The Double Drive Screwdriver: Kobalt Gets Innovative

December 26, 2011 | by Fred (email) |

Kobalt’s new Double Drive masquerades as a typical screwdriver, but under the hood, the Double Drive is actually a very innovative take on the ratcheting driver that’s been around for decades.

The Double Drive’s claim to fame is its ability to drive a screw either forward or backward, regardless of which direction the operator turns the handle. As a result, the Double Drive can drive a screw twice as fast as a traditional ratcheting driver.

How It Works

It seems like the laws of physics would prevent a screwdriver from turning the bit clockwise while the operator turns their hand counterclockwise. The way the Double Drive overcomes this limitation is by requiring a two-hand hold. For right-handed folks, this means holding the Double Drive just like you would a regular screwdriver with your right hand, and holding the blue collar around the middle of the Double Drive with your left hand. When you turn the handle clockwise while holding the collar steady, a reversing gear in the body turns the bit counterclockwise. If you let go of the blue collar, the drivers acts just like a regular ratcheting screwdriver, putting force on the bit only in the desired direction.

A directional switch towards the front of the screwdriver enables the driver to work in either forward or reverse modes, just like a traditional ratcheting driver.

Performance Impressions

We’ve used the Double Drive on a variety of tasks, and it performs pretty well. Here’s what we liked about it:

  • Drives screws twice as fast, as long as the screws aren’t too tight (see additional notes below).
  • Ergonomic grip feel.
  • Magnetic bit holder.
  • Very smooth ratcheting system.
  • Hollow bit storage in the handle, although not as innovative as Channellock’s 13-in-1 Ratcheting Driver, which organizes the bits for easy access.

While there were no significant drawbacks to the Double Drive, here’s some things we think you should know before purchasing:

  • When the driver is set to reverse the force applied at the handle, that force must be exerted by the hand holding the collar. As a screw gets tighter, it’s easier just to use the Double Drive as a regular ratcheting screwdriver. This works OK, but it means you won’t be “Double Driving” really tight screws.
  • There’s no “manual”, non-ratcheting mode for this driver. We were actually surprised at this, since we think it would be pretty easy to lock the gears in place.
  • It’s long for a ratcheting driver. At 9.75 inches, it’s a full inch longer than the other ratcheting drivers we regularly use, and more than 2.5 inches longer than the shortest model we have on hand. That extra length is because the Double Drive has to be long enough to accommodate a two-hand hold. Unfortunately, it means that in tight spaces, the Double Drive won’t work as well.

Pricing and Availability

The Double Drive is sold exclusively at Lowe’s. Pricing is $19.95 for a kit that includes the Double Drive, bits, and a flexible angle-drive attachment (that could help overcome some of the length issue by allowing you to drive at an angle). Before buying, check out our Lowes Coupon page for the latest deals and discounts for Lowe’s.

We think the Double Drive makes a great gift idea, especially since the typical enthusiast won’t already own one.

More on the Double Drive…

19 Responses
  1. haus356 says:

    I just received one of these for Christmas and am eager to give it a try. Hopefully it works as well as the person I received it from states, because they love it.

    • Fred says:

      I think you’ll be happy with it. It is very innovative and we like it a lot. The tools in action comparison video is worth a watch. They confirm it is twice as fast as a regular ratcheting screwdriver.

      • haus356 says:

        You are right, I am happy with it. I just hung some curtain rods and have done other odd jobs around the house, and it works really well. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a good screwdriver. However, the one area I’d like to see improvement is bit storage – I’m not a fan of the hollow end and, like you noted, the Channellock 13-in-1 is much more advanced in bit storage.

  2. Paul says:

    Whoa! This tool is a must have for all home owners. This double drive screwdriver kobalt would certainly do a lot of things when it comes to repairing. Now we don’t have to carry a lot of screwdrivers in our tool box because this one is certainly innovative. For sure, a lot of home owners would get this tool.

  3. I’ve been following this thing since it first started hitting the web earlier this year but didn’t understand how it worked until I saw the video. My mind just couldn’t wrap itself around the idea that it continued to rotate in the initial direction despite the handle turning the opposite direction.

    Fred, have you seen the insides of this thing? Is it plastic or metal parts? I’m curious about it durability.

    Personally I think this would be handy for a number of household items that use small fasteners. Electrical and furniture assembly come to mind. Sometimes the 18v drill/driver is just more hassle to get out and set up for just a few fasteners.

