In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
Battery Powered Impact Wrenches
Jun 01, 2013
Battery-powered tools, especially battery-powered impact wrenches, have become commonplace on farms. They're not perfect. If you don't use them frequently it's difficult to keep their batteries charged and in good condition. Some of you were hesitant to spend big bucks on your first battery-powered impact wrench and got one that's under-powered. But I think we've all seen enough advantage and convenience to justify always having some sort of battery-powered impact on our farm.
Enough advantage and convenience to either replace, upgrade or justify having TWO battery-powered impacts around. Whatever excuse you use to justify getting another battery-powered impact, here are a few tips to get the most from that investment.
Spend money. Yes, there are $150 battery-powered impacts on the market. They are for yuppies changing the tires on their golf carts on Saturday afternoons. Plan on spending $400 or more for a manly, battery-powered impact with two batteries and a battery charger. You get what you pay for, and as long as you buy name-brand products, it's worth it.
Buy torque. A good 1/2-inch drive battery-powered impact should now be capable of 500 lb./ft. of torque, both tightening and loosening. If you want to get picky, dig deep and research HOW LONG it produces that torque. Some companies test their tools in 1 or 2 second bursts. Others test them the way we use them--5 to 10 seconds at a time. Or longer.
Don't buy weight. Lithium ion batteries are expensive, but they're considerably lighter than nickel-cadmium batteries. When you're standing in a store comparing the weight and "feel" of two different battery-powered impact wrenches, hold them at arm's length above your head, straight out from your shoulder and maybe behind your back, to simulate real-world situations.
Consider buying smaller. If your first investment in a battery-powered 1/2-inch drive impact wrench was in a high-quality, premium-grade tool that is powerful enough and light enough so you really don't want or need to replace it, look at investing in a similar quality 3/8-inch drive battery-powered impact. The latest generation of 3/8-inch battery-powered impact wrenches produce more than 250 lb./ft. of torque and are much lighter and more compact than their bigger brothers. My 3/8-inch battery-powered impact is my go-to tool for changing sickle sections on grain tables and for working with sockets smaller than 9/16" or 13 mm.
Finally, if you decide to buy a 3/8-inch drive battery-powered impact to complement your existing 1/2-drive tool, try to match batteries. It saves money and reduces the number of battery chargers cluttering your workbench if all your battery-powered tools use a common size and voltage of battery.