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Bryan
Hagerty Employee

4 tips to beating the odds with an impact screwdriver

Some tools in my garage that work beautifully. The weight of these tools is a reassurance, a comforting heft that produces a feeling of confidence. When using a 90-tooth ratchet or my favorite pair of wire strippers, I am the house and the house always wins.

 

There’s another subset of tools tucked in my carefully organized drawers. This group is not on my side. They’re higher-risk tools, with equal potential to blast through a roadblock in a project and to ruin my hard-fought progress. With one of these in hand, I become a chain smoker slumped in the flashing lights of a penny slot machine, facing daunting odds and clinging to blind luck. The mafia boss of this second group is the impact screwdriver.

 

It’s a simple tool—it doesn’t even have batteries that could fail. When you need an impact screwdriver, no other tool will do, and its weight transmits the heft of this decision from fingertip to brain. Will this be an easy evening project or an all-night, “I’m not giving up until the coffee pot starts automatically brewing?” The impact screwdriver will decide the fate of your project, and the odds are not in your favor—for multiple reasons.

 

Read the full article on Hagerty.com:

https://www.hagerty.com/media/maintenance-and-tech/4-tips-to-beating-the-odds-with-an-impact-screwdr...

 

49 REPLIES 49
NITRO450EXP
Instructor

I find a little heat in the surrounding metal can give you another 20%.

Not melt everything heat, or glowing like Mars heat, just a little warming of things.

 

Nitro

Kyle
Moderator

I agree with this. When I was first learning things in the garage and buying tools to match, I learned that the ability to add heat to something is basically a superpower.
drjim
Detailer

My impact screwdriver and 5-Lb hand sledge have gotten me out of many a "tight spot". I'd never seen one until I was helping a buddy work on his motorcycle way back in high-school.

 

When I saw how well it worked, I drove by Sears on the way home and bought one.

 

But be careful, as Kyle points out. With Great Power comes Great Responsibility, and if you miss with your swing, you'll probably break something.

 

- Jim

Swamibob
Instructor

Excellent Article Kyle!  Really good point about setting the bit before you install the driver.  In some cases I wouldn't be afraid to set it with the hammer directly on the head, before setting the bit.  That impact and subsequent vibration does help to break the bonds of corrosion loose.  Then set the correct bit (as you so aptly point out, using the correct bit can be half the battle also), then don't be afraid to hit the drive like the inner Gorilla you really are.  Also a +1 on using some heat.  Excellent point by Nitro.  

Richard
Pit Crew

And NONE of the old Japanese bikes that people are using Phillips bits on are Phillips. They are JIS. That is the entire problem. 

Currently I am working on an old. BSA Royal Star and someone had gotten to it with Phillips screwdrivers. Again -NO Phillips heads to be found -all PoziDriv. 

Kyle
Moderator

That's right, the correct bit makes all the difference.
TomBrattin
Intermediate Driver

This brought back so many memories of working on our BSA dirt bikes back in the 70's.  One addition (for me with my bad aim) is a leather glove on the holding hand. Saved me many a skinned hand.

Kyle
Moderator

If I included the leather glove tip I would also have to put in a "do as I say not as I do" caveat. I really should be better about that, but I seem to always forget or think the extra 12 seconds to put a glove on is a pain. Ii'll learn the hard way soon enough.
jaydee325
Pit Crew

Most any equipment manufactured in the far east uses JIS (Japanese Industrial Standard) "phillips" screws. JIS is only looks like a phillips head screw. 

 

Buy yourself a good set of JIS screw drivers and you will hardly ever need an impact driver!

chrlsful
Instructor

just used my antique one. It's been a few yrs, forgot the pre load.  Didn't hurt. Finally remembered.  Some turn (I saw the paint seal break) but still "No".  Did it the Chad way & tacked a nut on top w/the mig.  No stoppin us now~

Bmike
Detailer

And don't forget the penetrating oil.  Liberal amounts on the fastener and in between the mating surfaces helps.  And after that?  Torch the sucker!  Nothing like the smell of burning hydrocarbons to put you in right fire and brimstone frame of mind for the destruction to follow.

oldkidchris
New Driver

Great info and humor.  

Best tip is buy HIGH quality phillips head bits. NO CHINESE, you'll pay if you do.

Solosolo
Intermediate Driver

The only tools I carried on my 1981 Harley Low Rider were an impact driver, bits, 4 lb hammer and a shifting spanner.

RobertLLR
Intermediate Driver

Every one of those tips is God's honest truth.  I do just what you said--first time, every time. Especially the first time: if it looks a bit like maybe it might need an impact driver...it absolutely does.

gmw
Pit Crew

You can also put some valve lapping compound on the bit to give it more grip on the fastener.  

