The Milwaukee M12 Fuel is a fantastic impact driver and was the obvious choice to win an Editors' Choice award for best 12-volt model. We love the size of the tool — it's one of the smallest impact drivers on the market. It's also very simple and straightforward to use, plus it has several settings to dial in the ideal torque for the task at hand. It should be noted that the M12 is very loud, especially considering its voltage.
Milwaukee M12 Fuel 2553-20 Review
Pros: Convenient, compact, several settings
Cons: Pricey, battery doesn’t last long, loud
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Our Analysis and Test Results
After putting this impact driver through the TechGearLab tried and true tests it was obvious that this model stood out as one of the best. It held its own against much bigger, bulkier models with higher voltage batteries. One of our favorite features of the M12 Fuel is that it has several settings and that the controls are located on top of the driver's body and are very simple to select.
For the first part of our speed testing, we timed how long each model took to drive a 3-⅝" ledger screw, then repeated the process 4 times in order to calculate an average. The M12 FUEL was nothing special when compared to the fastest models, but when comparing results to other 12 volt models it was in a league of its own.
With an average ledger screw drive time of 6 seconds, this model was nearly twice as fast as the other 12 volt models in our review.
For the second part of the speed test, we timed how long it took each model to completely drive a ½" by 3" lag bolt, and then how long it took to back the fastener out. The Milwaukee M12, again, out-performed the other 12 volt models — it drove the bolt in 26 seconds and loosened it in 11 seconds.
To test torque we welded some ½" grade 8 bolts to a steel I-beam so that we could see the maximum foot-pounds of pressure that each driver could deliver. The Milwaukee M12 FUEL was able to tighten nuts to an average of 143 ft-lbs.
For further testing, we used a torque wrench to tighten nuts onto the I-beam bolts to certain tightnesses to see how strong each model was at loosening. The M12 FUEL was able to loosen a nut that was tightened to 275 ft-lbs, but it took it 10 seconds to do so.
Some elements in the convenience category are easy to measure such as size and weight while other features are more subjective and require real hands-on testing. Convenience was a strong metric for the M12 FUEL, we found it to be very easy to use.
One of the primary reasons to go with a 12-volt impact driver is they are more compact and lighter than models that use higher voltage batteries — the Milwaukee M12 is no exception.
It only weighs 1.7 lbs without the battery, and it is a mere 132 mm long — these are fantastic traits for people that will be using the driver in awkward positions or tight places.
The M12 has a button for changing between four different settings. There are 3 different RPM options and then a "self-tapping" setting that helps reduce the possibility of stripping or breaking screws and overdriving. Having a variety of settings is great for people who are looking for an impact driver for finish carpentry or other applications that don't require a large amount of torque. The button to change between modes is conveniently located on the top of the tool body.
The M12 comes equipped with a quick insert chuck that makes attaching bits a cinch even with one hand. It also has a belt clip that can be installed on either side of the driver.
The light on the FUEL is located right above the trigger and has a good amount of brightness, however, it has a strange shadow pattern due to the size and location of the light. The light stays on for 10 seconds but it won't turn on unless the driver is activated.
To test battery life we began by driving 14 ledger screws then we switched to a ½" by 3" lag bolt where we drove the fastener into a pilot hole and then removed it. We continued with this process over and over until the batteries ran out of energy. The Milwaukee M12 FUEL was able to completely drive and remove the lag bolt twice as well as drive 40 ledger screws before the battery was toast. This was easily the best performance we saw from a 12-volt model.
To measure noise we used a sound meter to take decibel readings while we drove a ledger screw, then repeated the process 4 times in order to calculate an average. Regrettably, the M12 FUEL was far from quiet. It produced an average of 97 dBa during our testing which did not earn it a very good score for this metric. It's always a good idea to double-check with the manufacturer to see what kind of personal protective equipment they suggest for the operator of the tool.
The Milwaukee M12 FUEL is a bit on the pricey side. That said, if you need a high-performance impact driver and you're looking for a compact 12-volt model, this model is a great choice — especially if you already own the M12 battery and charger.
When it comes to 12-volt models, the M12 FUEL is the strongest, fastest, longest-lasting impact driver that we've used.
— Ross Patton and Austin Palmer