DeWALT 18V Lithium-Ion Heavy Duty 1/2" Hammer Drill/Driver

A durable frameless motor, all-steel transmission, lots of power, and an exceptionally well balanced design for heavy duty work day in and day out

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DeWALT 18V Lithium-Ion Heavy Duty 1/2" Hammer Drill/Driver



A drill/driver is likely one of the most widely used hand power tools on a job site, or for that matter, in the workshop. Hammer drills, which incorporate the functions of a drill/driver and impact drill in one tool, are becoming increasing popular, and for good reason. Cordless models have improved considerably over the past years, offering increased power, better performance and greater reliability.
 
The first thing I noticed with the DeWALT DCD970KL is that it looks rather small for a heavy duty hammer drill. At 9 1/2" long and 10" high, it's not much larger than a standard drill/driver. However, the 'T' shape design, and 5.5 pound weight (with battery) give it superb balance. This is particularly important if you're using a drill on and off for hours a day. I found that even with a large 1 3/4" hole saw in the chuck it didn't tilt forward when set down on its base. The DCD970KL is easy to manipulate; it fits the hand well and you can quickly switch functions and speed settings. And, the switches are all intuitively located. The handle is covered with a rubber overmold that adds to comfort, and likely helps lessen vibration.
 
The DCD970KL is powered by an 18V XRP (eXtended Runtime Performance) 2.4 amp hour lithium-ion battery (DC9180) that employs DeWALT's new NANO phosphate lithium ion cells. According to DeWALT, you can expect longer battery life, and up to 2,000 recharges per battery. Additionally, the battery has internal circuitry that protects battery cells by turning the battery off should it get too warm; if this happens you'll need to put the battery into the charger, which will reset the electronics in the battery. For such an innovative battery I wonder why DeWALT didn't add a low power level indicator on the battery.
 
However, kudos to DeWALT on the design of its super battery charger (DC9310); it will recharge all your older DeWALT batteries, from 7.2 to 18V, including NiCd and NiMH as well as Li-Ion. The XPR batteries take about 60 minutes to recharge, while the compact Li-Ion batteries (DC9181) juice up in only 30 minutes. Another nice feature is that you can use an 18V XRP battery in any 18V DeWALT power tool manufactured since 1996. If, like a lot of tradespeople, you tend to stick to one brand, (and it happens to be DeWALT), then you'll really like this charger.



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New to the The DCD970KL is a frameless motor. Frameless motors aren't new, and the design has proven itself over time. According to DeWALT this design provides better internal airflow, contributing to a longer motor work life, reduces overall motor size, and increases motor efficiency. It also likely shaves off a bit of overall tool weight.
 
DeWALT doesn't provide a torque rating for its power tools; instead it uses 'Unit Watts Out' (UWO). According to DeWALT, UWO is a better measure of the maximum power output for a power tool. For a hammerdrill, it takes into account the efficiency of the entire drill system (transmission, clutch, and chuck), measuring the deliverable power of the drill at the chuck. The DCD970KL has a UWO of 450; however trying to compare it to a conventional torque level is like trying to compare apples to oranges. In the end what matters is how the tool performs, and I found that the DCD970KL delivers sufficient power to handle any drilling or driving task I put it through.
 

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While a lot of people seem not to use the side handle on conventional drill/drivers, you'll be glad that there is one with the DCD970KL. You can quickly position it at any angle on the drill. When in hammerdrill mode you'll find the side handle an absolute necessity. It helps absorb vibration, enables you to hold the drill more securely, and lets you exert extra force as you drive the bit home. My only complaint is that there is no rubber overmold on the side handle; rather, it's made of a high impact ABS. When your hands sweat or your work gloves are wet, they tend to slip on the plastic handle.
 
The white LED work light, located just under the clutch ring, is quite bright, and the bit holder, located just above the front of the battery housing, is one of the best on the market - it actually holds the bit firmly in place, yet releases it quickly and easily. Surprisingly, there is no belt clip on this drill. Not a deal breaker for me, but I do like them. As with just about all DeWALT power tools, the DCD970KL comes in a hard shell case that makes for easy storage, and convenient transportation, of your drill.


