What Do the Numbers on a Drill Mean?

What Do the Numbers on a Drill Mean?
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What Do the Numbers on a Drill Mean?

Drills and drivers are very valuable tools to have in your arsenal. If you are a handyman, plumber, carpenter, woodworker, or anything in between, if you do not have a power drill, chances are you will not get very far in your profession, or even very far into a single project.

When it comes to power tools, the drill is one of the most common, popular, and widely used tools in many different labor professions.

What do the numbers on a drill mean?

Electricians, roofers, demolition workers, and so many more professions use these tools.

However, if you are new to the power drill world, you might be wondering what exactly they can do, and more.

Yes, if you take a look at a power drill, you will see a bunch of numbers on them, especially at the front, by the head, behind the chuck.

These numbers serve a specific purpose.

So, what do the numbers on a drill mean and what are they for?


Technically speaking, the numbers which you see on the front of the drill will usually range from either 1 to 10 or 1 to 20, with the latter option being the better as it allows for a higher level of torque and more diverse options. These numbers refer to the amount of torque or power which the drill will apply when using a fastener or drill bit.

This is closely related to how much torque or power is needed to make a hole or insert a screw into a specific depth of material. So, simply put, the numbers on the drill refer to how much torque is applied to the fastener, generally a screw. Once that specific level of torque is reached, the drill will stop turning or driving the fastener.

It is a very useful thing to have on any drill indeed.

How the Torque Numbering Sequence Works

Whatever drill you have, the number sequence is more or less the same and very typical. As we mentioned before, some drills go up to 10 and some to 20, with there also being some other variations. However, they will work in the say way, no matter how high this number sequence goes.

The very first setting is “1,” and this is the lowest setting with the lowest amount of torque which the drill can muster. Technically speaking, you will probably never use the No.1 setting, as the amount of torque it provides is very minimal; you might never use the first 5 settings on the torque control, as the amount of power provided is very minimal. Low torque settings are most often used for very short fasteners, very soft materials, and a combination of the two.

Now, let’s move to the other end of the equation, with the highest number, whether it is 10, 15, or 20, being the one which will provide the most torque for any application.

How high this number sequence goes depends on the type, brand, and quality of the drill which you have.

How the Torque Numbering Sequence Works

The higher torque settings will usually always be used for longer fasteners, especially when they are being drilled into very hard and dense materials, as you will need more torque to drill a long fastener into hard materials, than you would need to drill a short fastener into soft materials.

What is also nice about most modern drills is that they come with some kind of maximum bypass button; if you press this button, the drill will at all times provide you with the maximum amount of torque which it can muster.

This is a useful feature if you know that you always need the maximum amount of torque.

How to Use and Adjust Your Drill’s Torque Settings

One problem which you might experience is that there are no preset settings in terms of which number provides exactly which amount of torque. Every model and brand name of drill can be different, so this is something that you will have to test out and adjust for yourself. Let’s talk about how to do this.

Get a sample of the piece of material you will be working with, not just any sample, but the same material you plan to drill into. Make sure to secure it using a clamp or some other kind of device so it does not move around on you.

Now it is time to take your drill and set the clutch or torque setting to the middle, so if you drill goes up to 20, set it to the halfway point, at 10.

Now, take a fastener, such as a screw, and use your drill to see how far that screw goes into the piece of material you have selected. Now you can adjust the clutch or torque setting accordingly. If it does not go in far enough, turn the torque up a bit, and vice versa.

Keep in mind that there is not set science here, so it will take a bit of trial and error to get your torque properly adjusted for the job at hand.

However, with time, this is something that will become muscle memory for you.


A Side Note – Speed

Some select drills also come with variable speed settings, usually no more than 3 or 4.

If you see a switch at the top or on the side of your drill, one that has a 1, 2, and sometimes a 3 or 4, this is the speed control switch.

Keep in mind that speed or RPMs are not the same as torque.


There you have it – the numbers on your drill refer to the amount of torque which the drill is set to provide for any project at hand. Just remember to test it out before you start working on any project.  Check out this article on the Best 12V Drill of 2019

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