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What Is an Electrician's Screwdriver?

An electrician's screwdriver similar to a regular screwdriver except that it has an insulated handle which protects the electrician from shocks.
Electricians work on electrical systems that may or may not have a current running through them.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2014
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An electrician's screwdriver is a device used to drive screws into a material by turning it at the screw head. It is similar to most other types of screwdrivers, but the handle is insulated to protect against shocks, and the shaft is also sometimes insulated. The tip of the electrician's screwdriver can vary depending on the type of screw being driven, so in most cases, an electrician will carry a screwdriver set rather than just one driver, or a driver that allows for replaceable bits so a variety of screws can be driven with one driver.

The two most common electrician's screwdriver models used are the Phillips head driver and the flat head, or blade-style, driver. The Phillips head driver features a cross pattern, and the center of the cross is extended outward further than the wings of the cross so it can be inserted securely into a Phillips head screw. This is one of the most common screw types, so the Phillips head electrician's screwdriver will be one of the most commonly used tools by any electrician. The flat or blade style head features a straight, blade-like head that slots into a screw designed to accept such a design. This design allows for greater torque delivery, but the driver will have a tendency to slide or otherwise move out of position during driving.

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Electricians generally work on electrical systems that may or may not have a current running through them, so the handle of any electrician's screwdriver must be insulated. This insulation prevents electrical shocks from transferring from the electrical system to the electrician's hand, potentially leading to burns or other injuries. In some cases, shocks can lead to death, so it is vitally important that the screwdriver be properly insulated and all electricity running to the component being repaired is turned off.

Very often, the tip of the electrician's screwdriver will be magnetized. This eases the process of lining up the screwdriver tip with the head of the screw. It also helps prevent the electrician from dropping a screw should the driver lose contact with the screw. Instead of simply falling, the screw will be secured to the tip of the screwdriver, even if no pressure is being placed upon it. Some more advanced models may feature a ratcheting mechanism that helps prevent the electrician from having to disengage the screwdriver from the screw when involved in the driving process.

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jcraig
Post 4

@TreeMan - It sounds like what the guy you saw was using was called a tester screwdriver. Like you figured out, it will light up when there is a charge. They aren't quite the same as electrician's screwdrivers, since they are using encased in plastic. The screwdrivers mentioned here basically look like normal screwdrivers with a thin plastic coating over the shaft.

As for the electric screwdriver question, I don't think I could answer that one. I could definitely be interested to hear the answer if anyone has had any experience. I think you make a valid point about the electrical interference. Some of it might depend on the voltage going through, as well.

Speaking of voltage, I was just wondering if electrician's screwdrivers have to be rated for different voltages. I'm sure they are all able to guard against 120 and 240 volt outlets, but I'm wondering about bigger things. Do utility companies have special screwdrivers for stronger currents?

TreeMan
Post 3

When I had an electrician over at my house the other day, he was using some type of insulated screwdriver, but instead of just using it as a screwdriver, it had a little light on it that could tell him whether something had a charge going through it.

Was this just some special version of an electrician's screwdriver, or was it a different kind altogether?

On a different note, I was thinking, could you ever use an electric screwdriver to put a screw into something that had a charge going through it? I'm not sure, but it seems like there might be some sort of interference that was caused, and the screwdriver would stop working right or might even short out completely. Has anyone ever tried this?

JimmyT
Post 2

@Izzy78 - At least the screwdrivers I have seen that were supposed to be used for electric projects had the insulated shaft like the article mentioned. That is what I would consider to be the big difference between a regular screwdriver and an electrician's screwdriver. Not having the insulated shaft would be kind of pointless, since most people need to hold onto the shaft to keep the screwdriver steady.

There isn't a big difference between an insulated screwdriver set and a normal set. Like everything in the world of tools, though, a lot of the price depends on the company that is making them. You can find a basic set of electrician's screwdrivers for about 20 dollars, but they can go up to 45 in some cases. Normal sets might be 8 to 10 dollars for the basic set.

Izzy78
Post 1

Something I had never thought about was needing to have a magnetized head on the screwdriver so that you did have to hold the screw in place.

It says that the handle of the screw driver has to be insulated, but wouldn't that apply to every screwdriver? I don't think I have ever used or seen screwdriver sets that didn't have a handle that was insulated. Besides the magnetic tip, is there anything else special about the electrician's screwdrivers? How much would you expect to pay for a set of these screwdrivers compared to a normal set without the insulation?

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