Not for the Faint of Heart
Written: Sep 13, 2008 (Updated Aug 25, 2010)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Immense power, long lasting batteries, excellent design, durably built.
Cons:Electric brake, shape of chuck, battery w/o a flat bottom.
The Bottom Line: If you use tools a lot, this drill is for you. It takes tremendous abuse, and it gets my highest recommendation. The average homeowner should consider Bosch's lower-voltage Litheons instead.
Just 15 years ago, the most powerful cordless tools were manageable to use by most people, as the weights of the tools and the amounts of torque they produced were, at best, average by today's standards. It's a completely different story these days. This tool is probably overkill for the homeowner who owns only one drill, because of both its excessive torque and its significant weight. However, a professional or a perpetual do-it-yourselfer (like me) may appreciate what is the first cordless drill, in my opinion, to truly rival the power of its corded cousins.
The seeming downside to cordless tools is that battery replacement is impractical. This is my third cordless drill since 1994. My last, bought in 2000, was also a Bosch - a 24 volt model - whose replacement batteries would have cost me $200 for a pair. The old drill works fine, but the nickel-cadmium batteries are no longer holding charges. I bought this 36 volt drill NEW on eBay for $179 all in. It is a kit, that came with the drill body, two large (fatpack) batteries, a handle, a charger and a nice plastic case.
Technology continues to improve. The newest in batteries is lithium-ion chemistry, hence the branding "Litheon." These batteries are more powerful, lighter, and longer lasting than their NiCad predecessors. Despite this drill's higher voltage than my old one, its longer lasting batteries, and the fact that it is a hammerdrill (with more metal parts than my old non-hammer), it weighs the same. It's heavy, at about 8 lbs., but as I said, this is what comes with the territory.
This drill is also available with a smaller (slimpack) battery - also 36 volts of course, but not as long to hold a charge - that makes the weight equivalent to that of a standard 18 volter. You can also opt for the non-hammer model and shed about 1/2 lb.
I quickly learned to treat this drill like a corded model because of its remarkable torque, and I exercise caution while using the drill's power to install and remove bits. Tool manufacturers recommend against this practice, but it makes very short work of bit changes on the keyless chuck, and every handy guy I know does it. That chuck is very heavy duty, and boasts carbide prongs and a great ratchet-tightening mechanism. In terms of its strength, carbide is an improvement over the steel used in most others. However, I find that the wide, flat nose of this chuck makes it less maneuverable in certain spots than the pointier chuck on my old 24v.
Drilling can be tricky at first, and the user needs to be prepared for torque twist - the tendancy of the drill to spin in the user's hands, in counter direction to that of the chuck. Once I was comfortable with this, the drill became a good friend. I've owned it just one month. On one battery charge, it sunk ALL the 2-1/2" screws into the 2x6 boards of a 14x30 wood deck - without pilot holes, and still had plenty of juice to spare.
Its power seems endless, and battery juice is one less thing I need to worry about when focusing on one of my projects. I used the hammer setting to drill some 1/2"x2" holes in an old, very hardened, concrete foundation. Though at a somewhat slower pace than my 8-amp corded hammer would have done the job, it was no strain at all - to the motor, to the battery, or to the user. Twelve holes went in, and it cost only 1/3 the battery charge. Of course, be sure to use high quality carbide-tipped masonry bits for this.
Despite its weight, it is surprisingly well balanced, and the infinite-position handle aids greatly in its control. The ergonomics are excellent and it feels good in my hands. Rubberized portions of the case ensure the security of a sound hold. The T-handle design contributes to the good balance. Unlike many T-handle drills, I am able to get my palm over the very back of the drill while pulling the trigger, when neccesary, to add pressure with one hand. This is a big benefit for me.
The trigger is well thought out and is very easy to control, and the reverse button is located perfectly. There is an adjustable clutch with many different settings that limits the ultimate torque for certain applications. This is useful for avoiding chewing up screwheads when driving them into tougher materials. There are two speeds - low is about 450 RPM and this puts maximum torque to the work. I'm finding that torque is high enough most times on high (1,500 RPM), but low speed improves contact in driving screws.
Bosch touts the durability of this product. Though I've owned it only a month, it has already had a taste of my typical nasty treatment. I dropped it from six feet onto a concrete floor. No problem. It seems similarly built to my old Bosch 24v, which has taken an utter horror of abuse over the years, and still works. The unknown on the new drill is whether or not the gearbox will stand up to the power of the motor. Only time will tell. I will say that I had a nice look into the gearbox already - it's a heavy duty all-metal setup (heavier than the metal gearbox of the old 24v), that appears that it will be up for the challenge.
