Can A Cordless Impact Driver Remove Lug Nuts?

The cordless impact driver is becoming a favorite power tool among professional and DIY consumers for driving screws and nut-setting.

It is a powerful and durable tool that has many of you out there, testing the limits of its power by performing various tasks. However, there have been questions on the effectiveness of the impact drivers on removing the lug nuts. One antagonistic question has always been; can a cordless impact driver remove lug nuts?

Yes. You can use a cordless impact driver to remove lug nuts; however, since that is not its primary job, the fasteners have to be in a particular condition for work. It is imperative to note that the impact driver can effectively remove lug nuts from the car as long as they have the right amount of torque. The favorable torque for this action is always between 80 to 100lb-ft. In such a case, the driver getting used should have a torque that is higher than 100lb-ft. Thus, torque is a significant element of consideration when choosing the right impact driver to remove the lug nuts from your car. Also, it is essential to consider whether the lug nuts are rusted or frozen since this will present a significant challenge when striving to break them loose with a cordless impact driver

About lug nuts and torque

A quick look at a lug nut torque chart will show you that lug nuts should be tightened between 80 and 100 ft-lbs, a standard for conventional compact vehicles. Heavier vehicles like lorries, however, have larger tires; hence, their wheel fasteners have to be torqued at even higher power.

A lug nut fastened to a specific torque requires the same amount of power for removal if it’s still in mint condition. So if you have a lug nut tightened at around 100 lbs-ft, you should be able to remove it using a cordless impact driver that can deliver that torque power.

Most of the 18-volt cordless impact drivers can achieve this minimum torque, which should be enough when dealing with the lug nuts of a small car.

Why impact drivers aren’t the best choice for loosening lug nuts

Even though cordless impact drivers seem competent enough to remove lug nuts, you should not buy one for that sole purpose. Some conditions may require you to use something more powerful to break stubborn nuts free before proceeding with the impact driver.

For instance, your battery-powered impact driver will not be able to break the lug nuts loose if there is any rust, or the tool’s battery isn’t fully charged. The power tool will be useless if you’re working on a truck since the fasteners are torqued to 100+ lbs-ft.

In addition to that, if you use a cordless impact driver to remove lug nuts, again and again, the tool will overheat and get damaged sooner than expected.

What is the right power tool to remove lug nuts?

If you work on vehicles or do your vehicle maintenance from time to time, you should have an impact wrench in your toolbox. Impact wrenches or impact guns are more powerful compared to impact drivers.

They can deliver torques higher than 200 lbs-ft, which is more than enough power to loosen even the most stubborn lug nuts.

There are three types of impact wrenches available on the market. These are air, electric, and cordless impact wrenches.

Air impact wrenches (pneumatic wrenches) are the most powerful and the most popular among professional mechanics. They, however, require an air compressor, which means they aren’t suited for home use. Also, the attached air hose limits ease of use inside a garage.

The best impact wrenches for light use at home are the electric and cordless options. Electrical impact wrenches churn up plenty of power, but they share a similar limitation to their pneumatic counterparts. They require an accessible power outlet to work, and the electric cord will limit your movement.

Individual car owners and mobile mechanics commonly use cordless impact wrenches. Batteries power them, and even though they aren’t as powerful as air or electric impact wrenches, they still produce enough power to remove stubborn fasteners.

In terms of size, you should go for a ½ inch or ⅜ impact wrench. They are the best sizes because they produce enough power to loosen even the most robust fasteners without risk of stripping the lug nut. However, if you’re working on larger vehicles, we’d recommend using a 3/4 inch or 1-inch impact wrench.

Tips for using an impact driver to remove lug nut

If you only have an impact driver as the available power tool, use the tips below to use it without risking damages to your fasteners or the tool itself.

Consider the size of the lug nut sockets.

Different vehicles have lug nuts of varying sizes, so when you want to remove them, you have to choose a lug socket that perfectly fits them. If you use the wrong-sized socket, you risk damaging the head of the lug nut, which will make it harder to remove.

You can buy a lug nut socket set if you don’t know the exact size of your vehicle’s lug nuts. The most basic sets come with all socket sizes that can fit all popular cars.

Get socket adapters

Most lug nut sockets are designed for impact wrenches with a square shaft head, which is a big contrast to the hexagonal sockets of impact drivers. You’ll have to find lug nut sockets with a hexagonal rear or get a socket adapter to connect the different plugs to work safely.

Avoid chrome-plated sockets for lug nuts.

Both impact drivers and impact wrenches are high-torque power tools, and the regular chrome-plated sockets cannot withstand that much power. They may break or shatter as you work, which can be quite dangerous, especially when the metallic shrapnels fly everywhere. 

It would be best if you used durable impact-rated sockets because they have thicker walls that have been specially hardened to endure the high torque power of impact tools.

Loosen the nuts with a manual lug wrench first

If your lug nuts are too tight or rusted, you may find it difficult to break them loose with the impact driver. In such a case, it is ideal for loosening the fasteners manually with a lug wrench and then using the power tool to spin them off. This way, you make it easier for your impact driver to do its job.

A video showing a man using impact driver to remove lug nuts

Using a cordless impact driver to fasten lug nuts 

If you are using a cordless impact driver to remove lug nuts, then it is without a doubt that you will still use it to tighten them when replacing your tires.

Always be careful not to leave the fasteners too loose. You can do this by fastening the nuts till the tool stops then use a lug wrench to tug it tighter. As you do this, you should also remember not to tug them too tightly; otherwise, your next wheel change will be a tiresome endeavor.

Conclusion

Impact drivers are primarily used for driving screws, drilling, and other construction-related work. They are also great to have as a mechanic for removing smaller fasteners quickly.

Some of the new cordless varieties are even powerful enough to remove lug nuts. However, constant use of high torque fasteners will cause early damage to the tool, which will cost you a fortune in repairs, replacement of parts, or even replacement of the whole machine.

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