Drills and drivers are the workhorses of any tool shed. If you need to drill holes into a material or tighten screws, bolts, or fasteners then you reach for a drill or a driver.
Try to think of a job that either does not require a power drill driver or that would not benefit from one. The chances are good that the list that you come up with will be pretty small. This should give you an idea of how important drills and drivers are. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that one cordless drill is good enough for every job. While a cordless drill/driver is a versatile power tool, there are a variety of drills and drivers out there; each one fulfills its own specific role.
A power drill is one of the most useful tools for anyone who is involved in DIY, home improvement, woodworking, and metalworking industries. Following are some of the most popular types of power drills.
Cordless drill/drivers are probably the most well-known power tool on this list. Most people out there, even ones who have never touched a power tool in their life can identify what a cordless drill is and what it is used for. An internal battery powers cordless drills. They use rotational torque power to enable them to drill into materials or tighten/loosen screws, bolts, and fasteners.
Cordless drills have two distinct jobs. Firstly, they are used to drill into a wide variety of material. The most common material that they are used on is wood. However, you can use a cordless drill on tougher material like metal with the right drill bit. You could also use a standard cordless drill/driver to drill holes on a wall using a masonry drill bit. But it would take longer than usual and there is a higher chance of damaging your cordless drill. A hammer drill (explained below) would be an ideal tool in such situations.
Still, when you consider the price and versatility of the cordless drill, it is no surprise that it is such a popular power tool.
Secondly, you can swap the drill bit for a screwdriver bit and use it to drive screws. The torque controls on the cordless drill/driver enable it to accurately control the driving force. This prevents the power tool from over-torquing the screw and/or damaging the screw head and work-piece.
You can also mount rotary bits, brushes etc on the cordless drill chuck to perform operations like polishing.
Cordless Drill/Driver Summary:
- It is a very versatile power tool that can be used for drilling, driving fasteners, sanding, and polishing.
- The drill mode delivers high RPM (speed) which you can adjust using the on/off control trigger.
- The slip clutch enables you to set the required torque accurately which is really helpful when driving delicate screws.
If you want to learn more about cordless drills/drivers and their uses, I recommend looking at my cordless drill guide where I explained things in detail.
Hammer drills are the power tool that you want to bust out when you need to drill some holes in very tough material like concrete. As the name suggests, these kinds of drills work by having the drill bit repeatedly “hammered” from within to give the drill its power.
Most hammer drills have two sets of internal gears. The gears work together to do two things. Firstly, they rotate the drill bit. Secondly, they hammer the back of the drill bit. These two actions combined are what give the hammer drill its impressive drilling ability.
In terms of what it is meant to be used for, hammer drills have a narrow set of uses. They are meant to be used to drill holes in masonry; that is concrete, bricks, walls, stones etc. If you have a job that requires you to drill a lot of holes in tough material, then the hammer drill is by far the most effective way of doing that. Construction workers frequently use rotary hammers which is a type of hammer drill that provides higher force.
If you want to learn more, please check out this article on hammer drills.
Hammer Drill Summary:
- A hammer drill has an internal hammering mechanism that delivers hammer blows on to the anvil in the axial direction.
- This hammer mechanism enables the hammer drill to penetrate hard surfaces including masonry.
- Rotary hammer which is a higher powered version of hammer drills offers a hammer only mode that acts as a mini jackhammer.
When I heard the term impact drill for the first time, it got me confused. The salesman at the local hardware shop had no clue either.
Impact drill and impact driver are the same power tool. You can use an impact driver for driving screws as well as drilling and that’s where the confusion comes from. A more appropriate name could be “impact drill/driver”. However this power tool is predominantly used for driving fasteners, hence the name impact driver. See the details about impact driver below.
Impact Drivers and Wrenches
These are power tools with a special impact or hammering mechanism to get extra torque. They are highly useful for unscrewing and driving long and thick bolts, nuts and screws.
