How to Change a Drill Bit

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Some work you just can’t do without a drill. These handy devices rank high among the most commonly used tools because of their versatility and ease of use. From drilling holes and hanging pictures on the wall to building wooden furniture for a home remodel, power drills are a go-to tool.

However, different surfaces and projects require different types of holes. Inevitably, you will run into situations where you’ll need to change what makes these holes: your drill bit. Drill bits come in various sizes, materials, and coatings that (when used on the right surface) allow them to make the appropriate holes to do the job.

If you’re a first-time drill user and aren’t sure how to change a drill bit, you’re in good company. Continue reading below for our step-by-step tutorial of how to make the drill bit switch.

How to Change a Drill Bit in 5 Simple Steps

As previously mentioned, your drill bit depends on the project at hand and the surface you’re working with, whether they are soft materials like wood or hard surfaces like stucco. Once you understand the type of drill bit you need, whether you have a step drill bit, or a standard drill bit, you can move on to changing your drill bit.

Step 1: Loosen the Chuck

A chuck is the circular, jaw-like component of a drill that holds the drill bit in place (even with heavy torque). Before you can switch drill bits, you’ll need to unscrew the chuck.

Person holding a drill

You can easily do this manually by gripping the chuck and rotating it counterclockwise until it’s loose enough to take the drill bit out.

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Step 2: Remove the Bit

After you’ve loosened the chuck, you’ll notice that the current drill bit will start to become unstable. From here, you can remove the drill bit from the chuck.

If you can’t pull it out, the chuck may not be as loose as it needs to be. In this case, you’ll need to rotate the chuck more until you can discharge the bit.

Note: Be sure to examine the bit once you’ve removed it from the chuck, as sometimes these can be damaged or timeworn. You’ll want to throw any run-down drill bits away immediately to avoid unintentionally using them on a future project.

Step 3: Insert Your New Bit Into the Drill

Once you’ve taken the old drill bit out, you’ll want to replace it with a new one. However, you’ll have to find the particular bit you wish to use on your project before inserting the new bit.

With the countless amount of drill bits out there, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. But don’t worry! This informative drill bit guide may be able to help you find what you need.

Keep in mind the size of the hole you want to make, the surface you’re drilling into, as drilling into a surface like granite vs drilling into a ceramic makes a huge difference. Check the core material of your drill bit, and the accuracy you’ll need.

After you’ve determined what drill bit you need, you’ll need to place it into the chuck. To do this, hold the bit with your index finger and thumb and make sure the smooth part of the bit is facing toward the chuck.

Person selecting drill bit from a box

Then, push the bit all the way into the chuck. When you can’t go any further, pull back on the bit to ensure its secured (about 1 cm should be good).

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Step 4: Squeeze the Trigger and Test

When you believe the bit is locked in, you’ll want to test it out to ensure it’s secure and is also completely straight.

Take your hand and lightly grasp the bit. Make sure your drill is charged up or plugged into a power source and give the trigger a soft couple of squeezes.

Watch to see if the bit stays in place and observe if it appears straight while in your hands.

If the bit is not entirely straight, you’ll need to reinsert it. Failing to do so and using an improperly installed bit could result in a poor drill job later on. 

Step 5: Employ the Ratcheting Mechanism (If Available)

Many drills also have a built-in ratcheting mechanism, which applies additional pressure to the drill bit’s shank, making it stronger and stabilizing its position.

Remember that some drills do not have this particular mechanism, so make sure you refer to your drill’s instruction manual if you’re unsure if your drill has this feature. Usually, you can find these mechanisms right below the chuck.

To engage the ratcheting system, firmly grip the area beneath the chuck and twist it in a clockwise direction. You’ll know that the mechanism is locked into place when you hear a click. 

How to Use a Chuck Key

Some drills come with a chuck key. A small, T-shaped device used to loosen the chuck through a key-like motion. If your drill has a chuck key, you won’t be able to loosen the chuck by hand.

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Person changing a drill bit

Drills with chuck keys are somewhat outdated now, but there are still several circulating on the market today. You may even remember your grandpa or dad using one of these interesting-looking key tools.

Many times, these specific drills also come with a convenient storage area for the chuck key. Many power drills utilize chuck keys rather than cordless drills.

Let’s walk through a few quick steps for using a chuck key:

  • Step 1: Pick up your chuck key and find the area that looks like a gear with teeth. Match these teeth up with the chuck’s teeth. Then, place the key into the chuck.
  • Step 2: Next, you’ll need to turn the key just like you would open a door. However, you must turn it counterclockwise (remember lefty Lucy, righty tighty?). Keep rotating the key until you feel the chuck start to open up and the drill bit starts to wobble. 
  • Step 3: Follow the same steps as you would with a keyless chuck (as mentioned above in step 2 and 3).
  • Step 4: Now, you need to tighten the chuck using the key. To do this, you’ll have to hold the bit in place within the chuck. Then, turn the chuck key in a clockwise motion to secure it. After you believe it’s secured, be sure to remove the chuck key and test the drill out using the trigger method (in step 4).

Now that your drill bit is locked and loaded, you’re ready to start working on the task at hand. And now you know how to change a drill bit for future projects. See? That wasn’t so bad, was it?

For more information on how to use your drills efficiently, check out these useful tips and tricks.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.