What Do the Numbers On A Drill Mean? Drill Torque And Speed Explained

You must’ve noticed some numbers and symbols etched on drilling tools. By rotating the collar clutch, you can change the numbers. But have you ever wondered, what do the numbers on a drill mean?

The numbers on the drill’s clutch are the different torque amounts used for drilling into different surfaces. Just like torque, speed and modes are also major settings of a drill machine.

Having a thorough idea about these specs is essential as your project is at stake. Wrong adjustment of these settings can permanently damage your work. Not only that, you may injure your hand if using a false torque level.

This article covers all the information you must know before switching the tool on. Whether you’re planning to buy a drill or just bought one recently, read till the end.

What Drill Torque Means and How Does It Impact Your Drill?

Torque is one of the key measurements that are interrelated to the drill’s power. Basically, it’s the force generated by the drill’s motor which results in rotational movements.

Note that the drill torque action always happens around a certain point. It’s just like the typical torque wrench. Since the movement occurs inside the machine, you can’t see it.

The action can follow clockwise or counterclockwise rotation depending on the drill settings. In drill machines, Nm (Newton meters) numbers represent the torque.

Torque has a vital role in modern drills. Though it doesn’t determine how fast or slow you can fasten a screw, it impacts the drill speed.

Speeding up your impact driver, wrench, or drill will reduce the torque. That means, if you want to get higher torque, you’ve to lower the speed.

That’s why gear 1 in drills provides higher/maximum torque set for the machine. And gear 2 delivers high speed while lower the torque.

Torque Vs. RPM in Drill

Just like torque, RPM (revolutions per minute) is another crucial factor to consider when buying a fastening tool.

While torque is the generated force by the motor, RPM means how quickly the drill bit can rotate. In short, it determines the drilling speed of a machine.  

From the chart below, let’s get a thorough idea of the differences between the torque and RPM.

DescriptionsTorqueRPM or Speed
MotionLinear motion that causes rotationThe rotational motion caused by torque
LocationClutch or knob on the drill collarPressing the trigger and gears
ControlRotate the clutch to a specified level before starting drilling1st: Shift the gear to 1 or 2 to increase or decrease the speed before or during drilling 2nd: Low or high finger press to control the speed  
Denoted UnitNewton meters or Nm, in-lbs. in case of drill RPM or Revolution per minute
MeasurementsControl level ranges from 10 to 30 depending on the drill machinePreset speed by the manufacturer. The average speed ranges from 2000 RPM to 3000 RPM
RelationTorque is impacted by the speed of a drill machine. The higher the rate, the lower and unsustainable torque you’ll get. Conversely, lowering the speed will increase the torque amount and sustainability.Rotational speed controls the torque output but isn’t impacted by the torque.

What’s the Use of the Clutch Setting in Drills?

Clutch Setting in Drills

A clutch is basically the dialer on a drilling tool. It controls how much penetrating pressure your drill will generate while drilling or driving a screw.

When you twist the clutch leftward, it reduces the amount of torque it’ll generate before the disc starts to spin.

It’s a vital feature if you do fastening jobs on diverse surfaces with different sizes of screws.

There is a fixed or universal right number for clutch settings. You’ve to experiment drill into different materials and screws.

However, the safe way to get started for beginners is to set the clutch to any mid number/level. And then adjust the clutch to lower or higher settings until the fastener drives into the surface flawlessly.

How to Use Torque Settings on a Drill?

Knowing how to use different torque settings in a drill is important. You’ll find different torque levels in a drill; each defines the force it’ll generate.

The torque level you need for wood isn’t the same for concrete. Setting a higher torque than you should create inadequate pressure on the surface, resulting in breakage or cracks.

Similarly, drilling with a lower torque disengages the motor from functioning properly. Follow the below guide to avoid these mistakes.

Torque Range 1-4 (1/2-inch Screws)

All drill machines have a torque dialer (with various numbers) on the drill collar. You just need to rotate it leftward or rightward to adjust the torque level.

Also, there is an arrow in the middle of the collar. Set the torque number pointing to the arrow to get your required torque settings.

Small screws require low torque force. And you want to finish the task faster. If you’re drilling with a half-inch or smaller screw, keep the number between 1 to 4.

There is a forward/reverse switch also. Toggle it to forward when drilling and backward when unscrewing any fastener.

If you’re using a cordless drill, there is supposed to be a variable speed setting, usually 2 levels. Keep it the highest in case of the following size of screws.

Torque Range 5-8

For softer wood drilling, I suggest using a torque level between 5 to 8. Otherwise, excessive force will snap the wood. Don’t make any changes with the variable speed.

Torque Range 9-12

When driving screws around 1-inch, you’ll need a bit higher torque. Therefore, level it up to 9 to 12. The torque setting is mainly preferable for semi-hard woods.

As semi-hard woods require stable drilling force, you should slow down the speed setting.

Torque Range 13-16

If considering hardwood or a similar dense surface, you should use more torque, between 13 to 16.

