How to Choose the Right Drivers and Drills

To complete a DIY task well you need to know three things;

  1. What tips and tricks will make the quality of finish higher? Knowing to run a damp finger over sealant to get a perfect spread and secure fixing, knowing how to use a screw to remove old raw plugs and how to mix concrete are good examples.
  2. Which materials to use. Anyone who has stood in the sealant aisle in a DIY shop or in front of a rack of different screws, nails and fixings knows there are a lot of DIY gubbins you can use.  Knowing which ones are perfect for your job will make all the difference.
  3. Which tools will make the job possible, faster, safer, longer-lasting and/or look better. There are loads of tools that can change your DIY life but you need to know what tools are out there and in which applications they shine.

In this article, we will introduce you to drivers and drills and explain what DIY jobs they can be used for. If you’re going to make an informed choice about tools and use them successfully, you’ll first need to understand their core purpose and function.

What is a Driver?

Drivers are more correctly called ‘impact drivers’ and they are specifically engineered for screws. They are high powered devices which have an advanced ‘hammer action’ in that the action is both forward & backwards and sideways. This reduces the risk of the screw head churning whilst it is being driven into place.

In most instances, the speed and power settings on a driver are adjustable, enabling you to optimise performance on different surfaces and materials.

What is a Drill?

A drill drills holes of varying size into lots of different materials. They can also be used to screw in screws! Some drills have a hammer action which increases their efficiency and means they can be used on harder materials with less wear on their motors. If you are drilling into really hard materials you will need hammer action.

You should also consider if a corded or cordless drill would be better. Corded drills usually have more power but their cables reduce their range and create a tripping risk. Cordless drills, however, can be used anywhere – the roof, the bottom of the garden, at your allotment and on your boat! Drill specialists SGS have some great advice on how to choose the right drill.

Where Drivers Win

The main benefit of a driver is that it requires less strength from the person using it. With a drill you need to apply more force to keep the drill bit securely placed in the screw head. For really hard materials this can be very difficult especially if your access is not good and you are screwing in at a funny angle. If you don’t keep your drill bit firmly held in place you will churn the top of the screw which will make it impossible to screw it in any further and really hard to remove! So, if you are weak, screwing into hard materials, using very long screws or screwing at an angle you should use an impact driver.

Drivers can also be used to successfully remove old or churned screws, without damaging your brickwork or unnecessarily scuffing your interior walls.

Where Drills Win

Drills have ‘chucks’ that can accept a large range of different bits on their end.  This means they can be used for a wide range of different jobs. In comparison, a driver only accepts ‘hex-shanked’ drill bits which limit what they can be used for.

A small selection of drill bits
A small selection of drill bits

Some of the available drill bits are;

  • There are special drill bits for different materials; ceramic, metal, wood, plastic and masonry.
  • Rasp bits are like industrial sanders and can be sued to remove wood during carpentry.
  • Spade or paddle bits can drill large diameter holes in wood.
  • You can get drill bits for very specific jobs for example; dry wall bits, self centering bits for hinges, hole saws for wiring pass throughs.

This means that drills are versatile tools with multiple functions which is why they are probably the most essential tool for any DIY fan.

Which One?

Firstly, drills and drivers look very similar to one another and both can be used to get screws into lots of materials. Overall drills offer a wider range of functions so they are the first tool you should buy. However, impact drivers can drive even the longest and fattest screws into hard surfaces with ease. So, if you have a big job involving a lot of screws or you are screwing into metal or stone you will need to invest in a driver.

Some manufacturers make power drill and driver combo tools. Most tool manufacturers also make tool ranges where you buy one (expensive) battery and handle which can have a range of (cheap) heads fitted to them. So, you can fit a drill, driver, hedge trimmer, leaf blower, vacuum to the same base unit. Which tool or tools you go for will depend on your budget and available storage space.

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