Porter Cable 18V NiCad 4-Tool Combo Kit

If you don't mind the NiCad batteries, this kit offers very good value for DIYers and hobbyist woodworkers


Porter Cable 18V NiCad 4-Tool Combo Kit

Combo tool kits can make a lot of sense if the tools in the kit are ones that you feel, with some level of certainty, you're likely to use. The most common grouping of tools in a 4-tool kit are drill/driver, circular saw, reciprocating saw and flashlight (not exactly a tool as much as an accessory). A 6-tool kit often comes with these same four tools plus an impact driver and angle grinder. The intrinsic value in a kit is that it will normally cost considerably less than purchasing  the components separately.

The kit that I recently looked at, the Porter Cable 18V NiCad 4 Tool Combo Kit (model PC418C-2), offers the standard array of drill, circ saw, recip saw and flashlight, along with two batteries, charger, and a nylon carry-all bag (large enough to carry all the tools plus drill bits, saw blades, gloves, hearing protectors and the like). Plus it comes with a generous 3 year warranty (which includes one year of free service) and a 90 day money back guarantee.

PC18B Battery & PCMVC Charger

The kit is powered by a 1.5Ah 18V NiCad battery (Note: Porter Cable also sells the same 4-tool kit with a Li-Ion battery - model PCL418C-2.) While Li-Ion batteries seem to be getting all the attention, NiCad batteries do have certain advantages, including a longer recharge life cycle (you should expect 500 to 800 charges on an 18V battery), perform better in temperature extremes (particularly important if you work outside in cold temperatures), and a lower sticker price (The NiCad PC418C-2 costs approximately $100 less than the equivalent Li-Ion PC418C-2 kit). But yes, NiCads are heavy; the PC18B weighs in at 2 lbs.
The battery charger for the PC418C-2 features a computerized charging circuitry to extend battery performance and life. A hot pack delay feature detects when the battery cells exceed a predetermined temperature, and delays charging so that the cells aren't damaged. It also monitors power input to prevent cell overcharging. Recharge time is approximately 60 minutes. I follow advice given to me by a DeWALT technician several years ago, and simply recharge my NiCad batteries when they power down. I don't attempt to fully discharge them before recharging.

  • 1.5 Ah NiCad batteries
  • 1 hour charge time
  • 3 year limited warranty, 1 year free service, 90 day money back guarantee

PC1800D Drill/Driver
Of the four tools in the line-up, the drill/driver is likely the one that will be used the most use frequently. The PC1800D is made from a high impact ABS plastic with rubber overmold grips. Just about every power tool on the market now comes with some kind of rubber overmold - it's a real necessity if you're using the tool for any period of time. 

The PC1800D has dual speed (a low gear that delivers 0-350 RPM) and a high gear (0-1,400 RPM), with a 32 position clutch. The clutch moves smoothly without any slop, and there is an audible 'click' at each setting.  The pressure-sensitive trigger enables you to control bit speed for more precise drilling or screwing; the more pressure you exert on the trigger, the faster the chuck spins. At the highest torque setting the PC1800D delivers an impressive 440 in-lbs of torque. I found this more than adequate to sink screws of any size and set 6" lag bolts. A 1/2" chuck means you can use the largest bits, hole saws and tenon cutters.

I think that the business end of any power tool needs to be the most durable, so I was pleased to see an all-metal chuck. Another great feature is that the chuck is also a single-sleeve keyless design; you can easily tighten or loosen the chuck with one hand. The power trigger, directional switch and speed selector are all in the right places, and there is even a work light under the clutch. More convenient than you might realize, particularly when working in less than ideal lighting conditions or in tight, confined spaces. There is on-board storage for a single driver bit; nice to have I suppose, though I never use it as I prefer longer 3" drivers.
The PC1800D is comfortable to use, if somewhat heavy at 5.1 lbs (that darn battery), and well balanced; even with a large bit in the chuck it doesn't tilt forward when you put it down. The drill measures 8-3/4" from the jaws to the back of the handle, which puts it in the middle of the pack for drill size. The PC1800D alone just about justifies the price of the PC418C-2 kit.

  • Dual speed: 0-350 RPM and 0-1,400 RPM
  • 440 in-lbs of torque
  • 1/2" all-metal single sleeve keyless chuck
  • 32 position clutch
  • Rubber overmold handle
  • Work light
  • On-board storage for 1 bit
  • 5.1 lbs (with battery)

PC186CS Circular Saw
Next to the drill/driver, a circular saw is, in my book, the most useful power tool to have on hand. It sure beats cutting stock with a handsaw, and is a god-send for dimensioning sheet stock, particularly if you have a small table saw (or a bad back). Apart from the shoe, the PC186CS is made of a high impact ABS plastic. In general I don't mind the use of high impact plastic on power tools - it's pretty tough, reasonably impact resistant, rigid, and definitely won't rust. Still, I would feel more comfortable with a metal saw blade guard; when the saw gets dropped, and eventually it will, the blade guard is where the collision will take place. I checked the shoe, and it was dead square to the blade. It's also wide enough to fully support the saw when cutting. 

The PC186CS boasts a 6-1/2" 18-tooth ATB carbide tipped blade that spins at 3,700 rpm. You need to depress a lock-off button before you can start the saw - an excellent safety feature. You can easily manipulate both the  trigger and lock-off button with one hand. I found that the saw cut well without binding or slowing, and I didn't have to manhandle the saw to maintain cut control. I couldn't discern any runout on the arbour, and when using a straightedge to make cuts, they were perfectly straight. There are stamped bevel and height adjustment scales, but they are virtually invisible. Also, the markings are in 5° increments a bit too coarse for making precise adjustments. My advice is to disregard the scales and use a protractor.

