Milwaukee M18 FUEL 2853-20 Review
Pros: Incredibly fast, phenomenal torque, four speed settings
Cons: Not the best battery life, noisy
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Following our in-depth testing, it became very apparent that the Milwaukee M18 FUEL is a top-notch impact driver. The aspect in which it stands out the most is its speed — this model is the fastest impact driver that we've ever tested.
The M18 FUEL is about as fast as a cordless impact driver gets. Our speed test consisted of driving 3-⅝" ledger screws into a stack of plywood thick enough to provide enough wood for the entire depth of the screw. We drove several screws and took an average time for each driver. The M18 FUEL smoked through this assessment with an incredible average of 3.3 seconds.
To amass more numerical data for speed, we then drove a ½" x 3" lag bolt into a stack of 2x12 boards and timed both how long it took to completely drive the bolt as well as remove it. We used an 11/32" bit to drill pilot holes so as not to split the boards and to give each bolt as close to the same amount of resistance as possible.
The M18 FUEL put most of the competition to shame in this race — it was able to drive the lag bolt all the way in 12 seconds, and it took a mere 4 seconds to remove it. For reference — the average for the whole group was 30 seconds in and 12 seconds out.
The amount of torque these devices deliver is a key reason to want to own an impact driver. The Milwaukee M18 FUEL did not disappoint during this assessment.
For this test, we welded ¾" bolts onto an I-beam then used each impact driver to tighten the nuts until they couldn't twist any further, then we measured the maximum amount of torque each driver could loosen. We made all of our measurements using a mechanic-grade torque wrench.
Earning a perfect score for this metric, the M18 FUEL maxed out our 300 ft-pound torque wrench during both tests.
Convenience combines subjective assessments such as features or aspects of the design that make the driver easier to use with objective measurements such as weight and dimensions. Convenience is a strong metric for the M18 FUEL, it finished near the top of the pack.
There are plenty of features to love on the Milwaukee M18 FUEL. It has four RPM settings — three different speeds in addition to a finish setting. The selector button to switch between the modes is conveniently located right at the bottom front of the handle, and the button is easy to push.
Most newer impact drivers have a light — the M18 FUEL is no different. On this Milwaukee model, it is located in between the chuck and the trigger. We found that the light on this driver is bright and shows an even pattern. Also, we love that the light turns on when the trigger is slightly depressed. On some models, the actual driver has to be engaged for the light to turn on, making it difficult to look at what you're doing before driving your fastener.
One of our favorite features of the Milwaukee M18 FUEL is that it has a tiny front to back length. At a mere 116mm, this tool will easily squeeze into tight places where other drivers simply just won't fit.
The M18 FUEL has a bit quick insert, which allows you to easily attach or detach bits with one hand. It also includes a bit holder on one side and a belt hook on the other. The user can interchange them depending on personal preference.
To test batteries, we alternated between two different exercises. First, we drove 14 ledger screws, then we switched to driving a ½" x 3" lag bolt in and out. We repeated this process until the batteries were completely dead.
This was not the strongest metric for the Milwaukee M18 FUEL. It was able to complete four complete sets of both the ledger screws and the lag bolt driving and removal, but then died after driving four ledger screws on the fifth set.
To measure noise, we took several readings with a sound pressure level meter while driving ledger screws into wood, then calculated an average. We couldn't give out any decent scores for this metric because all of the impact drivers in our review are painfully loud.
The Milwaukee M18 FUEL wasn't the worst impact driver in the noise department during our testing period, but it certainly wasn't the best. With an average volume of 99 decibels, this model produced a tiny bit more noise than the average for the group, which was 98 decibels. We recommend checking with Milwaukee to see what type of ear protection they suggest using while operating this product.
If you're going to go with the M18 FUEL be prepared to pay a pretty hefty tab. Unless you already own Milwaukee batteries, this impact driver is outright expensive. That said if you want one of the best impact drivers on the market, we still think it's worth the extra investment.
The Milwaukee M18 FUEL is fast, powerful, and compact. It has several features that make it attractive to the harshest of tool critics. We wish that the battery lasted a little longer and that it wasn't so loud, but after putting it head-to-head against the best impact drivers on the planet, we think that it's well deserving of our Editors' Choice award.
— Ross Patton and Austin Palmer