Last updated: 16/10/2022

These tools have served humanity for over two millennia, with their uses refined ever since. They are indispensable in any toolbox, with different sizes in length and width. If you don’t want to simply buy one, but have the knowledge to choose yours, you have come to the right place. Screwdrivers have models and features, and as you read on, you will learn a lot about them!




Summary

  • The absolute majority of objects and equipment have their parts connected with screws. Of varying sizes and shapes, many use the standard compatible screwdriver.
  • Screwdrivers can be found in various types of length, width, length and shape of the slot for fitting. It is practically impossible for you to have just one to fulfill all functions.
  • There are specific types of screwdriver. Some are suitable for electrical work, for example. That is why it is important to know this tool thoroughly.

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The Best Screwdriver: Our Picks

Buying Guide

While most people are familiar with a screwdriver, some terms may be new. And we want to bring here all the important data about this tool. Continue with us to learn about its different types and, in the end, be able to choose yours.

Mão de homem usando uma chave de fenda para apertar um parafuso.

The screwdriver is an indispensable tool in any briefcase. (Source: Maxim Blinkov / 123RF)

What is a screwdriver?

As much as technology continues to contribute with evolutions for its use, some components seem to have been very well designed already centuries ago. Whether it’s for building a bed, or even a smartphone, there are parts that need to be assembled. The screwdriver is a tool designed to allow this assembly (or disassembly), by means of screws that have a slit in the head. Confused? let’s go! Screws have the thread part, where they fit, and another wider part, called head. In this wider end there may be a slit (a scratch, or something else in another shape), which is where the key to twist it fits.

Foto de duas chaves de fenda com parafusos ao lado.

Screwdrivers are used for tightening/loosening screws with slotted heads. (Source: AllanW / pixabay)

If you like seeing is believing, take a good look at the appliances in your home. They may even be well hidden, but there are screws everywhere. There’s no tool more useful than a good screwdriver. For each type of screw there must be a suitable screwdriver. It is suitable when there is maximum contact of the object to be tightened with the tightening/loosening tool. According to the use and characteristics, several specific types of screws have been created. And each one of them needs an appropriate wrench to perform tightening/loosening, in the direction of its maximum contact.

The most common types that we find in our day to day are flat and star (or phillips) slots.

But there are many others, where most are concentrated in the automotive sector and some others in industrial use: pozidrive, torx, resistorx, square, hexagonal, among others less common. This suitability also has to do with the size of the slot you intend to tighten/loosen. Measurements are found for sale in inches, so you need to have a certain knowledge in what you intend to acquire. This video published by the Loja do Mecânico Distribution Centre will help you understand better:

Flat or crosshead screwdriver? What is the difference?

Of the types of screwdriver, two are the most common and most prominent in household appliances: flat or crossed screwdriver. Well, they are not the only screwdrivers you will use when you need to carry out maintenance, but they are the most commonly used. Let’s analyse their characteristics:

Foto em ampliação das pontas das chaves de fenda, indicando pontas com fenda plana e cruzada.

Flat or cross-head screwdrivers are the main types for home use. (Source: Efraimstochter / Pixabay)

Flat screwdriver

The oldest ever created (first ones date back to the 1st century), it has a flat, narrow tip. The width and length of the slit vary depending on the wrench. It is widely used to perform household work, with use on furniture, mainly. They are also used in mechanics for tightening and loosening large screws. With a hexagonal handle, you can use a wrench to increase the tool’s torque, without requiring more effort.

Cross-Slotted Head Screwdriver (Phillips)

This is a tightening option that has been gaining space over time, especially on more fragile components. Its flattened tip has a crossed-line format (two slits). It has a thinner tip than its sister, and its use is possible only in screws with similar slots. Used more in acrylic parts, PVC and thin metals (can not be too tight at the risk of damage). Compare:

Flat head screwdriver Cross head screwdriver (Phillips)
Type of screw Single slotted at the tip Cross slotted at the tip
Use On less fragile objects On any object
Versatility Can be used on cross slotted screws (although not recommended) Cannot be used on single slotted screws

What care should I take with my screwdriver?

Surely you must already have a screwdriver at home, at least one. Know, then, that they need a basic care to continue performing their function with excellence. Check it out:

  • Do not sharpen the tip of the keys, as it affects the material’s resistance, and may cause breakage and even harm the user.
  • Lubricate the metal periodically to keep it protected from weathering agents.
  • Use the screwdriver only for tightening and loosening screws.
  • Check before use if the tool is in condition to be used, looking for cracks or rounding of the edges on the tip of the wrench.

Purchase criteria: Factors for comparing screwdriver models

Being a simple to use tool with an extremely simple function, screwdrivers do not have great tricks. However, their variety of uses (although always for tightening/loosening screws) creates screwdrivers with some distinctive features. And it is important that you know about them.

  • Handle
  • Slot width and opening
  • Magnetized
  • Shank material

Handle

Being a metal shaft, the screwdriver has a thicker handle made of different materials. The most common ones are high density plastic and acrylic. Depending on the tool’s usage needs, you need to keep in mind the choice of the handle. The element where pressure is applied for tightening / loosening, it must have the necessary conditions to be rotated. In case of residential use, ergonomic and rubberized handles are great options. Generally cylindrical and shaped to the user’s hand.

Foto ampliada do cabo emborrachado da chave de fenda.

Rubberized handles are ergonomic options for continuous use of the tool. (Source: Efraimstotcher / Pixabay)

If you intend to use them at work as well, and on components that require more grip, acrylic handles are good options. Square or hexagonal in shape allow for more adhesion and use of other tools as helpers. There is also this option in plastic handles, but they will deform according to the use with other tools. Finally, if you intend to use the screwdrivers in dangerous environments (like exposing to electricity), screwdrivers with insulated cables and specific materials are the most recommended.

Screwdriver width and opening

You have already seen a bit about this in another moment. There are different sizes of screw and heads on them, likewise, wider or narrower, larger or smaller slots. These measurements are given in inches. It is important when choosing a wrench, to know roughly what sizes of slotted screw you need it to tighten/loosen. If you make the wrong choice, you may not be able to do the job, or you may even hurt yourself. Screwdrivers that are too thick won’t go into smaller screws, and the opposite doesn’t work either. If the screwdriver is too thin in width, it will have no strength on a larger screw. One option provided by the manufacturers is to buy the screwdrivers in small sets (ranging from 3 to more than 10 pieces). In this way, you make up the wrenches for any occasion in your toolbox.

Imagem de ferramentas sobre mesa, com chaves de fenda de diversos tamanhos.

There are several sizes of screwdrivers, for use in different situations. (Source: stux / Pixabay)

Magnetized

You may never have noticed, but some screwdrivers have a darker tip. Do you know what this is for? It’s not just part of the tool’s design, in fact, far from it. This darker tip is magnetized. This means that they have a magnet at the end. It is very useful, because the screw sticks to this tip and does not fall out. If you need to screw in a region where only one arm fits, for example, it is essential. Although it is a super interesting criterion, it can make the screwdriver more expensive. So analyze if it would really be useful for you.

Imagem de chaves de fenda imantadas.

The black tip on screwdrivers means that they are magnetized. (Source: blickpixel / Pixabay)

Stem material

The material used of the shaft of the screwdriver, that is, the metal part, can vary. Different types of steel are used and this automatically interferes with the quality of durability of the piece. Check this important detail in the description of the product on the buying site. The best wrenches are made of chrome vanadium steel, hardened and tempered steel or carbon steel. (Source of the highlighted image: saulhm / Pixabay)

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