The saw rises and lowers, and bevels smoothly, without any wobbling. At the front of the shoe is an adjustable tracking window that enables you to follow a cut line, with the blade set at either 90° or 45°. Unfortunately the markings on the guide are all but invisible. I darkened the guide line with a black magic marker, and it really improved my sight line. The blade guard retracts smoothly as you begin making a cut, and springs back after the cut is made.

Blade changing is both quick and easy, thanks to a spindle lock button and on-board wrench. Change-over takes less than a couple of minutes. In test cuts I got a 2-3/16" depth of cut at 90° and 1-13/16" depth of cut at 45°. The saw doesn't come with a rip fence, which is no big deal, as I don't find them very useful. A shop made straight edge is much more versatile and easier to use. The electric brake is a very nice feature that I was pleased to see. There isn't a riving knife, which you'll only find on a few of the higher end saws. It's a feature whose time has come though, as it does an effective job of preventing binding. You'll now see riving knives on all new table saws.

There are two commonalities with most circular saws. They're loud (this saw topped out at 106.1 dB under load), which makes hearing protection a must. And, they don't have any dust collection features, probably because they were not originally designed for work in closed workshop spaces.

With the PC186CS I got smooth, accurate cuts. Bevel and height adjustments were quick and easy to make, and I found that the saw was very well balanced.

  • 6 1/2" blade
  • 3,700 RPM
  • 0 - 50-degree bevel
  • 2 3/16" depth of cut at 90-degrees
  • 1 5/8" depth of cut at 50-degrees
  • 1 13/16" depth of cut at 45-degrees
  • Automatic electric brake
  • Lock-off button
  • Spindle lock
  • Rubber overmold handle
  • On-board wrench storage
  • 7.8 lbs (with battery)

PC1800RS Reciprocating Saw
Recip saws are primarily used for demolition work - ripping through studs, plywood, plastic piping, drywall, stucco and the like. One advantage of cordless models over their corded counterparts is that there isn't a power cord to slow you down or  trip you up. But you do sacrifice lower power levels. 

The PC1800RS runs at 3,000 strokes per minute, comparable to contractor grade saws. It has a 7/8" stroke,  which makes for a less aggressive cut, but makes plunge cutting somewhat easier. A variable-speed trigger enables you to control blade speed; a variable speed control switch would have been a nice touch. This is a straight cutting saw; there is no orbital action. Saws designed for heavy duty renovation work will benefit from such a feature, but it would likely be overkill on a consumer grade saw.

I like the blade clamp mechanism; once the blade is inserted it locks tightly in place. However you do have to manually hold the lever in the open position until you insert the blade. But, you can do it easily enough even with  gloves on. The metal pivoting shoe is not adjustable; a feature I've never had a need for anyway. Still, I'm relieved that it's metal and not a high impact ABS plastic.

The PC1800RS has very good weight distribution, seemingly lighter than its 6.3 pound weight, and feels very solid while cutting. You'll appreciate this if you end up having to do a lot of overhead cutting. Both the forward and rear handles are well padded, making the saw comfortable to use. The saw doesn't claim to have an anti-vibration system, but it was surprisingly steady in use. All that padding might help reduce vibration somewhat. At 95.2 dB under load it isn't as noisy as the circular saw, but loud enough to warrant hearing protection.

I'm a big fan of tool safety, and really like the lock-off switch, which virtually eliminates the risk of accidentally starting the saw when you grab it off the floor. There isn't a work light, which would be handy in cramped dark spaces, like attics or crawl spaces.

I found it easy to rip through 2 by 4 studs with the PC1800RS; it cut reasonably fast given its short stroke, and is both light and well balanced.

  • 3,000 SPM
  • 7/8" stroke
  • Lock-off switch
  • Tool-less blade change
  • Rubber overmold handle
  • Metal pivoting shoe
  • 6.3 lbs (with battery)

PC1800L Flashlight
The PC1800L flashlight is a nice little unit that weighs in at just over 2-1/2 pounds with the battery installed. The head doesn't rotate; not a big deal, more of a convenience issue. It has a dust sealed trigger, and a large, 2-13/16" lens.

I don't have a light meter, so couldn't measure how bright it is; I found it reasonably bright. At 12 feet from the wall it has about a 10' diameter spread. It uses a regular 5 watt incandescent bulb, which I don't mind, as the high powered LED lights generate an awful lot of heat. I don't consider it a tool, but rather an accessory, though a very useful one to have on hand.

  • 5 watt incandescent bulb
  • 2 13/16" lens
  • Dust sealed power switch
  • 2.65 lbs (with battery)

The Porter Cable PC418C-2 is, in my view, an excellent kit, at a competitive price. Woodworking enthusiasts, power DIYers, and anyone involved in occasional home maintenance projects will appreciate the high level of product durability, good range of product features, and competitive price. The three year warranty isn't a hard pill to swallow either. Professional woodworkers, tradespeople, power DIYers, or anyone who earns their livelihood using power tools might be better served with a Li-Ion or 6-tool kit.

  • Fast charger, 2 Ni-Cad batteries, 18 tooth carbide saw blade, bi-metal recip blade, double ended bit, storage bag
AVAILABLE FROM:Tool and equipment suppliers nationwide
MODEL #:PC418C-2
Carl Duguay, March 2010
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