Can You Use an Impact Driver as a Drill?

Impact drivers are an incredibly useful tool when it comes to driving fasteners of all shapes and sizes, but they’re not exactly known for their drilling prowess. The question often comes up when you’re faced with a hole that needs drilling and only an impact driver within reach – can you use an impact driver as a drill?

The short answer is yes you can use an impact driver as a drill, but as they aren’t primarily built for drilling there are a number of ways in which they may not perform as well as a standard drill/driver.

Impact drivers feature a unique design that applies quick bursts of rotational force similar to how one might tap the end of a wrench to loosen a stuck bolt. However, instead of just one burst of rotational force, impact drivers can generate up to 50 per second – which translates into a lot of torque.

This may seem like it should work well for drilling holes as well as driving screws, but does it? Let’s take a closer look at how well impact drivers function as drills.

Can You Drill with an Impact Driver?

While you can certainly drill a hole with an impact driver, there are a few things you’ll want to consider before actually doing so.

Quick-Release Chuck

Unlike standard drill/drivers with their keyless chucks, impact drivers have special quick-release sockets for installing their drill bits. This means they can only accept specialized hex shank bits designed to fit inside them.

Most standard drill bits don’t have hex-shaped shanks, so if you’ve got typical round shank bits they won’t be compatible with your impact driver. Unfortunately, most drill bits fall into this category so if that’s what you’ve got then you’re out of luck.

Specialized Bits

Even if you do happen upon some drill bits with hex-shanks rather than rounded shanks, there’s still the impact driver’s powerful torque to consider. This torque can actually be too much for standard bits to handle, and can actually result in bits snapping off from the driver and breaking.

This is why tool manufacturers have been designing specialized ‘impact-rated’ drill bits specifically for use in impact drivers.

impact drill bits
Assortment of specialized impact driver bits. Notice the hex shank and separate gold colored body.

You’ll recognize these ‘impact-rated’ bits by their hex-shaped shanks and separate round body. They’re often sold bundled together with impact-rated driver bits and their distinctive-looking colorful thin bodies.

If you happen to have some of these specialized drill bits on hand, then, by all means, drill away, but if your using a standard drill bit with a hex shank then keep in mind there’s a chance you could cause it to break.


Another thing to consider with impact drills is that unlike standard drill/drivers they don’t have an adjustable clutch to change torque settings. That means it’s pretty much one size fits all when your drilling with them, so you’ll need to be extra careful not to over-drill.


While it sometimes makes sense to reach for your impact driver to drill a few quick holes, if you’re looking to drill holes with any degree of precision then there are going to be some drawbacks when using an impact driver.

As mentioned previously, impact drivers utilize a unique design that creates rapid bursts of rotational force to drive screws and fasteners with great effectiveness. But they aren’t actually designed with drilling holes in mind.

That means you’ll be sacrificing some precision and accuracy when you drill with an impact driver. Depending on what type of task you’re trying to accomplish this can either be a minor issue or a major one.

If you simply need to punch a few quick and dirty holes through some wall studs with a spade bit, then an impact driver should get the job done. On the other hand, if you’re planning on drilling a clean flat bottomed hole with no tear-out for a dowel, then an impact driver is going to be less than the ideal choice.

When does Drilling with an Impact Driver Make Sense?

As you can see drilling with an impact driver has its drawbacks, but there are some scenarios where it can actually be advantageous.

Tight Spaces

Take a look at your average impact driver lined up next to a drill/driver and the significant size difference quickly becomes apparent. Pick each of them up and you’ll notice the weight difference immediately.

This means an impact driver can actually be the better option when you need to access a compact space and do some drilling. Think underneath a bathroom sink, a cramped crawlspace or attic, or inside a kitchen cabinet.

Swapping Bits

Impact driver’s quick-change sockets allow you to swap between different bits in a matter of seconds. This can save you a significant amount of time if you’re working on a project where you need to switch between different sized drill and/or driver bits frequently.

impact driver fastening screws
The quick-change socket lets you swap between different drill and driver bits almost instantly. [Source]

This can also come in handy if you’re working somewhere where you don’t have room for multiple power tools. Think of working on top of a ladder where you’re limited on what you can carry.

Boring Large Holes

This one might be a little unorthodox but if you need to drill large diameter holes then an impact driver can actually work rather well. The high level of torque, combined with nearly zero kickback means you’ll be able to bore large diameter holes with a spade bit or a hole saw with minimal tear-out.

If you’ve ever used a standard drill/driver to bore large diameter holes, then you know how difficult kickback can be to deal with. This can be an absolute killer on your wrists and even lead to injuries if your nor being careful.

Impact drivers don’t have this issue, so they’re a good option for drilling large diameter holes while being easy on your wrists.


Impact drivers are significantly lighter than their drill/driver counterparts, so they work well when you’ve got a lot of work to do. You may need to sacrifice some level of accuracy and precision, but you’ll be able to get a lot of work done without fatiguing your wrists and arms.

Wrap Up

Drilling holes with impact drivers may not be ideal, but it can certainly be done. In fact, there are several scenarios where impact drivers actually work better than standard drill/drivers at boring holes.

Unlike standard drill/drivers, you’ll be limited to which drill bits you can actually use with an impact driver. They require hex shank bits to fit inside their quick-release sockets, so typical round shank bits are out of the question.

You’ll also be limited in terms of adjusting the amount of torque and speed while drilling. Most impact drivers don’t have adjustable torque settings, so you’ll need to be extra diligent not to over-drill with them.

That means you’ll generally be able to use your impact driver to punch a few rough holes, but anything requiring serious precision is out of the question.

The good news is that with impact drivers becoming so ubiquitous, more and more people have both a standard drill and an impact driver lying around. This combination offers you the best of both worlds, with one tool built for driving fasteners and the other for drilling holes.

Featured image source.

Denis Gardner

I've loved tinkering and fixing things for as long as I can remember. So, naturally, I gravitated towards DIY and home improvement when I bought my first home. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or messing around with my newest tool!

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