best impact driver for automotive use

Best Impact Driver for Automotive Use

Power Tools Report put 20+ best impact driver for automotive use through a wide range of evaluations, and 10 of those are mentioned in our search for the best 12v impact driver. When it was all over, two models rose above all the others, and they’re both red.

Best Impact Driver for Automotive Use

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551

The Milwaukee 2553’s dominance of the best impact driver for automotive use class finally comes to an end thanks to… another M12 Fuel product. When we tallied up the final scored, the M12 Fuel Surge took over the top overall spot. Not to worry, though, our beloved 2553 is less than a point behind in second place.

High Rated Best Impact Driver for Automotive Use

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact Driver 2553

DeWalt 12V Brushless Impact Driver DCF801

Best Impact Driver for Automotive Use Speed

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact Driver

The M12 Fuel Surge may score slightly higher overall, but the Milwaukee 2553 is the best impact driver for automotive use and also best 12v impact driver in terms of speed. The Surge did place second, though, and put a big gap on the rest of the field.

Also Pushing Good Speed

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge

Best Impact Driver for Automotive Use Torque

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge

In both our fastening and nut-busting tests, the Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge topped the charts. It’s the first best impact driver for automotive use that we’ve had hit 1000+ in-lbs in our fastening test and the first to break 2000+ in-lbs in our nut-busting test.

Best Impact Driver for Automotive Use Noise Level

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge

Now that Milwaukee has a 12V hydraulic impact driver, the noise level test is a shoo-in for the Surge. At 87 decibels, it has a 6-decibel lead over DeWalt’s 12V brushless model, giving it a sound pressure level 4 times lower than its closest competition!

Best 12v Impact Driver

Bosch 12V Impact Driver PS42

Moving onto size doesn’t move us away from Milwaukee, but it does introduce a couple of other brands. Ridgid’s 12v impact driver has the smallest overall footprint, though both the M12 Fuel impact driver and Surge have slightly smaller head lengths.

Bosch takes the win for the lightest overall 12V impact driver, weighing just 2.1 pounds with its 2.0Ah battery. When you put both size and weight together, Bosch also comes away as the most compact best 12v impact driver we tested.

Other Super-Compact Options

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact Driver

Ridgid 12V Impact Driver

Best 12V Impact Driver Value

Ridgid 12V Impact Driver

Ridgid and Skil put up a tough fight for the best value. Skil’s $99 kit price is compelling and its performance is impressive for what’s allegedly a DIY tool. Ridgid comes away with the win thanks to a $119 kit price that includes two batteries and a drill to go along with its design and performance.

More Excellent Value

Skil PWRCore 12 Brushless Impact Driver ID574401

Metabo HPT 12V Impact Driver WH10DFL2

Testing Results

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Speed Under Load

Measuring the fastening speed while setting a 1/4″ ledger screw, Milwaukee (397 RPM) cruised in for the best impact driver for automotive use with its M12 Fuel impact driver.  The M12 Fuel Surge (346 RPM) settled into second place ahead of Bosch (283 RPM) in third.

Efficiency

Fastening efficiency is a measure of how much effort an impact driver has to use to drive a ledger screw. We compare the RPMs it’s driving under load to the RPMs we measured with no load. The higher the percentage, the less strain the motor is under and the longer it’s likely to last.

While none of these impact drivers are nearly as efficient as their 18V cousins, several rise above the rest. Metabo HPT (12.7%) takes the win over Milwaukee’s M12 Fuel (12.4%) with Bosch (12.2%) putting in a good run in third.

Fastening Torque

Please realize that our torque tests do not and cannot replace how manufacturers test for their specifications. Head over to the testing methods section on our main saws reviews page to see the details.

In fastening torque, The Milwaukee M12 Surge makes its presence felt by setting new heights for 12V impact driver fastening torque. It took 1026 in-lbs of torque to break loose the hardened nut it set, well ahead of the M12 Fuel impact driver (804 in-lbs) and Skil (732 in-lbs).

Nut-Busting Torque

Who knew that a 12V impact driver could break 200 ft-lbs of torque?!?! Milwaukee’s M12 Fuel Surge (2400 in-lbs) did it and set another power benchmark for the class at the same time. Milwaukee and Skil both break 1680 in-lbs to put a big lead over Bosch in fourth place.

Weight

Bosch (2.1 pounds) claims the best impact driver for automotive use title as they are lightest in this class, though it’s not a runaway. DeWalt’s 12V brushless and Milwaukee M12 Fuel both weigh 2.2 pounds with their 2.0Ah batteries and others are not far behind.

