The Difference between Drill/Driver, Impact Driver, and Hammer Drill

The Difference between Drill/Driver, Impact Driver, and Hammer Drill and How to Use Each Tool

The power tool aisle in every hardware store offers a wide range of drills and drivers. While they all look pretty similar, you shouldn’t fool yourself. Depending on your needs, you may choose between a drill/driver, an impact driver, or a hammer drill. Each tool has its own specifics, pros, and cons, as well as areas of application. That’s why it’s a good idea to get a more detailed insight before you buy. The following guide will outline the differences between each tool type and help you pick one for your project.

You may choose between a drill/driver, an impact driver, or a hammer drill.

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How a Drill/Driver Works

Undoubtedly, the drill/driver is the jack of all trades in the category. Whether you’re a pro or a weekend warrior, you probably own at least one of these. Typically, cordless drill/drivers are standard, as they use simple rotational action without any additional force. While most units have different speed settings, all drill/drivers have variable-speed triggers.

What’s more, this tool’s clutch gives it lots of versatility in different tasks. For example, it’s perfect for delicate screwing, thanks to the small amount of torque. Unlike hammer drills and impact drivers, a drill/driver’s clutch will slip and stop rotating when the screw reaches its limit. That way, you can safely work with softer materials like softwood or drywall without driving the screw below the surface.

Drill/Driver UniqueFeatures

Typically, all cordless drill/drivers have a three-jaw self-centering chuck. It’s keyless, but it’s suitable for light to medium-duty tasks. Besides, they’re incredibly versatile and can employ both standard round-shank and hex-shank bits. That way, you can drill softwood, plastic, and even softer metals. The choice of bits ranges from simple round ones to Forstner bits, hole saws, and many more. While these may also work in impact drivers, a cordless drill’s lower torque output may benefit delicate projects.

 

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How to Use a Drill/Driver

The drill/driver is a multi-purpose tool that everyone has at home because it’s easy to use. Thanks to the myriad of attachments, you can complete different tasks around your home or garden without an effort. These may include drilling holes, driving screws, and plenty of DIY projects.

To get it working, you simply need to load a bit up in the chuck and secure it well. You can do this by steadying the tool with one hand while tightening it with the other one. Usually, modern drill/drivers have ratcheting chucks, so you’ll hear the chuck start clicking when it’s firm enough.

Next, you want to adjust your gear and setting, and don’t forget to put the direction switch to forward motion. Before you drive a bit, you first need to drill a hole. After you finish the task, simply loosen the grip, put the desired bit type, and repeat the procedure. Don’t forget to pay attention to your torque setting, as it may either result in too low or high power output. Finding the perfect balance is key to avoid overdriving or lack of power.

How an Impact Driver Works

As the name suggests, an impact driver’s work is very similar to that of a hammer. Indeed, this type of tool has much more rotational energy than a traditional drill/driver. What’s more, the heavy-duty spring inside the machine creates a much more powerful force. The sound is much like a hammer drill, but the torque goes in the direction of the chuck rotation. That makes the machine highly efficient in driving in and out fasteners.

The impact driver is very different from drill/drivers and hammer drills because its main focus is on driving screws. Even though it has the same trigger and direction switch, it doesn’t have any torque control. While it doesn’t bring anything new or different from a cordless drill/driver, the impact driver has much more power. Some impact drivers have different modes that allow for a smooth start until the machine builds up torque. Still, the lack of such a feature won’t reduce the machine’s efficiency.

Impact Driver Unique Features

Perhaps, another significant difference that you’ll find with drill/drivers is the quick-release clamp that impact drivers have. This mechanism allows different bits with a ¼-inch hexagonal shank. Typically, the bits are suitable for driving, but you can also use HSS drill bits for drilling. Make sure you pick impact-ready bits that will withstand the power of this type of driver. Besides, you can always employ different accessories like three-jaw drill chucks, driveshafts, hole saws, and more for extra flexibility.

 

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How to Use an Impact Driver

An impact driver will undoubtedly make more demanding tasks look easy, especially if you’re tackling heavy-duty woodworking projects. Using it is pretty easy, as you’ll only need to put the desired bit in the clamp. When you’re ready, just pull the collar out and replace the bit with the next one you plan to use.

As mentioned previously, an impact driver is also suitable for drilling holes. However, you should use one-piece bits instead of the standard ones. The reason for this is the higher RPM and IPM of the impact driver. Unlike a glued bit, a one-piece one will readily withstand the torque of the machine.

If you have an impact driver, you can quickly drill holes and then drive different fasteners. Although it’s not delicate as a drill/driver, this unit can still do the driving task effortlessly.What’s more, you can use a wide range of other accessories. Just remember to employ one-piece attachments.

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How a Hammer Drill Operates

Like the impact driver, the name hammer drill pretty much explains it all. This combination of hammer and a drill operates in a linear striking motion in the drill bit’s path. In other words, you get chiseling and drilling all in one.

Needless to say, this type of drill is perfect for heavy-duty tasks like drilling concrete, cinder blocks, and more. But while this machine is ideal for such jobs, it may not be as effective when working with softer materials. To solve the issue, you have to disengage the hammering action. While many models have this feature, some slotted drive system (SDS) units don’t.

Hammer Drill Unique Features

While most hammer drills have a self-centering three-jaw chuck, not all models are keyless. Heavy-duty units have a keyed chuck for an improved and tighter grip on the bits. Besides, SDS hammer drills come with spring-loaded chucks with ball bearings. They work with special SDS drill bits that have grooves and a sliding sleeve for easy release.

Another difference is in the masonry bits. While they look very much like standard drill bits, they have a unique tip. The high-speed steel here is much broader and chips away at the surface during rotation. What’s more, the spiral flutes work towards funneling the waste out of the way for increased efficiency.

 

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How to Use a Hammer Drill

As already mentioned, a hammer drill is a type of tool that you wouldn’t usually need in light-duty tasks. Still, it’s perfect for everything from installing house numbers on your exterior wall to drilling holes in brick walls. In most cases, drilling holes would require the use of special masonry bits. But when you turn the hammer function off, you can safely use standard drill bits. Just make sure you proceed with extreme care.

To start using the tool, simply load in the desired drill bit. In a similar manner to a standard drill/driver, make sure you tighten it well. After that, you are ready to start drilling. Consequently, you can finish the job with a special screw, depending on the type of material you’re working with. Bear in mind that SDS hammer drills are safe to use in hammer mode only. For this reason, they’re ideal for small demolition tasks such as taking down a garden wall or removing old asphalt.

Final Thoughts

A drill/driver is perfect for working with softer materials like wood and plastic. On the other hand, an impact driver is more efficient when drilling holes into more rigid materials. In this regard, the hammer drill is the most powerful of all. It will deliver the much-needed hammering action when working with solid materials like concrete, asphalt, bricks, and more.

In conclusion, it’s safe to say that all three power tools have their unique features to make use of. Indeed, a drill/driver may finish most of the tasks around your home or garden. However, you’ll need more than that for the more demanding jobs. This is when the impact driver and hammer drill come to help. As a result, it’s best to combine two or more power tools for optimal efficiency.

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