Guide written by:
John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton
Screwdrivers come in a range of sizes and types, such as Torx, Phillips or slotted. From precision screwdrivers to those designed for engineers, these tools are essential for mechanical, electrical or DIY tasks. Whether you want a single screwdriver or a whole set, read on to find the right screwdrivers for you.
- Tip type
Screwdriver tip types
The type of screwdriver tip you need depends on the type of screw head you want to work on. It is essential to use the right screwdriver for your screw. Using the wrong tool will make the task much trickier: at best the screwdriver will have a hard job screwing or unscrewing; at worst the screw will get damaged and will be impossible to get out.
Featuring a star-shaped head, Torx screwdrivers offer by far the best performance and, as such, are becoming steadily more popular. Sizes: T10 - T15 - T20 - T25 - T30 - T40.
Resistorx or Tampertorx screwdriver
These tools feature a Torx tip with a hole in the centre and are designed for use on tamper-resistant torx screw heads. These screwdrivers come in the same sizes as Torx models.
Slotted screwdrivers are designed for use on old-fashioned flat head screws. These screwdrivers have generally been replaced by Phillips screwdrivers as slotted screwdrivers tend to slip out of the screw head. Sizes: 3 mm - 4 mm - 4.5 mm - 5.5 mm - 6 mm - 6.5 mm.
Be careful: Pozidriv screwdrivers do look quite similar to Phillips screwdrivers. These screwdrivers have a cross-shaped tip with addition of an offset cross at a 45° angle. They also offer improved grip, especially when a bit of force is required. Sizes: PZ0 - PZ1 - PZ2 - PZ3 - PZ4
Also known as crosshead screwdrivers, these tools feature a simple cross-shaped tip. Sizes: 0 - 1 - 2 - 3.
Still fairly uncommon, these screwdrivers are used for screws that cannot be accessed by a hex key (or Allen key). The most common sizes run from 2 to 10.
Screwdriver handle grips
It's also important to take note of the shape of the screwdriver handle. In short, the handle needs to be easy and comfortable to grip. If it isn't, you might have trouble turning the screwdriver which will quickly get tiresome.
Plastic or rubber handle grips offer a more comfortable hold.
Designed to dig deep into the palm of your hand, rounded handles allow you to apply a lot of torque and are very compact (which is an advantage if you are screwing or unscrewing in a tight space).
T handles are great for when you need to apply more torque. The drawbacks: they take up more room and can't be turned as quickly as other models.
Choosing a screwdriver blade length
Long or short screwdrivers
A long screwdriver can be used to tackle hard-to-reach spots; however, you will lose some torque. A short screwdriver will offer more tightening power, but won't work for screws in tricky corners!
Mechanic's or engineer's screwdrivers
Some screwdrivers feature a square or hexagonal handle. These handles are designed to allow you to turn the screwdriver with one hand while you hold the screw with the other. These tools are particularly handy for stuck screws in mechanical work. Mechanic's or engineer's screwdrivers also tend to feature a wider blade.
Choosing a metal or alloy for your tips
Generally speaking, the more expensive the screwdriver, the higher the quality. Trust us, you will notice the difference between a £1 plastic screwdriver and a £10 model from a top-of-the-range brand. Four basic types of metal or alloy can be used to form the tip of the screwdriver:
- S2 or tool-grade steel: high-end; very durable;
- tempered steel: mid-range; comfortable and reliable;
- Chromium-vanadium-molybdenum or CVM tool steel: low-end;
- Chrome-plated, sandblasted tips; good value for money.
Your choice of screwdriver will depend on the types of jobs you plan to tackle.
Of course, you will have to use an insulated screwdriver for electrical work.
A precision screwdriver (also known as a jeweller's or watchmaker's screwdriver) should be used for any task that requires extreme precision.
Mains tester screwdrivers
Mains tester screwdrivers are designed to avoid unwanted shocks! They are essential for any tasks involving electricity.
Ceramic screwdrivers are equipped with special ceramic tips and insulated handles. This means there is no electromagnetic induction and no eddy current loss at high frequencies. They are 100% electrically insulated.
Interchangeable screwdrivers are handy for switching out the tip to match the task at hand. These tools are efficient and practical.
These screwdrivers feature a hex socket driver and are great for hex head screws, nuts or bolts located in hard-to-reach spots (for example, under taps).
What is an impact screwdriver?
There are some situations where all you need is a bit of pressure – a stuck screw is one! The best tool in this case is an impact screwdriver.
Simply place the screwdriver over the screw, hold the tool in place then give it a quick blow with a hammer. The force of the impact should cause the screw to turn very slightly and start to budge.
Once the screw is unstuck, proceed as you normally would to unscrew it.
How to choose the right screwdriver
In order to find the right screwdriver, you might want to start by asking yourself a few questions. What do you want the screwdriver for? What type of tip do you need? How much torque do you want to apply? Alternatively, you can go for a screwdriver set (or even several!). In all honesty, this is the only option if you want to avoid having to run out to the hardware shop on a Sunday afternoon!
It's worth noting that a ratchet screwdriver with a set of interchangeable tips has saved the day on more than one occasion! Another good idea is to go for a specific collection of high-quality tools: for example, two Torx screwdrivers (15 + 20), 2 slotted screwdrivers (4 + 5.5), 2 Pozidriv screwdrivers (2 + 3) and 2 Phillips screwdrivers (1 + 2). Round off your set with a mid-range ratchet screwdriver and your needs should be well and truly covered!
Guide written by:
John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton, 70 guides
Since I was a child, I was always interested in manual and technical works. Always fascinated by woodworking, I took advantage of my first flat as a playground. On the cards: electricity (of course, safety first!) and some partition walls; but also decorating with the help of the missus, made-to-measure furniture and little tricks to optimise the space, all the while remaining as original as possible. When the little one arrived, I started building bits and pieces for him! Lacking space, I have not got a permanent workshop and certain tools I dream about but are not part of my collection. Not to worry, I already know a lot about DIY and I have a high-tech profile that I hope will guide you in your decisions!