Weight savings on the body comes from unibody construction. Like most corded drills, the motor is mounted directly to the plastic case, which is reinforced with steel inserts at stresspoints. My old 24v drill had a motor that was fully encased in metal, then mounted to the unreinforced case of the drill. The unibody setup on the 36v is just as durable - proven by the existence of high-powered corded drills of the same design - while lighter and better ventilated.
A great improvement on this model over my previous cordless is access to the motor brushes from the outside. Brushes are inexpensive, but do wear with frequent use, and are a breeze to replace on this drill. Another nice design feature is the rubberized screwdriver bit holders - two of them, one on each side of the base of the handle, just above the battery. They hold the bits very tightly (one bit was supplied with the drill).
The battery is larger than the old 24v, but about the same weight. It's ribbed plastic casing protects its cells better than most others, and it charges fully in under an hour. The downside is that it's not perfectly flat on the bottom so......be sure to put the tool down ONLY ON ITS SIDE. It can tip pretty easily otherwise.
The battery has a nice LED gauge that indicates how much of a charge remains. Unlike NiCad batteries, Li-Ions put out full power until they're just about out of charge, which is a nice change. Perhaps the biggest benefit of this tool overall is in the fact that Li-Ion batteries accept many more charges than NiCads and, as a result, last much longer. And with Li-Ions, there's much less chance of overcharging and lost charge when not in use.
One thing I really don't like is Bosch's electric brake system. All cordless drills I've seen have this safety feature, which stops the chuck within 2 seconds of releasing the trigger. But Bosch's seem to throw sparks out of the drill vents. I haven't had any problems with this, but certain people - electricians for example - may be affected.
As of this writing, there are six 36-volt Litheon drill options:
Hammerdrill with 2 fatpack batteries (my model)
Hammerdrill with 2 slimpack batteries
Hammerdrill with 1 of each battery
Non-hammerdrill with the same three options as above.
Interestingly, the drill kit is made all over the place. Bosch, of course, is a German company. The drill itself is manufactured in Switzerland; the batteries in Poland, the charger in China and the case in the good ol' USA. Bosch offers a 3-year warranty on the drill and 2 years on the battery. To access this warranty, the owner needs to register by phone, online or by mail with the card that comes with the drill.
All in all, the Bosch 36-Volt Litheon Hammerdrill is an outstanding piece of machinery. For the average Joe, it's perhaps too much tool. For the frequent user, it is one of the few - if not the only - to replace a corded drill for most projects.
The drill is now 8 months old and doing fine. It's seen consistent moderate-to-heavy use and, like most of my tools, has not been treated with kid gloves.
This tool has performed flawlessly, save for one incident where the chuck was so tight, that it took me 15 minutes to remove the bit. Neither the drill nor the bit was damaged. I still like the chuck on my old drill better because of its size, but this one grips the bit remarkably.
Notable jobs in the last few months include drilling ten, 5/16" holes into 1/4" stainless steel. Anyone who has attempted drilling into stainless knows how difficult and frustrating it can be. I used cobalt steel bits - the best for tough metals, in my opinion - and the drill was well up to the task. The bit was as well, but I had to sharpen it at day's end. A little oil lube goes a long way here.
I also used the drill with a 4-1/8" hole saw to install two ventilation ducts into the gable of my house. This ordinarily requires a lot of torque, and a corded drill is usually the tool of choice here. However, this Bosch made an easy time of it. This was particularly advantageous, as I was up on a ladder for this.
The batteries hold charges a LONG time.
Still a five-star rating, and still my highest recommendation.
I've owned the drill for two years now. The batteries still hold their charges for unimaginable lengths. The poor drill has seen tremendously hard use, and has performed perfectly. The gearbox is holding up as I'd hoped it would. I opened it for lubrication recently, and the metal gear edges are still square and sharp...and no more grease was needed.
With a good screwtip, sinking 4" bugle head screws into pine without pilot holes is child's play. In oak, it takes some pressure but beware, you can crack the wood, so drill the pilot holes first. I still drop the tool once in awhile, and this has not caused any problems whatsoever.
I'm very used to the chuck at this point, and I've noticed that the newest version of this drill is actually supplied with a pointier and smaller chuck.
My latest over-use: mixing tile mortar, five gallons at a time, with a paddle stirrer set in the chuck. This is generally the work for an 8-amp corded drill. But for the 36-volt Bosch, it was no problem. For high torque applications such as this, be sure to set the drill on low speed, which engages the third gear and keeps torque near maximum. Also be sure to keep the handle attached.
A nice surprise was that after the motor brushes set into shape, the annoying sparking from the electric brake all but ceased. Much, much better.
It would be hard to imagine a substantial improvement to this drill. Still five stars, and if I could give it six, I would.
Read all 2 Reviews
Write a Review