Brushed vs. Brushless Cordless Drill Motors: Know the Difference

Brushed Vs. Brushless Cordless Drill Motors Know The Difference

Cordless drills are perhaps the most popular and iconic power tools that every homeowner needs to make DIY repairs — and they make great Father’s Day’s gifts too.

Cordless power drills have become very popular since they were first introduced in the 1960s by the well-renowned company, Black & Decker.

Around holidays or special occasions, many people rush to the stores to buy cordless drills, particularly for their fathers, brothers, or husbands.

Those of us who are experienced in DIY projects know that cordless drill machines come in different forms. Those who are purchasing a drill machine for the first time should know that cordless drill machines come in two basic forms: brushed and brushless.

But before we jump onto that, let’s take a look at what a cordless drill is made up of:

Anatomy of a Cordless Drill

cordless drill anatomy

Here is a break-down of the various components of a cordless drill:

Chuck

The chuck is the part of the drill machine that holds the various bits. They can be keyless or keyed, though today, most modern drill machines use keyless chucks.

A keyless chuck is twisted one way to open its jaws. Once the bit is placed inside the jaw, the chuck can be twisted another way to clamp down on the bit and hold it in place.

Some cordless drills still come with keyed chucks. A keyed chuck consists of a gear tooth key to open and close the chuck. In case you need to do impact work, keyed chucks have a quick connect fitting that holds the bit in place.

Torque Collar Adjustment

As we learned in physics class, torque is the turning power. The torque of the drill determines how much force is applied to the screw to drive it into the surface.

If the torque is set at a low point, even a small amount of resistance will stop the screw in its track and produce a clicking sound. If you dial the torque to a higher setting, the screw will be driven into the surface and the drill will easily disengage.

Gear Selector Switch

The gear selector switch allows you to control the speed of the motor between high and low settings.

By adjusting the gear selector along with the torque, you can drive in screws quickly and efficiently into the surface without damaging the screws or the surface.

Forward/Reverse Switch

This switch allows you to change the direction of the rotation. Forward rotation drives the screw into the surface, while a reverse rotation brings it out.

Trigger

The trigger engages the motor so that it delivers power to the chuck.

Battery

batteries on chargers

The function of the battery is obvious; it stores and transmits power to the drill.

In drills that are 12 volts or larger, the batteries are removable and charged separately. In some cases, your cordless drill may have a non-removable battery built into the body of the drill.

These are some of the major components of a drill machine. Keep in mind, though, that products from different manufacturers can vary.

Cordless Drill Motors: How Do They Work?

Cordless drill motors are equipped with all of these key components but brushed and brushless motors can be differentiated by a few parts.

Once you understand the basic idea behind brushed and brushless drill motors, their purpose will become easy to understand.

A motor of a drill basically converts electricity to mechanical rotation. The battery in the drill charges the magnets which produce mechanical energy.

When these magnets are supplied with electricity, they repel each other, causing them to spin and rotate the shaft.

Brushed vs. Brushless Motors

brushless vs brushed motor

So now that you have a basic understanding of how a cordless drill motor works, let us see the difference between brushed and brushless motors.

Brushed Drill Motors

In brushed cordless motors, the electricity supply from the battery runs through two brushes located on the opposite side of the shaft of the motor.

These brushes are blocks made up of small carbon filaments and come into contact with the commutator — a device that collects current and is attached to the shaft.

The commutator passes the electric supply from the carbon brushed to the armature attached to the shaft. An armature is a bunch of copper wires that are tightly coiled.

When electricity passes through these coils, it creates an electromagnetic field.

The outside of the motor houses the fixed N and S magnets. When these magnets become charged, an opposing force is created between them and rotates the shaft.

Brushless Drill Motors

Brushless motors are a bit more complicated than brushed motors, though they follow the same basic principles of opposing magnetic forces to get the drill working.

In the brushed motor the armature is attached to the shaft and the N and S magnets are fixed on the outside of the motor. In a brushless motor, the armature is stationary and located outside the motor.

Meanwhile, the N and S magnets are flip-flopped and positioned on the rotor or spinning part of the drill.

However, brushless motors do not have carbon brushes to create a power supply. Instead, they have a set of small but powerful electric circuit board that controls power to the armature. It also has a sensor that can detect the motion of the rotor.

This circuit board supplies the electrical current to the copper coils so that an opposing magnetic field is created and the magnets on the rotor start to spin furiously.

Brushed vs. Brushless Motors: Pros and Cons

Now that you understand how the two types of drill motors work, let us take a look at their pros and cons:

Brushless Drill Motors — Pros

brushless motor zoom

Brushless drill motors are a more recent type of drill machine.

They use a different sort of mechanism to turn electrical power into mechanical power which does not require constant contact between different components:

Less Friction: The first big advantage with a brushless drill motor is that the absence of carbon brushed means there is much less friction between the moving and stationary components of the drill.

Since friction is eliminated, there is no need to worry about the wear and tear of components.

Additionally, less friction means less heat, which means less energy loss. As a result, brushless drill motors do not require frequent maintenance as brushed motors.

Lighter: Brushless drill motors are also much lighter and more compact than brushed motors since they do not have the additional carbon brushes to account for. This means they are easier to pick up and handle.

Smarter: The biggest advantage of brushless drill motors is that they are “smart” machines. This refers to their electronic sensor capabilities of the circuit board. With brushed motors, you get the same amount of electrical current, no matter whether the task requires less or more power.

However, the sensors in a brushless motor can detect how much power is needed to complete a certain task more efficiently.

For example, if you are driving in a screw into drywall, this task is pretty lightweight. The sensors in the circuit board can detect this and will regulate the power supply so that the rotating parts do not get too much electricity, which can result in wastage.

