Saturday, April 2, 2011

The cordless drill that wont.

Tool test. Ryobi
I generally tell people to buy good quality tools on the basis that a cheap tool that does not do the job is an expensive purchase. But sometimes I get hooked by a really good price on something that I’d not normally look twice at.  In this case the old Black and Decker 14.4 volt 2 speed cordless drill that I’d got through a customer rewards program about 10 years back was getting tired.
I’d gone through three sets of batteries, and the current set were ok but I could see the end of them off in the distance, and the mechanicals were getting very rattley. Time to think of a new one, my choice would have been a Makita 14.4 volt LI battery equipped unit, if you watch the guys building houses that’s a very popular unit. Light, powerful, tough and good parts backup.  But, its quite a lot of money, and that’s not in good supply around here so I was putting the decision off until later.
However, walking through the big box hardware down the road (You can imaging me at a Hardware Stores Anonymous meeting, “ My name is John and I’m a Hardware storeaholic”.  I should go in with a minder, walk around and come out having not bought anything, just to prove it can be done).  Anyways. There I was, coming along the aisle with some plastic plumbing fittings for the house in my hand and a sign jumped out and ambushed me. 
It said,  “ Ryobi 18v Cordless Drill kit.  High torque, 2 Speed, two batteries, quick charger, drill and driver selection  $69.90 ( that’s about fifty bucks US) ”
All in a nice plastic case encased in a cardboard sleeve with pretty pictures on it that promise that you’ll be an instant success at whatever you do if only you buy this tool.

Direct hit!
Some of the Ryobi tools that I’ve had have been very good, mostly the ones I’ve had for a long time.  In fact my first cordless drill was a 7.2 volt Ryobi with battery inside the handle, I miss it.  It was small, light, had enough grunt to drive medium sized screws, and had a good true running keyed chuck.  Absolutley no frills, but then it didn’t need any. 
It died after a long innings, and about the same time I had a bunch of Fly Buys points about to drop off if I didn’t use them so the B&D came into my life, and its done well. I’ve had three other B&D cordless drills since that, all have been so bad that I wouldn’t even give them away.
So, home came the Ryobi, first impressions were ok, it fit the hand well, was reasonably balanced, the variable speed trigger works smoothly and is in the right place, the battery though is a pig to get on and off,  I’ve slight arthritis in my thumb joints and it takes considerable pressure to get the battery clips disengaged from the drills body in order to remove it to put it in the charger. Yes I can do it, no its not really a big deal, just annoying.
The charger, I plugged it in, dropped a battery in it, and a green light came on.  Ok, came back in half an hour, it turned the drill over half a dozen revolutions and carked it.
Tried again, read through the very confusing section on charging in the book of words, and tried again.  Green light, no result.  But there are two lights on the charger, and a tiny recessed button between them.  Whats that for?
Its printed on the label on the charger, true, but that’s not that clear either, it doesn’t work unless the battery is in there first.
Hmmm, try it with the battery in, push the button.  RED light came on.  Left it for a while, bingo, the green light comes on when charged. Ok, got that.
So, off to work, reasonable torque, not as much though as the tired old B&D even now, the slip ring behind the chuck that changes it from one torque setting to another is too easy to move which means that it goes from drill (no torque limitation ) to one of the settings where it stops and growls at you if its required to work too hard and you have to stop and reset it.
But its still a drill, and still does its job, or would if the chuck was a bit better.
This is the real grumble.  While it is fine with hexagonal shaft screwdriver bits, its not able to hold a drill bit with any competency, any size at all, any torque of any consequence and no matter how tight you wring the thing up  the chuck goes around without the drill.  You know how a drill bit hangs up a little when it gets to the other side of a piece of metal?  This one allows the drill to stop while the chuck merrily goes on discharging the battery.  Even with aluminium or copper. Or wood for that matter which makes it really annoying.
So,  I’ve a drill that can only be used as a screwdriver, and STILL need to buy another cordless drill.
I should take my own advice.
John Welsford


  1. John- Go get that Makita they are on special at TOOLSHED here in Whangarei for $186 2batts case quick charger. Marcus had one I have bought 3 for Mason Bay job so we have batts out our ears. Alsi have one Bosh 12v but falls over all the time 'cause the shape of the batt-not so well liked.
    Callin some time. Check

  2. I agree with Gary. Also, I have never been disappointed by a DeWalt powered product (don't even get me started on many of their UNpowered products...)

