Can You Use an Impact Driver as a Drill? 

Comparison Between and Impact Driver and Impact Drill

Before we answer the question of whether you can use the impact drill as an impact driver, comparing the two is important. Watch the below video as it will give you an in-depth knowledge of the two.

Sourced from Charlie DIYte

Mechanics and woodworkers understand the importance of having an impact driver. They have been used for long in repair shops due to their ability to deliver considerable torque and power to the driven object without significantly affecting the operator. These features have made them an excellent choice for tire shops, as they could handle the arduous task of removing and re-installing lug nuts with ease.

If you use a drill every day at work or occasionally when constructing or repairing some items at home, using an impact driver becomes a better option. This choice becomes inevitable if you don’t have a standard drill, or you need something more compact to fit in tight spaces.

Despite its versatility, an impact driver may not perform some activities satisfactorily. Most avid DIYers, for instance, question if one can use an impact driver as a drill. The direct answer to this is yes. You can use an impact driver as a drill. However, the drill bit is the most significant thing to consider when making this decision. Experienced woodworkers attest that it is possible to make small holes with light-gauge steel and softwood using an impact driver with a standard hex-shank drill bit. However, if you want to make large holes, say more than 0.25-inches in heavy steel, pressure-treated lumber, or hardwood, you need a better drill bit.

What is an Impact Driver? 

Impact drivers have become more important online thanks to its versatility. At a glance, they appear like any other standard drills. However, they have significant differences, especially with their functioning. Impact drivers combine the high rotational torque with fast-paced rotational tapping, which enables them to nudge faster while keeping the screw top in place.

A significant difference between standard drills and impact drivers is in their higher rotational torque. The high speed and more substantial muscle mean that they can penetrate sturdy materials easily. Impact drivers are also free from kickback, and the driver bits remain within the slots as it drives into the material. Impact drivers also have the advantage of better control when using long screws. It also provides more torque, which translates to few bumps to get the screw inside the materials straight. The few bumps not only means less noise when drilling but also ensures that the screw is driven tightly into the material.

Drilling With an Impact Driver: Things to Note

Whereas a standing drill should be your first tool of choice when working on drilling projects, an impact driver is an excellent substitute when you need the job done quickly. However, there are a few things to note before using an impact driver as a drill.

  1. Drill Bit Shank

The first thing to check before drilling with an impact driver is if it has a hexagonal shaped shank. Most impact drivers have hexagonal-shaped sockets that accept only hex shank bits. The advantage of these shank bits is that they don’t slip or gets easily damaged during use. However, on the downside, there are few hexagonal shaft drill bits available on the market. In most cases, you will hardly find the required drill bit size.

  1. Impact Rated Drill

When using an impact drill, you should use impact bits designed to work with the driver. In short, you should have a wide range of bits to use for each type of boring that you need. Besides, you should employ standard bits designed for an impact driver. Other bits may easily bend under the high torque of the driver. In the worst-case scenario, regular drills may burst or break due to the high impact force. Therefore, always ensure that you use an impact-rated drill bit when drilling with an impact driver.

  1. Lacks Clutch and Limited Speed Options

Unlike the conventional drills available on the market, impact drivers do not have clutch options. This limitation is probably one of the significant downsides when undertaking drilling jobs. You will find that drivers without a clutch are relatively shorter, making them useful in accessing tight places with ease. Besides, few options can hamper the use of impact drivers.

The clutch is probably the main reason why an impact driver can never replace your drill. The clutch is a significant trade-off for the length and weight of the impact driver. Keyless chucks add some mass and length to a drill, which can make it unwieldy fit into tight spaces. However, as mentioned, drivers are shorter, enabling them to get into congested places where cordless drills may not fit.

Note that not all impact drivers lack a clutch. Impact drivers with a clutch are relatively expensive and comparably longer than their counterparts. Besides, modern designs do not allow the use of the clutch when the impact feature is engaged. Therefore, you will either opt for the clutched drill or an impact driver, but not both at the same time. Impact drivers with clutch also have limited speed options. This limitation means that you will take longer to complete your intended task compared to using standard drills.

Pros of Using Impact Driver as a Drill

  • High torque – as mentioned, impact drivers have a higher torque rating. Therefore, though they may not be as good as standard drills for projects that involve boring, they perform better and faster. They are an excellent choice for projects that you need to drill into dense material, which may overwork the standard drills.
  • Compact design – probably the best benefit of using impact drivers is that you can fit them into tight spaces. They are as well ergonomically designed and balanced.
  • Easy on the wrist – impact drivers have zero kickback, thanks to its impact hammer mechanism. Their absence enables woodworkers to complete more tasks without straining their hands, arms, and wrist.
  • Less switching – impact drivers can be used for drilling and driving screws, making it versatile.
  • Lightweight – apart from the compact design, impact drivers are light and easy to use compared to the majority of standard drills.
  • Quick-release system –the impact drill has a quick-release system that enables a quick change of bits.

