Kobalt 1/2-inch medium-torque impact wrench gets major facelift
The third generation of Kobalt 24V cordless tools enters the market with better performance, more features, a smaller form factor and faster charging. These include the KIW 124B-03 Kobalt 1/2" Medium Torque Impact Wrench. We'll dive into the features and upgrades so you can decide if it's the right choice for your needs.
Kobalt 1/2" Impact Wrench Performance
In theory, Kobalt's brushless motors can produce 500 foot-pounds of tightening force and 650 foot-pounds of nut breaking torque. Maximum no-load RPM ranges from 950 (low), 1500 (medium) and 2200 (high). The corresponding impact rates are 1100 for low, 2000 for medium, and 2800 for high. Compared to the previous model, we found an increase of 300 revolutions per minute and 400 more shocks per minute.
One of the many improvements Kobalt has made to this impact wrench is the impact rate and drive speed. It uses a 3 speed drive, unlike the KIW 1524A-03 it is replacing which has a single speed motor.
Kobalt has done a good job of keeping the speed and torque controls simple with this impact wrench. There is a small control panel on the bottom of the handle with two buttons that allow you to easily switch between standard and assisted modes.
The tool features two special modes designed for the automotive industry – "Auto Slow" and "Hand Tight".
Automatic deceleration is activated when the tool is set to reverse, and will automatically decelerate its rotation as soon as it senses a loose fastener. This mode helps prevent the bolt or nut from falling or being thrown out of the socket.
Handtight is activated when the tool is set forward and stops rotating when the tool starts impacting. Doing this will prevent overtightening, mitigating potential damage to the threads.
One of our strengths when it comes to obtaining reliable torque testing data is our Intertia Torque Impact Tool Torque Testers. We set up a Kobalt KIW 124B-03 on our tester and ran all three setups to see what it could do. Here are our results:
- Torque 1: 223.5 ft-lbs.
- Torque 2: 248 ft-lbs.
- Torque 3: 418.2 ft-lbs.
As you can see, there is quite a jump between settings 2 and 3. Just to be on the safe side, we retested with fresh batteries to see if the numbers change. After a second round of testing, here are our results:
- Torque 1: 223 ft-lbs.
- Torque 2: 258.6 ft-lbs.
- Torque 3: 437.8 ft-lbs.
Editor's Note: Our testing methodology consists of three 5-second bursts with a 3-second pause between each burst. With longer loads, you can reach higher torque levels, such as the 450+ ft-lbs in our picture above.
The first time, we started with a fresh battery and ran through each test from low to high. The second time, we turned off the battery for each test and utilized the maximum voltage of the battery pack. For modes 2 and 3, these results show the difference between the battery operating at peak voltage and the nominal voltage. Click here to learn the difference between the two.
Why is there a discrepancy between the torque specification and our meter measurements? The gauge's hydraulics actually read ~65% – 85% of the purest hard torque reading. This is normal because of the way the mechanism works. Kobalt's numbers are on the high side, which isn't surprising considering Kobalt's impact wrenches have historically been heavier than competitors in their class.
Ridgid's 18V brushless mid-torque has the same torque spec on paper, and measured a maximum of 252 foot-pounds on the same test. The Kobalt beat it in Mode 2 and was nearly 185 foot-pounds stronger in Mode 3. This is a big difference.
More importantly, it shows us that this is a solid all-around impact wrench. From stubborn bolts on vehicles to the strongest construction fasteners, Kobalt covers a wide range of applications.
Kobalt did a great job of trimming some of the excess weight and length off the tool. They shortened the tool body by about 3 inches, making it a better size for mid-torque levels. Plus, this model is 1.5 pounds lighter than its predecessor.
Most importantly here, the shorter body and lower weight allow for better access to tight spaces and lighten loads when working overhead.
The overall feel and balance of this tool is very good. The grips are covered in a heavily textured rubber overmold, and the head has some protective bumpers to help provide some protection to whatever workpiece you place on it.
- led light
- double sided belt clip
Kobalt 1/2 Inch Impact Wrench Prices
Right now at Lowe's, you can get this Kobalt 1/2" impact wrench with a 24V Max 4.0Ah battery for $229. As we write this, it's not yet available as a bare tool. As far as pricing goes, this is where we'd expect to find a Prosumer model, and when you factor in its level of performance, we get a high value rating.
Kobalt includes a 5-year tool warranty and 3-year battery warranty with the kit and a soft carrying case.
the bottom line
The Kobalt 24V 1/2-Inch Impact Wrench meets your needs for a variety of medium-torque impact tasks. In our experience, it's an excellent value for money when you consider its compact size, feature set, and performance. We recommend it to serious DIYers and professionals who don't mind adding a little size and weight for a significant price savings.
For more information on the Inertia Torque L-1000, click here.
Kobalt Cordless 1/2" Impact Wrench Specifications
- Model: Kobalt KIW 124B-03
- Power: Kobalt 24V Max battery
- Maximum Torque: 650 ft-lbs. (nut breakout), 500 ft-lbs (tightened)
- No-load speed: 0-950/1500/2200 RPM
- Impact rate: 0-1,100/2,000/2,800 IPM
- Weight: 4.25 lbs (bare), 6 lbs (with 4.0Ah 24V MAX battery)
- Warranty: 5 years (tool), 3 years (battery)
- Price: $229 (kit)