Whether you use a drill every day in your work or occasionally when building or repairing something at home, there are times in which an impact driver might be the better option. Usually, this happens when you do not have your standard drill handy or when you need something more compact to get into a tight space.
Related Info: Impact Driver vs Cordless Drill
Can You Use an Impact Driver to Drill Holes?
The short answer is yes. You can use an impact driver for drilling wood, plastic or even harder material such as steel. However, the limited choice of hexagonal shank drill bits and the available speed makes it a poor choice when compared to regular cordless drills.
So, Do I need special bits for an impact driver?
Yes. You need special hex shank impact rated bits to do drilling and driving screws using an impact driver. I will explain this further in a minute.
What is an Impact Driver?
Impact drivers have been generating a lot of buzz on the internet recently for a few reasons. On the surface, they appear to be much like standard drills. However, there are differences in the function of an impact driver. The most important of which is the higher rotational torque which means that the impact drill bits can penetrate tougher materials easily. Also, an impact driver is free from kick back and the driver bits will stay within the slots of the screw better as it drives it into the material.
For long screws, an impact driver does have the advantage of better control and more torque which means fewer “bumps” to get the screw to go in straight. The fewer bumps not only means less noise when drilling but a screw that is tighter in the material.
Drilling with Impact Driver: 3 Important Things
While a standard drill should be your first choice when possible, the impact driver makes a perfectly good substitute when you need to get the job done. However, there are a few things to know before you pull out the impact driver for drilling.
Drill Bit Shank
The first thing you need to do is check the drill bit to see if it has a hexagonal shaped shank. This will be needed if you want to use it on an impact driver to drill holes. Most impact drivers will have a hexagonal-shaped socket that can accept only hex shank bits.
The advantage of the hex shaft bit is that it will not slip and get damaged during operation.
But on the negative side, you won’t find many hexagonal shaft drill bits in the market. Often you may not find the drill bit size that you need.
Impact Rated Drill
When you use your impact driver, you should use the impact bits which are designed to work with the driver itself. This means having a full range of bits, so you can use them for the type of drilling that you need to be accomplished.
Standard bits that are not designed for use with the impact driver may bend under the increased amount of torque that the driver operates. In the worst case, the regular drills may break and burst due to high impact force.
So always use impact rated drill bits with an impact driver.
No Clutch & Limited Speed Options
Unlike most drills, an impact driver does not have a clutch option. No clutch is a big downside for many types of drilling jobs. You’ll notice that the driver without a clutch is noticeably shorter which may get you into tight places easier, but there are fewer options which can hamper the use of the impact driver.
It should be noted that there are a few impact drivers that do have a clutch, but they tend to be expensive and lack the size benefit of a standard impact driver.
In addition, you are limited on the speed options which means that it might take longer to get the job done compared to using a standard drill. Depending on the work that you are doing, this means that an impact driver might add just a few minutes or perhaps more in terms of the time needed to get everything you want to be accomplished.
Pros of Using Impact Driver for Drilling
While I strongly recommend you to go for a regular drill or cordless drill for all your hole making jobs, using an impact driver for drilling has its advantages.
Impact drivers are not quite as good as drills for most jobs that involve drilling, but they do usually have a higher torque rating. This is perfect for jobs where you need to drill into dense material that might overwork a standard drill.
Do you know that you can even use an impact driver for lug nuts?
Arguably the best advantage for the compact design of impact drivers is that you can get them into tighter spaces compared to most standard drills. They also are more ergonomically designed, and well balanced.
Easy on your Wrist:
The impact driver has nearly zero kick-back, thanks to the impact hammer mechanism inside. This means you can get more work out of them while not straining your hand, wrist, or arm as much. Of course, this will depend on the type of material and amount of work you need to accomplish.
You can use the impact driver for both drilling and driving screws, which makes it rather versatile. But more importantly, you can use the same tool to do both jobs. This means less switching and less time in getting the job completed.
In addition to the compact design, impact drivers are also lighter and easier to work with compared to many standard drills. This means that you strain your arms less while getting more accomplished with the impact driver.
The impact driver has a quick-release system, so you can change bits faster. It is faster than the self-centering chuck on the cordless drills.
The quick tool changing will speed up the efficiency of your work, so you get more accomplished in less time. You can even prepare for many jobs by having the needed bits at hand, so you can switch them when needed without having to slow down and search.
The biggest disadvantage of using an impact driver for drilling is that they are not suitable for making precision holes.
The hexagonal shank drill bits often do not fit well inside the hex socket of the driver. This play will cause the drill to wobble especially if you haven’t pre-drilled a pilot hole.
Other cons include the lack of availability of hex shank drill bits to the size that you need and limited speed available on impact drivers.
Should You Use an Impact Driver for Drilling?
The answer is yes, but with the caveat that a regular drill is not available. While the impact driver is perfect for certain types of drilling situations, you should always consider the drills you have first before turning to the impact driver. This is because standard drills are specifically designed to drill while the impact driver’s main function is drive fasteners.
For one thing, you will find only general-purpose bits in the hardware shops that fit the 1/4th hex shank. So, you are limited in what you can use to drill. Because standard bits designed for drills are not designed to stand up to the torque of an impact driver, your options will naturally be limited.
Another issue is the precision of the holes that you need to drill. An impact driver is simply not as precise compared to a standard drill.
So, if you need to drill some rough holes to pass wires through, then the impact driver is a good choice. This is especially true if the material is dense or difficult for standard drills to function. However, if the hole placement and size are crucial, then you might want to stick to a standard drill instead.
However, if you are on a job, do not have the right drill handy, and need to do some quick drilling, the impact driver is a perfect alternative. The additional torque, compact design, and faster switching of bits means you can get quite a bit done in less time compared to most standard drills.