How do I fix a stubborn drill chuck?

Hold the chuck jaws down to avoid getting solvent on the bearings; solvent could erode the bearing seals and lead to a bigger repair.

Q:

Recently I bought a used drill press at an auction. Everything works great except the chuck—it’s stiff and difficult to turn without using the chuck key, especially when cold. This really makes it tough when switching from small bits to large ones because I have to crank the chuck key repeatedly to open and close the jaws. Any ideas how to free this up?
—Arlen Byard, Adams, Ind.

A:

Sounds like dust and grit have found their way inside the chuck, Arlen, and fouled the grease that lubricates the jaws and scroll mechanism. The cold temperatures in your shop stiffen the grease even more. Here’s how to fix it.

After removing the chuck from your drill press, open the chuck jaws fully, and use compressed air to blow out as much debris as possible. Holding the chuck as shown, above, scrub inside the chuck with a toothbrush and mineral spirits, reaching in from the jaw end. Repeat several times until you get no more debris. Blow compressed air through the chuck from the top to clear out any solvent residue. 

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Spray on a couple of coats of a quick-drying lubricant, with jaws open and closed, before reinstalling your chuck onto the drill press.

Now close the jaws and scrub the outside of the jaws. Blow them dry with the air hose. Finally, lubricate the jaws as shown above. We recommend Bostik DriCote because it dries quickly and penetrates the steel pores, so it won’t attract more dust.

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