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How to Change a Drill Bit

How to Change a Drill Bit

One of the most versatile tools imaginable, the drill bit can be used to drill holes in a variety of materials and items. It's long been a workshop essential, with many people maintaining vast collections that include bits of various sizes, with different finishes, and with strategically selected point angles.

The versatility of the drill bit may allow this simple tool to handle almost any drilling job imaginable, but it also means a lot of swapping out for different parts. A single project may call for changing the drill bit on several occasions. 

Thankfully, changing a drill bit is usually a straightforward task. Some variations exist, depending on whether the drill has or doesn't have a chuck key. In most situations, however, drill users can quickly figure out how to change the bit — and most discover that, after a few times of completing this process, it begins to feel second nature.

Ready to get started? Keep reading to learn the basics of changing a drill bit, as well as options for when you have or don't have a chuck key.

Drill Chucks with Keys

Many of the drill chucks you use will include keys, which can be used to deliver a tighter fit for the drill bit. This can inspire greater confidence when handling the drill but may also complicate the process of changing the bit. 

Check the Size of the Chuck Key

Before you get started, keep in mind that a variety of different sizes are available for chuck keys. To avoid confusion when changing the drill bit for a keyed chuck, take note of the size of the key to ensure that it's compatible. If you try to remove a drill bit when using a chuck key that isn't the right fit for the chuck, you'll be in for a world of frustration.

Remove the Drill's Power Source

Another essential? Turning off the power of the drill. It can be easy to forget this important step, but neglecting it could compromise not only your safety, but also that of other people nearby. Depending on the type of drill you're using and whether it has a cord, you may need to disconnect the battery or unplug the drill. Even after you remove the power source, you'll need to use caution, as drill bits can quickly get hot with use. 

Insert the Key to Open the Jaws

As you examine the chuck, you'll notice that it has a ring and chuck teeth that open and close. These will open wider for larger drill bits and close tight for narrow ones. If you turn the chuck key counterclockwise, you can easily open the chuck's jaws. 

Center the Drill Bit Precisely

Take a close look at the sides of the bit before inserting a new one, as these should line up precisely with the chuck teeth. The bit should be centered before you use the chuck key again.

Learn more: Black Oxide vs. Titanium Drill Bits – Which One Should You Choose?

This is typically easy to accomplish with a large drill bit but can become trickier as you work with smaller options. In fact, it's possible for small drill bits to get stuck between two jaws, causing the bit to spin off-center. 

Close the Chuck's Jaws

After you've carefully inserted the drill bit and are ready to close the jaws, grab the chuck key again. This time, it will need to be turned clockwise. Store the chuck key somewhere safe so that you can retrieve and use it again as soon as you're ready for yet another drill bit. 

Keyless Drill Chucks

Many drill chucks lack keys. This shifts the process of changing a drill bit, but you'll quickly find that the process is even faster and more convenient without a key. As such, those who primarily use portable drills are usually pleased to find that these rarely include chuck keys.

With any drill — keyed or keyless — you'll want to take care to remove the power source. This may be even easier to forget for a keyless drill, so be cognizant of safety as you proceed.

Turn the Chuck's Collar Counterclockwise

A keyless chuck relies on a part known as a collar for opening and closing the jaws. This can be found at the upper portion of the chuck. It's easy to operate: simply use your hands to turn the collar. Turning the collar counterclockwise will open the jaws.

Insert the Drill Bit

As with a keyed chuck, precision is crucial when inserting a drill bit. Place the bit carefully between the jaws, ensuring that it's centered prior to closing them. You may need to continue holding on to the drill bit to keep it centered as you adjust the collar.

Turn the Collar Clockwise to Secure the Bit

As you keep the drill bit centered, turn the chuck's collar clockwise. This will close the jaws so that the bit is secured enough for you to start using the drill.

Squeeze the Trigger

Many people prefer to change drill bits entirely by hand. This is a perfectly acceptable approach, but it's also possible to squeeze the trigger on the drill to further tighten the chuck. If you prefer this method, simply give the trigger a few quick squeezes. 

Use the Ratcheting Mechanism

Depending on the type of drill you intend to use, you may need to take an extra step to ensure that sufficient pressure is applied to the drill's shank. It's easy to engage the ratcheting mechanism: simply twist it clockwise. 

Quick-Change Chuck

Most of the drill chucks you encounter will feature either the keyed or keyless designs referenced above. Select models, however, including quick-change features that some users find appealing. As their name implies, these chucks are the easiest to adapt: simply pull out the drill bit you no longer want to use and insert a new one when you're ready. 

There's no need to feel confused or overwhelmed when it's time to change the bit on your drill. Whether you're using a keyed, keyless, or quick-change chuck, you'll be amazed by how easy it is to change the bit and adapt the drill's functionality.
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