Disadvantages of Using Impact Driver as a Drill

Not suitable for making precise holes – the hexagonal shank drill bits do not fit inside the hex sockets of the driver well. This shaky assembly makes them play when in use, causing the drill to wobble.

How Does An Impact Drill Work?

Impact drivers have an impact function that delivers a chain of intense rotational bursts of force, producing a high level of torque when drilling or driving screws. The impact function leverages an anvil mechanism and a hammer. When in use, the tool encounters resistance. Therefore, to overcome the resistance and continue drilling, the machine must deliver more torque.

With increasing resistance, a spring attached to the impact driver retracts, pulling the hammer away from the anvil. As this happens, the screwdriver bit continues its rotating action. The spring sequentially releases the hammer, which moves forward and strikes the anvil arms as it rotates. These strikes impact around 50 times per second, delivering a robust rotational force.

Working with an impact driver is easy as it is typically smaller, lighter, and can fit into tight spaces. They also won’t wrench violently and impactful. Knowing how an impact driver works make it easy for woodworkers to understand when and where to use an impact drill.

sourced from Helpful DIY

How Do You Use An Impact Driver?

Note that you use an impact driver for drilling and driving screws. As mentioned, impact drivers take advantage of the hammer and anvil mechanism to deliver much torque that a typical drill. Impact drivers solve the problems that most woodworkers and avid DIYers face when drilling large diameter holes such as 0.5-inch and above.

When drilling such holes with a spade bit, the bit can pinch and get hung up in the hole. When using a cordless drill, sometimes the bit may get stuck. The motor transfers the rotation force to the body of the drill. When this occurs, it leads to changes in the position of the drill in the user’s hands. The drill might even slip out of the user’s hands, which could be dangerous. In the worst-case scenario, there could be a transfer of the torque from the twisting drill to the operator with devastating outcomes.

However, using an impact driver reduces the potential of such injuries significantly. Even if the drill bit is stuck, the torque transferred to the operator is minimal. This advantage makes this tool an excellent choice for plumbers and electricians who need to drill larger holes to create pathways for pipes and wiring.

Do I Need Specific Bits For An Impact Driver?

Impact drivers are useful when driving long and bigger gauge screws that require more torque. As such, they need specific bits that provide additional benefits over regular driver bits. Impact driver bit provides extra torsional strength and a large breaking angle that gives it better flexibility and cushioning under any impact. This property increases its average service life.

The most basic idea that brings out a significant difference between impact driver bits and standard bits is their design. The material that makes impact driver bits varies significantly. For instance, Milwaukee blends custom steel to provide additional ductility than what they use in their standard bits. Just to mention, ductility describes the ability of a solid to deform under tensional stress. Such increased flexibility gives impact driver bits the ability to twist and flex even under pressure.

Apart from the steel blend, impact driver bits have a shock zone in their bits. On closer look, you will observe a narrow area in the middle of the bit, which allows for additional flexing to buffer some torque while giving the bit’s tip a chance to drive the fastener and rotate.

Do I Need A Drill And Impact Driver?

You may compare this dilemma with sledgehammers and ball-peen hammers. They perform the same function but in different situations. Likewise, the cordless drills and impact hammers are essential for handling almost the same jobs but at different ends of the spectrum. The majority of homeowners have power drills in their toolbox for routine DIY projects and home repairs. Impact drivers, on the other hand, are relatively new tools on the market but quickly creating a buzz.

Whereas both tools have similar side-by-side functionalities, some distinct differences will make any professional woodworker and avid DIYers need both an impact drier and a drill. Impact drivers have high speed and power that are not available with a traditional power drill. They are best for driving screws efficiently, driving thick screws into hardwood, and removing bolts and screws that are stuck.

On the other hand, cordless drills have an adjustable clutch that works as a torque limiter and designed to provide smooth spinning action. Cordless drills are best for drilling holes, driving screws, and tightening and loosening bolts. Therefore, despite the lots of power and compact size of impact drivers, you will still need a drill to handle precise jobs, constant torque, and much more.

The Bottom Line: Should An Impact Driver Be Used For Drilling?

Yes. An impact driver can be used for drilling, but with a caveat that regular drills are not available. Whereas impact drivers are best for specific drilling situations, you should consider using drills first before opting for impact drivers. The argument is that the typical drills are designed for drilling, while impact drivers are for drive fastening.

As mentioned, only general-purpose drill bits are available in hardware shops. Their scarcity limits on what you can use to drill as standard bits are designed for drills and may not withstand the torque of impact drivers — besides, the precision of the holes that you should drill matters. Impact drivers are not precise compared to standard drills.

That said, if you need to make some rough drills to pass wires and such, impact drivers are the right choice. Similarly, if you have a project and need some quick drilling, an impact driver can be a good alternative. The additional torque, compact, lightweight design, and fast switching of buts assures that your work is completed less time compared to standard drills.



I am a woodwork enthusiast who is in the Financial Industry. I come from a woodworking family and started handling woodwork tools from a young age. For me, it's not a hobby. its a way of life.

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