How to Change a Drill Bit? [Keyed & Keyless Chucks]

There are many things that an avid DIY-er or professional repairman has in their arsenal of tools and equipment. You can find big things like a chainsaw or small items like drill bits. Whatever size they are, they all have the same degree of importance.

However, for beginners (or sometimes veterans), there are a handful of questions regarding these tools and equipment. From “how to drill concrete” to “how to change a drill bit,” every question is important.

For this reason, we’ll teach you in this article about when and how to change your drill bits. So you drill holes seamlessly and perfectly all the time.

After reading this post, we’re a hundred percent sure you’ll be adept at changing your drill bits. Maybe you’ll teach your friends and family too! Who knows!

As Elon Musk said, “when something is important enough, you do it.” So let’s get started!

What Are Drill Bits?

Before going to specific details of changing a drill bit, we need a refresher on what a drill bit is.

Drill bits, in essence, are used to make circular or cylindrical holes in a variety of materials. They are special cutting tools that can bore holes in different shapes and sizes.

Of course, you can’t usually use a drill bit without a drill. Although the two are most commonly used in wood, you can also use them in metal, plastic, composite, and masonry.

But what if you need a non-cylindrical hole? Don’t fret, as there are drill bits made specifically to make various types of holes.

Here are some of the usual types of drill bits:

  • Twist drill bits
  • Flatwood bit
  • Masonry bit
  • Tile bit
  • Countersink bits

Drill bits are also made in different materials. Usually, they are made from soft low-carbon steel. However, there are some made from cobalt or titanium, which are both best for harder materials.

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When to Change a Drill Bit?

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“Small changes eventually add up to huge results.” Almost everyone has used or heard that quote with no known origin.

It’s true. Minute changes can make a significant impact, either good or bad. You might be thinking, “you’re saying that changing a drill bit has a bad result?

Definitely not! When it comes to replacing a drill bit, it always positively impacts the drill and your work. But when do you need to change them? What are the telltale signs that you need to replace a drill bit?

The most obvious answer to those questions is to change them when they’re damaged. Why? Because you don’t want your drill bits to snap while you’re drilling, harming you in the process.

It can also damage the material you’re drilling. You might have a ragged hole, or the drill bit will be stuck when it breaks. Also, change your drill bits if they already have cracks or can’t bore a hole properly and perfectly.

What Holds the Drill Bits?

Were you a little bit curious as to how a drill bit stays in place in a drill? If yes, here’s the answer!

Drill bits are kept steady by the drill’s chuck. And no, that’s not a person.

Furthermore, drill chucks, or just chucks, are the revolving cylinders attached to the drill’s end. They typically have three sides, or jaws, that move in unison when the chuck’s outer sleeve is twisted.

But how does it work?

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The Drill bits feature a shank on one end that fits into a drill chuck and cutting edges on the other. The drill chuck tightly grips it, effectively holding them in place until you remove them.

Moreover, drill chucks spin around when you turn on the drill, producing the torque and axial speed to carve the hole.

There are two basic varieties of drill chucks: keyed and keyless drill chucks. Additionally, within these two types are several sub-types designed for a wide range of applications.

Types of Drill Chucks

A drill chuck is an essential part of the process on how to change a drill bit.

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As mentioned, there are two types of drill chucks: keyless and keyed. Here are their differences:

Keyed Chucks

Keyed chucks need a specialized key placed on the side before you can adjust it. They can rotate in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction.

Here are different subtypes of keyed chucks:

1. Super Ball-Bearing

As the name implies, this type has small ball bearings to reduce friction. The bearings also allow the chuck to grasp the bit more effectively.

These are the most heavy-duty drills available and are typically utilized in industrial environments.

2. Plain Bearing

Like the super-ball bearing, this type of keyed chuck also has a bearing. However, it’s much simpler than the first. Their gears and sleeves are all one piece making them more durable.

These chucks are typically used for medium-duty applications such as stationary drilling and carpentry.

3. Light-Duty

Due to its lightweight property, this chuck is mostly used in handheld electric drills like Black and Decker or Ryobi.

4. Stainless Steel

Stainless steel keyed chucks are similar in design to plain bearing chucks. These are usually used in sterile environments such as food preparation, dental clinics, or hospitals.

Keyless Chucks

Given its name, keyless chucks don’t need a key to tighten or untighten it. They are designed to tighten as additional torque is applied.

You can only turn drills with keyless chucks clockwise because the actual twisting of the chuck is what tightens it.

Here are different subtypes of keyless chucks:

1. Precision

Keyless precision chucks are best used in drills with smaller bits.

2. With integrated shanks

Keyless chucks with integrated shanks have chucks built-in with the drill. They are most commonly used in industrial machines.

