What do the numbers on a drill mean

What do the Numbers on a Drill Mean?

You may notice while using your cordless drill or impact drill there is a dial near the drill head with different numbers. Those numbers are the torque settings of your drill. It’s very important to understand the torque settings so you can effectively use the drill.

We will review what these settings are and more on how you can use torque appropriately on your drill.

What is drill torque?

In a way, torque is how productive your drill is. In simple terms, the turning movement of the drill that happens is considered the torque. If you have to drill a screw or a make a hole in a specific material, you’re going to need torque to get that done.

If you have a thicker/harder material, you’ll need more torque. If you’re just drilling into drywall, lesser torque would be desired so you don’t destroy the drywall.

Every drill has torque which is why it rotates, to begin with, however, not every drill is able to change/manage the torque by the user. Some just have one setting whereas others have the numbers on the drill head which allows you to control it.

What do the numbers on a drill mean?

The numbers on the drill relate back to the amount of torque the drill will apply to the object (screw, hole drilling, etc.). As the drill speeds up when you press the trigger, the torque numbers will set a limit to the number of rotations it turns. The higher the number, the faster the drill will turn.

On every drill I’ve ever seen, the lower the numbers mean it will rotate slower. This typically starts at 1 being the slowest rotation and 10 or 15 being the highest rotation. Each drill will have a different amount of numbers, but the higher the number the faster the rotation of the drill.

How much torque should you use?


Typically, this will depend on the substance you are drilling into. If you’re drilling into the wood which is the most common material, you can use a lower torque setting if not the lowest.

Wood often has an uneven density and can be thick and soft in different places so having a lower torque will be best in case the density changes.

If you’re dealing with metals and concrete, having a higher torque will be helpful as you need that extra spin to push through the dense/solid material effectively.

Having too much torque on a soft substance can cause you to drill too fast and strip the hole leading to your screw to not be very secure. Having too much torque can also cause you to accidentally strip a screw because the head of the drill may spin too fast and start to slip from the grooves.

How to adjust torque

If you are unsure how to adjust the torque on your drill, you can follow these simple steps:

  1. Locate the torque adjustment ring. This is typically on the “head” of the drill located just before the drill bit (the part that spins).
  2. Find a small arrow on the top of the drill which will point to the numbers. This arrow is what decides which torque setting is used.
  3. Turn the ring clockwise or counter clockwise to change the settings.
  4. Test the settings first by selecting the lowest number (Typically 1) and use a practice material like wood to drill a screw into the object.
  5. Turn the torque setting to the middle numbers (if 1-10, set it to 5) and complete the same steps of drilling a screw into the object.
  6. Last, set the torque to the highest setting and drill the screw into the object again. This one should go the fastest but can often go too fast if you don’t have enough pressure pushing down on the drill which can also cause the screw to not go in straight.
  7. Testing the settings on an object is important so you know how the drill will react and handle. Too high of torque can be difficult to handle, too low can be slow and tiresome.

Over time of using the drill, you will become more familiar with it and know which set of torque is best for the job.

Here’s how to use a torque clutch on a cordless drill:

Do drills all work the same?

All drills are set up very similarly and operate with the same system in place, however, they may look and feel different.

For instance, the DeWald drills typically have 15 clutch settings whereas a Bosch has 20 clutch settings to adjust the torque.

Each brand and often each model has its own setup so make sure when you are using different drills that you understand that a 10 on one drill may be drastically different than a 10 on another drill.

This is why it’s always suggested to play around with your cordless drill when you first get it to ensure you understand the low, medium, and high settings of the torque.

Our favorite cordless drill

There are so many great cordless drills on the market including great brands like Milwaukee, Dewalt, and Makita. Each brand has its own great qualities and offers drills with different amounts of torque and RPM.

One of our favorite’s is using the drill compact drill driver which is great for every home improvement project. It has a brushless motor which offers 30% more runtime than brushed and a clutch with 15 different torque settings.

It can go up to 1600 rotations per minute and has a built-in LED light that stays on for 20 seconds after you’ve let go of the trigger.

It’s without a doubt one of our favorites in an affordable price range for homeowners.

Check out this or any of the other great brands and learn how torque is important on your drill for making sure you have accurate speeds for different objects.

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