One of the lesser-known differences in electric drills is the difference between brushed and brushless ones. It is a small and difficult-to-spot difference but it can mean quite a lot in terms of how the drill operates.
In this article, you will find the basic differences between these two types of drill motors and some of the advantages and disadvantages of using one or the other. In the end, we will go over which one is the best for your needs to get your projects done right.
Brushed and Brushless Motors: The Basics
There are plenty of similarities to these motors but there are some fundamental differences that make one certainly more energy-efficient than the other. Let’s go through the basics and give you a quick rundown on how each motor operates in these drills.
How Do Brushed Motors Work?
A brushed motor consists of four simple parts: a ring of magnets, carbon brushes, a commutator, and an armature. The brushes and magnets stay stationary while the commutator and armature rotate together within magnets on a motor shaft.
When a brushed motor becomes energized, the electric charge travels through the brushes and into its commutator. Then the charge passes into the armature that’s made up of copper bundles.
Finally, these copper bundles are magnetized and thus push against the magnets and force the armature to begin spinning. If all of these steps go accordingly, the motor should run until it is unhooked from its power source or turned off completely.
How Do Brushless Motors Work?
The brushless motor does not use the commutator or, of course, the brushes. Also, the copper bundles and magnet locations are reversed in this type of motor.
The magnets’ locations are on the motor shaft this time and the bundles of copper surround the shaft and stay in a fixed spot. Instead of a commutator and brushes, this motor uses a tiny circuit board that tells the energy where to go in order to power the motor.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Brushed Drills
Brushed drills may have an objectively less energy-efficient motor than the brushless drill but there are some advantages to using them.
Advantage #1: They’re Inexpensive
Brushed drills can go for anywhere from $20 for an old used one to around $200 for a top-of-the-line brand new one. So for those that are in the middle, you likely will not even need to spend more than $100 to get a good brushed drill. Not to mention, they are much less expensive to repair if necessary.
All in all, the brushed drill is definitely the more cost-effective way to go if you are deciding based solely on that. If you only plan to use the drill minimally for your projects you may as well go for the cheaper option that will still get you good results and can get fixed fairly cheaply as well.
Advantage #2: They’re Easier to Repair
It is mentioned above that it is cheap to repair but it is also a fairly simple task to fix up this motor on your own as well.
Most hardware stores will have brushes available for a cheap price and they are surprisingly easy to install and uninstall to make your motor work like brand-new again. So even if you plan on using your drill a lot, it won’t be too much of a hassle to get it working again if the brushes wear out.
Disadvantage #1: Lack of Power
Unfortunately, brushed drills will almost always be less powerful than brushless drills. Assuming both drills are getting the same surge of electricity the brushed drill will lose some power because of the brushes themselves. Brushed drills create a lot more friction which, in turn, creates a lot more heat. This heat means that energy is being lost and turned into heat energy because of the friction of the brushes in the motor.
Try pressing the drill’s trigger down hard, you’ll almost certainly notice less torque. The torque is slowing because of the lost energy due to the brushes. If this happens, you will need to stop and let the drill cool down which is something many woodworkers hate doing.
Disadvantage #2: They Have a Shorter Lifespan
If you do not take good care of your brushed drill it will break down much quicker than its brushless counterpart.
Remember all the heat and friction from the last section? This will take a toll on the motor and even the drill itself. Of course, replacing the brushes will help prolong the life of your motor but it is something that won’t last forever.
Eventually, putting new brushes in will not be the necessary fix and you will have to take it to a professional to either replace other, more expensive parts of the motor or the whole motor itself.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Brushless Drills
Of course, there are plenty of reasons to buy the brushless drill including its more powerful motor. However, there is more to it than that and there are even a few disadvantages to consider if you plan to use this drill for your next project.
Advantage #1: They Perform Better
The performance of a brushless drill is much better than a brushed drill because there is no heat or friction caused by the brushes in the motor. This power that is lost to heat in a brushed drill is directed right into the drill itself to make it that much more powerful.
Plus, this motor is better for your battery as well. Without all the wasted energy, the battery in this drill is only using the power necessary to operate it and does not need to compensate for more power to make up for lost energy.
Many brushless drills also have smart sensors that recognize the kind of material you’re working with and can adjust the torque and power automatically to match. This feature makes for less strain on your drill and provides all-around much better efficiency.
Advantage #2: They Are Easier to Use
Naturally, the fewer parts needed inside the motor, the more compact and lightweight your drill will be. Brushless drills are easier to carry around and use without putting as much strain on the shoulders and arms. Also, most brushless drills can find their way into tighter spaces than a brushed drill because of their lack of bulk.
An added bonus is that you can even hold it up to drill in higher places without putting too much effort into keeping your arms up there.
Finally, this drill does not get hot because of the friction in the motor like in brushed drills. This takes away the chance of burning your hand or having to let the drill cool before using it again. All in all, brushless drills are much easier to use if you are a power-drill-beginner.
Advantage #3: They Are Quiter
Brushless drills are also quieter than their brushed counterparts because, without the friction and moving parts, these drills have much less opportunity to make noise. Those that have small children, animals that do not like loud noise, or close neighbors stand a lot to benefit because of this.
Even for those that have their workshops outside or in soundproof rooms and do not have to worry about noise, this type of drill is just better for your ears.
You should wear some form of ear protection when using any power tool but the brushless drill will help with this no matter what case and keep noise to a minimum in an otherwise fairly loud drill.
Disadvantage #1: They Are More Expensive
Hardware stores know which of these drills performs better and thus the brushless drill will almost always cost you more, especially if you are looking at new models.
These motors have circuit boards in them that are difficult to make and require a lot more specialized labor to produce and because of this, you are looking at getting a decent brushless for $100 or more almost every time.
Disadvantage #2: They Are Difficult to Repair
To touch on the circuit board again, unless you are an electrician that knows these things very well, you are probably not capable of fixing the motor of this drill if something goes wrong.
Repairs can get costly and sometimes to the point where you are better off just buying a whole new drill if things get a little too broken. It is unfortunate but, despite the fact that the brushed drill requires more repairs, it is actually easier to repair than the brushless drill.
Which of the Two Should You Get?
All in all, the brushless drill is the better of the two. It is more powerful, lighter, and is less likely to break on you after extended periods of use. However, there are some situations where you may want to use a brushed drill instead.
First, if you do not really need to use the drill for extended periods of time, the brushed drill is the more cost-effective solution. You won’t have to worry about overheating it if it will not be used for long periods and the motor should last for a good while as well.
Also, if you are fairly handy with repairs, you can keep up to date with keeping your brushed drill’s motor clean and it can last even longer than some brushless drills.
However, if you are a beginner or planning to use an electric drill for many different projects you should certainly get the brushless drill. It will almost always get just as good results as the brushed drill more efficiently and with less work on your arms and shoulders due to its lightweight and compact design.
Now that we have come to a close, hopefully, you have learned all you need to know about the differences between a brushed and brushless drill.
The brushless drill has the better motor and is best used for most projects but there are certainly circumstances where the brushed drill has its merit and it is still around today for a reason.
Keep in mind the advantages and disadvantages of both types of drills when you are going out to buy one and if you’re ever confused about any of the inner workings of their motors, don’t be afraid to ask an experienced craftsman or the owner’s manual of these drills.