Power Tools: Air Tools or Cordless Tools?

When it comes to DIY auto repair, you can do a lot of things with a basic set of hand tools. With a decent set of wrenches, pliers, ratchets, and sockets, plus a few other specialty tools and a repair manual, you could rebuild an entire vehicle. Still, there are times when maybe you need a little more power, or you want to get things done just a bit faster. Power tools can give you the “little more,” but should you go with air tools, cordless tools, corded tools, or a mix?

Power Tools Compared – Pros and Cons

Today, there is a great variety of power tools that can give anyone more power and more speed, whether it’s loosening, tightening, cutting, bending, even breaking. Generally, we can round them up into three categories: air tools, cordless tools, and corded tools, each with advantages and disadvantages.

  • Air Tools are most associated with auto repair, the loud rapping of an impact wrench. Invented in 1890, air tools or pneumatic tools are the de facto standard in auto repair shops. Air tools are powerful, some impact wrenches capable of over 20,000 ft•lb breaking torque – only hydraulic tools are more powerful. Because the power source is external, air tools are lighter. In auto shops, air compressors can be installed out of the way, air lines running throughout. In your garage, compressor budget and space may be limited but you can use a compressor for many applications.
  • Cordless Tools are the newcomer, introduced in the 1960s, but a revolution in battery technology gave them the boost to compete with air-tools power and practicality. Years ago, battery tools were weaker and slower, barely useful in busy operations. Today, cordless tools rival air tools for power and speed, plus completely portable. Interesting for this tire swap job to be done quickly.  This rechargeable cordless work light puts light where you need it in multiple ways. Batteries need time to recharge, so multiple chargers and batteries might be necessary to keep powered up in a busy shop. Also, batteries have a limited lifespan.
  • Corded Tools are just over a century old, the first “portable” electric drill introduced in 1916, but seldom seen in auto repair shops. Common corded tools include drills, saws, sanders, and buffers, most of which have air-powered or cordless alternatives. High-amperage tools, like inductive heaters, heat guns, and soldering irons are almost exclusively corded.

How to Choose Power Tools for Yourself

To summarize, air tools are lighter and more powerful, while cordless tools are easier to maintain and more convenient. When it comes to price, comparing air tools (air compressor, hoses, and tools) and cordless tools (chargers, batteries, and tools), there’s little difference. Some tools only exist in one form, like impact hammers and soldering irons. Corded tools are stronger than cordless tools but can be deadly if the insulation frays and creates a short circuit. Fire or electrocution is not something you want to experience.

When it comes to choosing power tools for your shop, garage, or toolbox, it all comes down to choosing what works best for you and your situation. For mobility, cordless is the way to go, completely untethered by air hoses or extension cords. For power, air tools can do pretty much everything you need them to do, but cordless tools are comparable in capability. In a shop, an air compressor makes your choices easier, but at home might be unjustifiable.

Check out all the power tools available at napacanada.com or trust one of our 600 NAPA AUTOPRO shops for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on choosing power tools, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.

By Benjamin Jerew

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