Footprint

Head length is the most critical dimension when you’re looking for an impact driver that can fit into small spaces. DeWalt’s 12V brushless model is just 5.1″ long and takes the win with Milwaukee’s Surge and M12 Fuel impact driver just 0.1″ longer.

If you’re concerned about height, Ridgid is the shortest at 6.0″ and Bosch is just 6.3″. Both Milwaukee models and DeWalt’s brushed wrap up the sub-7″ part of the group at 6.8″.

Feature Set

Best 12v impact driver aren’t quite as feature-rich as the 18V models, but there are still some things worth pointing out before you make a decision on which one to bring home.

Bosch 12V PS42

  • Brushless motor
  • 2 speeds
  • 3 LED light ring around the chuck

DeWalt 12V Brushless DCF801

  • Brushless motor
  • 2 speeds plus precision assist mode
  • 3-LED light ring around the chuck
  • One-hand bit insertion
  • Spring bit ejection

DeWalt 12V DCF815

  • Brushed motor
  • 1 speed
  • One-hand bit insertion
  • Spring bit ejection

Hilti 12V SID 2-A

Makita 12V CXT DT03

Metabo HPT 12V WH10DFL2

Milwaukee M12 Fuel 2553

  • Brushless motor
  • 3 speeds plus self-tapping screw assist mode
  • One-hand bit insertion

Ridgid 12V R82230

Skil PWRCore 12 ID5774401

  • Brushless motor
  • 2 speeds
  • LED halo around the chuck
  • USB charging port on the battery
  • PWRJump rapid charger available as an option
  • One-hand bit insertion

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551

  • Hydraulic impact drive
  • Brushless motor
  • 3 speeds plus self-tapping screw assist mode
  • One-hand bit insertion

Noise Level

Thankfully, 12v drivers give our ears a break over their noisy 18V cousins, but they’re still pretty loud. Well, except the M12 Fuel Surge. Using an SPL meter to measure, its 87-decibel average is 6 decibels lower than DeWalt’s 12V brushless at 93.

Just how big of a deal are 6 decibels? The sound pressure level (what actually does the damage to your ears) is 4 times lower for the Surge than its closest competition! You can read more about the relationship between decibels, sound pressure level, and perceived loudness here.

Value

For us, value is so much more than just a price list. It’s how that price compares to the performance, design, and a host of other considerations that play into your experience as an owner of that tool. We put all of that data into our algorithm to calculate what that value is.

Ridgid comes away as best impact driver for automotive use and also the winner, thanks in large part to a $119 price tag that includes two batteries and a drill as part of the deal. Skil also scores very high for $99 with Metabo HPT’s $80 kit coming in third.

Price List

Note: Prices are at the time of writing.

  • Bosch 12V Brushless PS42: $119 bare, $139 kit (2 x 2.0Ah)
  • DeWalt 12V Brushless DCF801: $99 bare, $139 kit (2 x 2.0Ah)
  • DeWalt 12V DCF815: $119.99 kit (2 x 1.3Ah)
  • Hilti 12V SID 2-A: $59 bare, $150 kit (2 x 2.6Ah)
  • Makita 18V CXT DT03: $39.99 bare, $99 (2 x 2.0Ah)
  • Metabo HPT 12V WH10DFL2: $82.79 kit (2 x 1.3Ah)
  • Milwaukee M12 Fuel 2553: $119 bare, $169 kit (2 x 2.0)
  • Ridgid 12V R82230: $119 kit (1 x 2.0Ah, 1 x 4.0Ah, drill)
  • Skil PWRCore 12 Brushless ID 574401: $59.99 bare, $99.99 kit (1 x 2.0Ah, PWRJump charger upgrade)
  • Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551: $149 bare, $199 kit (2 x 2.0Ah)

Best Impact Driver for Automotive Use – Rankings

  1. Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551 – best impact driver for automotive use
  2. Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact Driver 2553
  3. DeWalt 12V Brushless Impact Driver DCF801 – best 12v impact driver
  4. Bosch 12V Brushless Impact Driver PS42
  5. Skil 12V Brushless Impact Driver ID574401
  6. Metabo HPT (Hitachi) 12V Impact Driver WH10DFL2
  7. Hilti 12V Impact Driver SID 2-A
  8. DeWalt 12V Impact Driver DCF815
  9. Ridgid 12V Impact Driver R82230
  10. Makita 12V CXT Impact Driver DT03

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