DIY, Tools

How to use a cordless combi drill and impact driver + buying guide

If your looking to purchase a new drill to help out with some DIY projects around the house, or you already own one but you’re a little unsure how to use it correctly then this post will help get your head around things.

This post is aimed at newbies or someone who has never pick up a drill in their lives. Maybe you’ve just purchased your first house and you want to have a go at some DIY as it interests you. Maybe you want to save paying someone else for a job you believe you can do yourself, or you’re thinking it’s time you tried something new. Whatever it is that’s brought you here, I’m sure you’ll find some useful information to get you started.

It’s good to understand the different types of drills out there so before I go any further here’s a list of possible drills to choose from and a little info about the best use for each:

  • Cordless screwdriver – This little drill is designed with one task in hand. Tightening and loosening screws. It’s only going to be suitable for this task and cannot be used as a drill. Best use; assembling flatpack furniture.
  • Cordless drill driver – A little more versatile than the screwdriver in that it has an adjustable chuck head that will allow both drill and screwdriver bits. This allows you to drill into wood, plasterboard and other softer materials. It will likely have two speed settings, one for driving screws and the other for drilling holes. Best use: drilling pilot holes and driving screws into wood.
  • Cordless combi drill – This drill is very much like the drill driver but comes with the addition of a hammer action. This hammer action allows the drill to penetrate tougher materials such as concrete and brick (masonry). It’s a versatile tool and a must have for any home DIYer. Best use; drilling into multiple different materials and driving screws.
  • Cordless impact drivers – These are heavy duty cordless screwdrivers ideal for jobs that require repetitive driving of screws such as laying decking or building a shed. They are available with different speeds and torques which will allow for a higher pressure hit on each revolution. Lower torque drivers are fine for most DIY projects. Best use; larger jobs with repetitive screw driving.
  • Hammer drills and SDS hammer drills – A heavy duty drill, most commonly corded, with a strong hammer action for drilling into solid, hard materials such as brick and concrete. These drills make tougher jobs much easier and quicker but tend to be aimed at the professional market rather than the average DIYer. Best use; drilling accurate depths into brick and concrete.

The below picture shows both a combi drill and an impact driver. The combi drill (on the left) has a much longer body than the impact driver and will have many more options and settings. The impact driver is designed with a shorter/smaller body so that is can reach into tighter spaces and is generally much lighter in weight.

How to use a combination (combi) drill

Lots of different buttons and settings! So what do they all do? Combi drills all differ slightly between makes and models but most will be very similar to this example.

The handle and trigger

The handle is designed for comfortable use in either your left or right hand. Your index finger should be used to pull and release the trigger. There are normally different speeds depending on how far you pull the trigger. Gently pull the trigger for a slow speed and pull all the way back for full speed. When tackling most jobs it’s always best to start of slow and build up to full speed once you’ve found your centre point.

Selector switch

The selector switch will allow you to switch the rotation of the drill. This will allow you to insert and remove screws depending on which direction is selected. Just remember that the direction must always move clockwise when drilling holes in materials. (Clockwise when looking at the back of the drill as it touches the material)

LED light

As you can see in the above picture this drill has a small LED light above the trigger and just below the chuck head. This helps illuminate the area in which you are working and helps you guide the head to it’s location more accurately.

Speed setting / Gear selector

You’ll need this to adjust the speed the drill spins at. Use number 1 (slow) for inserting/removing screws and drilling large holes in metal. You’ll get more control over the screw and will avoid stripping the screw head. Whilst it is possible to control the speed with the trigger this option adds extra protection should you get a little trigger happy! Number 2 is for drilling. It’s the fastest setting when the trigger is fully squeezed.

Torque numbers, drill and hammer setting

When drilling wood or metal you’ll need to select the drill setting on the collar. Should you be drilling masonry such as brick or concrete you’ll need the hammer selected. This will be very noisy so be prepared.

The final selections are numbered from 1 to 15 (normally) and will stop the drill when inserting screws into a material when there is enough resistance. The lower the number the sooner the drill will stop. This setting is normally useful when fitting plasterboard. It takes a little trial and error to find the correct setting but when you find it you’ll see the repetitiveness of inserting hundreds of screws becomes a much easier task. I sometimes use these setting when working on electrical goods and can prevent you from over tightening or stripping screws.

The chuck

This part is going to hold your drill and screwdriver bits tight into the drill. It can be tightened and loosened by twisting the plastic section whilst holding the drill still. You will see three small clamps inside open and close slowly as you turn it. When you’ve inserted a bit, ensure the chuck is nice and tight before using the drill. Some drills will have a clicking sound as they are tightened. This is completely normal and is known as a ratcheting chuck.

Carry hook

An easy to use hook that helps you easily hang the drill on your clothing or an object to free up that all important extra hand.

How to use an impact driver

The impact driver is much lighter in weight than the combi drill, is much easier to handle but has far fewer settings. It’s simply a super powerful screwdriver, not designed to drill at all. Whilst my Dewalt combi drill has 1500 rpm (revolutions per minute) the impact driver turns nearly double this speed at 2800 rpm. The impacting action takes away a lot of the work from you, relieves stress on your wrist and makes inserting/removing screws a much quicker task. When the drill reaches a certain level of resistance the hammer action kicks in and adds extra force to push screws into position. It’s ideal for jobs that involve a high volume of screwing. You can view more about impact drivers in this Youtube video:

Dewalt Impact Driver

The impact driver has a trigger and a rotation switch button but does not have any other switches or settings like the combi drill.