However, if you are drilling through a hard metal surface, the rotors will need more power to spin, and the sensors will detect that and signal the circuit board to transfer more power to the moving parts.

This will result in a much more efficient tool and prevents drain on your battery, requiring it to be charged less frequently.

Brushless Drill Motors — Cons

important parts of brushless motor

After you see these advantages, many of you may think there isn’t any reason not to get a brushless drill machine. However, like all technology, brushless drill motors do have one major downside:

Higher Cost: the one major downside of brushless drill machines is that they are more expensive — and the price difference is quite big. Because brushless drill machines are more high-tech and have a powerful circuit board, they demand a higher price.

The sensors that are required to adjust the flow of the electric current to the moving part based on the difficulty of the project also add to the cost. You also do not have the option to take out the sensor since it is required to turn on the copper coils precisely in sync with the magnets and rotor.

Because of this, brushless drill motors are still quite expensive, though many manufacturers also offer budget-priced products.

The good news is that the higher price is justified since brushless motors require less charging of the battery, leading to lower electricity bills.

Brushed Drill Motors — Pros

motor with brushes

Brushed drill motors came first and they are still the favorite of many people because of these reasons:

Easy Maintenance: Since brushed drills come with carbon brushes that rub against other components, they require more maintenance than their brushless counterparts. However, the good news is that they are very easy to maintain.

Most issues with brushed drills usually occur with brushes that have become worn down or have been working past their expiration date. These brushes can be repaired or replaced easily.

The best part is that you don’t have any need to take your drill machine to a mechanic. Swapping old brushed with new ones is quite easy and you can do it yourself by opening your tool kit and soldering the new parts to the leads that supply current.

The brushes are fixed loosely, so it is not tedious work to remove them.

This is one great advantage over brushless motors. If a brushless motor breaks, it is probably easier and less expensive to replace the entire drill. However, a brushed motor can be fixed at a fraction of the cost.

Low Price: Another big upside to buying a brushed motor drill is that they cost a whole lot less than brushless motors. This is due to the absence of high-tech features like a current-regulating circuit board and sensor.

If you can’t pay the high price of a brushless drill, getting a good-value brushed motor from a good manufacturer is something you won’t regret. Although you won’t get the same efficiency as you might from a brushless drill, you still will be able to get maximum power from it.

Typically, the price difference between brushed drill motors and brushless drill motors is 50 percent. So, if you are looking for a bargain, you won’t go wrong with a brushed drill machine.

Brushed Drill Motors — Cons

brushes in dc drill motor

Since brushed drill motors aren’t high-tech, they do have some cons — but none of them should be a deal-breaker for you.

Not As Efficient: Unfortunately, brushed drill machines aren’t as efficient as brushless drill machines. They cannot regulate electrical supply like the latter drill machines and always run on full power as soon as the trigger is pushed down.

This means that more energy will be wasted on lightweight tasks and the battery will need to be recharged more frequently.

Reliance on Brushes: One of the major drawbacks is that the performance of the drill relies solely on the brushes. The brushed make physical contact with the copper wires carrying the current and rotate with the drill.

This can lead to a higher frequency of wear and tear on the surface. In fact, this problem is so inevitable that some manufacturers have taken to adding extra brushes with their brushed drill machine set.

Heat Production: When the brushes rub against the component, they also produce excess heat. As a result, the fixed permanent magnets can get very hot, even after moderate operations. This heat can melt the components inside the drill machine and cause the machine not to operate with maximum efficiency.

However, overheating can be avoided if you monitor your usage of the drill machine and let it take a break after moderate operations.

Lose Torque: Some customers may also complain that the rotors lose torque the more the machine speeds up. This may sound quite bad but this problem is not common and usually only affect those users who frequently use their drill machine near the upper limit.

If you are one of those users who require a lot of work out of your drill, it is best to invest in a high power one.

When Should You Use Each One?

two drills with different motors

At first glance, paying a premium price for a brushless motor drill may seem like a marketing ploy.

Some new users may wonder why they have to pay a high price for something that works on basically the same underlying principle as a brushed drill motor.

So we hope the above pros and cons helped you understand why most users these days prefer to use brushless drill motors over brushed drill motors.

If you are one of those customers who frequently use your drill machine for high-powered projects and also like to take your drill easily from one place to the other, you should think of investing in a brushless drill machine if you have the money for it.

Brushless drill machines are lighter and very efficient which is a big plus point if you are considering battery-powered tools. The difference is efficiency is quite less noticeable if you are using plugged tools since you do not have to constantly recharge them.

So if less charging frequency is what you require, a brushless drill machine should be right for you.

However, if budget is the main concern for you when you are buying a drill machine, then a brushed cordless drill machine may be your best bet. You may have to replace your brushes after some use, but they are quite inexpensive and quite easy to swap.

Additionally, just because they have a lower price and do not have innovative technology like brushless drills, does not mean they are useless. Contrary to what we said about the degrading brushes, most brushed drills from good manufacturers can handle a lot of abuse and can run for years without any issues.

Loyal customers have said they own brushed drill machines that have been working for decades.

two drills with different motors

So the answer to this question is not so simple. On one hand, brushless drills offer you more efficiency but are very costly and you may need to get another one if the circuit board becomes damaged.

On the other hand, brushed drills may require more maintenance and perform less efficiently, but they are easy to maintain and quite affordable.

So which one you should buy depends on how much work you want out of the machines, whether you want more portability, and what price you can afford.

However, note that you may also find drill machines that are extremely cheap. Most of the time, these machines, whether brushless or brushed, are too good to be true, may be off-brand and do not provide quality at all. So you need to avoid these.

Regardless of the type, we are sure that if you buy a drill machine from the leading brands in the market, you will not have much cause to regret it.

Last updated on:

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *