Looking for the best cordless impact ratchets & drivers on the market? Well, to help you choose one, we’ve put some of the best head to head.
Power tools can be much less time-consuming than using wrenches/spanners and traditional socket ratchet drivers. However, when it comes to small fittings that aren’t particularly tight, you don’t need an electric or air-fed high-torque impact driver that could shear a bolt head or strip a thread with one slip of your trigger finger. Instead, there are a number of compact cordless power tools that aren’t so aggressive and are small enough to fit into tight spaces.
We collected an assortment of them from manufacturers including Draper, Sealey, and Milwaukee, and put them to the test over several months. Find out the results below.
How we tested these products
We considered several methods of testing the impact drivers and ratchets we selected. For instance, we could have compared their accuracy for tightening a nut and bolt to their maximum claimed torque setting, but we realized this wasn’t the point of buying such equipment. Instead, we used the tools for several months to see which ones were easiest to operate, could get into tight spots, and were reliable.
We handed them all over to a trusted garage, MJ Motors, whose mechanics were happy to compare and contrast the tools. After several weeks, we realized the tools had become quite grimy with dirt and grease, so we tried to clean them, which helped us evaluate their exterior coatings and establish which tools will still look good after prolonged use. General wear and tear is, however, impossible to compare unless each piece of equipment is used for the same tasks and the same length of time. Overall though, we’re happy that we’ve managed to collect a good deal of well-rounded, user-focused feedback.
Best Cordless Impact Ratchets & Drivers
At a glance:
- Best Buy: Sealey CP1204KIT Wrench. RRP: £173.94, buy now. Not available in the US.
- Best Budget Buy: Draper Storm Force 10.8V Cordless Ratchet. RRP: £70.05, buy now. Not available in the US.
- Editor’s Choice: Sealey CP1202KIT Ratchet. RRP: £83.94, buy now. Not available in the US.
- Recommended: Milwaukee M12 IR-201B. RRP: £199.99, buy now. Not available in the US.
Sealey CP1204KIT Wrench
Award: Best Buy
RRP: £173.94, buy now. Not available in the US.
The Sealey CP1204KIT impact wrench is powered by a 12V 1.5Ah lithium-ion battery, which you can recharge in one hour. This impact driver has a 3/8in square drive, so it can be fitted with a number of impact sockets. Producing a maximum of 80Nm of torque, we found this to be more than adequate for undoing small fittings and, due to the compact size of the driver, it can be squeezed into some tight spots. There’s a variable speed trigger and the usual lock function to prevent the impact wrench accidentally operating. Unlike the impact ratchets we tested, the impact drivers don’t provide as much kickback when they attempt to undo a fastening that’s too tight or when they fully tighten a nut or bolt, because the motor absorbs more of the impact.
With only two impact drivers/wrenches to test, and both of them being from Sealey, the choice of which one is best is quite straightforward. This cheaper tool is suited for lighter jobs and occasional use, whereas the Premier driver (scroll down further) can cope with bigger jobs. Despite our professional test mechanics favoring the Premier brand for daily use, this driver at a third of the price is more suited for the average DIYer, unless you regularly tackle bigger jobs. And being the most compact tool on test, it ticks more boxes as an all-round battery-operated impact tool.
Draper Storm Force 10.8V Cordless Ratchet
Award: Best Budget Buy
RRP: £70.05, buy now. Not available in the US.
Draper’s Storm Force range of 10.8V cordless power tools all use the same batteries and include a combination drill, ¼in impact driver, reciprocating saw and this impact ratchet. A flat battery should take one hour to recharge. This cordless ratchet has a 3/8in square drive, making it suitable for fitting impact sockets. There’s also an LED light to help illuminate the work area.
It’s approximately the same size as the Milwaukee M12 IR-201B and very similar in design to the Sealey ratchet, right down to the shape of the metal trigger and the three lights on the body to indicate the state of the battery life. Draper’s impact ratchet has a maximum torque of 45Nm, which is the same as the equivalent Sealey (below) and 2Nm less than the Milwaukee. However, we’ve concluded that a high-torque value isn’t required for most situations where you’re tightening small fittings and risk potentially overtightening them. If you can’t undo a fitting because the impact ratchet cannot produce enough torque, then you can use it like a manual ratchet driver.
As we discovered with all impact ratchets, once they lock up when attempting to tighten or loosen a fitting, this provides some kickback in the body, which can transfer to your wrist. Overall, this impact ratchet worked just as effectively as the one from Sealey.
