The string holding my key to the drill broke and I didn't notice at first. I have a couple of drills so I don't have to change the bits often. I am aware that I can buy a new key for my drill but that does not help me at this moment.

What can I do to change bits in this drill until such a time that I can replace the key?

4 Answers 4


Losing a key is definitely inconvenient but you don't need to pack up for the day just yet. This will also work for a drill press

What you need

  1. Large flat head screwdriver
  2. Drill bit that fits ( not the drilling end ) where the chuck key would have been placed. There are other items that will work just as well but the butt of a drill bit fits nicely in the hole so as to not damage the bit or the drill.

What to do

Place the drill bit in one of the chuck key holes. Use a glove when holding the bit so you don't slice you hand.

Using the bit as leverage the screw driver can turn the chuck using the gear. Essentially mimicking the action of the key.

Using screwdriver and bit

The above picture is a still from this video showing the same procedure.

Another approach

I have used this approach a few times however some people will warn you that it is possible to damage the chuck doing this. Certainly there can be cosmetic damage but I have older drill so this does not bother me.

For this you will need a set of locking, tongue and groove or interlocking pliers to grip the chuck and a drill bit just like in the previous solution. As keshlam points out a strap wrench would also work.

Use the pliers to grab the chuck. If you are worried about the jaws marking up the drill you can use a spare glove, piece of leather or something similar to wrap around the chuck first.

Place the drill bit in one of the chuck key holes. Again, use a glove when holding the bit so you don't slice you hand.

Pliers and bit in place

The above picture is a still from this video showing the same procedure.

Once the have the above all set then it is just a matter of holding the bit still so that use can use the pliers to rotate the chuck. You can also move both simultaneously... doesn't really matter. Just whatever feels comfortable. That's it.

  • 3
    A "strap wrench" might also work for the second approach.
    – keshlam
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 13:50
  • @keshlam Yes it would
    – Matt
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 13:56
  • 3
    I like the slotted screwdriver method.
    – rob
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 17:30
  • Who cares if you scratch the outside of a chuck? If the chuck has grooves on the outside like your first photo (not all do), a toothed plier will grip it very well. If it is smooth, it is harder. If your second photo fails, my next try would be to wrap the chuck in a thin rubber sheet and do exactly the same as you recommend. +1 Commented May 27, 2015 at 3:37

Another solution, for variable-speed hand drills: there are rubber rings that can be stretched over the chuck, to provide a safe grip for using the motor to tighten and loosen the chuck. (Many newer drills have such a grip designed in.) It won't generally grab as strongly, but for most purposes it's good enough.

To prevent losing the chuck key in the future, tape it firmly to the power cord near the plug. That also guarantees that you remove the key before applying power. Annoying but effective.


The perfect tool for this job is a pipe wrench--or, ideally, two of them. A pipe wrench is designed specifically to grip a round object tighter as you apply more tangential force. If you use the two pipe wrenches in the same manner as your router wrenches, squeezing the two handles toward each other with one or both hands, you'll be able to get the chuck at least as tight as you can get it with the key.

If you only have one pipe wrench, you can make your own hardwood wrench with bolts that fit into the key holes on the smaller part of the chuck.

You can also use a pipe wrench in place of the tongue-and-groove pliers in one of the methods mentioned in Matt's answer.

As with the tongue-and-groove pliers method described by Matt, you can wrap the two parts of the chuck with cloth or rubber to prevent marring. When possible, I use pieces of rubber cut from an old bicycle inner tube to prevent marring with my pipe wrench.

I am aware that I can buy a new key for my drill but that does not help me at this moment.

If you need to finish a project and can't wait 2 or more days to receive a key bought online, your local hardware store may stock chuck keys.

You can also post an ad for a chuck key and/or drill on your local Freecycle group, Craigslist, Facebook buy/sell/trade groups, etc., or borrow one from a neighbor or friend.

  • I only had to do this for about 2 weeks until I got another hand me down drill that used the same chuck. I knew I should have kept my old inner tube shakes fist.
    – Matt
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 16:37
  • I picked up some tubes next to a dumpster a while back. I'm sure a bike shop would also be happy to give you a bad tube. My salvaged tubes actually sat unused for a couple years, but lately I've been using them quite a bit. If you take a spiral cut off the tube rather than a cross-section, you can get longer and/or wider strips of rubber.
    – rob
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 17:34
  • I have bought sheets of rubber in various thicknesses (from very thin to 1/4 inch) at Orchard Supply. They come in handy for many purposes. Commented May 27, 2015 at 3:31

Another way I'd suggest would be to use a polymorph mouldable plastic (like this) such as Friendly Plastic to create a new tool. Sort of a wrench with plastic teeth that fit the drill exactly.

Simply melt the plastic with a heat gun or by placing it in boiling water, then wrap it around the drill. Once it has firmed up a little bit but the whole thing, along with the drill if you can, into your freezer to firm up quicker.

If you want better leverage, attach a metal bar or spanner into the plastic while it's still molten.

The plastic once hardened should be more than strong enough for the task. I once created a socket for a burred lug nut with an attached 3 foot pipe we usually stick over wretches for leverage and was able to chin up off of it.

  • This plastic is also reusable, so you can melt it off and reuse it if you find your chuck key.
    – Amicable
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 11:14

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