Tool Review: Bosch Litheon 18 Volt Impact Driver

By: Mark Clement , Contributing Writer
In: Home Improvement Tips

To say that we depend on impact drivers on our MyFixitUpLife building projects is an understatement. They’re a front-line, first-out-of-the-box tool that run from rough carpentry to punch-out. And we’re tough on them, using them for everything from production fastening (think drywall, fences, decks) to one-off oddball stuff (toe-screwing blocks, assembling/installing cabinets, installing vinyl replacement windows, and so on).

Driving a construction screw with the Bosch 18 Volt Impactor.

Driving a construction screw with the Bosch 18 Volt Impactor.

What’s more, we drop them (sorry), leave them in the rain (I swear I thought it was supposed to rain tomorrow!), and otherwise thump them down on work tables, the ground, the floor and wherever else we’re working because, well, carpentry is carpentry and tools need to be able to handle it–in a hurry.

The good news is that when we did all this to Bosch’s 18 Volt Lithium Ion (Bosch calls theirs ‘Litheon’) impact driver (called the Impactor, model # 25618-01) it stood up and put out time and again.

Power. The Impactor delivered. Everything from driving screws in century old Doug Fir framing to sinking 2 1/2 inch cabinet screws in new studs to installing snow-guards on a roofing project). We also drilled up to 1 1/2 inch holes in everything from OSB to 2-by framing and 4-by fence posts and the tool pushed through. The tool ran smooth and hard and didn’t leave us wanting, matching or exceeding other members of the category in our view.

Feel. For a tool that it either in our hands, hanging on our pouches, or right there on the work table as much as our impact drivers are, it darn well better feel good to hold and use. Good news: Bosch designers pulled together a nicely balanced, super-compact tool with easy to use, reach, and manipulate triggers and switches. We can work with it in any number of orientations and still make solid contact with the fastener. The tool feels very solidly built, even under stress.

A couple of persnickety things: The release collar for the hex drive works fine, though we wish it were a little bigger for easier grasping; the belt hook is also just about top-drawer, but we wish it were, again, just a hair bigger to accommodate being hooked not just over our tool pouch belts, but more easily over the pouches themselves. The battery exchange (it slides forward) is nice, though it was a little sticky sometimes, both switching it out of the tool and the charger (full disclosure: this could be us as well; we have a million tools here and all the batteries change differently). Finally, I’m not usually a fan of the on-board bit holder, but the Impactor’s is nice. I holds a 2-inch, 2-tip Phillips bit–much smaller than we use day-to-day–that has gotten us out of a few pinches working between studs or after we’ve dropped our regular driver bit from the ladder.

The charger is small, basic and makes sense–kudos. The kit box is also spare, but rugged enough and also makes sense.

In Use. It took us a while, if you can believe this, to get the mojo of this tool versus others we’ve reviewed. For such a powerhouse, it is deceptively gentle (sorry, Bosch, I’m sure the last word you want me to use is gentle, anyway…) Unlike most impact drivers it doesn’t go from zero to 2,800 RPM in 0.0 seconds. It has something of a soft-start–not a real soft start, but just a split-second beat to ramp-up. It took a while to get used to this because it’s different; turns out it’s nice. We don’t need to have it, but it didn’t cost us any time that we could tell either.

We also noticed that–again, unlike other impact drivers we’ve reviewed in the category–that the harder you push, the slower you go, even in tough materials. This is generally true of most tools–never force the work–but more pronounced with this tool. Solution: easing back on the tool and letting it do the work got the same results as mashing other tools into their fasteners. What this means is we exerted less energy for the same results. Ironically, this took practice–we’re used to leaning in to make sure we have contact with the fastener for reasons as varied as we’re working on a ladder to working on the ground to we can barely reach the screw to pushing like mad is simply how we work (can you say ‘adrenaline’ anyone?). Once we got the hang of it on a bulk screwing project (a bazillion fence slats) it was plush.

Bottom Line. Bosch delivers a class-leader with potent power, sweet balance, and yes, a gentle touch for a tool that rides shotgun on our projects from frame to finish.