Cordless Drilling Machine Buying Guide
Buying a cordless drilling machine or drill driver is an investment - it’s something you’ll hopefully own and use for many years. This makes it important to choose the right one for your needs. Here is a comprehensive guide to help you select the best cordless drill for your projects and budget.
What to Consider When Buying a Cordless Drill
There are several factors to keep in mind when shopping for a cordless drill:
Power and Speed
The power of a cordless drill is measured in volts. Higher voltage means more torque and ability to drill through tougher materials. 12V drills are good for light tasks, 18V models can handle most general DIY jobs, while 20V+ drills are ideal for heavy duty use. Variable speed triggers also allow you to match the speed to the task.
Battery Type and Life
Lithium-ion batteries offer the best performance and longest battery life per charge. Batteries with higher Ah (amp hour) ratings will last longer on a single charge. Quick-charge times are also useful. Check how long batteries take to fully recharge.
The chuck holds the drill bit in place. Keyless chucks tighten by hand while keyed chucks use a key tool to tighten and loosen. A 3/8in chuck is suitable for most tasks around the home. 1/2in chucks can hold larger drill bits.
Weight and Size
Consider the overall weight and size of the drill, especially if you'll be using it for longer periods. Lighter and more compact drills are easier to handle and control.
Multiple clutch settings allow you to adjust torque for different materials and tasks, preventing damage to fasteners or materials. More clutch settings give you greater control over the drill's power output.
Added features like LED work lights, belt clips, variable speed triggers, and battery gauges come in handy for convenience and ease of use. Decide which extra features matter most for your needs.
Cordless Drill Types
There are several varieties of cordless drills to suit different uses:
The most common and versatile type, drill-drivers can drill holes and drive screws and other fasteners. They're a practical choice for most homeowners.
Hammer drills include a hammering action while drilling to power through concrete and masonry. The hammer mechanism can be turned off for regular drilling in wood or metal.
Designed for driving screws and bolts, impact drivers deliver quick bursts of power to simplify drilling and fastening. They’re especially good for automotive repairs or construction projects.
Compact angled drills allow you to drill in tight spaces and awkward spots. They perform much like standard drill-drivers but with the drill head at a right-angle.
Top Cordless Drill Brands
Sticking to well-known power tool brands generally means you're getting decent quality and features. Here are some of the top names in cordless drills:
One of the most popular pro-grade brands, Milwaukee Tools offer high performance and innovative features. Models range from lightweight 12V to heavy duty 28V cordless drills.
DeWalt is a trusted brand among contractors and DIYers looking for power and reliability. They have an extensive selection of 18V to 20V+ cordless drills.
Known for battery efficiency and brushed motor technology, Makita produces a versatile range of drills including compact 12V models up to hammer drills.
For precision and accuracy, Bosch cordless drills consistently earn high marks. They offer 12V drills up to powerful 18V hammer drills.
Ryobi offers affordably priced cordless drills with decent power and features. Their 18V ONE+ range uses interchangeable batteries across all tools.
Craftsman makes very capable mid-priced cordless drills. As a budget choice, they provide good value for general home use and DIY projects.
Additional Cordless Drill Features
Modern cordless drills include a variety of convenient features:
- LED lights - Built-in LEDs illuminate your work area.
- Electronic clutches - Precisely set drill torque and speed via easy digital controls.
- Belt hooks - Hook the drill onto your pants for easy carrying access on worksites.
- Depth guides - Allow you to set a consistent drilling depth for accurate holes.
- Bit holders - Conveniently store extra drill bits right in the drill base or handle.
- Battery fuel gauges - LED indicators display remaining battery charge level.
- Soft grip handles - Rubberized handles improve comfort and control when drilling.
What to Look for When Buying a Drill
Follow this checklist when selecting a new cordless drill:
- Power - Look for 18V to 20V models for most home DIY use. Higher voltage means more power.
- Battery quality - Opt for lithium-ion batteries with 2Ah or higher ratings for longest life.
- Keyless chuck - Prefer keyless chucks for quick and easy bit changes.
- Clutch settings - More clutch settings allow finer control over torque.
- Drill functions - Choose a drill-driver for versatility or hammer drill for masonry work.
- Weight and balance - Pick a drill that feels comfortable for extended use.
- Budget - Good home DIY models range from $100-$250 USD. Professionals may spend more.
- Brand reputation - Stick with reputable brands like DeWalt, Milwaukee, Makita for quality and service.
- Warranty - Opt for a longer 3-5 year warranty period for peace of mind.
Cordless Drill Care Tips
Follow these maintenance practices to keep your cordless drill in top shape:
- Fully charge batteries before storing. Store batteries at room temperature.
- Clean the chuck periodically and lubricate it with spray lubricant.
- Blow out any dust using compressed air. Keep ventilation ports clear.
- Don't over-discharge lithium-ion batteries. Recharge when they reach 20% capacity.
- Avoid exposing drill to excessive moisture or very high/low temperatures.
- Check the operation of the clutch and switch. Have any issues repaired.
- Follow the manufacturer's guidelines on replacing brushes. Worn brushes will reduce performance.
Common Cordless Drill Problems
Here are some typical cordless drill issues and fixes:
Problem: Drill lacks power or runs slowly.
Solution: Battery may need recharging. Check battery fuel gauge. Replace battery if it no longer holds charge.
Problem: Chuck is stuck or difficult to tighten.
Solution: Clean chuck jaws and lubricate with light oil. Replace chuck if damaged.
Problem: Excessive noise or rattling during use.
Solution: Replace worn out carbon brushes if needed. Check for loose drill bit or screws.
Problem: Battery won't take full charge.
Solution: Completely discharge then recharge battery to recalibrate it. Replace battery if old and worn out.
Problem: Drill overheats during use.
Solution: Don't overload drill. Allow breaks between heavy use. Clean drill vents.
Problem: LED worklight not turning on.
Solution: LED may have burned out. Check for loose wiring connections.
FAQs About Cordless Drills
Q1. What size cordless drill is best for home use?
For most DIY tasks around the house, a compact 12-18V drill with keyless chuck is ideal. Higher voltage 18-20V models provide extra power for demanding jobs.
Q2. How long should a cordless drill battery last?
With proper care, most lithium-ion batteries will last 3-5 years or around 500 charging cycles before needing replacement. Higher capacity batteries above 2Ah offer longer use per charge.
Q3. Can cordless drills be used to mix paint or mortar?
Yes, most drills can handle occasional mixing duties. Use a paint mixer attachment and be sure to clean the drill thoroughly after mixing. Avoid extended high-load mixing to prevent motor or chuck damage.
Q4. Is it worth getting a hammer drill for home use?
For most homeowners, a standard drill-driver will tackle most tasks unless you plan to frequently drill into concrete or masonry. The added cost of hammer drills is harder to justify for occasional use.
Q5. What drill speed should I use for wood, metal or masonry?
For wood, use slower speeds of 400-800 RPM to avoid damaging material. For metal, opt for medium speeds around 1,200 RPM. For masonry, use the hammer drill function and slower speeds around 800 RPM. Adjust speed as needed.
Q6. Can I use a cordless drill while it’s charging?
It’s not recommended. Most drills are designed for cordless use only so operation while charging can damage the battery and electrical components over time due to overheating.
Q7. How can I prolong my cordless drill’s battery life?
Avoid leaving batteries fully discharged. Recharge as soon as capacity falls below 20%. Store batteries at room temperature and away from moisture. Avoid exposing drill and batteries to extreme cold or heat during use and charging.