Makita Impact Wrench review 18V Cordless

In motorsport there is not much time to work on cars during an event. With rally racing there is usually only a few minutes to service (check, adjust and repair) each car before it is due back out on another stage. With limited time, the last thing we need is to be spending precious seconds with manual tools removing or replacing bolts or lug (wheel) nuts. In the past we used air operated impact wrenches to perform all the loosening/tightening work when on rallies or in the workshop. Using air tools had its issues, namely air lines caused regular trip hazards and the air impact wrenches were bulky and hard to get into some places. We also had to cart heavy compressors and other equipment around with us that took up valuable space. When we switched over to Makita cordless impact wrenches, there was a quantum leap forward in our operations. Gone were the air lines, compressors and bulky tools all in one go. In their place were light weight (3.7lbs/1.6kg) manoeuvrable and powerful tools.
The first full test for our new tool was (not surprisingly) on a rally. We were a bit short of service crew with just 2 of us at that event and had 3 rally cars to look after. One of us was using a 18V Hitachi cordless impact wrench and the other the 18V LXT Makita Impact wrench. Both units are comparable in weight and size so it was an “apples with apples” test.

We decided the best approach was to take a side of the car each and work on one rally car at a time as they came into service. That meant that straight up, the impact wrenches would be removing 10 wheel nuts from each car when we removed tyres and then they would tackle anything else we needed to remove or replace, before we fitted new wheels/tyres and tightened the wheel nuts.

As the first car rolled into service and the clock started ticking we removed the wheels. Straight away we noticed it took a few seconds less for the Makita impact wrench to remove the wheel nuts than the Hitachi. As a side note, all wheel nuts are tensioned to 90 ft/lb with a torque wrench so there was no difference in the wheel nut torques. After checking everything, the impact wrenches were used to re-install the wheel nuts. During the day the rally cars were serviced 3 times each. Occasionally the Hitachi needed a little extra help to loosen wheel nuts, whilst the Makita removed the nuts without issue. At the end of the rally we’d each removed and replaced 90 wheel nuts plus a few other bolts/nuts here and there. The Makita was still on its first battery, whilst the Hitachi battery went flat part way through the last service and was changed. Charging time of the 3Ah Makita batteries is just 22 minutes with supplied quick charger.

Makita claim the impact wrench has a torque of  170ft-lbs/230Nm. We think this figure may be slightly on the conservative side as when checking with a torque wrench, we have found greater tensions on some nuts we have tightened with the cordless impact wrench. Like many 18V tools in their range, Makita have fitted a LED to the front of the cordless impact wrench which we find brilliant in hard to see areas and especially when we are servicing on a rally in the dark.

When installing nuts or bolts it is advisable to start the nut/bolt thread by hand and check before using an impact wrench. Whilst the tool can turn very slowly it is easy to cross thread if the angle of the nut/bolt is wrong and has not been started correctly. With the torque available a pull of the trigger can quickly result in a stripped thread.

The  impact wrench does not have torque settings on the tool and the torque applied depends on how long you hold the trigger. Care is needed not to over tighten. With all nuts and bolts we tighten, we always check with a torque wrench to ensure the correct torque. Another word of caution; when using an impact wrench, impact sockets should be used. Impact sockets are less brittle than standard sockets and will not shatter under impact. Standard sockets have been known to shatter when used on impact wrenches and serious injury can result.

We found the Makita cordless impact wrench will also remove larger nuts such as Drive Shaft nuts without trouble and even some of the bigger nuts and bolts on a  4×4.