This torque setting can handle screws or fasteners from 1.5-inches to 3-inches. There is no need to change the speed.

Torque Range 17-24

While drilling with a larger screw (more than 3-inch), set the torque to 17+. My drill has the maximum torque setting of 24.

Depending on your model, it can have a maximum torque level of 20 to 30. The settings are adequate for drilling into concrete, hardwood, and other masonries.

“When drilling into a harder surface, keep higher torque settings and lower speed. And if drilling in a softer material, keep the torque according to above while keeping the speed faster.”

The In-lbs., Nm, and UWO Power

As mentioned above, Nm is the measurement of the torque of your drilling tool. And in-lbs. units are used to represent the maximum torque a drill can generate.

However, any of this doesn’t represent the actual power rating of your drill. For that purpose, manufacturers use UWO or Units Watts Out.

Knowing the UWO is important as it comes from the combined performance measurements of both speed and torque of the drill.

If you’re a professional, this is a major trait to consider while buying a drill. With this power rating, you can understand how slow or fast the drill can complete a fastening job.

Therefore, people consider the highest torque and speed settings under maximum watt used to measure the UWO or the drill penetrating efficiency.

In order to convert the UWO to in-lbs. you’ve to multiply the output by 8.85. The result represents your drill’s maximum torque power.  

Key Differences Between 1 And 2 In Drills? (Gear Selection Settings)

1 And 2 Gear Selection Setting In Drills

Just like you, many beginners wonder what does the 1 or 2 mean on a drill. Modern drilling tools have a gear system just like a vehicle.

The control mechanism allows you to change the variable speed setting of the tool, whether it’s a corded or cordless drill.

As you shift to a higher gear to reach a higher speed, you do the same with drilling tools also. However, in most drills, you’ll only witness two gear/speed settings, 1 and 2. So, to get more speed, shift the gear to 2, and to slow down, set it to 1.

Usually, professionals use gear 1 when using higher torque and gear 2 if using low torque while drilling.

What Do Those Symbols Mean on a Drill Machine?

Symbols on a Drill Machine

Nowadays, you can find 3 symbols in the drilling tool which indicate changing the action mode of the tool.

These are Drill Symbol, Driving Screws & Hammer Symbol. Let’s look at what they do and how you should use them.

Drill Mode Symbol

The drill mode is necessary when you want to drill screws into different materials. This symbol is similar to a typical drill bit shape.

However, some backdated tools don’t have this symbol under the mode setting shown in the image.

Instead, the placement is on the maximum torque number beside the clutch. The color and the symbol shape can change slightly depending on the manufacturer.

When you shift the mode to this, it’ll generate the maximum torque the tool has. Except for masonry, you should use this mode when drilling into wood, plastic, and metals.

Driving Screws Mode Symbol

The sign looks like a “Y” or a screw shape. If you already have a hole to drive in the screw or working on a plank of softwood, this mode is used.

While considering the soft material type, this mode is quite important. You use this mode to avoid over-torquing the screw, which may pop up on the surface.

Hammer Mode Symbol

In most cordless drills, there is a hammer icon to represent the mode. Switching to this mode allows your drill to act like an automatic hammer but at a faster pace.

Hammer mode uses the maximum torque and speed (overall power rating). Therefore, the mode is mainly used when working on a dense material such as masonries or concretes.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What’s the amount of torque associated with the number settings?

Yes, there is a specific amount of torque for each number in a drill machine. Check out the below chart to learn the exact torque in in-lbs.

Torque Settings (Number)Torque Amount (In-Lbs.)Torque Settings (Number)Torque Amount (In-Lbs.)

2. Are all drills the same?

If considering feature availability, not all drills are the same. In general, there are 3 types of drills, regular ones, impact drivers, and hammer drilling tools.

They all have differences in supported bits, availability of torque settings, and power source.

3. Is torque control on cordless drill vs. cordless impact driver the same?

There is no torque adjustment feature in the cordless impact driver. However, you can control the force with the trigger.

Cordless drills have less torque power than cordless impact drivers. It’s because the impact drivers require more force to drill or drive a screw through the denser materials.

4. Can I just leave the torque on one setting?

You shouldn’t leave the torque in one setting. Different materials require a different amount of torque or penetrating force.

A high amount of torque can pop up the drill surface area. Similarly, low torque won’t deliver the expected drilling result.  

5. What’s the average torque rate in cordless drills?

Average cordless drills have a torque range from 10Nm to 20Nm, which can go up 30Nm in some modern versions. If considering the unit, the range can be 88.5 in-lbs. to up to 265.5 in-lbs.

Wrapping Up

That’s the brief about what do the numbers on a drill mean. Drill machines come with a torque setting that’s represented by multiple numbers on the clutch collar. You can change the number to get the required drilling force.

This torque setting is inversely related to the drill speed also. If pacing up the speed, it’ll reduce the amount of torque. And if you lower the rate, the amount will go up.

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