  3. I can only second the Ryobi comments. The only Ryobi tools that have lasted are in their 20's plus. When Ryobi went to China they lost me. You can't pass junk for good tools period.

  4. Take the chuck off the old drill and put it on the Ryobi. I prefer a keyed chuck anyway, and there is nothing like the old patented Jacobs chucks.

  5. The "old drill" has been relegated to the toolkit that I take out on jobs, it gets less use there and is adequate for the kind of things I do. I've already checked out the cost of a new Jacobs chuck, and I can buy a brand new Hitachi or Makita cordless for that, but there are other brands that only cost about the same as the Ryobi did and I'll get one when in at the engineering supply shop.


  6. My 18v makita came with a jacobs chuck, most top brands do. I like makita and bosche. Keep a look-out for an impact/drill combo kit. After using an impact driver you'll never want to use a drill to drive screws again!

  7. Tried that,prefer a low geared drill for the type of work that I'm doing.
    Bear in mind that I have worked in the sawmill and wood processing machinery feilds most of my working life, and have a fair bit of experience with not only big machinery but small items as well.
    Now that I'm not working for a full time salary with company car and all the trimmings, the budget is not nearly as good as it was so cheap sometimes seems attractive ( even though I should know better).
    I've got my eye on a Festo which I can buy at dealer cost but it has to wait until I've covered a big upcoming expense .


  8. Have a makita 14v drill driver and you cant beat it for drilling small holes and driving medium length screws. Does anyone know of a good source of marine ply in New Zealand? Just moved here and all the wood species are new to me and I can't find marine ply anywhere!

  9. Interestingly John, I have the same problem with a Ryobi model, the 18v cordless before your one... It's always slipped. Bloody annoying...

  10. Having had more than my money's worth out of a couple of no-name $12 made-in-china 12V NiCd drills, I finally sprung for a $250 Bosch 18V Li-Ion drill with 2 batteries. No regrets whatsoever. It holds its charge between usage. The chuck grips. The torque settings just work. Each battery lasts almost forever pulling out roofing screws & etc. I keep promising myself to adapt the 12V cheapies to work off the car battery, but the Bosch works so well that I never quite get around to it... Never so true the saying that you get what you pay for.

    Totally agree with the person who said Ryobi is only good over 20y/o. But hoping they are wrong. I have several good old Ryobi tools. My 'new' 100mm angle grinder is a Ryobi, because it had the nicest 'feel' of any of the 30-odd grinders on the shelves. So far, so good...

  11. I agree with you mate. Personally am a big fan of Ryobi power tools. I bought ryobi drill last year and it's working perfectly fine yet without any single maintenance.

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  13. hmm thumbs up for this article its help a lot specially im looking for makita cordless tools

  14. I have had the privilege of using a number of different tools from Makita, Dewalt, Milwaukee and Ryobi and agree with you that Ryobi tools are not as good as the other.

    I have had my Ryobi impact driver for a couple of years now and must say that I really do like it. It is a newer generation like these impact drivers here.

  15. I love Dewalt compact brushless hammer drill because of its Compact and lightweight for tight areas. It also has 2-speed settings for improved speed and torque control. DEWALT brushless motor for up to 57% more run time than brushed.

  16. 4 years later, I gave the Ryobi away to someone I don't like much. Bought a Festool CX, its the best power tool I've ever owned! Mind you at that price it should be but the cost is but a memory and the quality of the tool is now.
    I've also thrown out a brand new Ozito 18 volt drill, and one of their little 3.6 volt screwdrivers, they were not worth the space on the shelf.
    Next purchase in this area will be an 18 volt Makita driver drill.
    I still do power tool repairs for some customers, and have worked on most brands, some of the better regarded ones are not so good when you open them up but the Makita tools are very consistent in the quality of their engineering and manufacture, plus parts are available unlike some ( Bosch comes at the head of that list)

  17. This was a quick afternoon project that I worked on a few weeks ago. The beginnings were pretty simple. I was digging through the basement and found an old 12v cordless drill whose batteries had died. Being me, I decided that it would be cool and pretty easy to connect a cord to it and plug it into a lab power supply or other 12V

  18. Replies
    1. John Popper, this reads like advertising, but just in case its not, I fix power tools as part of my living, and am very aware of Makita, have I think, five Makita power tools. Good stuff but Festool is my preference even though much more expensive.

  19. I impressed that it is fine with hexagonal shaft screwdriver bits, its not able to hold a drill bit with any competency, any size at all, any torque of any consequence.

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