What the Heck are Milwaukee’s ECX Screwdrivers and Bits for?

I was working on a post rounding up all the new Milwaukee screwdrivers, and while dealing with familiar tips like Phillips, Torx and square drive, I also kept running into ECX. I wasn’t familiar with ECX bits, so I had to do a little research.
ECX bits are designed to fit a specific type of combination head screws that you see on many electrical components and terminals screws (shown below). These combination head screws can be turned with either a Phillips, slotted, or square drive screwdriver. There are also other types of combination heads that I’ll show later in the post that ECX won’t work with.
I couldn’t find a good photo of what an ECX tip looks like, so I had to purchase some ECX bits and take the above photo. ECX bits are also very similar to Klein’s combination tip bits that Stuart wrote about a while ago.

ECX bits come in two sizes, ECX 1 and ECX 2. By my own measurements of the Milwaukee impact bits I purchased, ECX 1 corresponds to combination of a #1 square drive and a 1/4″ slotted blade, and ECX 2 corresponds to a combination of a #2 square drive and 9/32″ slotted blade. I’m not sure how to correlate the size to a Phillips bit.

Looking closer at the two bits, you can see why the ECX 2 bit has a width of 9/32″, that’s the widest you can get on a 1/4″ hex bit if you go from point to point.
Here are a few examples of places you’ll run into combination screws:

Above is a combination set screw coupling. Several conduit couplings and wire connectors use some form of combination screw.

Some circuit breakers use the type of combination drive that ECX was designed to fit.
Now you don’t need to be an electrician to run into combination screws, everyday items like plugs and outlets use them too.

Above is a replacement plug I found while wandering around Home Depot.

The receptacle above uses combination screws for both its terminal screws and the screws that hold it in the electrical box.
As I mentioned above, there are several different types of combination screws.

The circuit breaker shown here has a combination slotted and square head. Notice the square head is in-line with the slot, not diagonal to it like the type of screw head the ECX bit was designed to fit.

This breaker I found has a combination slotted/square drive head where the square drive is positioned diagonally to the slot. I suspect an ECX bit would work in this screw, but I’m not positive.

Finally, this old switch has a combination Phillips and slotted head. It is NOT compatible with the ECX bit.
Final Thoughts
The whole point of a combination head screw is that you can use whichever screwdriver you have on you, or bit you have in your driver to turn it, and that you shouldn’t need to carry an arsenal of driver bits or a pocketful of screwdrivers. So doesn’t creating yet another bit type or screwdriver that you need to carry seem counter productive?
If in creating a combination type head, you make a head that doesn’t really fit any one type of driver very well, then creating a new bit type to fit these screws better might cause less frustration. Milwaukee claims that ECX Driver Bits are: “…designed for superior grip to eliminate rounding out fastener heads.”
Does ECX make life easier or just add more unneeded complication? That’s something I can’t answer. Maybe you can.

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