What Do The Numbers And Symbols On Cordless Drills Mean

If you are new to the world of cordless drills, then you might have a question in mind – what do the numbers and symbols on cordless drills mean? 

The numbers indicate the torque setting that defines the rotary power of a drill. For every carpenter, woodworker, electricians, or other users of the power tools, getting acquainted with these numbers is essential.

Otherwise, a professional can not get the perfect use of a power tool. Knowing about these numbers is important because you can not properly use the drill without knowing all the functions of it.

Now that you know what the numbers on a cordless drill mean, let’s take a closer look at this in more detail below.

What the Numbers Represent on a Cordless Drill

On most modern drills you can find two areas with numbers.  One is the gear selection and the other the torque control.

Torque Control

In modern drills, you will see some numbers, usually from 1 to 20 near the head or clutch of a drill. As mentioned earlier, it represents the breaking point, rotary power or the torque of the drill or the amount of torque the tool can apply to an object, such as a screw, or for hole drilling.

Some drills can have a range of over 20. It depends on the manufacturer and drill model.

1 represents the lowest amount of torque and 20 represents the highest torque or maximum torque. Cordless drills with lower power may come with the highest torque setting of 10. However, it is the range of torque that the drill can produce.

Gear Selection

You will find the gear setting behind the clutch. Most of the drills have 2 or 3 different setting options.

If you set the gear to the lowest number ( for example- 1), then it will provide the lowest speed and highest torque. This setting is suitable for driving screws. If you increase the setting to the higher number ( for example – 2), then it will increase the speed with a lowered torque.

This setting is suitable for regular drilling and driving. Any higher gear setting will increase the speed at a lower torque. This setting is suitable for drilling or driving fasteners.

Adjusting Torque Control

Step 1: Locate torque adjustment

Find the torque adjustment numbers near the chuck of the drill. You will find it near the head and the drill bit. Now find the arrow near the numbers that will allocate the torque. A higher number will assign more torque.

Step 2: Torque adjustment dial

The torque adjustment dial can be rotated clockwise and anticlockwise. Before starting any new project, you need to have a trial to understand the torque and then set it accordingly.

First, set the dial to the lowest number. Usually, the lowest number you will find is ‘1’. Carry out your first drill with this lowest setting to feel the torque.

Step 3: Turn the dial

Now turn the dial to the middle point of the numbers. If the highest number of the clutch setting is 20, then set the torque to 10. Now carry out another drill with the same object according to this setting. 

Feel the torque and try to compare it with the previous setting. Clutch of a drill works similar to the clutch of a car.

Step 4: Set dial

Finally, set the dial to the highest torque setting and carry out another drill with the same object. Now compare all the three different feelings that you have got from different torque settings. You can now set the appropriate number whatever you feel is good for you.

There is a misconception that a higher number is better for every kind of drilling project. If you set excessive torque for drilling a lighter object, then you may demolish the object and may not get the required size of the hole.

On the other hand, it is difficult to handle the drill with higher torque. Setting a lower torque will make the job tedious. Therefore, you need to set it appropriately to get the best results.

Symbols on a cordless drill

You will find some modern drills that come with three built-in modes for these different functions. When you select any specific mode, the drill will automatically set the required speed and torque for that specific setting.

Drilling Symbol

You may find a black and yellow drill symbol that looks like a drill bit just behind the chuck of the drill. It is the drilling mode or drill mode.

This mode is used to drill in cast iron (metals), wood, or plastic, but not stone or masonry.

When you are making a hole through a moderately hard object, you should select this mode. 

The drill will then automatically adjust the required torque and speed that is suitable for drilling operations.

Hammer Symbol

Have you noticed a hammer-like symbol beside the drill bit sign? It is for the hammer mode or hammer setting. You can use this mode for drilling hard objects such as stone and concrete.

When you select this mode, the drill will automatically set the required torque for these kinds of tough objects. It will also push the drill bit in and out to make the job easier.

Therefore, the hammer mode is useful for hard surfaces when you do not want to put enough pressure on the user’s pressure. Just change the setting and the dill will take care of the rest.

Driving Symbol

You may also find a ‘driver’ bit or drill driver symbol beside the hammer or drilling sign.

This symbol is for converting the drill as a driver so that it perfectly gets the job done without overdriving the screw. When you are driving with a drill, setting the right amount of torque is important. Otherwise, the object may get damaged.

Therefore, this automatic mode is a great help for the persons who are not sure about the torque.


For Wood, metal or plastic
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HammerActionFor concrete, stone or masonry

Reverse Switch Symbol

Usually found just above or behind the trigger of the drill. You will either notice a small button or a small lever.

There isn’t a universal symbol for this function. I have a few drills and the one has an arrow in a circle going one way on one side and the other way on the other side. On another drill, it looks like a wedge facing one way on one side and the other way on the other side.

“Nm” Symbol

Torque is measured in Newton Metres or ‘Nm’, which is the force that allows an object to rotate. This is the best way to gauge how powerful your drill or impact driver is. The higher the number in Newton Meters, the more twisting force your drill will have.

Torque Control: Cordless Drill vs Cordless Impact Driver

Regarding a cordless impact driver, it’s important to note that these tools do not have a torque control.

The only way to adjust torque on an impact driver is to use the speed control trigger. Or, if you’re just searching for a new drill, choose an impact driver with gears.

More advanced models have up to three gear ranges. You’ll spend a bit more money, but in the long run, it’s probably worth it!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a high torque drill?

A high torque drill is a low-geared rotary drill that can produce high levels of rotational force. This allows the tool to perform a variety of tasks, from mixing paint and plaster to drill pilot holes in dense wood or thick metal.

Are all drills the same?

Not all drill drivers are the same and many different models have different torque settings on them.

Which makes understanding the torque settings that much more difficult and makes it so there’s a lot more variation as well and harder to find a standard metric to go off of.

When do you need to change drilling modes?

Many of the drills come with three different modes – drive, drill, and hammer. If you change the mode as per the type of the project, you do not need to set the torque and speed manually.

The tool will automatically set the required torque as per the nature of the job. Therefore, if you do not know how to set the torque or gear, then you can simply change the modes.


The numbers on a cordless drill represent the torque or rotary force of the tool. The higher the number, the greater the torquing power.

This is a very useful feature on a drill. Not only does it allow you to adjust the amount of twisting power applied to screws, but it also provides the ability to bore holes in very hard substances such as wood, concrete, masonry, and metal.

If the setting of the drill does not match perfectly with the type of project, the object may get damaged. Thus, you should  know about the numbers theoretically and apply it to have hands-on experience.