Brushless Impact Drivers: The Better Choice for Performance

Last Updated on August 3, 2023 by Web Operator

An impact driver is a fantastic tool to have at your disposal, and it’s certainly something I would recommend everyone have in their toolbox. But if you want the best version out there, then I suggest brushless impact drivers as they are superior for several different reasons.

However, this is not a simple thing to talk about. Instead, we have so many different aspects to cover to ensure you have the correct information related to the reasons why brushless impact drivers are better.

You see, when impact drivers first emerged, the motors would contain brushes. This is common among all sorts of power tools. Yet, technology has changed and improved, and one area where there has been a change is the disappearance of brushes contained within the motor. 

But that then opens up an important question that I need to answer. Are brushless impact drivers better? Is there even a difference in quality between brush motors and brushless motors?

This is crucial because you always want to get your hands on the best power tool for your budget. So, knowing in advance if you should buy a brushless version or one that uses brushes does appear to be pretty fundamental.

But in just a few minutes, you will have a better understanding of all of this and allow you to go ahead and make that decision, and do so before you hand over any cash. After all, I don’t want you to go ahead and potentially choose the wrong one. 

are brushless impact drivers better

Are Brushless Impact Drivers Better?

I’m going to dive in and answer the question straight away before I then go ahead and explain the answer I’m giving.

I feel that brushless impact drivers are better than those options that come with brushes, and there are several reasons why that’s the case. But I would always suggest you purchase a brushless model over anything else, and it will result in you owning the perfect tool capable of performing significantly better than you had ever hoped.

But don’t just take my word for it regarding this answer. Instead, I will explain why a brushless version is better than any other option.

Yet, the first thing I’m going to do is tell you more about what an impact driver is and what you can then use it for. This is important because you will then learn what the key components are of an impact driver and the difference a brushless motor then makes to its potential capabilities. 

So, Why is a Brushless Impact Driver Better?

a brushless impact driver

I’m going to dive back into the question I posed at the outset regarding why a brushless impact driver is better, and I see this for several reasons.

I stated how the critical component of an impact driver is its power, so the fact a brushless motor has been proven to generate up to 35% more power is a huge deal. That does mean it’s far more efficient at the job it was designed for when compared to a brush version. 

Also, as there’s less chance of the motor breaking down thanks to dust or overheating, I also feel reliability is far superior with a brushless model. I always want to own power tools that I feel I can trust to not simply break down on me, and a brushless impact driver is undoubtedly something that falls into that category.

But those are not the only reasons why I feel a brushless model is best.

It’s also smaller in size and generally lighter as well. This is because the motor is more compact thanks to the components, and I feel that too makes a difference. You just think you can get the impact driver into tighter situations, and it will still perform exceptionally well, and that’s a huge deal.

Finally, there’s less chance that your impact driver will just suddenly stop working when you have a brushless version. It just makes you feel you can start a project and know your tools will not let you down at any point, allowing you to fully commit to the project. I know brush motors will work well for extended periods, but it does get to a point where you know the brushes could give up on you at any moment, and that’s nerve-wracking.

Overall, I just feel brushless impact drivers bring with them significantly more benefits compared to the brush motor equivalent. But things can be summed up in just a few sentences.

  • A brushless impact driver just keeps on working
  • It’s rare for it to let you down
  • It won’t just stop working because you have ignored the brushes
  • The power difference is significant
  • A brushless model does give you greater confidence when using it

Is Brushless Impact Driver Worth the Extra Money?

cordless impact driver

I know a brushless version is more expensive to purchase, but I do feel the longevity and reliability you get with it is a good enough reason for spending that extra bit of cash. 

I admit it would take a number of brush changes for you to often make up the difference in the initial cost, but there are times when you need to look beyond the cost and assess things according to different situations.

The reduced risk of overheating and less debris getting into the motor and damaging it is huge. The extra power and efficiency. The increased torque and the smaller size all play a part in making a brushless impact driver a better buy. 

What is an Impact Driver?

brushless impact driver

At first glance, an impact driver does look suspiciously like a drill, but there’s a huge difference. You see, an impact driver has pretty much one job to do, and that’s to fire home screws in less time than it would take you to do it manually.

That’s it. I know it sounds as if it’s not that much. Still, if you have a project that does involve you needing to screw things together, then the power an impact driver can offer will mean this particular task becomes significantly easier.

An impact driver can come in either a corded or cordless version. However, I admit I prefer the cordless version, as it’s far more practical and generally easier to use. Operating an impact driver is done by squeezing on the trigger, just as it is with a drill, and you may have a variable speed setting depending on the model you own.

