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What Is a Multi-Bit Screwdriver?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A multi-bit screwdriver is a device used to turn screws into a variety of materials; the driver itself features capabilities that allow a user to change the size or shape of the bit, which means a user can drive various styles of screws without having to change drivers. The specific design of the multi-bit screwdriver can vary by manufacturer, but in general, each driver features interchangeable bits as well as extension capabilities in some cases. Some drivers even feature a ratcheting design, which means the user can turn the driver and retract it without having to remove the bit from the screw during the screwing process.

Using a multi-bit screwdriver involves choosing the correct bit for the screws being driven, and inserting it into the driver. The bit and driver connection point is often magnetized to prevent the bit from falling out during use, though other securing methods can be used; in some cases, a spring-loaded ball bearing may keep the bit in place instead. If screws with different heads need to be driven, the bits can be exchanged quickly and easily simply by pulling out one bit and pushing in another. The bits are usually kept in a plastic case that helps prevent them from getting lost, especially during transport.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The handle of the multi-bit screwdriver may have additional features that enhance the usability of the device. The driver's bar, for example, may be removed so a longer extension can be inserted instead; the handle may feature a ratcheting mechanism that allows the user to drive the screw and retract the driver without removing it from the screw or the driver handle may be a simple, stationary model with no additional features. Generally, the more features the multi-bit screwdriver has, the higher the cost will be. More bits will also mean a higher price in most cases.

The most commonly used bits on a multi-bit screwdriver are the Phillips head bit and the flat head, or blade, bit. The Phillips head bit features a cross pattern, and the center of the cross will plunge deeper than the blades of the cross into the screw. The flat head bit features a simple, straight design that is meant to work with a straight slot on the screw head. Most to be driven will feature one of these designs, but many other designs exist, so the bits included in the kit will accommodate the various styles.

Discussion Comments


Does anyone know of the history of the mult-bit screwdriver? I have one that my Dad made about 1961 while working on a Boeing flight line.


@Izzy78 - Rechargeable screwdrivers haven't evolved too much recently. The only real features I can think of are that you might want to look for a screwdriver with a light if that would be useful for you. Also, some of the now have the prongs connected to the screwdriver, so you can plug it straight into the wall without having to keep track of a charger.

As for using individual screwdrivers, there are a lot of reasons. For one, people who do a lot of work with screwdrivers tend to lose the interchangeable bits pretty regularly. Also, multi-bit screwdrivers are also usually larger than regular screwdrivers, so they might be a problem if you need to get into a tight space.

The other reason might be that having a large screwdriver set gives you more options. Having a six bit set won't give you as many options. Finally, some people need a precision screwdriver set for special types of work that they do.


Does anyone here use electric screwdrivers a lot? I have one right now, but it is started to get a little dated, and the battery doesn't hardly stay charged. I would like to buy a replacement, but don't know what types of features you can find on rechargeable screwdrivers now. My current one is pretty basic - you can make it screw things in forward and backward. It uses the regular hexagonal screwdriver bit sets.

Also, on another note, why do people even both getting regular screwdriver sets that don't have the different bits? I have never been able to figure out what advantage there is to having to have an entire screwdriver set when you could just carry around a screwdriver and bit set and have everything you needed. I suppose I could understand like with the torx screwdriver that was mentioned, not for just regular screws.


@jcraig - Yes, they do indeed make ratcheting screwdrivers. They work like you would probably expect. When you turn them in once direction, they have torque behind them, and when you turn them in the other direction, they just spin around. Like most tools, a ratcheting screwdriver has its pros and cons. They let you get a lot more power compared to a regular screwdriver of the same size, but they are usually a little large, which means they won't fit into some smaller spaces.

As for the additional bits, there are a lot of various screw heads that get used for special occasions. Probably the most common is the torx head screw. You have probably seen them and not thought about it. They are usually in the shape of a six pointed star and are usually used in electronics. If you're doing basic things around the house, you'll probably never encounter them, but for other people, having a quality torx screwdriver set is a lot of help.


I think having a quality multi-bit screwdriver around your house is a good idea for anyone. I have one that I got as a Christmas present several years back, and I use it all the time. Before I read this, I didn't realize there were so many different options you could choose from with these screwdrivers. Mine is just a pretty standard one. It has a nice, comfortable handle and came with three Phillips and three standard screwdriver heads.

What I didn't understand was when the article was talking about ratcheting screwdrivers. Do they really make ones that work like that? Are they expensive, and how well do they work compared to just turning the whole screwdriver by hand?

Also, what are some of the other screwdriver bits that you can get that the article didn't mention? I have only just used the standard and Phillips kind. I didn't know there were many others.

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