There are many different screwdriver types available as well as many types of screwdriver heads, all designed with different applications in mind.
Most screwdrivers look very similar, with a thin steel shaft that attaches to a handle – but that doesn’t mean one screwdriver will do every job. Some screwdrivers work best in hard-to-reach spaces, while others are essential for staying safe.
The key to working with screwdrivers comes down to knowing which type of screwdriver you need and when, and that’s what this guide will teach you.
Different Types of Screwdrivers
1. Flathead Screwdrivers
Flathead screwdrivers are one of the first screwdriver types to be invented and one of the most recognisable. In fact, if you were to picture a screwdriver in your mind, you’d probably imagine a flathead.
Also known as a slotted head screwdriver, flathead screwdrivers have a distinctive wedged-shaped tip that’s designed to fit slotted screws. These types of screwdrivers are now mostly used for carpentry, woodworking, and electrical applications.
2. Phillips Screwdrivers
Phillips screwdrivers (also referred to as crosshead screwdrivers) have a tip shaped like the letter ‘X’. They’re designed to fit with Phillips screw heads, which have a characteristic plus (+) shape cavity. They were invented by Henry Phillips in the 19th Century and provide a little more control than flathead screwdrivers.
3. Torx Screwdrivers
Torx screwdrivers have a shaft tip shaped like a six-point star. They’re sized according to T-numbers (ranging from T1 to T100) and are used with Torx screws, which feature a similar star-shaped recess.
Because of their distinctive shape, you’ll also hear Torx screwdrivers referred to as star head screwdrivers or six-point screwdrivers. They’re a popular tool for mechanical applications as well as structural framing and finish work.
4. Robertson Screwdrivers
Robertson screwdrivers, also known as square screwdrivers or square drive screwdrivers, feature a tapered tip and a square-shaped screwdriver bit that fits screw heads with a square-shaped cavity.
Named after their Canadian inventor, this type of screwdriver provides excellent torque control and screw head locking. They were used by Ford when first introduced and continue to be common in the automotive and furniture industries, particularly within Canada.
5. Hex Screwdrivers
Hex screwdrivers are compatible with screws that feature a hexagonal recess on their head. The screwdriver itself has a shaft or tip that mirrors that of a hexagon, with six equal-sized straight lobes.
Hex screws are very common in flat-packed furniture but are also found in mechanical applications. Their custom hexagonal shape is similar to an Allen key, so you’ll sometimes hear hex screwdrivers referred to as a hex key screwdriver or Allen key screwdriver
6. Pozidriv Screwdrivers
Pozidriv screwdrivers (also called Pozidriv) are essentially an upgraded version of a Phillips screwdriver. They feature a similar cross-shape tip, offset at 45-degree angles.
Widely used in Europe, Pozidriv screwdrivers offer improved stability and reduced cam-out when greater torque is applied.
7. Tri-Wing Screwdrivers
Tri-wing screwdrivers have a tip that resembles a pinwheel. They’re compatible with screws that feature a triangular recess, identifiable by a distinctive three-wing design.
This type of screw is very small and commonly found in electronic devices such as mobile smartphones and cameras, although the screwdrivers were originally manufactured for the aerospace industry.
Unlike other screwdriver types, tri-wing drivers only come in three sizes.
8. JIS Screwdrivers
JIS (short for Japanese Industrial Standard) are a popular screwdriver type for jobs involving cross-point screws. The screw engagement with JIS screwdrivers is self-centring and fast, offering a torque control that exceeds that of Phillips screwdrivers.
9. Security Screwdrivers
Security screwdrivers look almost identical to a Torx screwdriver, with one key exception: they feature a pin at the centre of their star-shaped head, which aligns with a pin-sized hole in security screws.
Also referred to as Security Torx, Pin Torx, or Tamper-Resistance Torx screwdrivers, security screwdrivers are a necessity if a job requires you to fasten or unfasten security screws.
