How to Use a Manual Impact Driver… And Why?

How to Use a Manual Impact Driver... And Why?

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If you consider yourself – to any extent – handy, then you surely know what an impact driver is.

And, if you found yourself on this page, then you likely also know where its name comes from. It comes from the electric tool’s predecessor, manual impact driver, which was designed to deliver a shock-torque impulse after being struck (“impacted”) with a hammer.

In this article, I’ll teach you how to use a manual impact driver, step-by-step. I will also tell you when you might want to consider using the tool – especially so compared to its more modern counterpart.

A Step-by-Step Guide toUsing a Manual Impact Driver

When you first get your manual impact driver, you might look at it and wonder “how the hell is this thing supposed to work?” Don’t worry, though – as you’ll find out below and once you use it, it’s a very simple to use and effective tool.

Manual Impact Driver

Step 1: Safety and Preparation

Just like with any other tool, before actually using it, make sure you have all the right safety gear.

In the case of a manual impact driver, you will want work gloves (the thicker the better) to mitigate injuries potentially caused by striking your hand with a hammer. You will also want safety glasses to prevent debris from flying into your eyes.

Once you’ve taken care of the above, prepare the tool. In other words, make sure you have the right size bit of the right shape (oftentimes a Phillips bit) and attach it to the driver.

At this point, also make sure the impact driver is set in the right mode (loosening vs. tightening). Remember, “lefty loosey, righty tighty.”

Step 2: Position the Tool Properly

With the manual impact driver ready, you will want to place the bit into the screw’s drive. Just like when using a regular screwdriver, you will want the bit to fit in as nicely as possible and you will want to hold the tool straight to avoid stripping the screw.

If you are working with an older screw or a screw that’s been exposed to a lot of dust, etc., you might need to clean its drive a bit before positioning the driver.

Step 3: Apply the Right Pressure

This is another step that is very similar to using a regular screwdriver. Before proceeding to the next one, you have to apply pressure in two directions.

You have to apply downward pressure so that the impact driver presses on the screw. You also have to apply torque – i.e. rotational force. That should, of course, be in the direction you want to turn the screw in. Generally left for loosening and right for tightening.

Step 4: Strike the Manual Impact Driver

Now it’s finally the time to take your hammer and strike the top of the impact driver carefully. Depending on how stuck the screw you are working with is (in case you are trying to loosen one), it might require anywhere from one or two all the way to five or ten strikes to get it loose.

How to Use a Manual Impact Driver

Step 5: Switch the Tool If Necessary

Finally, once your screw is loose, switch the tool to a regular screwdriver, a power impact driver, or similar. That way, you will be able to get it out much faster since – while effective – a manual impact driver is a fairly slow tool.

Video: How to Use a Manual Impact Driver

If there is a step above that is not clear – or you simply prefer visuals – you can check the video below which will take you through the whole process of loosening a stuck screw using a manual impact driver.

When Should You Use a Manual Impact Driver?

In the world where you can get a power impact driver for way less than a hundred dollars, you might be wondering why you would want to get a manual one. I’d say there are two main reasons.

First, even though power impact drivers are cheap, manual ones are even cheaper. As such, if you only need to loosen a stuck screw or two, getting a manual one rather than a power one will save you some money.

Second – and more important – manual impact drivers allow for much greater control than power impact drivers. They are much better at taking out stuck screws as they are much less likely to strip them.


If you need to get out a screw that is stuck in your workpiece and are afraid that using a power impact driver is going to strip it, then using a manual impact driver is potentially the perfect solution.

Using the tool itself is fairly easy. Simply get the right bit attached to it, place it in the screw’s drive and make sure it’s straight, apply downward pressure and torque, and strike.

Depending on how stuck your screw is, you will need to strike the driver repeatedly.

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