So, even though it looks like a drill. It’s completely different, and an impact driver cannot perform the same tasks as a drill. Actually, the only real similarity is that they both use bits to allow the driver or drill to then perform its key actions. 

Impact Driver Bits

impact driver bits

An impact driver will come with a quick-release shank and that allows you to change bits with ease. Each impact driver is capable of holding all quarter-inch bits allowing you to fire home any type of screw without too much difficulty.

Thanks to the sheer power of an impact driver, it becomes very easy to hammer home even large wood screws. Also, it’s this power aspect that’s the most important part of an impact driver, and that’s also where this question regarding the difference between brushed and brushless versions will come into play.

What you will find when you purchase an impact driver is the possibility of adding a wide range of bits. That does mean you should have no issue with driving home a range of screws from big to small, and you can do so without there being any real problems. 

And yet, I need to explain the power aspect as that’s where you will learn more about both a brush and brushless motor. 

How an Impact Driver Can Drive Home Screws

impact driver with screws

I find an impact driver to be well named. There’s no doubt it does make an impact when it comes to firing in those screws, and it does this through an explosion of power that’s just missing from any other power tool. 

The key to an impact driver is not just in the power but also the rotational speed it can offer. It’s that combination working in tandem that leads to an impact driver sending home those screws in no time at all.

Also, an impact driver will deliver a tremendous amount of power and torque in short bursts of a few seconds. For this, it really does outperform a drill, especially if you have previously attempted to change a drill bit for a screwdriver head and discovered it failed, and there’s just no comparison.

But impact drivers are also different in the way they rotate, which then improves their performance.

With rotations of up to 50 times a second, what you get is the impact driver rotating at breakneck speed, but it is unique in how it does this. Slow it down, and you will see the bit is rotated in a two-one manner. That means it turns twice forward and then once back.

Now, I know this may sound strange, but what happens is it means better engagement with the screw. Also, the sheer power and torque that’s used does result in you not even being aware of it doing this. However, it does lead to better results.

But through all of this description regarding how an impact driver works, you have probably noticed I’ve mentioned power on a number of occasions. That’s the key to all of this, and the power comes from the motor, which is why it’s so important to understand the difference between brushed and brushless options.

How a Brushed Motor Works

impact driver with brushless motor

When I’m talking about both brush and brushless motors, I’m talking about motors covering all power tools. That’s because the way in which either option delivers power is the same, no matter the tool. The only difference is what the tool is then capable of doing, but the information regarding the motor remains the same.

Made from carbon, brushes were once an integral part of all motors used in power tools. This small piece of the motor used to play a key role in the entire functioning of the motor, and it’s all connected to how the power is transferred within the different parts of the motor itself.

A carbon brush is designed to reduce the potential damage being done to the motor. Quite simply, it helps carry the current between both the stationary and moving parts of the motor. With the overall design of a motor that incorporates the brush approach, if they didn’t exist, it would result in parts of the motor rubbing against one another. Ultimately, one part would become worn and eventually break.

But a brush solves that problem. Also, changing old brushes for new ones will often be easy to do, thanks to them being made accessible. You see, these brushes do still wear down over time and need to be changed, or your impact driver will simply stop working.

Advantages of a Brushed Motor

advantage of a brush impact driver

As you can imagine, a brushed motor will come with a number of advantages, and I think the first advantage has to be the price.

Typically, an impact driver that uses brushes in the motor will be cheaper to purchase compared to the brushless version. For people on a budget, this could be a deciding factor, as the difference can, at times, be significant.

But that’s not the only advantage.

Another advantage is the way it moves the current while preventing key components of the motor from becoming worn down. Also, it can reduce sparking between the two sections thanks to those two parts of the motor never coming into contact with one another.

In addition, brushes are good at generating torque, which is another essential part of how an impact driver works and delivers results. Brushes do this via something called commutation, and it’s a simple concept to follow.

Basically, you want torque to come in the same direction as the rotation. Yet, this needs the current’s direction to be reversed on every half-turn. To do this, the brushes are placed on the stationary part of the motor, called the stator, while plates are then attached to the rotor. 

When the motor is fired up, the brushes then protect the motor while the current is being reversed to get the torque you are looking for.

Disadvantages of a Brushed Motor

cordless impact driver and screwdriver

I’ll be honest, a brushed motor does come with various disadvantages, and I need to point them out before I then move on to discuss how a brushless impact driver works.

I think one of the main issues with a brushed motor is the mess it makes. All of that carbon that is being broken off and worn down has to go somewhere, and what generally happens is the dust makes its way into the motor.