OLDERbastard1
Detailer

42 years ago I bought a "Vessel" (Japanese) impact driver for just this purpose. Yes, those that have said it are correct, these are JIS (Hence the Japanese driver)! The article & subsequent tips are excellent. As was stated, (but possibly understated) was the fact that you want to use a hefty hammer. However.... it has been my experience over all these years, that it is not so much how "hard" you swing the hammer (a softer, more controlled blow is MUCH better) but to use a much heavier hammer than what has been stated. I use a 10LB "hand" sledge that is easily swung & deliver 1 controlled blow! Works almost (ALMOST) all the time when the other aforementioned factors have already been applied. As stated, make sure the hand is placed farther down on the tool, as the skin between thumb & index finger can have the tendency to overlap the head of the driver & will quickly WAKE you up to your folly.

Pomike33
Passenger

I have a one way. That means I don't have to figure out what the arrows mean in the two I've had forever. Buy cheap, you get cheap.

Zephyr
Instructor

Is THAT what that thing is. I inherited one from my father and I had no idea what it was. 

Teuffelhunden
Pit Crew

I'm a Gas and Steam Turbine and Generator Engineer who manages the maintenance and repair of such equipment in power plants. One of the things I do is as the crew is disassembling the unit or has disassembled the unit, I look at all the nuts, bolts, screws, etc. for damage caused by wrong or worn tooling, too much heat applied, not ensuring the tool is fully inserted before applying torque, and so on. Taking your time, ensuring you have the correct tool (size and shape), and that tool is in good condition will save you much agony and pain to yourself and your wallet. If your tool "is just a little worn or loose" and the hardware store just closed... LEAVE IT! Do it tomorrow or next week or whenever you have the correct, well fitting tool. Believe me, I've had plenty of pre-war projects (all the fasteners are standard screws); patience here is a must. Soak it with a good "creeping" lubricant if you can (Kroil, PB Blaster) are the best I've found. Apply it liberally of the course of a few days. If you're able, cut off the back of the fastener of it extends past the bolt. Like 'NITRO' stated, a little heat goes a long way even if applied by a "Bernz-O-Matic" torch. Heat both the fastener and around it and let it cool. Do this several times. The thermal expansion and contraction will help break up whatever has the fastener locked up. Finally, before you reach for the drill because you went ahead and rushed things and now the head is stripped or broken off; try welding a nut to the head and put a wrench or ratchet on it. Wet the nut on the head and weld inside the nut with a couple of tacks on the outside.

TenaciousT
New Driver

An easy way to tell if you have a JIS screw is it will have a dot / dimple on top of the screw !

GrayRaceCat
New Driver

For those new to fasteners, although they may look alike, JIS, Phillips and Pozidriv are NOT interchangable.
I'm not a control freak, I'm a control 'Enthusiast'.
TenaciousT
New Driver

They have a new tool out that works better for realy stuck Phillips head screws - you use it with a air hammer / impact gun . It's called a  " Shake N Break "  you stick it in the air hamer - start impacting the screw - then use the lever on the side to turn out the screw . Musti1 loves it !

Historian
Detailer

I can attest to what Kyle says about the bits that come with the driver.  Had a stuck Phillips screw.  Penetrating oil, heat, nothing helped.  Bought an impact screwdriver, found a good fitting bit, and gave it a whack.  Bit shattered like grandma's favorite china being dropped off the roof.  It exploded!

Sajeev
Community Manager

If anyone has advice on a good brand of bits to buy, I am all ears.  I have the cheapo HF impact driver and would like to upgrade the bits for when these bite the dust. (I assume the driver itself is decent enough for my minimal use) 

 

fstntq
Pit Crew

Did I miss the comment that says "make sure you have the chuck set to 'loosen'" if that in fact is what your going for?

gpsuya
Detailer

I have an old impact driver that was made in England.  No cheap Chinese bits here. Works like a charm. 

jaysalserVW
Detailer

Always use a good glove on the hand holding the Impact Tool.  If you don't--when you are older (if you are fortunate enough to reach "ripe old age") that oft smashed hand will come back to bite you!  My Impact Driver was purchased probably close to 40 years ago and has seen good and effective use.  It is as good today as it was when I purchased it from Sears-Roebuck's Craftsman line of tools.

Tinkerah
Technician

Verify the driver is set in the correct direction!

ArtQ
Passenger

I'm not a daily mechanic but after 60 years working on all sorts of stuff auto and otherwise, this tool comes out of hiding about once every two years. I give it about 1 minute of effort. No luck? I switch to just the bit itself (must fit right/tight or find the right one)... set it in with hammer like you described, but put constant torque on it with a wrench while tapping with a rather small hammer - no big hits. The combination of shock waves and the torque (be patient, might take quite a few hits) has broken more screws loose for me than the impact tool ever did. Of course you have to evaluate whether the shock risks damaging a bearing or other item back behind what you are pounding on, as always.

nwtn_124
New Driver

+1 heat.

