Have you ever bought the greatest power drill in the world, or what you thought was the greatest power drill in the world, used it a few times with great success, and then had it crap out on you with no warning? Or have you dropped or knocked a drill off the workbench only to have either the outer casing crack or the insides broken just by being shaken up a bit? If you have ever been in any of these situations, you’re not alone.
Time after time, many of us have been drawn in by a drill’s sturdy appearance or its great features, or even a great recommendation, and been highly disappointed when the newest member of our power tool kingdom is thwarted by the most evil of villains – inner workings that are more fragile than you ever dreamed imaginable. When you fork out your hard earned money for a new tool, you expect it to not only look decent, but to work the way it should and to last long enough to get your money’s worth out of it.
Unfortunately, the world doesn’t always work like that and in order to be pretty darn sure that new drill is going to work its way into a solid position in your personal power tool realm, you’ll want to do some investigation before you decide to bring it home. Here are some things you should be checking out.
The housing is, basically, the outer and internal casing which protects the internal parts of the drill, and their function is to absorb the impact from falls and make sure everything stays where it’s supposed to be. I guess you could think of it kind of like being the drill’s jock strap. It would be weird, but you could think of it that way.
Anyway, housings are typically made of a combination of plastic and metal with the gears, bearings and shafts usually housed within metal, while the hand grip, trigger, switches and motor are surrounded by plastic. If the plastic is too brittle, it can easily break when the tool is dropped. To combat this, manufacturers can blend the plastic with fiberglass to make it more flexible while retaining its strength.
Plastic parts usually have “PA” ratings and “GF” percentages molded onto them, and these are the things you want to look for to ensure the plastic parts are quality. Look for tools that have a PA-6 or higher rating along with a minumum 30% GF.
The motor, of course, is what drives the rotation of the drill bit. Without a running motor, your beautiful drill becomes a beautiful paperweight. The motor has a few enemies, the most vile of them being heat. Good airflow helps keep a drill’s internal parts, including the motor, cool, as long as the air is relatively clean. That might not seem possible on a jobsite, but if fresh air is drawn in from the backside of the drill, it will be as clean as the surrounding atmosphere will allow.
Heat damage can also come from overuse or pushing a drill past its capabilities. Many manufacturers now include built-in safeguards which will turn the motor off before damage occurs, just in case you have a tendency to get crazy with yourself and don’t know when to give yourself or your drill a break.
Another thing to look at is the type of motor the drill has. There are motors with carbon brushes and motors which are brushless. Brushless motors are more efficient and reliable, make less noise, and last longer than motors with brushes.
That’s not to say motors with brushes are bad, by any means. But if you do go with a drill that has a motor with brushes, you want to make sure the brushes are replaceable. You can easily find “how-to” videos online that show how to change them, so if you go this route you should be covered in the event they need to be replaced at some point in time.
The gearbox isn’t something that’s always mentioned in a tool’s description, but it is something you want to consider, especially in the case of a tool that involves heavy vibrations like an impact drill or hammer drill. Excessive vibration will certainly affect the durability of these tools, so it can be a really good idea to check into the composition of the gears and gearbox before you buy. It goes without saying that an all-metal gearbox will be more durable than the alternative, but also bear in mind that spiral cut gears perform better than straight cut gears, even if they do cost more.
One of the last things we’re going to look at here may also be one of the most obvious. Then again, because it is so obvious, many people overlook it so I want to point it out to keep you from being one of the “many”. The first thing you need to know about the chuck is that there are two different kinds – keyed and keyless. Almost all consumer grade drills are now made with keyless chucks, so unless you’re looking at true heavy-duty professional grade tools, this is what you are most likely to be getting and, because they are simpler to use, it really is what you want.
Now, the thing we really want to look at is what the chuck is made of, and this is a pretty simple thing but it can be really important when it comes to lasting durability. The chuck can be made of plastic and metal, or it can be all metal. An all-metal chuck will, of course, be more durable in the long run but they also tend to be more expensive. If you are going to use the drill for light duty projects only, you probably don’t have to spring for a drill with an all-metal chuck but if you work your tools pretty hard, it’s definitely worth considering.
A warranty is, quite literally, the last word a manufacturer has to say about its product, and that word will tell you a lot about the tool you’re about to buy. You see, manufacturers that really believe in the products they make will stand firmly behind them. All tools will come with some kind of warranty, but you should be aware of exactly what that warranty covers and for how long. A good rule of thumb I like to use is, “The better the warranty, the better the tool.” Just keep that in mind.
Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are or how diligent you are in ensuring your new drill absolutely defines durability, it won’t last you a lifetime. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make every effort to make sure it will last as long as possible. I know the majority of us don’t have the kind of funds that would allow us to always get the best tools the market has to offer, but by investigating a few key points, we can be sure to get the best ones available in our price range, whatever that may be.
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