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. woodmagazine.com/ impactdriver