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Drills, Drivers, and Hammer Drills - What's the Difference?

Drills, Drivers, and Hammer Drills - What's the Difference?

Drills, drivers, and more – oh my! If you’re a new homeowner, first of all, congratulations! Homeownership is a rewarding experience, made even better when you have the knowledge, skills, and tools to handle whatever comes your way. At the top of most homeowners’ first tool kit list is a good drill, drill driver, or hammer drill, but the differences can be a bit confusing. Rest assured, your friends at WEN are here to set the record straight.

Functions and Features

At its most basic level, a drill consists of the following components:

  • A power source
  • A motor
  • A gearbox
  • A chuck

The motor gets power from the power source (which could be an AC power cord, a battery pack, or something else) and spins. That turns the gearbox, which drives the chuck. The chuck is the component at the end of the drill that actually grips the drill bit or accessory.

The differences between the tool types are:

  • A drill turns at a consistent speed to drill holes.
  • A driver incorporates a clutch to drive fasteners at various torque settings.
  • A hammer drill includes an option to hammer the chuck forward and into hard materials like masonry or concrete.

Many modern drills are actually drill/drivers, and are great for general-purpose drilling of holes and driving of fasteners. They combine the torque of a drill with the precise control of a driver using a gearbox and clutch. The gearbox reduces the motor speed, and is often controlled by a mechanical switch that gives the tool multiple speed ranges. Within that speed range, many drills and drill/drivers have variable-speed triggers that allow the user to control the bit speed by the amount of pressure applied to the trigger.

20121 drill speed selector switch

Speed range selector switch on a WEN 20V MAX brushless hammer drill, model 20121.

Drill/drivers also feature a clutch with adjustable settings when driving screws or other fasteners. The clutch prevents the tool from applying too much torque and possibly damaging the fastener or the workpiece. Most WEN drills, if they are hammer drills, feature a mode selector ring as well, with icons indicating hammer mode, driving mode, or drilling mode.

20121 clutch and mode selector

Mode selector ring and clutch (numbered) on a WEN 20V MAX brushless hammer drill, model 20121.

Hammer drills are most often drill/drivers with the extra hammering function mentioned above. If you’ll be doing a lot of work in concrete, brick, or other masonry, you’ll need a hammer drill and a special masonry bit. If you don’t plan on doing any work like this, or if you won’t be doing it very often, you may be able to get away with only using a drill/driver. Just remember to take it easy, clear out the hole of any dust and debris as you drill, and let the tool do the work.


A handy chart is provided below for quick reference. When using the clutch, the higher the number, the higher the torque that is allowed. If your drill/driver is struggling with a stubborn screw, consider adjusting the clutch to a higher setting.

  Setting Is the clutch used? Applications
Drilling Drill bit No General-purpose hole-making in wood, drywall, plastic, metal, and more.
Driving Screw Yes Driving fasteners, tightening nuts, etc.
Hammer drilling Hammer No Making holes in concrete, bricks, or other masonry.


We hope this guide has been helpful! If you have any questions about the information in this article, or want to find out more about our 20V MAX line of cordless power tools, please give us a call at 1-847-429-9263 (M – F, 8 – 5 CST), or drop us a message here to talk to our friendly and knowledgeable technical support team. Also, check out some of our other handy articles about cordless power tools.


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