Air wrenches are the most powerful on the market, and while having a noisy compressor is often undesirable it’s the only way you’ll get a truly powerful tool. There are loads of options when buying a wrench but the best pneumatic wrench will remove that tough nut fast. When looking for an air wrench you’ll need to start with how much power you need. That means looking at torque and minimal effort on your part. Whether you want a reliable and well-known brand or a bargain entry level wrench you’re going to want the best pneumatic wrench for your money.
The difference between electric wrenches and pneumatic wrenches are that the pneumatics are powered by compressed air. These also require an extra air compressor and not just a battery or plug. There are 5 common sizes ranging from 0.25-1” drives and larger drives can exert torque as high as 3,000ft.lb. The best pneumatic wrench can last all day as long as the compressor is running but still use the same hammer and anvil principal that electric wrenches use. The biggest disadvantage to pneumatic wrenches is that it’s often difficult to control the power, and with the higher power it’s easy to strip out or break a screw if you’re not careful.
BOSTITCH BTMT72391 Impact Wrench
This wrench has power and performance in a durable wrench with a 1/2” drive. This is a twin hammer drive that produces high torque housed in an aluminum frame that is light and durable. There’s also a switch to adjust power regulation over three settings so you’re less likely to damage your bolts. The rubberized handle makes it easy to handle even with grease or water on your hands.
The load is up to 500ft.lb of torque which isn’t huge but it’s also less than $100 so you’re looking at a cheaper product.
The bottom exhaust is easy to maneuver and you’ll need to keep the 3/8 hose rather than trying to use an adapter and another size as it throttles the wrench and impedes the power.
The reverse setting does not have multiple power options, and even the forward setting doesn’t give consistent power between the three modes.
Unlike electric wrenches there’s also no lights and no frills. It’s also questionable if the 500ft.lb boast is close to true as it struggles at only half that.
AIRCAT 1150 Killer Torque Impact Wrench
With a well-known brand name the Aircat produces an impressive 1295ft.lb of torque and 1400 hits per minute. It’s twin hammer driven
, the same as the Bostitch, which makes it extremely strong. The tool is fairly lightweight in comparison to others on the market.
The handle has an ergonomic grip to make using it for a longer time easier. There’s also a special exhaust system which produces a very quiet 86 decibel output and a large rotor for better power.
There’s a lot of shake when using this which makes it difficult to use for long periods and can shake parts loose like the snap ring.
It’s powerful but isn’t suited for heavy duty jobs because of this. The rating is also misleading as the wrench is only really functional up to about 500ft.lb.
Ingersoll-Rand 2135TiMAX Air Impact Wrench
IR is known as a great brand for tools, but it’s also costly because of that. With a lightweight tool at under 4lb this is a very maneuverable tool. It’s maximum 780ft.lb power seems low compared to the Aircat but it’s genuinely got that power consistently which is more important.
Considered to have the best power-to-weight ratio in this class the sensitive trigger also helps to produce excellent control and performance. The power regulator dial also helps to make the pressure adjustable so that it’s fully adjustable. The four positions give this the widest range of settings of any here.
The wrench also has a standard 1/2” driver and is considered to be a very durable wrench if maintained properly.
While this has extra power it’s also not a twin anvil drive so while there’s extra torque it’s impact isn’t as great as the Aircat or the Bostitch and uses a 1/2” hose which actually seems to impede the power.
NitroCat 1200-K Kevlar Composite Air Impact Wrench
The durable casing is made of kevlar so this can really take a beating. The 86 decibel quiet technology is comparable to that of the Aircat and uses similar technology.
The twin clutch mechanism adds extra power to it’s hitting capacity with a torque capacity of 1295ft.lb which is a step up from the dual hammer of the Aircat.
The 3/8 hose is comparable to the Bostitch and it also has a weight of 4.5lb which is quite easy to handle. Like the Aircat, the Nitrocat exhausts through the handle so you don’t have to worry about debris or back-pressure.
The flip lever is a little fiddly to operate when switching back and forth between forwards and reverse.
There’s no case and it’s also got a rounded anvil which can damage sockets over time. In fact, the whole assembly seems to have issues with heavy use and longevity.
Ingersoll-Rand 231C Air Impact Wrench
This is a long running product that has been around almost 25 years. It’s both powerful and versatile at only 7” and just over 5lb. The max 425ft.lb torque might not seem like much but it also has variable power and 8000 RPM which more than makes up for it.
The performance is seamless and reliable. This factor alone made us give Ingersoll the best pneumatic wrench award.
There’s an adjustable power regulator and an option for reverse while choosing the power output. It has a patented impact system that uses twin hammers and a unique construction that breaks down into 2 pieces.
The sleek handle looks great but can end up slick and hard to hold and there’s no noise reduction included so it’s quite loud in comparison.
The trigger is a little poor in quality and is the first thing to break but it’s repairable.
If you’re price conscious but still want performance go for the IR 231C, it’s a longtime workhorse that produces what it says it does, unlike the Bostitch which is questionable. For high performance, the IR 2315 can’t be beat because of the dual-clutch system, but it’s also costly. The IR 2315 is also the most durable, though the 231C isn’t far behind. Overall, Ingersoll-Rand is the all-around winner when it comes to picking the best pneumatic wrench.