Screwdrivers for Specialised Uses
Impact screwdrivers, also called impact drivers, are a type of cordless, heavy-duty, screwdriver, that’s perfect for tightening or removing screws that are inserted into dense or hard surfaces.
Precision screwdrivers are designed for use with exceptionally tiny screws, like those found in electronics and toys. Precision screwdrivers are small in size and typically feature Phillips or flathead tips, though Torx sets are also available.
Rachet screwdrivers operate like a rachet, freely spinning in one direction whilst gripping the screw if turned the other way. Most feature a switch so you can reverse the direction, allowing you to tighten as well as loosen fasteners.
Because of this, rachet screwdrivers are a perfect choice when working in tight spaces as well as when using long screws.
Electric screwdrivers make quick work of fastening and loosening screws. They look (and operate) like an electric drill, just with interchangeable screwdriver bits instead of drill bits.
Some electric screwdrivers will need to be directly connected to a power supply (which makes them inappropriate for electrical applications) but it’s also possible to purchase electric screwdrivers that are powered by a rechargeable battery pack.
Insulated and VDE Certified Screwdrivers
Insulated screwdrivers are made from non-conductive materials, such as rubber, and are sometimes called safety screwdrivers.
VDE-certified screwdrivers meet with the tool safety standards set out by the VDE, a German association that champions best practices in electrical safety.
Magnetic screwdrivers have a magnetic tip that attracts screws and makes it easier to hold them in place. They’re great when you’re working on fiddly jobs that involve tiny screws, as the pull from the magnetic bit helps the screw to stay aligned with the screwdriver tip.
Sets of Screwdrivers
Because screws come in all shapes and sizes, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll encounter just one type across your lifetime.
Investing in screwdriver sets is a great way to cost-effectively build up your screwdriver supply while giving you a handy storage solution to keep your tools safe and organised.
Screwdriver sets, typically comprise of one screwdriver type in a range of different sizes, but it is also possible to find multi-purpose sets that offer an assortment of different screwdriver types in the most needed sizes
Screwdriver Bit Sets
Screwdriver bit sets are interchangeable screwdriver tips that fit electric and impact screwdrivers. Just like hand tool screwdriver sets, screwdriver bits are also manufactured in a range of shapes and sizes to accommodate different types of screws.
Most electric screwdrivers and impact screwdrivers are sold with a set of bits to get you started. However, these will typically consist of just one type of screwdriver, so it’s a good idea to invest in supplementary sets, designed for different types of screw head.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What type of screwdriver should I use for basic household tasks?
Flathead screwdrivers and Phillips screwdrivers are ideal for helping you to complete a variety of basic household tasks, such as assembling flat-pack furniture.
2. Can I use a Phillips screwdriver for Pozidriv screws?
Yes, Phillips screwdrivers do fit Pozidriv screws. Just be mindful to turn the screw slowly and carefully, without applying too much pressure, to avoid slippage.
3. Are precision screwdrivers only for professionals?
No. Precision screwdrivers aren’t only for professionals. In fact, they can be helpful for tightening small screws in glasses and accessing toy battery packs.
4. Can I use an impact screwdriver for all types of screws?
You can, but you may find it easier to use a hand screwdriver for more precise and delicate applications, such as when working with jewellery, electronics and very small screws.
5. How do I maintain my screwdrivers for longevity?
You can maintain your screwdrivers by using the correct screwdriver type for the screw head and storing your screwdrivers in custom-cut foam inserts.
6. What are the commonly used screwdriver types?
The most commonly used screwdriver types are flathead screwdrivers (also called slotted screwdrivers) and Phillips screwdrivers (also called crosshead screwdrivers).
Screwdrivers are an essential tool that when used correctly can help you to professionally loosen and tighten screws safely. Having the right screwdriver for the job not only makes life easier; it prevents you from doing irreversible damage to the screw head, or accidentally injuring yourself from slippage or over-exertion.
Don’t risk using the wrong screwdriver for the wrong application. Explore the diverse range of screwdrivers available at Red Box Tools and find the perfect screwdriver to get the job done right.