+1 JIS screw heads. Philips cross-slot heads are *designed* to torque out, meaning the profile pushes the driver away after reaching a certain torque. JIS screws are designed for full engagement with no torque-out limit. 

+1 JIS Vessel impact screwdrivers are amazing. They have no separate bit - each driver is stand-alone with the impact mechanism built-in


These days one of the first tools I grab is my battery powered impact wrench, with a cross-slot craftsman bit (3/8” drive). I ensure I have maximum engagement with the screw, apply tons of pressure, then give it one burst. Comes out every time, and no pounding. Haven’t used the manual traditional impact screwdriver since.....

Kyle
Moderator

I recently learned about these Vessel 12-degree impact screwdrivers, and I have never spent money so quickly on tools.
wentwest
Intermediate Driver

For working on motorcycles, or anything that maybe you can't push hard against without it being unstable,  I finally got a Milwaukee "Fuel" impact tool with their quality bit.  I can hold the tool with both hands, or hold on to the bike with one hand and the tool with the other, and it seems to work well.   I use a 1200 watt heat gun to heat up everything until it's real hot.  

A Vessel JIS screwdriver, a good power impact tool and a heat gun have gotten the job done.

brb
Instructor

Ah, seeing the impact driver deployed against a Honda motorcycle brings back memories of maintaining my 1973 Honda CB500 back in the 70's and 80's.  The driver always came out to break loose the cover plate screws.

 

Two best discoveries for eliminating the impact driver: JIS screw drivers and Kano Aerokroil Penetrating Oil.

Nick_R
Navigator

Great writing! I've never reached for the impact screwdriver happy to be doing what I'm about to do. Thanks for the pointers on preparation. I would just add a small silent prayer prior to the hit.

HondaCollector
Pit Crew

I used to use the manual impact tool with limited success. I now use a cordless impact driver with the proper bit and it works 99% of the time.

Kraftwerk
New Driver

I have a very difficult to remove flat-head screw, a hull-plug on my sailboat I have to install in Spring and remove at the end of the season. in Fall.  For this I use an impact cordless drill, on the lowest setting, then work my way up until it becomes loose. Works like a charm with a bit of finesse, I recommend it over the hammer-type. 

Kraftwerk
New Driver

I have a very difficult to remove flat-head screw, a hull-plug on my sailboat I have to install in Spring and remove at the end of the season. in Fall.  For this I use an impact cordless drill, on the lowest setting, then work my way up until it becomes loose. Works like a charm with a bit of finesse, I recommend it over the hammer-type. 

OB1Kubota
New Driver

Or spend a hundred bucks on a Dewalt hammer drill. Best money I ever spent

petersalt
Detailer

uh huh .. seeing your UNGLOVED hand holding under that 4 lb hammer descending SCREAMS "I'm pretty NEW at this!!"

JeffGuinn
New Driver

Are you the same Kyle Smith who writes for National Review?

Kyle
Moderator

Nope, just two guys who happen to have the same first and last name.
Sajeev
Community Manager

I donno, Kyle Smith is an uncommon name and your twitter accounts sound very similar to me! (wink)

jsmarsh
Pit Crew

It's true that nothing will work like an impact driver. Maybe a little heat in the right place will help. It's also true that if you use a cheap tool, it can make the situation worse to non fixable, so give yourself the best chance. Buy the kit from Snap On. Shattering the bit or ruining the fastener are really depressing and sometimes very expensive. Using the right tool 2 or three times is usually worth a lot more than replacement parts and will make your investment worthwhile.
BiscuitTin
Pit Crew

I'd really love to get this for hubby for Christmas. In searching, I found impact screwdrivers listed as 3/8 drive and 1/2 drive. Which size do you recommend? Also, you mention purchasing good bits which do not come with the impact screwdriver. Can you suggest a manufacturer or two? Sorry, I have no knowledge about these things. But if I can get some good tools, hubby will be very impressed. Please help. Cheers!
Sajeev
Community Manager

3/8" drive is probably more useful for most needs, that is the one I recommend. 

BiscuitTin
Pit Crew

Thank you very much. By chance, can you recommend a brand of bits? So many companies I grew up with have been bought out, and I'm not sure what is or isn't reliable now. Thank you!
Sajeev
Community Manager

I wish I knew, as I need to buy higher quality bits for mine too!!! At this point I am likely to just buy multiples of the same bit, as they are cheap enough to make it worth keeping them around. 🙁

BiscuitTin
Pit Crew

I've tried to do a little research on bits. It looks like Milwaukee Shockwave have a good reputation. I'm going to give them a try. Happy Holidays!
hyperv6
Engineer

Never had any love for this tool. I generally have had other options that were more successful I use as a go to.

The real issues is most impact drivers are not generally well built tools. People just don’t invest much in tools that generally don’t work well. Most are from some u. Named company from China at a low price hence broken bits.

Like stated often the fastener is already damaged and often these just create more damage.

My small electric impact driver has been a greater help along with heat or lubrication.