Air Tools vs. Electric Tools: Which Are Right for Your Service Truck? | MillerWelds

Air Tools vs. Electric Tools: Which Are Right for Your Service Truck?

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What are the pros and cons of air tools vs. electric tools and how can the right technologies enhance tool versatility?
Operator uses a tool to grind metal on an outdoor jobsite.

Choosing service truck tools 

Air-powered tools have always been a must-have on service trucks, but technicians today also frequently reach for cordless tools to complete maintenance and repair work in the field.  

Cordless tools (also called electric tools or battery tools) are becoming more commonly used thanks to technology advancements like improved battery life. But air tools will remain a jobsite staple, especially for larger jobs that require more power.

Both types of tools have their place on a work truck — and both types have advantages and disadvantages. So it’s important that technicians have the capability to run the style of tool they need for a specific job. This delivers optimal flexibility and efficiency.  Learn more about the pros and cons of air tools and cordless tools and how the right technologies on a truck can enhance tool versatility.

Service truck tools: air vs. cordless

The first question when choosing between air and cordless options for tools like impact wrenches, grinders and scalers is “what are the job demands?”

Bigger jobs (like using a 1-inch impact wrench for jobs that require high torque output) will likely require the more robust torque of an air tool.

The jobsite environment is another consideration. There are no hoses to arrange or move with cordless tools. This is an advantage when work is being done farther from the truck and portability is important.

Technician preference may also play a role in choosing between air tools and cordless tools. Some techs may prefer the portability of battery-powered tools,. Others may like the dependable power of air tools, which often are what the fleet provides to techs. 

Advantages of air tools  

While cordless tools are growing in use on service trucks and jobsites, they will probably never fully replace air tools. That's because some jobs simply require the greater power that air tools provide.

The main advantages of air tools include: 

  • Power: Many heavy equipment mechanics need a ¾-inch to 1-inch impact wrench for their work. Some cordless tools are not available in those larger sizes, making air tools the only option for many jobs.
  • Reliability: Air tools run on compressed air, so techs never have to worry about battery life or charging a battery. However, keep in mind that air tools do wear out and require some routine maintenance.
  • Versatility: A wide range of accessories and attachments can be used on an air tool. Cordless tools can also provide good versatility, with many types of tools available for different jobs or applications.

Advantages of cordless tools 

As battery life and power capabilities have improved, cordless tools are a more popular choice on work trucks and jobsites. This is especially true on smaller trucks (like utility and municipality trucks) that don’t require high air demand for most jobs.

The main advantages of cordless tools include: 

  • Convenience: Because these tools run on battery power, technicians don’t have to lug a cord and air hose to move and use the tool. This is a big factor on jobsites where work is done far from the truck or in a hard-to-reach spot. This also reduces possible tool maintenance and repair since there are no cords or hoses that can be run over or damaged.
  • Reduced noise: With air tools, the air compressor runs constantly while the tool is being used, generating additional jobsite noise. Cordless tools produce their own noise when in use, of course, but they don’t require the air compressor to run. This results in reduced noise levels. It also helps improve operator comfort as well as efficiency and communication on the jobsite.

Capabilities for air tools and cordless tools 

Because both types of tools offer distinct advantages on the jobsite, air compressor capacity and generator power are critical capabilities for technicians and mechanics.

For example, a technician may weld a repair in the field, then use an air-powered needle scaler to break the weld slag, then use a cordless grinder to clean the weld. The ability to quickly switch from an air tool to a cordless tool improves flexibility and efficiency since the tech can put one tool down and grab the next without changing out tool heads or adjusting cords, which they may have to do if they were using an air tool for both jobs or a cordless tool for both jobs.

EnPak® A30 and A60 power systems deliver air and power capabilities along with the added benefit of Chassis Power. On the jobsite, techs typically charge their cordless tool battery packs on an inverter that’s connected to the chassis battery. Chassis Power technology, which is integrated into the truck, monitors the truck battery and automatically charges it as needed. Techs can charge their tool batteries all day while their truck is turned off — without worrying about draining the chassis battery.

In addition, Auto Start/Stop on the machines automatically turns the EnPak engine on and off based on demand. This reduces fuel consumption and noise — saving money as well as enhancing safety and the work environment.

EnPak systems also include Auto-Speed™ technology, which automatically varies engine speed to match compressed air, battery charge and weld demands. This reduces noise levels when the tech uses the air compressor to power air tools.

Air tools vs. electric tools: optimizing performance

Most work truck setups provide capabilities for both air tools and cordless tools. But choosing the right all-in-one system can deliver greater benefits for techs who rely on air and electric tools every day — ensuring they have the power they need without fear of draining their truck battery.

Learn how Miller work truck solutions can provide the necessary power and help optimize efficiency.