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How to Fix DEWALT Cordless Drill Problems

A collage of different types of cordless drill.

DEWALT is a trusted name in power tools, and many people insist they would never consider any other brand, particularly when it comes to their cordless drills. But, as with anything made by humans, DEWALT cordless drills can have occasional problems. Let’s look at the most likely problems you may experience with your DEWALT cordless drill and how to solve them.

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The seven common problems you may encounter with your DEWALT cordless drill:

  1. The drill won’t start
  2. The battery won’t charge
  3. The drill is noisier than usual
  4. The chuck is loose or wobbling
  5. The drill is stuck in forward or reverse
  6. The chuck is jammed
  7. Overheating or a burning smell

1. The Drill Won’t Start

A man drilling a screw nail on the wood.

It can be endlessly frustrating to drill a hole when your drill doesn’t want to work. Regular corded drills have a simple troubleshooting process involving unplugging it and plugging it back in a few times. But cordless drills come with an entirely different set of potential problems. Thankfully it’s still relatively easy to find the problem.

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Solution 1: Clean the Motor’s Brushes

The battery is the most common reason your DEWALT cordless drill won’t start. Many things could play a role in your battery not working, so it warrants an entirely separate section.

Another cause could be that the drill’s motor brushes have become corroded. This is most often caused by dirt sticking to the brushes, though the brushes can also wear out over time, especially with frequent use.

To clean the brushes, start by removing the plastic cap at the back of the drill, just above the handle. After removing the cap, you should see two wires connecting the motor to the battery; disconnect these wires. Now you will be able to loosen the brushes from the motor.

You should immediately see dirt or grime on the contacts as you pull the brushes away from the motor. You can clean it with some compressed air, a lint-free cloth, or a bit of electronics cleaner.

You can follow the same process to replace the brushes. Replacement parts are readily available.

Solution 2: Replace the Motor

Another possible reason your drill won’t start is that the motor has burned out. You can follow the steps described above to access the brushes and remove the motor from the drill’s casing. Pay attention to the model number indicated on the motor, as you will need this to find the correct replacement part.

2. The Battery Won’t Charge

A cordless DeWALT drill and it's battery.

Another common problem with DEWALT cordless drills is the battery not working as it should. Suppose your drill doesn’t start or turns very slowly. In that case, there’s a good chance the battery isn’t charging correctly (assuming that you experience these problems directly after removing the drill from the charger).

Solution 1: Check if the Charger Makes Proper Contact

As with most other types of troubleshooting, you must first ask yourself if it is plugged in. Even if the charger is plugged in on both ends, it’s possible that it isn’t making proper contact. Try unplugging the charger and then plugging it back in, or even try a different electrical outlet.

Solution 2: Replace the Charger Fuse

If the charger is properly plugged in but still isn’t charging the battery, check the charger’s fuse. Different charger models open differently, and the amperage of the fuses also differs. But once you’ve managed to open the charger, note that the fuse doesn’t look like most fuses but rather like a fuse holder. Remove the fuse and use its part number to find a suitable replacement.

The fuse isn’t the only charger part that could die, though. Unfortunately, the fuse is the only user-replaceable part of the charger. So, if the charger still doesn’t work after you replaced the fuse, or if you can see that the fuse is still intact, you will have to replace the entire charger.

Solution 3: Replace the Battery

Of course, the problem could be the battery, too. If the drill’s motor turns slowly or runs for a few seconds or minutes and then stops, the battery cannot hold a full charge anymore, and you will have to replace the battery. Thankfully, replacement batteries are easy to find and usually won’t break the bank.

3. The Drill Is Noisier Than Usual

A man drilling screw on a brace.

Drills are noisy by default. People who struggle with auditory overload usually want to leave the room when you’re drilling. But it’s easy to tell when your drill is making a noise that it shouldn’t, like squealing, grinding, or rattling from the inside. The cause is either worn bearings or worn gears inside the cordless drill.

Solution 1: Replace the Bearings

Worn bearings inside your DEWALT cordless drill will usually make a squeaking noise until the bearings fail; then, it will become a grinding noise. It would be best to replace the bearings when you hear the squealing since a ceased-up bearing could damage the drill’s motor.