That does mean you have an added layer of maintenance to complete, and it’s all connected to the dust aspect. At times, it can be tricky to get that dust out, and there is the potential for it to cause additional issues with the motor over time.

I’m not saying that this additional problem is guaranteed. However, you certainly cannot rule it out.

Also, if you use your impact driver regularly, then you will probably have to change those carbon brushes several times. I know it’s not the hardest of jobs to do, but there can be a point where your impact driver simply stops working due to the brushes. There’s a good chance it will happen in the middle of a project, and that in itself is annoying.

How a Brushless Impact Driver Works

brushless impact driver

So I can now move to the main focus of this post: the brushless impact driver.

I know the first thing you will be wondering is how it is possible for a motor to then work if no brushes are contained within the motor. Well, it’s because the motor is designed differently from what you find in a brush version. That had to be done, or the motor would prove incapable of coping with the sheer amount of power it would then have to contend with.

One huge difference is that this motor does not contain a commutator. Also, the magnets and windings contained within the motor are reversed when compared to a brush version.

In addition, a brushless motor will come with a small circuit board that replaces the commutator’s role. 

But the key here is that a brushless motor can do everything you want it to do and without you having to worry about it wearing down and simply stopping working.

The Advantages of a Brushless Motor

I see a brushless motor as having a number of advantages that I believe will sway your decision regarding whether or not you should buy a brushless impact driver.

First, a brushless motor generates significantly less friction than a brushed motor. That does mean there’s less wear and tear, while it also generates less heat. 

This point regarding less heat is more important than you think. The problem with heat is it does damage both the motor and battery. That leads to the motor potentially breaking down over time, so anything that reduces heat will be highly beneficial.

A brushless motor is known to reduce heat by around 50%. That then translates into longevity, so that’s another huge advantage.

I feel a brushless motor will last several times longer than a brush version. That in itself gives you confidence in using the tool, knowing it’s highly unlikely it will simply stop working at any point.

This heat aspect also determines another advantage: the motor remaining cleaner than a brush version.

I said that a brushed version delivers dust and debris from the brush. However, there’s another problem in that a brush motor needs air vents to keep the motor as cool as possible. This pulls more dust and debris into the motor, and this will then potentially cause an issue.

A brushless impact driver does not require air vents. That also means there’s less chance for dust or debris to enter the motor giving it more protection.

Add in the fact you do not have carbon breaking off brushes and entering the motor, and it means it too reduces the heat aspect.

But I’m not done with the advantages.

A brushless motor requires less maintenance than a brush motor. Think of it from this perspective. 

Typically, you would look at replacing brushes after approximately 50 hours of use. That’s not too long, so you can see how regular usage would result in you changing brushes repeatedly. 

A brushless motor just doesn’t have that problem. 

The final main advantage I want to mention is power and torque. It has been shown that a brushless motor can produce anywhere from 15% to 35% more power than a brush motor. That’s a huge difference, and you can see how it would be beneficial when you are using a tool that needs that extra power for it to work. 

To me, that ability to generate more power, and with it higher speeds, is crucial.

So, to sum up the advantages, I can state that:

  • It has significantly better power and torque
  • You don’t have to worry about brushes wearing down
  • It can generate greater speeds
  • You don’t have to worry about the same degree of maintenance
  • It doesn’t allow dirt and debris into the motor
  • It lasts longer and can perform harder jobs

Disadvantages of a Brushless Impact Driver

But it’s not all plain sailing when it comes to a brushless impact driver. It does have some disadvantages as well, and I need to mention them in order to be fair.

I think the biggest problem with a brushless impact driver is it does come with a higher price tag. That’s because there’s more technology contained within the motor, and that will automatically increase the price accordingly.

It does mean those on a tight budget and not wishing to spend too much on the tool may find themselves being priced out of owning a brushless impact driver.

Also, the complexity of the motor does mean they are harder to repair at home. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it will undoubtedly prove to be more difficult compared to a brush version. But then, it has been shown that brushless motors are far more efficient and reliable, so it’s not as big an issue as you think.

Apart from those couple of points, I don’t see there being too many problems with a brushless impact driver.

Overall Conclusion

So, if you plan on getting your hands on a new impact driver, then I would always suggest opting for a brushless version. It makes a significant difference to both the longevity and also the way in which the power is delivered.

You have to consider the fact that an impact driver is there to deliver power and get those screws sunk into the wood. That’s the main role, so you should always want to get as much power as possible, and a brushless motor allows you to do exactly that. 

But there’s a whole lot more to learn about power tools in particular, so I suggest checking out these other articles on the website.

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.