear support, meaning that one can use the driver for longer time periods with less fatigue. Power drills are far more flexible tools with the variety of drill bits available and two gears they feature. Overall, both an impact driver and drill set are invaluable and different enough to excuse a purchase of both for one’s toolbox.


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