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Bright white LED work light 
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A bit clip that works
The DCD970KL functions in three modes: drilling (higher speed, lower torque), driving (higher torque, lower speed), and hammering (higher speed, lower torque). There is a separate collar (with relevant icons) that enables you to switch between these three modes. I find this arrangement very convenient; once you've used it a few times it becomes second nature. Just ahead of the mode selector is the clutch ring, which has 22 torque settings. It rotates smoothly without any slippage as it engages each torque setting. The clutch only works in drilling mode, not in driving (screwing) or hammerdrill modes. With the side handle in place the clutch ring can be awkward to rotate, particularly if wearing gloves. 22 clutch settings is, in my view, adequate for construction work; in a furniture shop you might want a wider range of torque settings, but then, this likely won't be the 'go-to' drill in most furniture or cabinetry shops.

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All-metal single sleeve chuck
This DCD970KL has a great chuck. It's a 1/2" self-tightening all-metal sleeveless chuck. The steel nose on the chuck and the jaws are case hardened, making them virtually indestructible. The chuck is about 2 3/8" long; I would have preferred a somewhat longer chuck for an easier grip, especially with gloves on. However, the self-tightening feature makes changing drill bits or drivers very quick. You don't need to wrestle with the chuck - insert a bit or driver, twist the sleeve until it stops rotating, and then begin drilling. As the chuck turns forward it self-tightens. As of yet I haven't experienced any problems removing bits.
 

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Unique to the DCD970KL is a three speed transmission (photo at left): 0-500, 0-1,250 and 0-2,000 RPM, and 8500, 21,250, 34,000 BPM (in hammerdrill mode). It's an all steel transmission, which helps to increase tool longevity. I tend to use the lowest and highest settings, bypassing the middle setting. Lowest speed for bits over 1" and highest speed for everything else. In hammerdrill mode I invariably switch to the highest BPM setting and highest speed setting. Shifting between speed settings is relatively quick, though I wish the selector button was a tad larger; with gloves on it's a bit awkward to grip. In drill and drive modes the DCD970KL has a decibel rating of 97.3 not dissimilar to other drill/drivers on the market. However, in hammer mode put your hearing protectors on. At 106.1 decibels it's ultra loud. When the speed selector is in 2nd or 3rd speed position there is a noticeable metallic click when you let go of the trigger, which I attribute to the electric brake kicking in. And that brake stops the drill on a dime.
  
I've been using the DCD970KL on the renovation of a new workshop, and it's taken the rounds with the other guys on the crew. We've used it to sink 6" lag bolts in 2 by 10s, to drill and sink 3/8" x 5" Tapcon screws in concrete, and to drill 3/4" and 1" holes through joists and studs for electrical conduit. Three things became apparent very quickly. The NANO Li-Ion battery just keeps on giving; 450 unit watts out is one heck of a lot of power; and great things come in small packages - we could use this drill all day without resorting to Bengay at the end of the day (hey, we're all of that certain age).


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While the DCD970KL isn't an inexpensive hammerdrill, it isn't cheap either. It offers all the power you'll need for just about any job, has a number of innovative, yet practical features, and is exceptionally well balanced. Coupled with DeWALT's three year warranty (and 1 year free service) this is one hammerdrill that warrants closer inspection on your next trip to the tool store.

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KEY FEATURES:

  • 18V XRP lithium-ion power source
  • 450 unit watts output
  • 1/2" self-tightening all metal sleeveless chuck
  • 3 speed transmission: 0-500, 0-1,250 and 0-2,000 RPM
  • 8500, 21,250, 34,000 BPM
  • 22 clutch settings
  • Frameless motor
  • Electric brake
  • Side handle
  • LED work light
  • 9 1/2" long, 10" high
  • 5.5 lbs weight (with battery)
  • 3 year warranty, 1 year free service, 90 day money back
  • Includes 2 batteries, side handle, 1 hour charger, instruction sheet, and hard shell case.

MANUFACTURER:DeWALT
AVAILABLE FROM:Tool and equipment suppliers nationwide
RETAIL PRICE:$399.00
MODEL #:DCD970KL
MADE IN:Mexico
Carl Duguay, February 2011
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