To replace the bearing in your DEWALT drill, remove the rear cover and brushes, then detach the gear case from the motor housing. You should see the bearing hidden in a sleeve inside the gear housing. Get the correct replacement part and put it in there.

Solution 2: Check and Replace the Gearbox

If you hear a grinding noise, but there was no squeaking before it, it’s probably not the bearing but the gearbox itself. This often happens if a gear’s tooth is missing or chipped. The only solution is to replace the gearbox. To do this, you can open the gearbox precisely as you would replace the bearing, then use the gearbox’s part number to find a replacement.

Take note, though, that you must ensure your drill is in the lowest possible gear before you remove the gearbox from the drill’s shell.

4. The Chuck Is Loose or Wobbling

A drill bit attached on a chuck of a drill.

A wobbly drill bit is more than a frustration; it’s an accident waiting to happen. When you operate a drill while the bit is wobbly, the drill will work less efficiently, but the bit could also come loose, bend, or even break.

There are four potential causes for the chuck wobbling on your DEWALT cordless drill. The drill bit could be bent, or it might not have been inserted into the chuck correctly. Two other possibilities are that your chuck is coming loose from the motor or the chuck is faulty, and you will have to replace it.

Solution 1: Check for a Bent Drill Bit

The first things to check are the two easiest. Firstly, ensure that the drill bit you’re using isn’t bent. A bent drill bit will throw off the balance of the chuck so much that it will wobble. If the drill bit is bent even slightly, replace the drill bit with a different one.

Solution 2: Re-Seat the Drill Bit

While checking the drill bit, also ensure that the bit is seated inside the chuck properly. If it’s not in there perfectly, it will throw the chuck off-balance and cause it to wobble, so re-seat the drill bit if necessary.

Solution 3: Tighten the Chuck Around the Motor

If neither solves the problem, check if the chuck has come loose from the motor. It’s a common problem that occurs as the drill gets older. To check and fix it, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the battery from the DEWALT cordless drill. Ensure that it’s disconnected and detached completely.
  2. Flip the drill’s direction switch to the neutral position so the chuck can spin freely when it’s unpowered.
  3. Open the chuck’s jaws completely, turning it to the maximum open position.
  4. Now insert a hex key into the chuck as you would with a drill bit. Use a thick, sturdy hex key.
  5. Tighten the chuck’s jaws around the hex key.
  6. Take a mallet and gently tap the hex key, turning it clockwise. Doing this by hand won’t work, as it will only turn the chuck. The rapid, sudden movement of the mallet hitting the key will force the chuck to tighten around the motor.

Solution 4: Replace the Chuck

If this doesn’t solve the problem, unfortunately, it means your chuck is damaged, and you will have to replace it. If the DEWALT cordless drill is new and still within its warranty period, have it replaced. This doesn’t often happen with DEWALT products, but a factory fault could slip in occasionally.

If your drill is no longer under warranty, you can replace the chuck by following the same steps mentioned above, but instead of tapping the hex key to turn clockwise, turn it counter-clockwise to loosen the old chuck. Then replace it with a new unit and fasten it by turning the key clockwise again.

5. The Drill Is Stuck in Forward or Reverse

A cordless drill on a car wheel.

Sometimes your drill can get stuck in either spinning direction. Whether your drill model uses a trigger or a switch, it can still get stuck and be unable to change direction. It is usually caused by a jammed switch or gears, but it isn’t too difficult to fix.

Solution 1: Check for a Stuck Switch

The first thing to try is some WD-40. If your selector switch isn’t too close to the motor or any electronic components, spray some WD-40 into the switch and move it between settings vigorously. Let the excess WD-40 drain out, and try again. This will help to unjam the selector switch.

Solution 2: Check for a Jammed Gearbox

If the gearbox gets jammed, you can usually resolve this issue by spraying WD-40 into the chuck. Give it a few minutes for the WD-40 to soak into the mechanism, then set the selector switch to the neutral position if possible.

