Learn how to use the drill and unlock its versatility
Knowing how to use a power drill is like Power Tools 101—just pull the trigger, right? That's how a lot of people use this tool, and they do it well. However, you can get more out of your tools with a little knowledge. Our expert readers can skip this article, but for beginners and those who want to learn more about the basics, read on!
How to Use a Drill: Basic Functions
Let's start with a basic overview of the rig's basic functionality. Before starting, the tool requires power. If you have a corded drill, make sure you have enough cord to reach the entire work area. If you're using a cordless model, place the battery on the charger and make sure it's fully charged to begin with. Lithium-ion batteries don't have a "battery memory" like other battery chemistries, so you don't have to worry about charging them even if they still have some charge left.
How to Insert a Drill Bit into a Chuck
The part of the drill that holds the drill is called the chuck. Its teeth stick out to grip the drill when approached. Turn the chuck ring clockwise to open and counterclockwise to close.
Most collets are 3/8" or 1/2", referring to the largest diameter shaft it will accept. You probably have a 1" spade bit with a 1/4" hex shaft. Because the shaft is smaller than the capacity of the chuck, it will fit even if the business end is larger than the size of the chuck.
To insert the bit, slide the bit into the collet, hold it in the center, and turn the collar counterclockwise until it snaps. Most modern drills have a ratchet feature that you can feel, and sometimes hear, gradually turn downward as the teeth grip.
Pro Tip: Once the drill is secured, give the trigger a slight pull to see if the drill spins straight. A little wiggle (called jumping) is normal. However, a large wobble means your drill is off center. Loosen the collet, re-center the bit, and tighten to secure it.
How to choose gear and mode
Some drills have multiple speeds. The important thing to remember is that for a drill, speed and torque (rotational power) are inversely proportional . When the motor is in a faster gear, it has less torque. When it's in a slower gear, there's more torque.
Use the high gear for lighter drilling and driving tasks and the low gear for larger drills. You can try high gear first. If it's too much, the motor will stop by itself. When this happens, switch to a lower gear and finish the application.
Note that some drills are single speed and have no gears to choose from.
Choosing the right mode for the job is not the same as picking a gear. Most modern drill rigs have two modes: drive and drill. Driving is for turning screws, which involves using a clutch (more on that later), and drilling is for making holes.
The main difference between these modes is that using the clutch in Drive mode limits torque, while Drill mode does not.
A special drill called a hammer drill has a third mode. In hammering mode, the drill adds up and down strokes to help the drill chisel while drilling. You should only use this mode on concrete, brick, stone, and other masonry structures.
How to Use a Variable Speed Trigger on a Drill
Most drills have variable speed triggers. This means the more you pull, the faster it goes. Partial pull, called smoothing, gives you more control when drilling. It helps control the start of holes that need to be perfect, ensures the drill bit doesn't slip in and out of the fastener head (known as cam slipping), or for various other reasons.
Trigger triggers work no matter what gear or mode you're in.
How to switch between forward and backward
Just above and behind the trigger, there's a switch that you press to toggle forward and reverse. Directional arrows are embedded in most drills to help you remember that pushing to the right is forward and pushing to the left is backward.
How to Set the Rig Clutch
The drill's clutch works in drive mode – we 're driving screws, not drilling holes. A rig clutch is usually a mechanical system. When the rotation exceeds a certain torque, the clutch starts to slip to help you avoid overdriving the screw.
To set the clutch, screw the clutch ring to your desired position. The lower the number, the less torque the drill applies.
Some bits separate the mode selection from the clutch setting on the different collars. If this is the case with your model, make sure it's in drive mode and the clutch is in your desired setting.
How to use a drill to make a hole
When drilling, you want to make sure you are in drill mode and not driver mode. The exception is if you are drilling in masonry and you have a hammer drill. In this case, you need to enter hammer drill mode.
Start by marking where you want to make holes, then choose the correct drill for the job.
Putting the tip of the drill on your mark and smoothing the trigger gives you a controlled start. When the bit begins to sink, pull the trigger fully until the drill penetrates or hits the target depth.
Keep the following points in mind:
- Make sure the drill goes straight into the wood
- Consider using jigs for angled drilling
- Keep both hands on the tool for control
- Use the side handle (if available) to drill with a large drill bit in low gear
- Use a few drops of oil when drilling into metal
- Feel for the end of the hole and stop the chuck from hitting the material and leaving a mark
How to use an auger
When learning how to drive screws with a drill, you need to be familiar with clutch settings.
Knowing which settings to use requires some experimentation. Using the same screw and some scrap from the material you're working on, start with the clutch in the lower position and see how deep it goes into the material when you pull the trigger. Adjust the clutch up or down until the screws are flush or sunk the way you prefer.
In some cases, the clutch is not set up enough to accommodate larger screws. When this happens to you, switch to drill mode to bypass the clutch entirely. If that's still not enough and you're in a high gear, shift into a lower gear for more torque.
Pro Tip: Most woods vary widely, and many pros choose to drive the screw in drill mode and smooth the trigger to get the correct screw depth. You can also buy screw depth accessories, which are useful when you're screwing a lot of screws, such as deck building.
For larger screws and harder materials, you will usually need to drill a pilot hole first. It helps remove splintered wood, cracked masonry or damaged metal. Pilot holes remove material so that the threads can grab the sides without pushing the material away. A general rule is to use a drill with the same diameter as the neck diameter of the screw you are using.
Keep the following points in mind:
- Start slowly and make sure the screw goes straight into your material
- For larger screws, keep both hands on the bit once the screw is tightened
- Use a driver bit that matches your screw – too big and it won't engage, too small and slippage is more likely
- Use self-tapping screws for metal fastening whenever possible to avoid having to drill pilot holes
How to Use a Drill: Bonus Pro Tip
with two hands
Hold the drill with your dominant hand and place your other hand over it to stabilize the tool and give you better control. Be careful not to block the ventilation holes that help cool the motor while the tool is working.
Use the side handle (if available) when you are using a larger drill that is easier to tie. You can make better use of it, and you can avoid wrist and elbow injuries while binding.
chuck like a pro
Instead of turning the chuck ring by hand, many people hold it and gently pull the trigger to close it slightly before tightening it by hand to save some time and effort. Be careful not to run too fast, though. Some give has to be made when the clutch bites, usually with one hand or the other!
Now that you have the basics of how to use a drill, it's time to drill some holes! Here are some tips from our professional team to make things easier for you:
- Wear goggles every time – no excuses
- Know What's Behind Drywall Before You Start Drilling
- with two hands
- Use side handles to install large fasteners when available
- If the outside of the tool or the battery gets hot, give it a break to avoid burning the motor or damaging the battery
- Consider wearing a respirator when drilling in masonry
- Do not use drills outside the range of drills (check manual or guide)
Like the drill we used for the photo? They are models of HART tools that you can find at your local Walmart.
Have any other tips or tricks to share? If so, feel free to leave a comment below, and as always, thanks for reading!