There you are, happily driving in a screw, when all of a sudden your drill bit falls out of the drill. I have an aging Ryobi drill, and guess what? This happens to me all the time.
The most likely reason your drill bit keeps coming loose is the chuck on your drill is worn out and not locking properly. To fix the issue you can replace the chuck, or if it makes more financial sense, buy a new drill.
If you’re working with a relatively new drill, there are some other reasons your drill bit might be loose, so read on!
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Reason 1: The Chuck is Worn Out
The “chuck” is the black piece of the drill you turn to lock the bit in place. After a while, it can wear out and not lock properly.
On my Ryobi, sometimes the chuck works just fine and when I turn to tighten the drill, I feel a click when the chuck locks.
Other times, no matter how much I tighten the drill, that click never happens. Sure enough, a few uses later the drill bit falls right out.
I’d love to tell you that this is a symptom of cheap drills, and if you have a name brand drill this isn’t your problem.
Unfortunately, chucks aren’t made by the drill manufacturer, but instead are outsourced. This means that a couple companies make all the chucks and send them out to the drill companies. Cheap chucks end up on expensive drills all the time, which is one of the reasons that the chuck is often the first thing to fail.
So what should you do?
Chucks can be replaced. However, when I looked into this for my own drill, I found that the chuck alone would have cost 30-ish dollars, and given it was a cheap Ryobi drill in the first place, I figured I’d probably be better off just buying a new (possibly nicer) drill.
Especially considering that a drill/driver is one of those tools worth having 2 or 3 of.
If you have a more expensive drill that’s actually worth saving, first call the manufacturer and see if they’re willing to send you a new chuck. Knowing companies these days, the answer is probably no, but it’s worth a shot.
Obviously, you can purchase a new chuck. Alternatively, you might be able to find a used drill that’s cheaper than a new chuck, and pull the chuck off that. Your best bet is to look for an older drill where the motor is shot (and therefore the drill is really cheap,) but the various other components were built to last.
Watch Craigslist, your Habitat Restore, and any “Reuse” facilities near you – I’ve seen these at both my local Habitat, and nearby University’s ReUse center.
To replace the chuck, open the chuck jaws as large as they will go, and insert a hex key into the chuck. Grab a mallet, and hit the hex key firmly in the counterclockwise direction to twist it. This will loosen the chuck on the spindle so you can remove it.
Reason 2: The Chuck is Not Tight Enough
This one is so obvious that I feel a little guilty even listing it here… but have you checked that you’re tightening the drill enough?
Most drills have some sort of clicking noise or feeling to show that the chuck is locked. If that hasn’t happened, you might need to tighten the drill more.
And some drills are like gas caps on a car; for them to be fully locked, you need to listen for multiple clicks.
Know which is the case for your drill, and make sure you’ve tightened your drill completely!
Reason 3: The Chuck is Dirty
If there’s something clogging up the drill chuck (*cough*sawdust*cough) it will have a hard time gripping the drill bit tight enough.
So if neither of the above reasons apply, take a moment to clean the drill chuck. If you have a source of compressed air, that’s probably the fastest and easiest way.
Alternatively, you can open the jaws of the chuck all the way, and slip a microfiber cloth into the opening. Do your best to twist it around, cleaning the inside of the chuck.
If you don’t have a microfiber cloth, you can use a damp rag instead, although make sure the inside of the chuck is fully dry before you operate the drill again.
Reason 4: The Drill Bit is Crooked
There are actually different possible problems here: the drill bit itself is bent, or it’s a straight bit, but you’ve inserted it crooked.
Lets tackle the former first. If you’re working with a hex bit (a screwdriver-style bit) it’s not bent. There’s not enough shank for it to bend.
But if you’re working with a normal twist bit, there’s a possibility that the shank part of the bit is bent, which will make it hard for the drill to grasp the bit. Take out the drill bit and inspect it to see if there’s any curve to the bit.
If the drill bit is bent, toss it, and replace with a new bit.
For the second option, make sure your drill bit is inserted straight in the jaws of the drill. When working with small twist bit drill bits, it’s really easy to accidently insert the bit at an angle.
See the gaps between the jaws and the bit in the above picture? The drill bit is crooked.
Usually when this happens, the drill bit spins funky, but occasionally it will just get loose and fall out instead.
To read more about this, as well as my foolproof method for inserting drill bits, check out this post!