Now grip the chuck with some pliers, and have another set around the body just behind the chuck. Be careful not to grip it so tightly that you damage any part. Then gently wiggle both pliers in opposite directions to open the jammed parts. You should hear clearly when the metal releases, and then you should be able to change the drill’s spinning direction again.

If this did not work, it might be necessary to replace your drill’s gearbox.

6. The Chuck Is Jammed

A chuck key stuck on a chuck drill.

Sometimes, a drill’s chuck can get so jammed that it’s impossible to release a drill bit. Loosening the chuck the usual way is useless and doesn’t accomplish anything. This usually happens when you overtighten the chuck’s jaws when you insert a drill bit. There’s a fine line between tightening it too much and not tightening it enough.

Solution 1: Lubricate the Chuck

There are two ways to get the chuck unjammed. The first is to spray some WD-40 into the chuck, between the jaws in particular. Give the chuck a few minutes to absorb the WD-40, then try to loosen it again. It may take a bit of force, but you will probably be able to loosen it.

Solution 2: Force the Chuck to Release

If the WD-40 doesn’t do the trick, you may have to resort to some light violence. Follow these steps:

  1. Remove the battery from your cordless drill.
  2. Set the gear selector switch to the neutral position.
  3. Gently clamp the drill in a vice grip or something similar (emphasis on “gently”) with the bit and chuck pointing upward.
  4. Take a small, flat screwdriver and place its tip on one of the chuck’s jaws.
  5. Take a mallet in your other hand and gently tap the screwdriver to drive the jaw slightly down.
  6. Try to get the screwdriver’s tip between one of the jaws and the drill bit. As you drive it in, the jaws should start to budge.
  7. Don’t force it more than you have to. As soon as you can see a bit of movement, try to loosen the chuck in the usual way again.
  8. You can spray a bit of WD-40 inside the chuck to help loosen it.

7. Overheating or a Burning Smell

A cordless drill and a battery charging.

There are few cases (if any) where a burning smell emanating from an electric device could be considered a good thing, and your DEWALT cordless drill is no exception. If overheating continues for too long, it could cause irreparable damage.

Any drill will get warm as you use it, even more so if you use it for long periods. It is normal and just a side-effect of the energy that the drill releases. But when it gets too hot, especially if you start to smell something like burning electronics or see smoke, it’s a sign that the motor is overheating. It could cause the motor to burn out completely.

Solution 1: Uncover the Vents

The first and most crucial step is to stop using it immediately when you feel your drill overheating, smell something burning, or see smoke. If you continue to use it, you will only cause permanent damage to your drill. You may even remove the battery. This will eliminate all electrical current inside the drill and keep the battery safe from heat, which is never good for batteries.

The next step is to check why the drill is overheating. It’s almost always related to the motor, so you will want to remove your drill’s back cover to find the problem.

The first things to check are the vents. DEWALT cordless drills have two vents on either side of the motor inside the back cover. If anything covers the vents, the motor cannot cool down effectively, which will cause it to overheat.

Sometimes it’s as simple as accidentally covering the vent with your hands. Especially when you’re drilling a hole in a hard, solid substance, you may be tempted to push down on the drill by placing your other hand over the back cover, inadvertently covering the vents. No cool air can reach the motor to cool it down.

When you remove the cover, you may notice dust on the vents. As the drill gets older and you use it more often, dust can clog up the vents, limiting the airflow. You have to remove anything that’s blocking or clogging the air vents. Luckily the back cover is made of plastic, so it’s easy to clean. Ensure it’s completely dry after cleaning before replacing it on the drill.

Solution 2: Clean the Motor

Another possible problem is that the brushes have become so worn that they leave particles inside the motor. If you operate the drill with the back cover off, you might see some sparks, and the back cover will have a black, scorched coating on the inside.

To repair it, remove the two brush assemblies as described earlier. Once they’re out, you should see the black particles inside the motor. You can blow out the particles using compressed air from a can or a compressor. Then it would be best if you cleaned the inside of the motor more properly by spraying it with some electrical contact cleaner.

Once you’re done, replace the brushes, preferably with new ones.




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