How to Remove a Keyed Drill Chuck

How to Remove a Keyed Drill Chuck
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How to Remove a Keyed Drill Chuck

A few decades ago, keyed drill chucks were the only chucks available. They require the chuck to be opened and closed with  the use of a small key. These keys slow down the process of changing drill bits, and can be easily lost.

In recent years, manufacturers have introduced keyless chucks that can simply be hand-loosened and hand-tightened to open and close the chuck, so they are faster and simpler to use. However, the presence of a key isn’t the only difference between keyed and keyless chucks. There are some key differences between keyed and keyless drill chucks, which make the chucks better for different purposes.

Differences – Keyless and Keyed Drill Chuck


Keyless chucks are faster and more convenient than keyed chucks, allowing to quickly and easily swap bits into and out of the chuck by hand.


Over time, the teeth on the key of a keyed chuck can become worn or broken, making opening and closing the chuck more difficult.


Keyed chucks are more precise, for holes that have very small tolerance. Machinists typically prefer keyed chucks for greater accuracy.


For two drills with similar power and features, the keyless chuck will be more expensive than the keyed chucks. Keyless chucks are more difficult to make, and therefore the tools cost more.

Some people swear by a keyed chuck for the power and resistance to slipping. Some swear by a keyless chuck for the convenience and ease of use. However, if you are able to change the chuck on your drill, you can have the best of both worlds, using keyed or keyless as needed. Once you know how, switching the chuck is a fast and easy job. This is also useful information if you simply need to replace or update  a drill chuck of either kind.

How to Remove a Keyed Drill Chuck

To remove a keyed drill chuck, you will need:

  • A large Allen wrench
  • Screwdriver to remove the set screw (if necessary)
  • Hammer or rubber mallet
  • Thread-locking fluid
  • New chuck with the same spindle threads as the existing one

To Remove and Replace a Keyed Drill Chuck

Remove the chuck set screw

  • Many older, non-reversible drills do not have a set screw; most newer drills do. If you aren’t sure whether your drill has a set screw, open the jaws as wide as possible, and use a flashlight to look into the bottom of the chuck. If you see a screw head (it may be Phillips, Torx, or an Allen head), it will need to be removed
  • If you have a set screw, it will be reverse threaded, so you need to rotate it clockwise to remove it, while holding the chuck firmly in your other hand
  • If you do not have a set screw, simply proceed to removing the chuck

Remove the chuck

  • Set your drill to the lowest speed setting and the highest clutch setting, and make sure the drill is not in reverse
  • Insert the short end of a large Allen wrench into the chuck and tighten it firmly in place
  • Place the drill on a work bench with the chuck and Allen wrench overhanging the edge, and the long end of the Allen wrench angled horizontally toward you
  • Holding the drill firmly, hit the long end of the Allen wrench with a mallet. The strike should be light enough to not damage the drill, but firm enough to loosen the chuck. The impact should loosen the chuck from the spindle (but you may need to repeat it again for stubborn chucks)
  • When it is loosened, turn the chuck counter-clockwise to remove it from the spindle.

Insert the new chuck

  • If your drill does not have a set screw, place a drop of thread-locking fluid on the end of the spindle to help secure the new chuck
  • Remembering that chucks are reverse-threaded, insert the Allen wrench into the new chuck and hand-tighten it in place

Tighten the set screw

If your drill has a set screw, add a drop of thread-locking fluid to the end of the screw before replacing it.

Adjust after time

After some use, it is normal for the new chuck to loosen slightly and need some adjustment. Be prepared to tighten the screw again after a couple weeks.

If you can’t tell what size spindle your chuck has, aren’t sure whether it has a set screw, or don’t know what the spin orientation is, it’s always a good idea to consult the owner’s manual or manufacturer’s specs on your drill. While removing a keyed drill chuck is a fairly simple job, there is some risk of damaging your chuck or your drill spindle when following these procedures on the wrong kind of drill, or using the Allen wrench to force the chuck the wrong direction.


As with many tool-related subjects, both keyed and keyless chucks have their purposes and their advocates. Many experts, machinists, and professionals swear by a keyed chuck for its accuracy and stability, and point out that you can always attach the key to the power cord to prevent it from getting lost.

Others prefer the speed and convenience of a keyless chuck, appreciating how easily it allows them to move from bit to bit and task to task. Whatever your preference, knowing how to remove a keyless chuck will aid in changing or repairing your drill chuck, for any reason at all.


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