Please note that changing a drill bit with a keyed chuck is different from a keyless one. However, they both share the same principle that the bit must be centered within the jaws of the chuck.

Another pro-tip: centering is simple when dealing with large bits. On the other hand, small bits will often get stuck between the chucks, rendering the drill impossible to operate.

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Changing a Drill Bit in a Keyed Chucks

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Here are the steps on how to change a drill bit placed in a keyed chuck:

1. Unscrew the chuck with the chuck key

A chuck key has a head shaped like a toothed wheel crown. You need to insert the key in one of the three holes in the chuck for loosening and tightening bits.

Simply turn the key (usually counterclockwise) to loosen the drill bit. Continue to turn it until the chuck’s jaws open.

2. Remove the drill bit

Once the jaws are wide enough, detach the drill bit. Be careful with loosening the jaw as the drill bit comes easily off and may slide out of the chuck.

3. Check the drill bit

If the drill bit is severely damaged (frayed, cracked, or dull), do not reuse it again. Put it straight in the recycle bin.

However, if it’s not damaged, place it in its storage for further use.

4. Place a new bit

Put the new drill bit inside the chuck’s jaw, the smooth side first. Hold it steady using your thumb and forefinger.

5. Tighten the chuck

While holding the bit, use your chuck key to tighten it again. Turn the key clockwise to secure the drill bit.

Changing a Drill Bit in a Keyless Chucks

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Here are the simple steps in changing a drill bit in a keyless chuck:

1. Loosen the chuck

Hold the chuck with one hand while holding the drill handle with the other. To loosen the chuck, turn it counterclockwise.

Another technique is to squeeze the trigger while gripping the chuck softly.

2. Remove the drill bit

Once the chuck is loose, you can now remove the drill bit.

3. Check the drill bit

Inspect the bit if it’s dull, cracked, or frayed. Like on the keyed chucks, put it straight in the recycle bin if it’s damaged and unusable.

4. Replace the drill bit

Put the new drill bit in place and store the old one in the storage if it’s still usable.

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5. Press the drill’s trigger

When the drill bit is in place, squeeze the drill’s trigger gently. It tightens the bit in place.

Please note that your other hand should still be holding the bit while pressing the trigger.

Changing a Drill Bit of Impact Drivers

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There are some instances where you use an impact driver, either a Makita or Ryobi. It would be best if you also changed the drill bit from time to time.

As it can have special bits, there’s also a different set of steps on how to change a drill bit:

1. Remove the battery

Before removing the drill bit, detach the battery first. It’s a safety precaution just so the driver will not switch on unexpectedly.

2. Pull the chuck

Remove the drill bit by simply pulling the chuck up.

3. Replace the drill bit

When you replace the bit, just pull the chuck and insert the new drill bit. It will lock on its own when you let go of the chuck.


We know that the information we put in this article is a lot to process, especially for beginners. To help you understand, here are some of the most frequent questions on how to change a drill bit:

How to replace the drill bit without a chuck key?

If you don’t have your chuck key, a screwdriver bit or hex wrench will suffice. It will function as long as the form of the bit or wrench matches the chuck keyhole.

However, make sure you don’t strip the chuck keyhole. You’ll have significant problems later on if you do.

What if the chuck becomes jammed, and you cannot tighten the drill bit?

If this occurs, clean the interior jaws with a cloth or cotton swab. Aggressively inserting or tightening the chuck may cause damage to the chuck.

How to replace the bit in a Black & Decker drill?

Changing a drill bit of a Black and Decker drill is just the same with most drills. However, you need to assess first if the chuck is keyed or keyless.

From there, you can follow the steps above for keyless and keyed chucks.

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How to extend the life of a drill?

Here are some helpful ways to prolong your drill and the bits’ life:

  • Always sharpen your drill bits
  • Store the drill and the bits properly
  • Observe the speed of the drill while drilling
  • Clean the drill and the bit after every use, making sure there are no dust accumulating

How to know which chuck size you need?

If you’re unsure what size chuck key you need, start by inspecting the drill’s chuck. You should be able to see carved numbers on it.

The most common chuck key sizes are 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, and 1/2-inch.

However, if you can’t find these numbers, measure the diameter of the chuck keyhole with a ruler or measuring tape. Once you know the measurement, head to your local hardware store and look for a key with the same diameter.

Key Takeaways

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” That’s what Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt said.

Indeed, we don’t buy the drill bit but the outcome it will give us.

Drill bits are essential in any home repair, DIY projects, or anything that needs a hole. Moreso, the question “how to change a drill bit” is equally important

Changing a drill bit is super easy to do, and there are many ways to do it. Knowing the right procedure is essential to your success.

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