Can a cordless impact driver be used for lug nut removal? I’ve been asked this question a couple of time via email, and have seen it asked in reader comments as well.
Technically, the answer is yes. Realistically, the answer is no.
A quick glance at a lug nut torque chart shows that most lug nuts should be torqued between 80 and 100 ft-lbs. Some require less torque, others more. But for the purpose of this discussion, let’s say that a lug nut must be torqued to 100 ft-lbs.
100 ft-lbs is the same as 1200 in-lbs.
Many 18V-class impact drivers can achieve this torque, and Milwaukee’s M12 Fuel impact driver tops out at 1200 in-lbs.
But does this mean that these impact drivers can remove lug nuts for tire removal? No. Here’s why:
Lug nuts can become stuck, or frozen.
Lug nuts can become rusted.
Lug nuts might have been over-tightened during previous servicing.
If you tighten a lug nut to 100 ft-lbs, you should be able to immediately remove it using a tool that can deliver 100 ft-lbs of torque. There are some factors that might make this untrue, but under ideal conditions, a fastener tightened to a certain torque should require similar torque for removal.
But time and environmental conditions often require that a lot more torque be used.
So while you can remove lug nuts with an impact driver, it might not be the best idea to buy one with that in mind for its primary purpose. You might sometimes, or even occasionally, need something more powerful to break stubborn lug nuts free.
What about a compact impact wrench?
A number of brands offer cordless impact drivers, compact impact wrenches, and heavy duty impact wrenches. Impact wrenches, even compact ones, are usually more powerful than impact drivers.
Milwaukee’s M18 Fuel line, for example, are fairly powerful and capable of delivering 210 to 220 ft lbs of torque.
You should be able to remove even stubborn lug nuts with more powerful compact impact wrenches, but there are times when heavy duty impact wrenches are better choices. Even if a compact impact can get the job done, a heavy duty impact can be faster.
Consider this analogy: Let’s say you give a toddler a toy, treat, or something else they find desirable. Then try to take it away. Takes a lot more effort, doesn’t it?
What do you use for removing lug nuts? Have you ever tried using an impact driver with socket adapter?