An impact driver is a power tool that utilizes a hammering mechanism inside to achieve high torque. They are mainly used for driving or unscrewing fasteners that require higher torque force.
Impact drivers, much like cordless drills, are tools that found in the vast majority of workshops and tool sheds. In fact, a lot of companies package impact drivers and sell them with cordless drills.
Impact drivers work by delivering rapid bursts of rotational torque. Impact drivers are useful for exactly two different jobs. First off, they are useful for loosening screws, bolts, and fasteners. They are especially useful if you are dealing with longer screws or stripped screws, which tend to give regular cordless drills trouble. You can reverse the action and use it for tightening screws and fasteners into place.
Secondly, impact drivers are also drilling holes. Like many of the other tools on this list, a cordless drill could do the same job as an impact driver, but it would be a lot less efficient.
Impact Driver Summary
- Impact drivers are powerful tools that can drill holes and drive screws through tough materials.
- They have an internal hammering mechanism that delivers impacts in the rotational direction (results in high torque) as well as in axial direction.
- Low torque reaction or kickback and hence low fatigue for your arm and wrist.
- Impact driver is the power tool you want to use when you want to dismantle or assemble large number fasteners effortlessly.
I have written a detailed guide on impact drivers with a lot more information, so I would recommend you look at that if you want to learn more.
Impact wrenches are the most powerful tool on this list. The reason that impact wrenches are so powerful is due to the double barrel hammering mechanism. They are either powered by electricity or by compressed air. The very high torque output enable the impact wrench to tackle jobs that other power tools simply could not do.
In terms of what they are used for, impact wrenches are used to tighten or loosen really strong bolts, screws, and fasteners. For example, impact wrenches are often used in body shops to loosen the lug nuts used in cars and trucks.
Impact Wrenches Summary:
- These power tools are equipped with an internal hammering mechanism that delivers extremely high rotational torque.
- Impact wrenches highly useful for removing frozen nuts, rusted bolts and other stubborn fasteners.
- They are widely used in automotive industries like car repair shops, body shops, assembly lines, heavy machinery maintenance and in large construction projects.
If you want to know more about these wrenches, I recommend looking at the in-depth guide on impact wrenches that I wrote a while back.
This was meant to be a brief overview of these drills and drivers. If you still have questions, I really recommend checking out the more in-depth article that I have written on each type of drill and driver. You can see the archive for all the articles on power drill/drivers here.
Cordless Drill vs Hammer Drill vs Impact Driver vs Impact Wrench
While these power tools look similar for a beginner and even overlap in terms of their functions, each of these power tools got specific purposes. They mainly differ in the way and the amount of force delivered. Let me give you a quick explanation below.
Cordless Drill: The drill/driver delivers constant rotational motion which is ideal for drilling holes. The slip clutch allows you set the right torque that helps to prevent camout and stripping of screws.
Hammer Drill: In addition to the rotational motion, hammering blows are exerted at the end of the drill in the axial direction. This concussive force enables it to drill through hard materials like concrete, bricks, tiles, and stones easily.
In case of hammer drills and rotary hammers, you can see that the anvil or the drill chuck is moving in and out in quick succession.
Impact Driver: The internal hammer mechanism delivers impacts in rotational direction as well as axial direction. Many people tend to think that the hammer blows happen only in the rotational direction which is not true. The main impact is in the rotational direction and hence it delivers high torque. The compressed spring delivers an additional impact in the axial direction which pushed the drill/screwdriver bit down.
Unlike the hammer drill, the anvil of the impact driver doesn’t move in and out. The hammering mechanism happens internally. As a result, the drill or screwdriver driver bits stay put.
Impact Wrench: This works very similar to impact drivers. The difference is that the hammering mechanism exerts blows only in rotational direction, but no axial impacts are applied. The result is a power tool with extremely high torque that can remove nearly all the stubborn fasteners and drive them effortlessly.