Milwaukee 12V FUEL vs Surge Cordless Drill Reviews & Impact Drivers

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge Vs Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact Driver Thursday Throwdown!


Ever since the M12 Fuel Surge came out, we’ve been getting questions about how it compares to the rest of the 12V field. So we’re setting up against the best—the M12 Fuel Impact Driver. Go big or go home, right? It’s the Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge vs Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact Driver in this Red against Red Pro Tool Reviews Thursday Throwdown!

As always, we’re going point by point to see how these two impacts compare and call the winner as we go. Keep in mind that everyone has different priorities. One might rack up more points, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best impact driver for everyone.

We welcome your constructive comments and let us know why you prefer the Surge or the standard impact. Also, keep in mind that while we have invested hundreds of hours collecting head-to-head data, it’s impossible for us to test every possible scenario.

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Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge Vs Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact Driver

Let’s meet today’s competitors.

In the first corner, we have the Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge

  • Model: Milwaukee 2551-20
  • Power Source: Milwaukee M12 batteries
  • No-Load Speed: 0 – 3200 RPM
  • Max Torque: 450 in-lbs
  • Impact Rate: 0 – 3400 IPM

Read the standalone review here.

In the red corner, it’s the Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact Driver

  • Model: Milwaukee 2553-20
  • Power Source: Milwaukee M12 batteries
  • No-Load Speed: 0–3300 RPM
  • Max Torque: 1300 in-lbs
  • Impact Rate: 0 – 4000 IPM

Read the standalone review here.

The big difference between these two tools is that the M12 Surge is a hydraulic driver. It uses a hydraulic powertrain instead of a metal-to-metal impact mechanism. More traditionally, we call this oil impulse technology, and tools in this class deliver much less noise and vibration than traditional impact drivers. They also maintain their peak torque longer than standard impact drivers due to a longer strike duration.

Footprint

Milwaukee’s M12 Fuel impact driver sits at 5.2″ long and 6.8″ tall—a much more compact size than the previous version. The Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge has a big brother in the M18 Fuel Surge, so its size is unsurprisingly a big improvement for the 12V version. It’s 5.2″ and 6.8″ tall—exactly the same footprint as the impact driver.

Measuring with a digital caliper, the impact driver technically has a 0.04″ shorter head with an identical height. Essentially, it’s a tie.

Verdict: Tie

Weight

We measured both tools on a digital scale with and without their compact 2.0Ah batteries. The Surge’s hydraulic drive adds a little bit of weight, bringing it to 2.00 pounds bare and 2.41 pounds with a battery. The M12 Fuel impact driver is a little lighter at 1.78 pounds bare and 2.19 pounds with its battery.

While it’s not a huge difference, the impact driver has the advantage in weight.

Verdict: M12 Fuel Impact Driver

Feature Set

If you’re noticing already that these two tools have a lot in common, you’re going to see that trend continue in their feature sets.

  • Motor: Both tools have M12 Fuel brushless motors.
  • Collet: Both have one-hand bit insertion but no spring ejection.
  • Battery: Both use M12 stick pack battery, giving them thicker handles than slide style packs do.
  • Speeds: Both have 3 speeds and an assist mode controlled by the same electronic selector on top of the motor.
  • LED light: Both have the same LED light below the collet.

The only real difference is feature set is the drive system each tool uses. Is one better than the other? That’s where we’re heading next!

Verdict: Tie

Power

We have two ways to test impact driver power. In our fastening test, each impact driver fastens a hardened nut onto a bolt and we use a digital torque wrench to measure how much force it requires to break it. This test method does not give the same results as the manufacturer’s specification testing.

It takes an average of 804 in-lbs of torque to break what M12 Fuel impact driver fastens—the best of every 12V impact driver we’ve tested. The M12 Fuel Surge comes in and sets a new benchmark with 1026 in-lbs.

Advantage, Surge.

In our second test, we proof-load the same hardened nuts to specific intervals and see how much breaking force (nut-busting torque) each impact driver has.

Here, the M12 Fuel impact driver breaks 1680 in-lbs (140 ft-lbs) and the Surge puts a significant gap on it by breaking 2400 in-lbs (200 ft-lbs).

Despite having significantly less torque on paper, the hydraulic drive shows off its sustained muscle with a convincing win.

Verdict: M12 Fuel Surge

Fastening Speed

For fastening speed, we’re moving up to the reasonable limit of what we expect from our impact drivers before moving to an impact wrench. We used a 1/4″ lag screw to test which impact can keep its RPMs higher.

