Electric drills are fantastic tools and extremely handy when working on DIY projects or fixing things around the house. They can make even the most challenging jobs much easier to handle. Depending on the task, you can choose among several types of drills that produce different degrees of torque.
How much torque you need will depend on the intended use of a drill. Up to 25 Nm (18.43 lb-ft) will only suffice for basic household tasks, while 25 Nm to 50 Nm (18.43 lb-ft) is more appropriate for more demanding DIY projects. Only professionals will need anything above 50 Nm (36.87 lb-ft).
In this article, we’ll explain what torque is, why it matters, and how this information can help you purchase the right tool for your needs.
What Is Torque?
Torque is essentially a measure of how much rotational force a drill can produce.
Nm (or Newton meters) is the unit of measurement for torque. It defines the ability of your drill to screw or unscrew fasteners in compact or dense materials.
In other words, the higher the Nm rating, the more pressure and force a drill can apply.
The more Newton meters a drill generates, the more powerful it is. Conversely, the fewer Nm a drill generates, the less powerful it is.
Knowing the torque of a drill helps you pick the right drill for the material you are working on.
For instance, when screwing into a denser and thicker material, you will want to choose a drill with greater torque.
Doing this will also prevent damage to screwdriver heads, bits, and sockets.
The lowest torque drills may only push a screw to a maximum depth of around 30 mm (3 cm) into a low-density material, whereas a high-torque drill can screw 80 mm (8 cm) into even the densest hardwoods.
Check out this video for a more in-depth look into the physics of what torque is:
Torque Required Varies According to the Task
Electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and hobbyists use drills as everyday tools.
But their work can be very different, and not all projects will need the most powerful tools.
With many types of drills available today, knowing what tasks you will use your drill on will help you choose one with adequate torque.
You might only want to invest in an entry-level to mid-range model if you plan on drilling holes through only one or two common materials.
This will save you money while providing you with a tool just powerful enough for your needs.
Alternately, if you will be working on more challenging projects and intend to keep your drill for many years to come, you may want to invest in a more expensive electric drill.
These models will have higher torque and be capable of drilling through thick metal and rigid masonry materials.
Choosing a drill with variable torque settings is a good idea if you intend to use it on a broad range of materials.
These drills are versatile and can be adapted to a range of tasks.
Remember, though, that a higher torque drill will still cost you more than a lower-powered machine.
Adjusting Torque Will Help You Stay in Control
A drill trigger works like this: the harder you press it, the faster it spins. In this case, perhaps, you’re wondering why you’d ever want a slower speed.
The faster the speed, the quicker the job gets done, right? Not quite.
To gain more control, you may need to increase or decrease the torque on your drill depending on the material and the stage of the task you are at.
For example, you will need to turn down the torque on a drill when screwing fasteners into soft materials like wood.
This is because consistently using only the highest torque setting gives you less control over how deep you drive the screw, so it’s easy to overshoot the mark and split the material.
You’ll also not feel any resistance once you’ve driven the fastener through the material.
With the drill driver spinning at high speeds, this can result in head stripping, making removal impossible and ruining the project.
In this case, by not lowering your torque, you may hurt yourself or cause damage to your material.
On the other hand, when moving through to a denser material, you’ll need to raise torque to drive your screws through.
Either way, before using it on a project, it’s a good idea to test your drill first.
Knowing how the tool reacts and handles will help determine how to use it best.
The Torque Settings on Your Drill
If you’ve ever used a drill, you’ve probably noticed a dial near the drill head marked with increasing numbers.
These usually range from 1 to 10 or 1 to 20, indicating the torque range of the drill.
The higher number, the greater the torque applied.
Drill torque settings start at 1. This is the lowest setting, which means it provides the least amount of torque your tool can handle.
Use this setting when working with the softest materials or drilling small fasteners.
On the other end of the range is the highest setting.
Regardless of the number used by the specific manufacturer, it provides the maximum torque for any task.
Power drills usually stop turning or driving fasteners once they reach the maximum torque, thereby preventing damage.
The torque you need will depend on the materials you work with.
Up to 25 Nm (18.43 lb-ft) is adequate for light household tasks.
For more complex projects, you may want between 25 Nm (18.43 lb-ft) and 50 Nm (36.87 lb-ft). Only professionals will need more than 50 Nm (36.87 lb-ft).
The higher the torque, the less control you have over the fasteners, and the more likely you are to damage materials or hurt yourself.
Start with a low setting and gradually increase power to draw the right amount for your task.
Cheers, tools owners!