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New Makita Cordless Drill Torque Claims Raise Major Questions

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Makita USA launched a new 18V cordless hammer drill, model XPH16, and its lack of a side handle led me to question its advertised torque claims.

Makita says their new 18V LXT cordless drill delivers “a full 970 in-lbs max torque.”

The company also says that the XPH16 hammer drill delivers “up to 70% more power than the previous model.”

If this new 18V cordless delivers close to a thousand inch pounds of maximum torque, where’s the auxiliary side handle? This seemingly simple question has significant implications.

Looking into the matter revealed unexplained discrepancies in Makita’s advertised torque specs.

Basically, it seems that the drill doesn’t come with a side handle because it doesn’t deliver anywhere close to 970 in-lbs of fastening torque.

Why a Missing Side Handle Raised Doubt

Makita 18V Cordless Hammer Drill XPH16Z Used on Wood

Any cordless drill with a torque-to-handle-length ratio above a certain value must ship with a longer side handle in order to meet UL safety guidelines. Lower-torque drills don’t require a side handle.

The new Makita XPH16 18V hammer drill doesn’t ship with a side handle.

I reviewed a Ridgid 18V cordless drill (model R86116) a few years ago, and it was advertised as delivering 750 in-lbs of max torque.

If that 18V drill, with its 750 in-lbs max torque claims, shipped with a side handle, why doesn’t this new Makita drill come with one?

How can this new Makita drill deliver close to 1000 in-lbs of max torque and not ship with a side handle?

Possible Explanations

Does it have an extended-length handle such that a longer side handle isn’t needed?

Makita 40V Cordless Drill GFD02 Used in Metal

This is the Makita XGT compact cordless drill, with a 585 in-lb max torque rating. Most of Makita’s 18V and 18V-form factor XGT cordless drills and hammer drills have similar handle grip proportions.

Makita XPH16 Cordless Hammer Drill Held in Gloved Hand

Here is the new XPH16 hammer drill, which is advertised as delivering 970 in-lbs max torque. Its handle grip does not look to be noticeably longer – it looks like a typical Makita cordless drill.

Did UL change their safety guidelines? I could not find any evidence of this. Even if there was a change, safety guidelines are usually expanded over time, and not relaxed.

Is Makita finally bring anti-kickback safety mechanisms to the 18V LXT line? No, it seems they’re still keeping that feature exclusive to the premium XGT model drill. Would it have made a difference?

As the drill doesn’t ship with a side handle, and I can’t think of a reasonable explanation as to why, we need to take a closer look at Makita’s torque specs.

Understanding Max Torque Specifications

When you see the phrase maximum torque in a cordless drill’s marketing materials, the value typically refers to the tool’s maximum hard-joint tightening torque. Until now, I had long-considered this to be a universal rule.

Clicking or tapping the button below will expand a section on this page with additional background information. You can skip it to save time, and come back if you have any questions.

Torque Primer – Click to Expand

Examining Makita’s Torque Specs

Let’s take a look at the torque specs for a couple of Makita cordless drills and hammer drills. These specs were sourced from Makita Australia’s product pages for drills with identical designs, features, and max torque values as models marketed in the USA under different model numbers.

Makita 18V SubCompact Drill Torque Specs

Makita 18V SubCompact Hammer Drill with Specs

Makita’s 18V SubCompact cordless drill delivers 40 Nm max lock torque, 40 Nm max hard torque, and 25 Nm max soft torque.

Nm refers to Newton meters, a metric system measure of torque. 1 Nm is equal to around 8.85 inch-pounds. Lock torque seems to be akin to “stall” torque, which usually isn’t used to describe cordless drill performance.

The US model is advertised as delivering 350 in-lbs/40 Nm max torque.

Makita 18V Hammer Drill Torque Specs (Previous Model)

Makita 18V Compact Hammer Drill with Torque Specs

Makita’s 18V brushless compact hammer drill delivers a maximum lock torque of 60 Nm (~531 in-lbs) and maximum hard tightening torque of 54 Nm (~478 in-lbs).

There’s a small unexpected discrepancy here, where the advertised max torque is 11.1% higher than the drill’s max tightening torque.

The USA model, XPH12, is advertised as delivering 530 in-lbs max torque, or 60 Nm. Makita USA doe snot reference the drill’s maximum fastening torque in any product brochures or specs tables.

This is the “previous model” drill that Makita compares the new one to, with their “up to 70% more power” claims.

Makita 18V High Torque Hammer Drill Torque Specs

Makita 18V Heavy Duty Cordless Drill with Torque Specs

For Makita’s flagship 18V LXT brushless drill, the max lock torque is listed as 125 Nm, and the max hard joint tightening torque is 130 Nm.

The drill is advertised as delivering 141 Nm of peak torque, or 1248 in-lbs. This value is 8.46% higher than the drill’s max fastening torque.

Makita USA advertises this model as delivering 1250 in-lbs max torque, which corresponds to the 141 Nm peak torque value.

It’s unclear why there are 3 different values. The max tightening torque is 130 Nm, the max lock torque is 125 Nm, and the peak torque is 141 Nm?

Makita new Zealand’s product spec sheet lists the 18V hammer drill as delivering 125 Nm max fastening torque, and 141 Nm peak torque. Makita UK lists the same hammer drill as delivering 130 Nm max hard fastening torque, the same as given in Makita AUS’s spec sheet.

I use the higher of the two values, 130 Nm, in the chart below, as the maximum tightening torque.

