About Us



Follow Us

What do the Numbers on a Drill Mean? Two Things



V Susan
Hi! I'm Susan. I am passionate about woodworking, general DIY and home improvement. If you'd like to connect with me or talk about something you like at mellowpine, drop me a mail at susan@mellowpine.com


What do the numbers on a drill mean

With modern drills loaded with many features and functions, it can be overwhelming to understand what they do and when to use them.

One such thing is the sequence of numbers usually found near the chuck.

The numbers on the drill clutch refer to the different levels of torque or rotational force the drill will apply before disengaging. This feature allows tailoring the torque to the job at hand. In some drills, other switches can also control the supplied torque.

This article discusses the numbers and icons found on a drill and explains their functions, so you can confidently work with your drill.

MellowPine is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.

What do the Numbers on a Drill Mean?

Most drills have two important sets of numbers. They are the torque setting and the gear selection.

Torque Setting

Torque setting on a drill
Torque setting on a drill

The torque setting of a drill is usually located near the clutch, but in some models, it can also be in some other place. You can rotate and set it to a desired value against the indicator.

These numbers tell you how much torque or power the drill will use to turn an object, such as a screw, or to drill a hole.

It’s not necessary to know the exact torque value for each number. Remember that a higher number represents a higher rotational force.

This feature helps prevent stripped screws and allows drilling through hard materials like wood, metal, and concrete. 

Typically, the range varies from 1 to 20, with 1 being the lowest force and 20 being the highest. However, depending on the manufacturer, some drill models may have a range higher than 20.

It’s essential to check the drill torque before starting a project so you can understand its power and how well it handles.

Excessive torque can strip screws, while too little can make the task tedious.

Familiarizing yourself with the settings through regular use and testing will make choosing the appropriate torque setting for each project easier.

Some modern drills have icons at the end of the torque setting. These are used to change the drilling modes.

Gear Selection

Gear selection switch on a drill
Gear selection switch on a drill

The gear settings on a drill adjust the speed of rotation. A higher number means the drill will spin faster. Most drills have two gears, but some have three.

When you press the trigger on the drill and it activates, the torque setting determines how many rotations it will make in a minute based on the number you choose.

A number represents each gear. Number 1 is for high torque and low speed, which is best for driving screws and fasteners.

Number 2 is for medium torque and medium speed, which is good for deep driving and drilling.

Number 3 is for low torque and high speed, which is great for advanced drilling.

If your drill only has two gears, the second gear is for high torque and low speed.

Don’t change gears while the drill runs, as it can damage the machine. Wait for the drill to stop rotating completely before switching gears.

Other Numbers

Size mentioned on a drill bit
The size mentioned on a drill bit

Apart from the torque and gear selection settings, there are other numbers to consider when using a drill.

For instance, a drill bit labeled “1/4-inch by 6 inches”. It means it has a diameter of 1/4″ and a length of 6″.

The thread count is the number of threads per inch on a screw or bolt and can be used to determine the right tap or die when threading the hole.

Moreover, the gauge number describes the thickness of the web, which connects the tip to the shaft. A larger gauge number indicates a thinner web.

Other Interesting Features of Drills

Apart from the numbered settings, there are other drill features that every user must know.

Mode Selection

Mode selection in a drill
Mode selection in a drill

The mode selection feature is usually indicated by icons that appear separately. These icons can also be found at the highest setting of the torque selection.

You can find modern drills with a selector that lets you switch between three modes: drilling, driving, and hammering.

Drilling Mode

When you need to drill through materials like cast iron, wood, soft bricks, or plastic, you can use the drill bit to designate the drilling mode.

This mode offers the maximum torque the drill can provide, regardless of the torque settings.

If your drill does not have a mode selector, the highest torque setting will correspond to the drilling mode, which can be a number or a bit icon.

However, it is important to note that you should not use the drill mode for driving screws or fasteners.

Doing so can potentially strip the screw, damage the material, and even cause injury to your wrist if the drill snags.

If a screw or fastener is difficult to drive in with the standard torque settings, you can switch to the drill mode quickly, but do so with caution.

Driving Mode

The small screw symbol indicates the driving mode. This mode is typically employed to drive screws.

Pay attention to the torque setting to ensure you don’t overdrive the screws and bury them into the material.

Hammering Mode

The hammer symbol tells you that your drill has hammer action mode.

This mode helps you drill into concrete, stone, or other masonry projects except for tiles, as it can crack them.

Hammer action provides the power of drill mode but adds a percussion vibration, making it easier to drill through tougher materials.

Drilling into these materials would be much more challenging without the hammer mode.

Reverse switch

Reverse switch on a drill
Reverse switch on a drill

The reverse switch on your drill allows you to change the direction of the drill bit to either clockwise or anticlockwise. This lets you remove screws or reverse the drill bit out of a material.

Typically, the switch is located at the handle and is represented by an arrow showing drive direction, the letters “F” and “R” indicating forward and reverse, or some other symbol.

You can usually set the switch to either side, but some drills also have a setting in the middle that locks the trigger.

Battery indicator

On some modern drills, you can find a built-in battery indicator that shows how much battery life is left.

This makes it easy to know when to recharge or replace the drill.

LED light

Modern drills also come with an LED light to help you see clearly when working in dim or low-light conditions.

Nm symbol

When you look at the numbers on a drill, you’ll notice the unit of torque measurement is Newton’s Meters (Nm).

This Nm rating gives you an indication of the power of the drill or impact driver. The higher the Nm rating, the more force the drill will have to twist.

Final Thoughts

You can use drills to do various tasks, such as drilling, driving screws, and hammer drilling.

The numbers and symbols on the drill are used to control the torque, drilling mode, and speed.

Speed settings govern the rotation speed of the drill bit, torque settings determine the amount of rotational force supplied, and drilling modes allow for adapting to different project demands.

By understanding the settings and features of a drill, you can work more efficiently and get better results.

It’s a good idea to read the drill’s user manual to understand your specific drill and its settings, features, and symbols for better use.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How do I know when to use which drill setting?

The appropriate setting will depend on your task and the project material. For example, drilling mode is employed for drilling through materials such as cast iron, wood, or plastic, but it cannot drill through stone or masonry. Therefore, getting a feel for each setting on your drill is essential before attempting to use it on a project.

What is different between a keyed and keyless chuck?

The difference between a keyed and keyless chuck is that a keyed chuck requires a separate tool, usually a key, for tightening or loosening the chuck. On the other hand, a keyless chuck can be tightened or loosened by hand, usually by turning the collar of the chuck. In addition, it is more user-friendly and convenient as it allows you to change the drill bit without any tool.

What should I do if my drill is not working correctly?

If your drill is not working correctly, check the power source, chuck and drill bit, switch or trigger, and cord if corded. Also, ensure the drill bit is not worn out or damaged. If the issues persist, consult the user manual or contact the supplier. Try to avoid repairing it yourself, as you may further damage it.

V Susan
Hi! I'm Susan. I am passionate about woodworking, general DIY and home improvement. If you'd like to connect with me or talk about something you like at mellowpine, drop me a mail at susan@mellowpine.com