Sealey CP1202KIT Ratchet
Award: Editor’s Choice
RRP: £83.94, buy now. Not available in the US.
With the same size and design of body and battery as Draper’s Storm Force, Sealey’s impact ratchet has a lithium-ion 12V 1.5Ah battery instead of Draper’s 10.8V. Supplied as a kit with a canvas bag, there are two batteries and a charger, which promises a recharge time of one hour. There’s a battery status indicator on the charger, as well as three lights on the body of the ratchet to show the charge status.
The 3/8in square drive on the end of the impact ratchet enables you to fit a wide range of mid-sized impact sockets. Just like all the impact ratchets we’re testing, the Sealey tool can be used as a manual ratchet driver if required, which is safer when attempting to undo a stubborn nut and bolt – all the impact ratchets kick back a little when they cannot undo a fastening. With a maximum torque of 45Nm (the same as the Draper and 2Nm less than the Milwaukee), we found this to be sufficient for undoing and tightening the majority of small fittings.
If you want a budget-priced impact ratchet, then it’s a tough choice between this one and Draper’s Storm Force. Shopping around for deals may help you decide, so check out the promotions below:
Milwaukee M12 IR-201B
RRP: £199.99, buy now. Not available in the US.
Mechanic Dan Smith at MJ Motors already uses one of these battery-powered impact ratchets and, after trying all of the other tools, he still favored the Milwaukee. The compact driver is only powerful enough to tighten a fastening up to 47Nm, so we struggled to undo stubborn brake caliper slider bolts, but we could use it like a manual ratchet driver and undo the fastening, before finishing off with battery-powered assistance. Even at a mere 47Nm, there was quite a kickback from the ratchet when it locked and couldn’t undo or tighten a fastening any further. However, this is typical of the battery-powered ratchet drivers we tested, due to their design.
A metal paddle switch provides variable control of the trigger when operating, and illumination from an LED helps to highlight the work area and remains lit after releasing the trigger. Plus, there is a bank of LEDs on the body of the driver to show the state of charge of the battery, which takes 40 minutes to fully recharge.
After several weeks of use, this impact ratchet was looking well and truly filthy, so we carefully and gently cleaned it using a soap-soaked pan scourer. We had to take care not let any liquid drip through the vents on the body, which could cause a short circuit, but afterwards the impact ratchet looked as good as new.
Sealey Premier 14.4V Impact Driver
Sealey’s Premier range of impact drivers and ratchets are a step above the entry-level models in terms of features, performance and price. For the extra money, you get a couple of 14.4V 2.0Ah lithium-ion batteries with a 40-minute recharge time, plus a two-year warranty (one year for the 12V impact ratchet and driver). However, the biggest selling point has got to be its maximum torque, which is a whopping 140Nm – that’s enough to slacken and tighten most wheel nuts! And there’s no kickback from the driver when you tighten a fitting to this amount or can’t undo something.
Of all the impact drivers on test, this was the favorite with the mechanics and apprentices at MJ Motors because it was sufficiently compact to squeeze into tight spots and offered a greater range of torque. Mechanic Mike Smith said this one feels better to handle and seems to be well-balanced. Our only reservation concerns overtightening, but with a variable speed trigger you can control this. However, we concluded that if you don’t need the extra torque, the cheaper 12V driver is just as useful. After several months of use we discovered that sockets were often difficult to remove from the 3/8in square end of the driver, suggesting the ball bearing that helps to keep a socket securely fitted may have become clogged with dirt.
Sealey Premier 14.4V Impact Ratchet
On paper, Sealey’s top-of-the-range impact ratchet seems impressive, with power supplied by a 14.4V 2.0Ah lithium-ion battery (there’s a spare included) that can be recharged in 40 minutes. This impact ratchet offers the highest maximum torque of all the ratchets we’re testing at 68Nm. Sadly, some of our testers found it too bulky to squeeze into tight spots. It’s bigger than the other impact ratchets and the weight of the battery unbalances it, making it awkward to use. It offers all the great features of the impact ratchets we tested: a light for illumination, a variable speed trigger (with lockout) and a 3/8in square drive, but its bulky size lets it down.
You could argue that’s the price you pay for a more powerful battery that produces more torque and possibly lasts longer, so if you can put up with the larger size, it’s worth considering.
After several weeks of use, the body of the Sealey unit had not only become dirty, but some of the grey paint had worn off. This may have been our fault through use and abuse, but it possibly highlights the fact that the other tools, with their plastic and rubber coatings, are more durable.