Makita XGT High Torque Drill Torque Specs

Makita XGT Cordless Drill with Torque Specs

Makita’s higher performance XGT 36V/40V Max cordless hammer drill is advertised as delivering 125 Nm max lock torque, 141 Nm max peak torque, 140 Nm max hard torque, and 68 Nm max soft torque.

Here in the USA, the XGT cordless drill is advertised as delivering 1250 in-lbs torque, which correlates to the 141 Nm peak torque value.

The peak torque value is 0.714% higher than the max tightening torque – that’s very close agreement.

A discrepancy was made apparent.

Makita’s 18V and XGT flagship cordless hammer drills are both advertised as delivering 141 Nm of peak torque. However, the XGT model is said to deliver 140 Nm max tightening torque while the 18V drill delivers 125 or 130 Nm max tightening torque (depending on the publication source).

Looking at Makita Canada’s listings, the equivalent XGT hammer drill is advertised as delivering 1240 in-lbs (140 Nm) max torque, and the equivalent 18V hammer drill is advertised as delivering 1150 in-lbs (130 Nm) max torque. There, neither drill is advertised according to the 1250 in-lbs (141 Nm) peak torque values that Makita USA advertises for both drills.

This is confusing. So do the 18V and XGT cordless drills deliver the same max torque, or not? Makita USA’s torque claims would suggest yes, but the spec tables in other regions suggest no.

Makita 18V Hammer Drill Torque Specs (New Model)

Makita 18V Cordless Hammer Drill with Torque Specs 2023

For the new international model drill that’s equivalent to the Makita USA model XPH16 drill, Makita advertises 110 Nm peak torque, 73 Nm max hard-joint tightening torque, and 40 Nm max soft-joint tightening torque.

110 Nm converts to 973.6 in-lbs, and 73 Nm converts to around 646 in-lbs. That’s a significant difference.

Makita UK lists the same specs – 73 Nm and 40 Nm max hard and soft joint fastening torque, respectively.

The USA model is only advertised by its 970 in-lbs (110 Nm) max torque value.

Going by these figures, Makita advertises their new cordless hammer drill as delivering “a full 970 in-lbs max torque” but it seems it can only deliver up to 646 in-lbs of max tightening torque.

It seems that this is why the drill doesn’t ship with an auxiliary side handle, because it doesn’t deliver “a full 970 in-lbs” of max fastening torque.

Makita 18V Cordless Hammer Drill XPH16 Max Torque Claims

If the maximum fastening torque is 73 Nm, or around 646 in-lbs, how can it be advertised as delivering 970 in-lbs of max torque?

If I’m understanding all of this correctly, it would mean that, with this new 18V cordless drill, Makita’s advertised “max torque” spec of 970 in-lbs is around 50.7% higher than its maximum fastening torque value.

It had been my understanding that cordless drill torque values correlate to their maximum fastening or tightening torque. It is highly surprising that Makita would deviate from this.

Some of Makita’s other cordless drills also have advertised max torque values that are higher than their max fastening torque specs, but with far smaller differences.

Torque Comparison Charts

Makita Cordless Drill Max Torque Discrepancy 2023

This chart shows the differences between max tightening and advertised max torque specs for the models of Makita cordless drills and hammer drills discussed above.

For the newest model cordless drill, there is a massive step between its max tightening torque, and the max torque Makita USA is advertising for it.

Makita Cordless Drill Max Torque Chart for XPH16 and XPH12

Between Makita’s latest and previous 18V brushless hammer drills, the difference between their max fastening torques of ~646 in-lbs (73 Nm) and ~478 in-lbs (54 Nm) is around 35%. The difference between their “max torque” values of 970 in-lbs (110 Nm) and 530 in-lbs (60 Nm) is around 83%.

It’s worth mentioning that the max low speed for the new model is 10% higher than for the previous model (550 vs 500 RPM), but the max high speed is 10% lower (1800 vs 2000 RPM).

Makita Cordless Drill Max Torque Chart for 18V vx XGT

The difference between Makita’s 18V and XGT cordless drill torque specs is also curious. The advertised “max torque” value are the same, but the 18V model has a lower max fastening torque.

I posted about this separately, here: Makita 18V and XGT Cordless Drills Do NOT Have the Same Torque.

Why is this a Big Deal?

Let’s say you’re shopping for cordless drills. One brand advertises their drill as delivering 970 in-lbs max torque, but it delivers ~646 in-lbs max fastening torque.

A competing brand advertises their product as delivering 850 in-lbs max torque, and this is based on its measured max fastening torque, which is what I would expect.

Which drill is more capable or potentially more powerful? If you go by what it says on the box, the 970 in-lbs has the higher torque spec. But if you go by max fastening torque, the 850 in-lbs model would outperform the 970 in-lbs model.

How can tool buyers be expected to make informed decisions if one brand highlights their “max peak torque” while another uses an an opaque max fastening torque?

This doesn’t just affect competitive comparisons.

Makita’s 18V SubCompact drill is advertised as delivering 350 in-lbs max torque. For that model, the max fastening torque and max lock torque are the same.

So does this new model deliver 2.77X the torque compared the SubCompact model, or 1.85X the torque?

Does the new drill deliver 83% greater torque than Makita’s previous model, or 35% greater torque?

What happens if competing brands loses sales to Makita over this? Will some of them start advertising based on metrics other than maximum fastening torque? Are they doing it already and Makita is simply following other brands’ examples?

Why is there a less than 1% difference between the max fastening and advertised torques for Makita’s flagship XGT cordless drill, and a nearly 51% difference for this new 18V model?

Is this all because bigger numbers sell more tools? I wouldn’t think so, or at least I would hope not.

I sincerely hope that Makita can explain what’s going on here.

Makita USA has not answered any of our questions about the matter.