There are certain things that make me drop everything, jump up, and do a little victory dance. That’s exactly what happened when I got my hands on the remarkable Ridgid Stealth Force Brushless 18V 3-Speed Impulse Driver. And I’m not the only one who’s excited – David C. Smith is threatening to post a video of my celebration on YouTube!
Ridgid has once again positioned itself at the forefront of performance by outshining its competitors. We were already impressed with the performance of the Gen5X 5-piece kit and the Gen5X Hybrid fans. But now, with the introduction of their new line of brushless tools, Ridgid has truly raised the bar.
Check out our best hydraulic impact drivers and best impact drivers articles to see how the tools match up.
The Rise of Oil Pulse (Impulse) Drivers
When it comes to oil pulse drivers, two major concerns come to mind: noise levels and power. Anyone who’s been near an impact driver knows just how loud they can be. The sound of the anvil hitting can penetrate walls and reverberate in your ears. This can be a significant issue for maintenance and construction crews working in areas such as schools, offices, and apartments. However, Ridgid’s Oil Pulse Technology solves this problem by using hydraulic pulses to reduce noise while still delivering more power than traditional impact drivers.
Hydraulic tools have long been favored by industrial workers, but they are now becoming more accessible to general contractors and tradesmen at a price point that rivals traditional impact drivers.
Until recently, affordable oil pulse drivers were hard to come by. With the release of the Ridgid Stealth Force, which follows in the footsteps of the Gen5X Random Orbit Sander, these game-changing tools are finally entering the mainstream market. What sets the Ridgid Oil Impulse Driver apart is that it offers fewer RPMs and IPMs (impacts per minute) compared to a standard impact driver. However, it compensates by being twice as fast and half as loud. Let’s take a closer look at the features and specifications that make this driver truly exceptional.
Ridgid Stealth Force Brushless 18V 3-Speed Impulse Driver: Specifications
- Model: R86036K
- Power: 18V Ultra Lithium battery (two 2.0 amp hours included in the kit)
- Maximum speed without load: 1000/1800/2400 RPM
- Impact: 0 – 1700 IPM
- Warranty: Lifetime Service Agreement
- Price: $199
- Availability: December 2015/January 2016
Key Features of the Ridgid Stealth Force Brushless 18V Three-Speed Pulse Driver
- Hydraulic pulse drive
- Reduces noise up to 50%
- Twice as fast as traditional drivers
- Brushless three-speed motor
- 1/4″ quick release chuck
- Tri-Beam LED peripheral driver head
Ridgid Stealth Force Reduces Noise Levels
Quantifiable data speak for themselves, so I decided to put the claims of faster travel and reduced noise to the test. In my initial testing, the Ridgid Stealth Force lived up to these claims – but more comprehensive testing is still needed.
I compared the noise levels and performance of the Ridgid Stealth Force to my trusty Ridgid Gen5X Impact Driver (not brushless, but I will be reviewing that kit soon!). I used a decibel meter with a dB(A) scale, placing it at the same distance from my ear. While this wasn’t a lab-controlled setup, I maintained the same distance from both tools for accurate results.
First, I conducted a simple high-speed run test with no load. The Ridgid Gen5X produced a solid 85 dB(A) level, while the Ridgid Stealth Force stabilized at 83 dB(A). This small difference would turn out to be significant.
I also tested the noise levels while driving screws and lag bolts, to see if there was any variation between low-stress and high-stress applications. While the noise levels were consistent for both applications, the two tools were worlds apart. The impact driver registered at 102 dB(A), while the Ridgid Stealth Force came in at only 87 dB(A). To put it in perspective, the Ridgid Stealth Force sounded approximately 75% quieter during our tests. The sound intensity was noticeably milder. In our outdoor tests, the Gen5X Impact Driver was around 32 times louder than the Ridgid Stealth Force.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations limit continuous use of an impact driver to 1 hour and 30 minutes per day without hearing protection. However, the Ridgid Stealth Force is not subjected to these restrictions.
Ridgid Stealth Force: Impressive Drivability
In order to confirm the claims of higher drive performance, I tested the Ridgid Stealth Force Impulse Driver using 3-1/2” drywall screws and 3/8” x 3-1/2” lag bolts. Both were used to attach stacked 3/4" plywood, with 1/4" pilot holes provided for the lag bolts. I also included drilling data since I was working with two different drives, both powered by Ridgid’s 2.0 amp hour battery.
Using a Milwaukee titanium red auger bit designed for impact drivers, I drilled a couple of 1/4" pilot holes through the plywood. The Ridgid Gen5X Impact Driver averaged 5.74 seconds per hole, while the Ridgid Stealth Force completed the same number of holes in an average of just 3.92 seconds. That’s a 32% increase in speed.
The lag bolts were then used to secure the plate, holding the material I had just drilled. The Impact Driver averaged 9.60 seconds per bolt, while the Ridgid Stealth Force blew it out of the water with an average time of 5.54 seconds. That’s a 43% increase in speed.
Finally, I drove 3" drywall screws through the same material without pilot holes. The Gen5X Impact Driver took an average of 2.03 seconds per actuation, while the Ridgid Stealth Force showcased its speed by completing the task in just 1.29 seconds on average, making it over 36% faster.
A Few Surprising Discoveries
There are some notable differences between traditional impact drivers and Ridgid’s Stealth Force impulse drivers. For one, you’ll notice roughly half the number of impacts compared to a regular impact driver. This means that with each bump, more power is transferred to your arms, resulting in increased wrist movement and making it harder to control subtler driving techniques.
Moreover, due to the nature of the oil pulse mechanism internally, the Ridgid Stealth Force has a softer vibration despite the increased arm movement. It feels like the difference between hitting plywood with a hammer versus hitting 1/4" steel. In both cases, you’re exerting the same force, but the wood cushions the blow, making it feel softer. We’ll conduct further tests to confirm this hypothesis, but a lighter blow could significantly extend the lifespan of an impact-resistant driver bit.
Industrial workers have long recognized the benefits of hydraulic impact power, and it’s exciting to see these tools finally making their way into the hands of everyday users in residential and commercial settings. The Ridgid Stealth Force Brushless 18V 3-Speed Impulse Driver not only provides a quieter solution for apartments, schools, and offices but also offers significantly higher drive performance, making it a superior choice for almost any application compared to traditional impact drivers.
At $199 for the kit, it may seem a little steep. However, considering that it includes two compact batteries and a charger, the price is justified. Usually, the Gen5X impact driver sells for $99 with just one battery, but it’s currently on sale for $79. As petroleum impact drivers, like the Ridgid Stealth Force, become more readily available, I expect them to replace traditional impact drivers in kits, just as impact drills replaced drill drivers.
Don’t forget to follow Pro Tool Reviews on Facebook and Twitter!