The Milwaukee M12 Fuel is a fantastic impact driver and was the obvious choice to win an Editors' Choice award for the 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 a very simple and straightforward tool to use, plus it has several settings to dial in the ideal torque for the task at hand. We should note that the M12 is very loud, especially considering its voltage.Editor's Note: We updated this review on September 12, 2022, with more information from our testing process, an unbiased take on value, and a section highlighting other comparable products that may better suit your needs or budget.
Milwaukee M12 Fuel 2553-20 Review
Pros: Convenient, compact, several settings
Cons: Pricey, battery doesn’t last long, loud
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|Pros||Convenient, compact, several settings||Incredibly fast, phenomenal torque, four speed settings||Exceptional torque, very fast, great battery life||Fast, lots of torque||Good speed and torque, decent battery life|
|Cons||Pricey, battery doesn't last long, loud||Not the best battery life, noisy||Loud, only one RPM setting||Loud, average battery life||Loud, relatively pricey|
|Bottom Line||Get this if you're looking for a light, small, 12-volt impact driver with great performance||If you're looking for a fast 18V impact driver with excellent torque in a condensed size, we recommend this model||This driver had the most impressive battery life in our test and offers torque performance that is on par with the best||This driver is fast and provides excellent torque at an affordable price||An excellent addition to an existing fleet of DEWALT tools, but an expensive option if you've not already investing in DEWALT batteries|
|Rating Categories||Milwaukee M12 Fuel...||Milwaukee M18 Fuel...||Makita XDT13||Ryobi P238||DeWalt MAX XR DCF887B|
|Specs||Milwaukee M12 Fuel...||Milwaukee M18 Fuel...||Makita XDT13||Ryobi P238||DeWalt MAX XR DCF887B|
|Impact Driver Model #||2553-20||2853-20||XDT13||P238||DCF887|
|Average Measured Fastening Torque||143 ft-lb||300 ft-lb||282 ft-lb||300 ft-lb||238 ft-lb|
|Measured Breaking Torque||275 ft-lb||300 ft-lb||300 ft-lb||300 ft-lb||300 ft-lb|
|Measured Length||132 mm||116 mm||126 mm||161 mm||136 mm|
|Average Measured Sound Pressure Level||97 dBa||99 dBa||97 dBa||104 dBa||100 dBa|
|Quick Bit Insert?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Multiple Fastening Modes?||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
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 the controls are located on top of the driver's body. This driver has several settings, and because of the positioning, they are very easy 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 four times 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 each model took to drive a ½" by 3" lag bolt and then how long it took to back the fastener out. The Milwaukee M12, again, outperformed 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 tightened nut to 275 ft-lbs, but it took 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 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 three RPM options and 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 you can install 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 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 removed it. We continued with this process over and over until the batteries ran out of energy. The Milwaukee M12 Fuel could completely drive and remove the lag bolt twice and drive 40 ledger screws before the battery was toast. This driver 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 four times to calculate an average.
It produced an average of 97 dBa during our testing, which did not earn it a very good score for this metric. Regrettably, the M12 Fuel was far from quiet.
It's always a good idea to double-check with the manufacturer to see what type of personal protective equipment they suggest for the tool operator.
Should You Buy the Milwaukee M12 Fuel?
When it comes to 12-volt models, the M12 Fuel is the strongest, fastest, longest-lasting impact driver we've used. It can be a bit pricey, but like other Milwaukee drivers, if you already own an M12 battery and charger, the price tag is easier to swallow. This is our top choice for a high-performance impact driver in a compact, 12-volt package.
What Other Impact Drivers Should You Consider?
The Milwaukee M12 Fuel seems expensive, especially considering its limitations as a 12-volt impact driver. If you need the power, it is worth your while and extra expense to upgrade to the Milwaukee M18 Fuel. On the other hand, if you value saving a few bucks — or maybe you've already invested in a Ryobi charging station — consider the valuable and extra-powerful Ryobi P238.
— Ross Patton and Austin Palmer
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