    • Fred says:

      Jeff, you’ve basically hit the nail on the head with usefulness. Very useful for a wide variety of household / appliance / electronic-type needs.

      I haven’t taken it apart yet (looks like the collar is held on with Torx screws – so wouldn’t be difficult). Based on the expected load, I’m sure at least the primary gears are all metal. There’s a small drawing of the internals on Lowe’s product page here:

      I probably will take it apart in the next few days because you’ve got me curious… If I do, I’ll post some pics to facebook and update this article.

      • Fred says:

        Turns out that I don’t have the right torx on hand… I tried using a flat heat of the right size and it actually snapped the tip. I’ll keep this in mind next time I’m at the store and see if I can get the right Torx for the job.

  4. John Poole says:

    This reminds me of one of my favorite mechanics tools, a Husky 24903 3/8″ drive socket wrench. When you twist the grip, the drive rotates. A switch makes it rotate either clockwise or counter clockwise. With each twist of the grip — both forward and backward — the drive still rotates in the selected direction. So same principle as your Kobalt driver. On the other hand, if you simply turn the wrench (without twisting the grip), it works just like any other fixed-handle socket wrench. This tool has save my butt on numerous occasions!

    Anyway, I can certainly appreciate the efficiency of a screw driver like this, as I’m often frustrated by my conventional rachet driver, which drives when twisting in one direction, but does nothing during the reverse twist. Thanks for reviewing this!

    • Fred says:

      Sounds like your ratchet is very similar to this tool… I just used the double drive again today to install cabinet handles, and it performed great. Really does speed up the time for driving as long as you can use two hands on the driver. One other plus that I’m going to add to the review is that it has an exceptionally smooth ratcheting system even when used as a regular ratcheting driver…

  5. Joe says:

    how awkward is it to use two hands? I usually hold whatever I am working on with my non-dominant hand, don’t things like the furniture you’re assembling, or the cabinet doors move when you let go of them?

    • Fred says:

      This is a bit of a problem, and another reason why the double drive can’t always be used for “twice as fast” driving… After using it again over the weekend on a craft with the kids, however, I’m still pretty sold on the tool for $19.95. It’s works when you can use two hands, and it does take some of the tediousness out of turning the driver.

  6. Paul&Aundrea says:

    Seems like a worthy purchase for the Lowe’s Gift Card I recieved for Christmas. 🙂

  7. HANDYMAN51 says:

    During that frustrating moment when the screw stops a bit short, and the head starts to strip a bit, it would seem that it might be quite difficult to grasp the front collar with one’s non-dominant hand and back the screw out, or am I missing something? It also seems a bit cumbersome to use 2 hands, especially if in tight quarters. If the front hand slips forward onto something sharp, could end up with a nasty scrape or cut.

    • Fred says:

      You can simply set the ratcheting mechanism to “loosen” and use one hand… the screwdriver does work like a normal ratcheting driver, unless you are using it with a two-hand hold. You’re right, tho, in that anytime space is a consideration, this won’t be your go-to tool.

  8. I’ve been waiting for our local Lowes to have these available in stock. The associates tell me that they can’t keep them on the shelf…Seeing your write up just makes me want one even more!

    • Fred says:

      Yeah – what we just learned is that these are going to be seasonal. My guess is we’ll see them again at Father’s Day. When we do see them, I’ll pick up a handful of them for our Rewards Center.

  9. Ben Thompson says:

    Hi Fred, I have a question for you.Let me know if you have heard about this and if I can fix it. I just bought and opened the Kobalt screwdriver, exited to use it. When I took it out of the package. I put the bit in it to check out the rotation option and switch. I didn’t even try to pit it in a screw yet. ” this is what happenes” the blue handle, where the Metel gears they have inside just separated and had to put it together. Long story short. What locks the handle together so it stays together. I see no threads to screw them together. When it came apart. the metel not plastic :the gears stay in and don’t fall out , but watch out because 6 tiny tiny magnetic meteal pieces will fall out they just fit in a cubby whole on the shaft before you slide it into the handle.

  10. dooley81 says:

    I’ve had the double drive for a while now. It is a very useful screwdriver to have around the house, highly recommend to anyone.

  11. Ted Estes says:

    Just bought the Kobalt double drive and can not get the cap off the bit storage in the end of the handle. Looking for help before I attack it with another tool to open.

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