Tool School: The Absolutely Essential Drill/Driver

Tool School: The Absolutely Essential Drill/Driver

No matter what project your’e doing, you’ll need to drill some holes and drive some screws once in a while. A lightweight drill/driver should be the first power tool that anyone owns. Here’s why.

From hanging photos to assembling flat-pack IKEA furniture, the need for a drill/driver is obvious. These dual-purpose power tools can accept drill bits for drilling holes and screwdriver bits for driving slotted, Philips, square and torx head screws much faster (and more powerfully) than you could with a normal screwdriver.

Tool School: The Absolutely Essential Drill/Driver

Corded drills are designed only to hold drill bits and other attachments , but lack a clutch, which gives you greater control of how much torque is applied by the tool. This clutch is what separates a standard drill from a cordless drill/driver. It allows the tools motor to disengage from the bit at a preset value which will prevent it from driving a screw too deep or stripping it.

Clutch settings range from 1 to 10 or 1 to 20, with 1 disengaging with the least resistance and 10 or 20 disengaging with the most. There is also a drill setting which is identified as a drill icon. Use this setting when using the drill/driver as a drill for maximum torque and RPM. If your drill/driver has a hi-lo speed option, select low for driving screws and high for drilling.

Tool School: The Absolutely Essential Drill/Driver

Be mindful of the clutch setting when driving screws, as too much torque can cause the tool to twist in your wrist if it hits a lot of resistance quickly. Start with lower resistance and gradually adjust up if needed.

Located just in front of the clutch is the chuck which holds the drill bits. Chuck size refers to the maximum diameter of the bit that the drill can hold and sizes range from 1/4″, 3/8″, to 1/2″. You want a keyless chuck which can be turned by hand. Turn it clockwise to constrict and tighten around the bit and turn it counter-clockwise to release the bit.

Tool School: The Absolutely Essential Drill/Driver

Beyond chuck size, cordless drill/drivers are available in a variety of power options. Lithium-Ion powered tools are powerful and lighter but more costly than Ni-Cad options. 12-volt drill/drivers will offer the most compact tool but will have the least amount of runtime and power. These are all tradeoffs that come down to personal preference.

Choose a drill/driver that fits comfortably in your hand. Take note of the tool’s weight, handle size and grip surface.

Lifehacker’s Workshop column covers DIY tips, techniques and projects.


  • The problem with Cordless tools is that for the occasional user they’re simply awful. A corded tool can sit in your shed and come out to play once a year with no problem. Cordless you better leave that battery in the charger.

    And while it may be harder to find there are Corded Drill/Drivers.

    • Hey dknight1000,
      Lithium-Ion batteries do not loose their charge if not used. The good old Ni-Cad batteries are the ones that discharge if not used or kept on a charger.

      • Lithium Batteries do lose their charge over time, all batteries do. They are much much better than the old Ni-Cad batteries but they are not perfect. I still say if your Drill only comes out once a year a corded Drill will last you forever and the Battery will not last as long.

        I have Lithium Batteries in my RC’s and I make a point of giving them a monthly top up.

    • Been using LI batteries for a few years now and I find they always have a decent charge left. Plus if you get a drill with a charge readout panel you can tell straight away if it has enough juice.

    • While I would say yes you are right in a normal situation – say if you are just using a drill for the occasional thing. I have recently found that I needed to some simple job but the pain and effort that goes into running a power cord to all points of the property (outside mostly) is really hard and probably dangerous. Yes I would need to keep it charged however the effort to do that versus the pain I have felt now (ended up having to use manual tools to get the job done) would be so worth it for the 5sec to drill that hole or put in those screws. Now to invest in a cordless!

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!