BOSCH FONTUS PORTABLE
OUTDOOR CLEANER REVIEW
Review by Robert Johnston
Photos by Adam Lievesley
Bosch surely needs no introduction, as a company with a huge presence in the power tools and home appliances market. Their foray away from the hardcore DIY scene, into the more everyday consumer goods, has resulted in an extensive lineup of products that are designed to make the odd jobs in your life that little bit easier. Alongside somewhat trivial products like their Easypump (review coming soon) are some that offer solutions to everyday problems for many people. One of these products – aimed at offering the services of a hosepipe when there is no hosepipe to be found – is the Fontus portable outdoor cleaner. A sloppy UK winter offered the perfect testing ground to find out exactly what the Fontus was capable of.
The Fontus is Bosch’s answer to the needs of those looking to clean their cars, bikes, dogs, or whatever else they may need when away from the garden hose. This is not a high-pressure jet wash, but rather a portable low-pressure cleaner that is designed to offer enough cleaning power for most tasks without relying on a huge supply of water or mains power. Bosch ensured that the unit was entirely self-contained, so its body houses everything from the pump and battery through to the hose, connections, and the water itself. Large, rugged wheels are in place on the bottom to allow for the unit to be transported with ease, with a retractable handle and stow-away areas for the nozzle and hose helping it to be as slick and user friendly as possible.
The pump can produce up to 15 Bar of pressure, with flow rates up to 3.1l/min. This keeps it in the “low pressure” category, though it still packs a reasonable punch. Bosch’s “Power for all 18V” battery system supplies the energy to the pump, with cross-compatibility with most of their home power tools – a handy feature for those with Bosch tools already in the garage. This 18V battery is a 2.5Ah unit, powering the Fontus for up to 60 minutes and taking 105 minutes to recharge fully from empty. It is stowed away in its own sealed compartment, helping to fend off the elements and keep it running safely.
On the top of the Fontus is an on/off button and a dial to select the output power. There are three power modes on offer – low, medium and Turbo – letting you dial in the desired compromise of power and battery life. The 4m long hose twists on to a connector at the bottom of the body, with the nozzle using the same twist connection to attach to the other end. This nozzle has 4 settings for the shape of the water output: a concentrated beam; a narrow 15-degree fan; a wide 50-degree fan; and a shower mode for more gentle cleaning tasks. A SmartBrush attachment is also included, which clips on to the front of the nozzle and allows for simultaneous spraying and brushing with one hand, doubling up on the cleaning power.
The body houses a 15l water tank, and measures in at 645x395x320mm with the handle collapsed, making it just small enough to fit in the boot (trunk) of most cars. Without water or accessories, the unit tips the scales at 9.8kg, so you can expect a weight in excess of 25kg when fully laden. The Fontus retails for £269.99 rrp, but a quick search suggests you may be able to buy it for a bit less than this from many retailers, and you can buy it without the battery for just over £200 from Bosch. It is certainly no small amount of money, but given that it is a Bosch product, it is very likely to last for many seasons of muddy bike washing so may just be a very good investment. Unfortunately, this portable pressure washer is not offered by Bosch in the Americas or Canada, but it is available in most of the rest of the world.
A seriously wet UK winter provided the ultimate testing ground for a portable outdoor cleaner, and so I was able to get what is likely to be a year’s worth of use for many from the Bosch Fontus and really learn it is limits and where it shines.
Preparing the Fontus for use is a very simple process, especially if you have an easily accessible outdoor tap or hose. Everything assembles in a relatively foolproof manner, though the twist connections could be a little tricky at times when the feeling had drained from my fingers in the coldest depths of winter. Nevertheless, it was a case of twisting the hose onto the body and nozzle, hitting the power button, then you are good to go after a few seconds waiting for the pump to pressurize.
Through my testing, I quickly learned that the Medium and Low power modes still do a good job of blasting off the worst of the dirt, especially when paired with the jet nozzle setting and a bit of encouragement from the SmartBrush. I found the 15-degree spray with either of these lower power modes to be the best compromise of power, water conservation and battery life, with the Turbo mode only being required for the thickest and stickiest mud coatings. The SmartBrush is effective and pairing it with the spray simultaneously is especially effective at shifting the most troublesome clumps of mud that want to hang on. Thankfully, the bristles of the brush seem soft enough to avoid damaging paintwork at all, and they are spaced out far enough that they clear the mud relatively well too.
In the lower powered modes, the Fontus spent most of its time in, I was able to get through three solid tanks of water before I felt the need to charge. Pushing the battery life as far as I could allowed for a fourth wash that ended with zero juice left. Being a little smart with the water allowed for two rough washes of a well-muddied bike in a single tank, with the full tank needed per bike for the times when a spotless finish was desired, or the mud was allowed to dry hard. My main riding buddy was particularly happy about this fact, often going home with a clean bike of his own.
Disassembly of the Fontus is as simple as reversing the steps for the assembly, though you must make sure you release the pressure from the hose after turning the power off, or else you will struggle to undo the connectors. The size and weight need to be considered for those who are not blessed with a spacious van or truck, as it is far from insignificant, but given its effectiveness I would say it is about right. I learned the hard way that when the hose is not in place, turning on the unit will shoot water out the bottom connector. An unfortunate helmet falling onto the Fontus in transit led to a good 3L of the water being dispensed into the back of my van, which was thankfully on the way home from a ride after I had cleaned the bikes else, I could have been swimming in my driver’s seat. This potential nightmare can easily be avoided by disconnecting the battery when on the move, though it would be good to see a locking feature of some sort or a sensor to ensure the hose is attached.
These are only minor nuances however, as the novelty of this product has yet to wear off and I am still so grateful to have one in the back of my van when it comes to the end of a muddy ride. Having the Fontus at my disposal has made maintaining a clean and smoothly running bike that bit easier, as you can get the mud off as soon as the ride finishes and prevent the dreaded battle with dried-on mud when you get back home. The additional benefit of being able to give shoes a rinse before the drive home has greatly reduced the number of crusty shoe instances, too. I would struggle to justify the price tag if I were buying it myself, but then a clean bike has never been my priority. However, for the right person, I can imagine that you would easily be able to get your money’s worth out of the Fontus over many winters of mud blasting.
The Wolf’s Last Word
For the right person with a bit of spare cash, the Bosch Fontus may just represent the ultimate “nice-to-have” accessory for a rider who cannot wait to make his pride and joy bike spotless again after a ride. With effective and economical cleaning power and user-friendly operation, this portable outdoor cleaner will leave riding buddies and bystanders jealous time after time as you blast mud from your rig in the car park. To the North Americans out there, maybe it is time to get on the phone to that long-lost cousin somewhere else in the world to have them ship one to you.