What We Look When Selecting a Drill to Power a Convertible Ice Auger
Why choose a convertible auger?
Convertible augers are a popular choice on the hard water, and they offer some distinct advantages.
Convertible or drill-driven augers - Convertible augers attach a sharp blade to a powerful, cordless drill.
As quiet as the best electric augers, and of course emissions-free, they’re perfect for use in an ice shelter or shanty.
But their real advantage is that pound for pound, nothing can compare with their performance, especially if you’re cutting multiple holes in the ice.
While a good manual auger is lighter and less expensive, they’re just not well-suited for dozens of holes in deep ice.
Lightweight and less expensive than electric augers, convertible options offer hassle-free power, instant-on, and more than enough power to get the job done.
Check out our buying guide on the best ice auger drill attachment
Electric augers - Electric augers are gaining popularity rapidly, but they can be expensive.
The best of the bunch are powered by large lithium-ion batteries that offer long run times and plenty of torque to chew through the hardest, thickest ice.
They also start instantly, run quietly, and don’t produce any dangerous emissions. That makes them ideal for use in a shelter or shanty.
The only downside to electric ice augers is the need to recharge them. There’s no instant top-up like with gasoline or propane, and cold can kill the life of cheap batteries.
That’s one reason why quality matters: you need a top-flight electric auger to get the performance you want.
Check out our buying guide and reviews of the best battery powered ice augers
Manual augers - Manual augers are simple and reliable, and they’re easily the lightest option on the ice. They’re also dead quiet and (obviously) fine to use in a shelter or shanty. Finally, they’re also a lot less expensive than any powered option.
But unless you’re super fit, drilling more than a few holes - or running a big hand auger at all - is going to be a real challenge. Most ice fishermen prefer a powered ice auger, and there’s no questioning that they save time and energy.
Check out our buying guide and reviews of the best hand ice augers
Gasoline augers - Gas-powered augers are the old stand-by.
Powerful enough for any ice, they’ve got brawn to spare. And, of course, you can carry as much fuel with you as you want, so you can drill pretty much as many holes as you want.
Check out our buying guide and reviews of the best gas powered ice fishing augers
But they’re heavy, loud, and produce deadly fumes that make them outdoor-only. People die every year because they don’t heed this warning, and if you like the idea of being able to run an auger in a shelter, these are absolutely not an option to consider.
They also can be downright cranky when the mercury plummets, leading to frustration and wasted time trying to get them to start.
And spilling gasoline on the ice is a great way to kill fishing in a lake forever.
Propane augers - propane augers are essentially just gas augers with an easier to handle, no-spill fuel source.
Fueled by a small propane tank that can be easily replaced in seconds, propane augers offer all the benefits of gasoline but with easier refueling and no dangerous fumes. They can be used indoors, which is great, but they’re even more unreliable in the cold than gasoline, and just as loud.
Check out our buying guide and reviews of the best propane ice augers
Convertible augers are very cost-effective, but the drill won’t be cheap
Right from the start, realize that you’ll need a high-end drill.
The experts at K-Drill, the manufacturers of one of the most popular convertible augers, recommend the following specifications as a minimum:
- side stabilizer arm (for a secure two-handed grip)
- 1/2” drill chuck
- 18 Volt/4 Amp lithium ion battery (or higher)
- brushless motor design
- 500-750 RPM with a minimum of 725 in/lbs of torque or 820 UWO
Anything less than that just won’t get the job done, so cheap drills with anemic torque are out.
Begin your hunt for the right drill with the realization that you’ll need a real beast!
K-Drill, for instance, only recommends certain Milwaukee and DeWalt drills for use with its convertible augers.
That may be going a bit far, but there’s no questioning the minimum specifications you’ll need.
Side stabilizer arm
When you're using a drill that generates significant torque, you’ll need a side stabilizing arm to control it.
Lots of torque makes a side stabilizer arm a must.
If you’ve ever had a powerful drill twist in your hands when it bound, you’ll know exactly what I mean!
A drill that can drive an 8-inch auger through feet of ice is no joke, and the pistol-grip won’t provide enough leverage. You’ll want that bar, and it makes all that power easily manageable.
Stabilizing arms slip over the front of the drill, typically near the chuck, and provide a long lever and a comfortable handle.
You need a big chuck to mate with your convertible auger.
Powerful drills typically come with a ½-inch chuck. If you’re looking at a drill that doesn’t, even if you somehow managed to attach it, it won’t have the RPMs or torque you need.
Your drill’s motor is only as good as the battery that powers it.
If its lithium ion power pack freezes quickly or runs dry in a hurry, your day on the ice is going to end in frustration.
A good drill battery for convertible ice augers will generate 18V/4A, or perhaps a tad more, and all the drills on our shortlist meet or exceed this standard.
Power tools have motors that either include “brushes” or are designed to be brushless.
Brushes “are installed on the fixed part of a motor to ensure optimal transmission of power to the rotor (the rotating part),” but experts note that while this system works well for many applications, it has significant disadvantages for hard use.
Chief among these is overheating under continuous load - the kind of load generated by drilling 30 holes in two feet of ice, for instance.
It’s important that you choose a brushless drill to avoid this issue; otherwise, your drill will stop functioning when you need it the most!
RPM and torque
RPM is just an abbreviation for “revolutions per minute.” It tells you how fast a drill can spin, though some manufacturers provide figures given under no load. That means they report how fast the drill spins in mid-air, not how fast it spins as it’s trying to push a screw through oak (or an auger through ice).
Torque is a measure of rotational power. It tells you how much force the drill generates.
For a convertible ice auger to work properly, your drill needs both speed and power.
500-750 RPM is really a sensible no-load minimum; any lower, and you're just not going to spin the blades fast enough for optimal performance.
It’s hard to get too much torque (as long as you’re using a side stabilizing arm).
K-Drill’s recommended minimum is 725 in./lbs. (60 ft./lbs.) or 820 UWO (unit watts out), another measure of work output (speed and torque combined) common to the drill industry.
All the drills on our shortlist meet or exceed these numbers.
We can’t tell you which drill is right for you and your budget, but we can guarantee that any of the DeWalt or Milwaukee models on our shortlist will impress you with their performance.
That’s not to knock the Ridgid, but instead to tell you the unvarnished truth.
DeWalt and Milwaukee have built a reputation on the hard water, and they don’t have realistic rivals in terms of power, durability, and battery life.
But if you’re budget won’t stretch to reach either DeWalt, the Ridgid will get you chewing holes in the ice.
As always, we hope we’ve helped you make the right choice for your angling needs, and if you have a question or comment, please leave a message below.