In this article I want to give you an understanding of a popular type of full-featured cordless tool called a “drill driver hammer drill”.  Different brands are surprisingly similar in terms of controls, features and performance, so what you learn here applies across the board.

The black collar on this 18 volt cordless hammer drill shows the three “modes” this tool can operate in: drilling, screw driving, and hammer drilling. The tool is currently in drilling mode. This means full power goes to the drill bit, with no slippage of the internal clutch.

If you rotate the adjustable collar so the “screw” icon is aligned with the arrow, you have the adjustable depth feature activated. In this mode the drill will deliver a certain amount of tightness to a screw that you’re driving, but no more. The motor still spins when you hit the trigger, but the chuck doesn’t turn. It simply slips making a buzzing sound as it does. This mode is for driving screws to a consistent depth all the time. The lower the number on the adjustable clutch ring, the less torque is delivered to the chuck. When they talk about a drill driver, it’s referring to the ability to deliver different amounts of torque like this.

This drill is now in hammer mode. The chuck spins with full power and no slippage, but the chuck also vibrates back and forth at high frequency. It’s this vibration that allows a hammer drill to bore holes in masonry at least 3x faster than a non-hammer drill.

Hammer mode is the third way this drill can operate. When you rotate the ring so the hammer icon is aligned with the arrow, two things happen. First, the chuck is going to get the full torque of the motor. There will be no controlled slipping as happens in drill driver mode. In addition to rotation, there is also a kind of a high-frequency vibrating hammer action that’s very useful when you’re drilling masonry. Without hammer action, this drill makes slow progress in masonry. With the hammer mode engaged, drilling progress is much, much faster. I could literally spend hours trying to drill a hole in masonry without hammer action, while it would take minutes to get the job done with it activated.

Nowadays, cordless power tools all have lithium ion batteries.It doesn’t self-discharge over time, and lithium-ion technology can be protected against the damage caused by overloads or charging a battery that’s too hot. Lithium-ion also has other features that make a difference, too.  Most have a button you can press to see the state of charge of the battery. If you’ve had disappointing experiences with cordless tools in the past, the new world of lithium ion tools is really going to surprise and impress you. It’s definitely the way to go.