You’ll also notice that the chuck or head is very different. It is only designed to take screwdriver bits and has a quick release slide mechanism to quickly change bits.

This one also has a magnetic bar which can be used to hold screws or space bits.

This particular model has three LED lights on which I find very useful when working in darker areas.

Notice the hook again here for easy carry when you don’t have a spare hand.

You can buy these drills here at B&Q.

Selecting the correct drill bits.

What are all the different drill bits used for? Here is a quick break down to help you chose the right one for your job.

Screwdriver bits

It’s very important to make sure you use the correct bits when driving screws. Get it wrong and you’re going to break both the screw and the bit. Here are the most common bits you will come across. Each available in 4 sizes. (#0, #1, #2, #4)

If you are unsure of the correct size to use, test the screw head on each of the bits until you find the one with a nice snug fit.

Drill bits

Again, selecting the correct bit for the job is essential. It’ll prevent you from damaging the bits and material and will make the job easier and the finish will be much nicer. When working with wood, metal and masonry use the correct bit.

Purchasing Guide

Picking the right tools for the job is important and can save you money in the long run. Buy the wrong tool and you run the risk of having something that’s going to hinder your productivity. Get it right and you’ll save time whilst getting the job done to a much higher standard.

I tend to stick with one brand as this allows you to interchange batteries between each tool among the range. My personal favourite is the Dewalt 18v XR range. I find the build quality to be high, they’re durable, long lasting, generally feature rich and Dewalt have a very vast range of tools available, all taking the same battery. Many professionals use Dewalt tools and you’ll find the drill sets to be very reasonably priced.

Another great brand to consider would be Makita LXT, which I’ve owned in the past and find to be equally on par with Dewalt.

Always avoid unbranded or very low priced tools as generally you get what you pay for. These tools will let you down time and time again. They often break or fault quickly and easily, don’t provide accuracy and completely lack power. You might think you are getting a bargain but you’ll end up replacing it within a year and your jobs will take twice as long.

Other brands worth considering:

Accessories required for your drill

When purchasing a new drill you’ll need to consider some of the following depending on whether your drill comes with them.

Batteries and chargers

Most drills are available with a battery and charger included as a set, but you may find that some manufactures sell drills on their own, know as ‘body only’ purchases. Just make sure you know what the set includes before handing over your money. Buying and set that includes both a combi drill and an impact driver is a sensible choice as you’ll get a reasonable discount compared to buying separately.

If you’re taking on a larger job such as building a decking area then you’ll need to think about how long your drill is going to last. Most drills with come with a standard 1.5Ah battery that will likely last a couple of hours with regular use. These batteries can be charged up quite quickly, about 30 minutes, but this can be very disruptive so it’s worth investing in spare batteries or a higher Ah such as the 4 or 5Ah. This is going to last 3 or 4 times longer than the 1.5Ah battery, but bear in mind they also take a lot longer to charge.

My recommendation for a cost effective battery line up to accompany a combi drill and impact driver set would be two standard 1.5Ah batteries and one 4 (or 5) Ah battery. I’ve never been short on power with my jobs.

When it comes to chargers I find that one is enough, however if you’re a little more than a DIYer then a second charger or a dual charger might be worth investing in.

When it comes to brands it’s generally best to stick with one as all the batteries tend to be universal across the entire range per brand. I purchase Dewalt tools from their XR range so that I can use the same batteries in their drills, sanders, saws and many others.

You can buy battery converters that allow other manufactures batteries to fit but this can add weight to the tool and are a little cumbersome. Take a look at some here –

Drill bit sets

To be able to use your drill effectively you’re going to need some bits. The larger sets are going to provide a lot more versatility with jobs around the home but prices can get quite high. Cheap bit sets generally don’t last as long so it’s worth investing in something branded for longevity.

I tend to use the same bits over and over in my current job so use a medium size set and purchased a couple of extra bits that I added in afterwards. Most DIYers will manage with something like this Bosch 70 piece set with a reasonable price tag of £24. If there’s something missing that you require consider a larger branded set or purchase pieces separately.

Carry case

Most drills come with a plastic carry case which can help protect your drills when in transit. However most DIYers won’t be carrying their tools away from home so it’s questionable whether these are required or not. If you don’t want yours, don’t just throw it away as someone will want it. Try selling it on Facebook marketplace or eBay.

If you have a number of drills, batteries, chargers and bits it can become difficult carrying them around your property so it’s worth investing in a tool carry bag like this one. It will allow you to keep all your parts together and helps you take everything you need from job to job easily.

Recommended purchases

With all of the above in mind here are a few of my recommendations for the following categories:

Great budget combi drill, battery and charger set

Recommended combi drill, battery and charger set

Recommended combi drill and impact driver set

Thanks for reading, I hope you found it useful. Take a look at some of my other posts: