Kobalt – VS – Harbor Freight 1/2″ Corded Impact Wrenches


A question we often get about the Kobalt 1/2″ Corded Impact Wrench, is “how does it compare to the version from Harbor Freight?”.

So, rather than just look at manufacturer specs (which are rarely accurate), or give uninformed guesses, we decided to find out.I stopped by our local Harbor Freight recently and bought one, and once I got home it was clear why people were wondering.  The size/weight of both impacts are very similar, and on the outside at least — it looked like they should be very similar units.

Right out of the box the first thing that I noticed about the impact from Harbor Freight, is that no accessories are included.  In fact, the only other things in the box were a set of replacement brushes (for future maintenance on the impact) and the owner’s manual.

The Kobalt version from Lowes included the Impact, Blowmold Case, as well as 7 deep-well impact sockets on a rail.  Everything is stored inside the case, and the sockets are all the typical sizes that you will run into when removing lugnuts off of a vehicle.  Because they are impact sockets, they will also work with 1/2″ pneumatic & cordless impact wrenches.

Side-by-side there are things that are similar between the two impacts.  The shape, size, and weight are almost the same…..with the biggest difference being the construction.  The Harbor Freight does not have any rubber overmolds/bumpers built in — meaning it can and will scratch or damage your vehicle or rims if you accidentally bang it against anything.  The Kobalt has a lot of rubber overmold around the grip — as well as rubber bumpers on the sides and a rubber boot built into the end where you attach a socket.

Dimensions on each are :


  • 12″ Long
  • 10″ High
  • 4″ Wide
  • 7 lbs 12 oz
  • 12′ Cord


Harbor Freight

  • 12″ Long
  • 9″  High
  • 4″ Wide
  • 7 lbs
  • 6-1/2′ Cord


As far as powering the units, there is no air compressor or expensive battery packs to buy — literally you plug them in & go!  No power fade, no power loss, and max torque all the time.  That can be a good and a bad thing though, since both triggers are a “rocker switch” design, it is full on/full off…..there is no variable speed.  One thing to note regarding each is going to be the length of the power cord — the Harbor Freight has a 6-1/2′ long cord (meaning you would most likely need a separate extension cord to use it) & the Kobalt as a 12′ long cord (eliminating the need for an extension cord in many cases).

Both units have brushed motors, and neither have an electric brake.  That is typically something you will see on most cordless impact wrenches, and it stops the anvil from turning as soon as you release the trigger.  With both of these however, when you release the trigger the anvil continues to turn for a couple seconds until friction stops them.

The Kobalt does have a unique feature that is designed to help you diagnose problems with the tool.  It is a power indicator light which is built into the grip, and will light up whenever you plug it into the wall (with electricity present).  If you plug it in & see no light — the problem is no power!  If you plug it in, the light comes on, and the tool doesnt work — it is a problem with the tool.  Very quick and easy to determine if the outlet or extension cord actually has power in it.

We did run both units on Skidmore-Wilhelm test units to prove actual torque ratings, and the numbers were surprising.  Both beat their advertised specs, and based on an average of 3 runs/each with a 15-second run time, here is what we found :


Forward Working Torque = 586 ft-lbs

Reverse Working Torque = 635 ft-lbs

Harbor Freight

Forward Working Torque = 326 ft-lbs

Reverse Working Torque = 321 ft-lbs

Overall, both units exceeded expectations —- with the Kobalt really surprising us.  The torque specs on it came in roughly double of the Harbor Freight in both forward and reverse torque testing.

They each are covered if you have any issues, with the Harbor Freight including a 90-day warranty & the Kobalt coming with a 5-yr No Hassle Guarantee (it breaks, you bring it into any Lowes & they will fix or replace it for you free-of-charge).

Check out the video to see them in action for yourself!

Click here to get the Kobalt Impact at Lowes!

Click here to get the Harbor Freight Impact!