The M12 Fuel impact driver crushes the entire field of traditional impact driver at 397 RPM—more than 100 RPM faster than its closest competitor. The M12 Fuel Surge puts on a fine show, averaging 346 RPM in the same test, good enough for the second-fastest in the 12V class.

Verdict: M12 Fuel Impact Driver

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Fastening Efficiency

Fastening efficiency is how we measure the motor’s workload while driving. The closer its RPMs are to the no-load speed we tested while fastening, the less strain the motor is under.

The M12 Surge puts up a solid 11.1% efficiency, but it’s bested by the impact driver’s 12.4%.

Note that these are pretty low percentages that tell us we’re very close to the upper limit of how much these impact drivers can handle. If you’re doing a lot of fastening at the 1/4″ or higher size, we recommend moving up to an 18V impact driver or shifting to a 12V impact wrench.

Verdict: M12 Fuel Impact Driver

Noise

Milwaukee M12 Surge hydraulic impact

One of the major reasons to consider a hydraulic driver over a traditional impact driver is the noise level. The M12 Fuel impact driver is at the top of the range of 12V impacts, producing 100 dB(A) at 24″. The M12 Fuel Surge is much quieter than that or any other 12V model we tested at 87 dB(A)—a sound pressure level that’s more than 16x lower.

Verdict: M12 Fuel Surge

Available Batteries

Obviously, these two tools have the same batteries available to them since they use the same ones. If you’re new to the Milwaukee M12 system, here are the options you have to work with.

  • 1.5Ah
  • 2.0Ah
  • 3.0Ah
  • 4.0Ah
  • 6.0Ah

Verdict: Tie

Compatible Tools

Likewise, these tools have batteries that are compatible with the same system of tools. That said, Milwaukee has an incredibly deep line of tools and gear on their M12 system. It’s a huge win no matter which impact you choose.

Verdict: Tie

Price

You can buy each of these tools bare or with batteries and a charger. However, more 2-tool combo kits sell better than single tools, so we’ll consider them as well.

We encourage you to shop around to get the best deal. We price check Acme Tools and Home Depot (Milwaukee isn’t sold at Lowe’s). You might be able to find these on Amazon, but there are currently no authorized Milwaukee dealers there.

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge

  • 2551-20 Bare tool: $149
  • 2551-22 Kit with two 2.0Ah batteries: $199
  • 2582-22 Hammer Drill/Surge combo with one 2.0Ah battery and one 4.0Ah battery: $299

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact Driver

  • 2553-20 Bare tool: $119
  • 2553-22 Kit with 2.0Ah and 4.0Ah batteries: $169
  • 2598-22 Hammer Drill/Impact Driver combo with one 2.0Ah battery and one 4.0Ah battery: $229

There’s about a $30 premium for the M12 Fuel Surge, making the M12 Fuel impact driver the less expensive of the two no matter which kit you buy.

Verdict: M12 Fuel Impact Driver

Warranty

Same brand, same warranty. Milwaukee has one of the best in the business and they’ll cover either one of these for 5 years.

Verdict: Tie

Final Verdict

In this Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge Vs Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge Pro Tool Reviews Thursday Throwdown, the impact driver comes away with the overall win, 4–2 with 5 ties. These two are very close to each other, but the two areas that the Surge wins might be the tipping points in its favor despite the score.

Buy the Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge if you want the best power and lowest noise of any 12V impact driver.

Buy the Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact Driver if you prioritize a lower price, faster driving speed, and lower weight.

The bottom line is that both of these are incredible performers in the 12V class and the right answer might just be that you need both!

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Fee / FiveOhFour
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Fee / FiveOhFour

Now I wonder what the stubby’s fastening torque is. Lol sorry don’t hate me. Y’all should let me write for you then When I suggest something you can just make me do it. :D
I think I’m going to make one of your testing rigs regardless as I would like to throw some YouTube videos up occasionally on random tool comparisons. I want to test the Lennox recip blades right now and see if they really beat diablo’s Best.

MMJ
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MMJ

never mind these toys. you should be testing the 18V tools

Travis Northway
Member

My 4 YO prefers the noise lever of the M18 surge over the M18 impact. I’ve been considering the M12 lineup for awhile for compact driver duties, and the surge is high on my list; my only wish is the handle was smaller for his little hands

Dennis M Triggs
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Dennis M Triggs

Thanks for publishing this. On paper the m12 and m18 have the same specs. I’d love to see a head to head on that.

Mick
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Mick

One of my hesitations of the Surge was the [on paper] strength of it. 12v platforms are already on the lower end of torque relative to 18v, and I didn’t want something on the low end of the low end.

But with that out of the way, the Surge is back on my list. High torque and low noise? Sign me up!

Thanks PTR!