If there is one tool we have tested the most at Tools in Action, it's probably the cordless impact driver. We have tested just about every manufacturer on the market when it comes to 18V impact drivers, well almost everyone. We haven't tested the Hilti, but that just changed. Now I fully understand about the old saying of save the best for last. We get emails all the time asking about our opinion of Hilti tools and wondering why we never review them. We can finally put that one to sleep. If you know me, you know I am a huge fan of Hilti, primarily because they don't make junk. In my opinion, they make some of the best tools on the market.
I remember when I first started in construction back in 1992, Chicago had a huge flood. Not a flood anyone could see as it wasn't caused by rain. It was a flood due to a crack in the old freight tunnel that runs under Chicago. So the dirty Chicago river water actually flooded buildings because most of the buildings where connected to this freight tunnel. I was a laborer for a large construction company, so my job was to clean up, tear down walls and more. I was assigned to a well known retail building that was hit hard. The basement and two sub basements were all under water. During this time is when I was first introduced to Hilti. All I can say is another newbie and myself were assigned to do the worst of the worst for clean up and tear down. We were young and didn't really care about the tools. They were job bought tools, times were good, so no one said anything about how we treated the tools, so we didn't even bother taking care of them. Looking back at myself and what we did, someone should have slapped us in the head. Anyways, we beat on these tools. Dropped them in oily water, left dirt and debris on the tools and really just worked the heck out of them. The only tool I remember that didn't break down on us was the Hilti tools.
Okay, enough babbling about the old days, times change and that's why when I had the opportunity to use the Hilti SID 18-A Cordless Impact Driver, I just couldn't pass it up. I wanted to see if Hilti was the way I remembered them back in the day. All I can say is Hilti nailed this one dead on and produced an unparalleled impact driver.
I had the opportunity to use this impact on a couple different jobs such as a green house, bar, shed, and a basement remodel. Each and every time the SID 18-A didn't fail. When I first picked up this impact, the first thing that stood out to me was the balance of the tool. It didn't matter if I had the 3.3 or 1.6 Ah battery attached to the impact, the balance was great. If I was using this tool in front of me, below or above my head for an application, it just felt right. I never had to struggle with the tool in any position. Next on the list is the handle. The impact has a very nice grip that contours to your hand and it doesn't matter if you have a glove on or not, it just fits right.
Hilti implemented some great features to this tool that we have seen in some other tools, but not as a whole package like Hilti did with this impact. First, Hilti uses a brushless motor that powers a 1/4″ hex quick release chuck. If you are not familiar with a brushless motor, a brushless motor is more durable, more compact and more efficient. Next, Hilti sealed all the electronics to protect it against dust, dirt and humidity. This is a huge plus that is not even seen by the end user. However, with the environment this tool is used in, this is a must. Dust, dirt and humidity can play a huge part in tool failure, so we are glad to see Hilti protected against this outside enemy.
The next cool feature is the three speed adjustment. On the front of the tool, a user can adjust the speed of the tool to their application by simply pressing a button. Once you press the button, you can see which speed you're in, 1, 2, or 3 speed. One nice feature is you can't accidentally hit this button when the impact is running, so you don't ever have to worry about changing speeds when you really don't want to change speeds. As long as we are talking about speeds, the variable trigger is great. The trigger has just the right touch to it so you can keep a constant speed. The trigger is not too easy or too hard to press.
Hilti didn't just stop there, they also added four LED lights around the head of the impact which truly gives the user a shadow free experience. We found the four LEDs to be the best on the market by truly illuminating the work area and preventing any shadows. Another feature we really enjoyed was design of the impact and how the back is tapered. We are not sure if this was designed for that reason, but we did find it very useful when working on applications above our head. On the back part of the impact, the head is tapered. So when you are working above, you can position your hand easier to give you a better grip and more control, with less arm fatigue.
You can have the best tool on the market, but if you don't have the right batteries powering the tool, then it doesn't mean a thing. Hilti put some serious batteries on these impacts. You can use either the 3.3 or 1.6 Ah Lithium-ion battery. Both batteries are great and give you plenty of run time. For most of my applications, I was doing repetitive work and ended up using the 1.6 Ah battery. I am not sure how many screws I was driving, but this impact didn't disappoint. I could easily get one full day of use driving fasteners and sometimes even part of the next day without recharging the batteries. As a note, it takes about 20 minutes to charge the 1.6 and 50 minutes to charge the 3.3 Ah battery. Most batteries we see have a separate button for the fuel gauge. Hilti decided to implement the fuel gauge button into the battery release button which is a very cool feature. You can press either button or both to get your battery status. I can't scientifically say these are the best batteries, but for my use of batteries over the years, I can say these are the most impressive batteries on the market.
Overall using this tool was a pleasure. At the end of the work day, I didn't have fatigue in my arms. The tool is well balanced and easy to use. Best of all, the impact transfers to your work and not your arms. Bottom line, Hilti is the real deal. Anyone who relies on tools to make a living and get things done, Hilti is the perfect choice. Tough, reliable tools to get the job done. They are tools that will not let you down, they will work when you need them to work and best of all, they are backed by Hilti. With a 2 year full warranty (wear and tear included) and life time warranty, Hilti stands behind it's tools. Having more features and benefits than it's competitor, gives this impact the edge. This is the perfect tool and we don't say that much at Tools in Action. I personally think that the best Impact on the market. In fact we named the Hilti SID 18-A the impact of the year for 2012.