Shop Test: Qui­eter, Gen­tler Im­pacters

These tools drive fas­ten­ers much more qui­etly than tra­di­tional im­pacts.


Low-noise im­pact driv­ers go easy on the ears, but at the cost of torque? Learn more.

If you’ve ever used an im­pact driver to drive screws, you have an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for its tremen­dous torque, typ­i­cally 3–4 times more than a com­pa­ra­ble drill/ driver. Im­pacters tend to be lighter and smaller than drill/driv­ers—more rea­sons to love them. But their loud clat­ter­ing noise can drive you crazy, es­pe­cially when work­ing in tight sur­round­ings, such as when hang­ing wall cab­i­nets or in­stalling a coun­ter­top onto a base cab­i­net. But now there’s a qui­eter al­ter­na­tive: oil-pulse im­pact driv­ers.

We tested four bat­tery-pow­ered oil-pulse driv­ers head-to-head, and ran a tra­di­tional cord­less im­pact driver (the Makita XDT12Z) through the same tests for com­par­i­son.

How they work

A typ­i­cal im­pact driver uses a spin­ning ham­mer-and-anvil mech­a­nism to in­crease ro­ta­tional torque. (See il­lus­tra­tion on next page.) The more de­mand a fas­tener puts on the tool, the more torque the ham­mer and anvil at­tempt to ap­ply by slam­ming to­gether. It’s this metal-on-metal ac­tion that cre­ates the loud noise and vi­bra­tion.

An oil-pulse driver uses a dif­fer­ent ham­mer-and-anvil mech­a­nism, en­cased in a mod­ule con­tain­ing gear oil. Rapid, puls­ing move­ment of this fluid op­er­ates the ham­mer and anvil, which make con­tact for a longer, but slower, du­ra­tion to cre­ate qui­eter im­pacts (com­pared to reg­u­lar im­pact driv­ers). And man­u­fac­tur­ers tell us this “cush­ioned-im­pact” sys­tem helps pro­long tool life.

Power ex­ceeds rated torque

With each tool, we drove three sizes of wood screws and lag screws up to 31∕2" long in Douglas fir lum­ber. The Ridgid Stealth Force demon­strated the most power among the four oil-pulse driv­ers, per­form­ing about equal to the tra­di­tional-im­pact Makita XDT12Z, de­spite be­ing rated as hav­ing half as much torque. (See the chart on page 43.) The Mil­wau­kee Surge driver ranked as sec­ond most pow­er­ful among the oil mod­els, fol­lowed by the Makita Oil Im­pulse and the Ry­obi Qui­et­strike, re­spec­tively. De­spite the dif­fer­ences, each of these oil-pulse im­pact driv­ers pro­duce all the torque you’ll likely ever need in your shop, as well as when you build that new deck, per­gola, or gar­den ar­bor.

A sub­stan­tial noise and vi­bra­tion dif­fer­ence

The oil-pulse driv­ers con­sis­tently cre­ated 5–8 fewer deci­bels of noise in our test­ing, com­pared to the tra­di­tional im­pact. That’s a noise level one-half to one-quar­ter that of tra­di­tional driv­ers. Com­pound that noise re­duc­tion over a day or more, and you’ll greatly ap­pre­ci­ate these new tools.

In ad­di­tion, oil-im­pulse driv­ers vi­brate no­tice­ably less than tra­di­tional im­pacts. Even after driv­ing a few dozen fas­ten­ers, we ex­pe­ri­enced none of the hand and arm tin­gling that nor­mally re­sults from us­ing a tra­di­tional im­pact driver. The Ridgid driver, like the oth­ers, did not show ex­ces­sive vi­bra­tion, but un­der heavy load tended to wob­ble sig­nif­i­cantly.

Learn more about stan­dard im­pact driv­ers. wood­ im­pact­driver

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