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How to Change a Drill Bit

Changing a drill bit is perhaps the first thing anyone learning to use a drill should get the hang of. It’s not too tricky, and you’ll pick it up in no time. To help you, we have put together this short article explaining how to change the drill bit on a DeWalt drill.

What is a Drill Bit?

Large assortment of drill bits made up of stainless steel to use in manufacturing industry

In layman’s terms, the drill bit is the pointy spinny thing that sticks out of the drill. You press it into the material to make a hole.

You use different drill bits for different situations. We will go into these in a bit more detail later on in this article, but in general, bits with bigger diameters make bigger, wider holes. You will also find that different drill bits are made out of different materials. This is useful because, depending on the material composition of the bit, it will be more or less effective at drilling a hole in a certain type of material.

A Keyed Chuck or a Keyless Chuck?

Contractor with Power Tool Closeup Photo. Cordless Driller in Hands of Caucasian Construction Worker.

A chuck is what the bit gets fixed into. It opens and closes to hold the drill bit. If you’re still not sure which part of the drill we mean, let’s call it the part that opens and squeezes. You shouldn’t ever put your finger in it.

When it’s wide open, you can fit almost any drill bit in. After you have put the bit in, the chuck is tightened to hold the bit in place.

This tightening of the chuck is where the “keyed” or “keyless” comes into play. Sometimes you have to use a key – on some models you don’t.

Different people swear by either model. A keyed chuck is the traditional way that drill bits were installed into drills. Keyless chucks have come onto the scene since the 1970s and offer greater versatility and convenience, but can be much more complicated to fix if they go wrong.

Depending on whether your drill has a keyed chuck or keyless chuck will change this process ever so slightly, and so we will go through both methods separately. Before doing this, look to see if your drill has a keyed chuck or a keyless chuck.

Changing the Drill Bit with a Keyed Chuck Drill

Carpenter changing the bit on a vertical drill in a woodworking workshop in a close up on his hands

Somewhere in the packaging that your keyed chuck drill came in, you will find the chuck key.

This key is vital to the operation of your drill, and so you should always make sure that it’s stored safely and that you know where it is. Without this key, you can’t change the drill bit. This dependence on the chuck key is likely one of the main reasons why many people made the switch to keyless chucks, which do not depend on a key to change the bit. Many newer drills attach the chuck key to the drill body to prevent it from getting lost.

A chuck key has a cog on one end. You will know it when you see it. You then take the chuck key and insert it into the holes on the side of the chuck. Line it up with the teeth in there. You will be able to feel when it has connected properly. From here, you can begin to either open or close the chuck.

As usual, turning the key clockwise will tighten the chuck (“righty tighty”), and turning it counter-clockwise will loosen the chuck (“lefty loosey”).

Turn the key counter-clockwise and open up the chuck. If there is a bit already in there, remove it carefully, and visually inspect it for signs of damage, such as hairline cracks. It’s important not to use damaged bits in your drill, as they could shatter while you are using them.

If you notice the drill bit is quite blunt, you may want to put it to one side to remind yourself to sharpen it. If all is good, remove the previous drill bit and insert your new one, holding it at the shank. Make sure that it goes all the way in.

Once you have inserted the drill bit, you can tighten the chuck again. Do this by turning the chuck key clockwise. Turn it until it is tight against the bit.

After this, point the drill away from you and anything else that’s fragile or important. Pull the trigger a couple of times. This is just a test to see if the bit is in correctly. If it is, that’s great. You’re ready to go.

Changing the Bit if it’s a Keyless Chuck

Caucasian Construction Contract with Power Tool. Drill Driver.

In a drill with a keyless chuck, you (by inference) don’t need a key. Instead, to change the bit, you open the chuck a different way.

To open a keyless chuck, simply grab the chuck in one hand and the handle of the drill in the other. To loosen the chuck, you’ll need to turn the whole thing counter-clockwise. This will open the jaws of the chuck and enable you to remove the old bit and insert the new one.

Again, make sure that you inspect the bit for damage and sharpness before putting it back in your toolbox.

After this, insert the new bit and close the jaws of the chuck by turning it clockwise toward the handle. Once you have done this, lightly pull the trigger. This ensures that the bit is in place tightly.

Once you’ve done this, test the drill by pointing it away from you and pulling the trigger. If all seems good, you’re ready to go.


So, there we have it – how to change a drill bit. It’s not too difficult. Once you’ve done it a few times, it’ll come completely naturally to you.
For now, happy drilling.

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