Manufacturers have screwdrivers that work with every type of bit. They come in a variety of lengths, handles, and styles—all for a good screwdrive. But which type of screwdriver bit do you use for which application – and which one works best? We'll try to go through each – even the specialty bits – and give you the pros and cons so you can understand each and choose the best bit for your application.
Remember when all screws were slotted? Thank God for the innovation!
How to Get the Screwdriver Bits You Need
As you know, both drivers and bits can be purchased individually or as a set. For the best price, we recommend purchasing a quality bit set to build a solid screwdriver fastener collection. One set we really like includes the Wurth Zebra Universal Bit Set, but you can find screwdriver bit solutions for less expensive too.
Having all screwdriver bit types ensures you are prepared for the variety of fasteners you may encounter. Of course, not only are you dealing with a huge variety of screwdriver types and fasteners, most come in multiple sizes. Using the correct type of screwdriver bit for its correct application ensures that you will not damage the fastener. It also tends to work faster. Keep this in mind when shopping for the best screwdriver set so you can tackle countless screws and fasteners on the job site.
Editor's note: Check out our best screwdriver sets article for our top recommendations.
Description of screwdriver bit types
Various driving tricks have been proposed for various reasons. Some are patented because they offer a unique solution to holding driver bits in place – others are just better suited for their intended application. In our opinion, the biggest reason to use a specific screwdriver bit type is the ability to grip fasteners well.
Fit and grip most important
The tip of the screwdriver or screwdriver bit should always fit snugly against the fastener so that it does not slip when turning the fastener (at low or high speeds depending on the application). When used properly, impact drivers are especially good at keeping the bit connected to the fastener.
Here are some of the most common types of screws and fasteners you should have in your collection, along with the right screwdrivers for them:
Phillips head screwdriver bit
The most common type of fastener has to be the #2 Phillips head bit, but we even see adaptations here. The name "Phillips" comes from the name of its inventor, Henry Phillips, in the 1930s. These types of screwdrivers have a pointed Phillips tip that matches self-centering Phillips-head screws. Believe it or not, Phillips bits were originally designed to have the driver protrude to prevent over-tightening!
- easily stand out
Check out our article What is Cam Out to learn more.
Phillips and Pozidriv screw bits
Similar to the Phillips bit, the Pozidriv offers four additional points of contact for a firmer grip on the screw to prevent it from falling out. Pozidriv screws and bits seem to be popular overseas, but we're seeing them pop up all over the US market now…we love it!
Slotted or flathead screwdriver bits
The slotted screwdriver, or slotted screwdriver, is one of the oldest types of screwdrivers, dating back to the early 1800's. This type of driver bit works with slotted screws that have a cutout on the top of the head.
When choosing the size of slotted screwdriver to use, always make sure the tip is the same width as the fastener and the bit fits snugly. If the flat driver or bit wobbles in the screw – you can just slide it out of the head.
The advantage of this screw is its simplicity. Everything else presents a clear disadvantage. In general, most professionals try not to use these unless absolutely necessary. Can you guess where you most often find these? If you guessed "light switch plate cover" or "outlet cover" then you guessed it!
- everything else
Hex or socket head cap screws and drill bits
We refer to hex head screws as hex socket screws. These are a useful type of fastener because they effectively limit the amount of slippage. Allen or hex driver bits are often used in furniture, but even automotive applications use them. We've also found these types of screwdriver bits on bikes.
- Can handle medium to high torque well
- Can be stripped under higher torque loads
- Metric and SAE dimensions stripped due to mismatch
Torx bits and Torx Plus bits
TORX head screws and drill bits are also commonly referred to as star bits. These hex bits are more resistant to slipping or pulling out than slotted or Phillips head designs. In fact, TORX-tipped drill bits and screwdrivers are specifically designed to prevent this.
- Can handle medium to high torque well
- Can be stripped under high torque loads
- usually more expensive
Torx and Torx Plus
Torx plus is a twist on Torx with a star design and squared off edges. This results in more surface contact area. Of the many types of screwdriver bits on the market, the Torq Plus is probably the most grippy and stable. To further complicate matters, the Torx Plus Safety Bit only has 5 lobes instead of 4.
- Handles high torque well
- usually more expensive
- less common
Square Drive Bit Types
Square drive bits, sometimes called Robertson bits, find their home in many places. Leading the way might just be electrical boxes and panels, which seem to be found almost everywhere.
Some deck screw manufacturers also use this type of drive — especially stainless steel wood screws. Stainless steel fasteners tend to be very soft if you buy the wrong kind. Common decorative head screws also use square drive bits and have very small heads for countersinking in cabinets.
- Handles moderate torque well
- Ideal for smaller head sizes (fine adjustment screw)
- Can be stripped at higher torque loads (cheaper stainless steel)
Triple drive bit
Three-way drive bits are primarily found in German automotive applications. We find them on BMW, Mercedes, VW, Audi, Porche and other German cars. They are ideal for high torque applications such as cylinder head bolts and components in drive trains.
Three-way fasteners are usually made of hardened steel, which is also tempered. This way they can handle the required torque without stripping the star point.
- Excellent high torque capability
- Less used in the US market except for German vehicles
Triple square and double hexagonal bits
A double hex is a screw drive with two offset hex drives. It can be driven by a standard hex wrench tool. Although similar in shape to a triple square, they are actually incompatible. It's also easier to peel off.
While they may be able to handle more torque than a standard six-point drill, they require better build quality to avoid spalling. This is one of the rarest types of screwdriver bits. Unless you've removed the head bolts from some Toyota or Lexus vehicles, almost no one has come across these bits or related bolts.
Summarize the various screwdriver types
In addition to screw bit types, you can also view a variety of finishes and coatings. Most quality fasteners are available in galvanized, nickel chrome, stainless steel or coated finishes. Each has different strengths, so pay attention to your needs.
While certain types of screwdriver bits are less common, at least make sure you have a handy assortment of straight, Philips, Torx, and square-head screwdrivers and bits on hand.