Milwaukee Delivers Outstanding Performance in First-Gen M18 Fuel Self-Propelled Lawn Mower
Two tools remain the most requested products by Milwaukee Tool fanatics since we started writing about them in 2008: the M18 Fuel track saw and the Milwaukee M18 Fuel lawn mower. One of those tools has finally come to fruition—and woodworkers: you’re going to have to keep on waiting. The Milwaukee M18 Fuel Self-Propelled Lawn Mower sports everything you might expect from the folks whose parent company put out a product that made the cut for our best lawn mower article. The question that remains is… Who is this mower for?
- Solid, durable construction
- Outstanding power
- Exellent cut quality
- Variable speed drive dial and thumb bar
- 180° LED lights
- Easily visible LED battery level indicator
- High lift mode for bagging a leaf collection
- Recessed presence bar
- Drive bar can lead to thumb fatigue
Milwaukee M18 Fuel Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Cutting Power
As we build our case for Milwaukee’s target user, we have to start with cutting power. Fortunately, that’s something we can quantify. We’ve seen high-end electric lawn mowers reach above 8 ft-lbs of torque. That’s an impressive number that beats some gas mowers.
Milwaukee uses two M18 batteries to reach 36V power and rates their self-propelled lawn mower at 10.0 ft-lbs of torque—more than you get from a 200cc gas engine. You have to have two batteries to run the mower. While you can use any two packs to run, the best performance and runtime come from two 12.0Ah High Output batteries.
We went out and tested in St. Augustine and Bahia that dominate our central Florida landscape. We hadn’t mowed our test lawn for about a month in anticipation of this test. With grass in some areas still 8 inches tall, we dropped the deck down to its lowest height (1-inch) to see how far it can go before clogging and stopping. It never stopped. The blade kept turning high RPMs and discharging the grass without a problem.
It’s obvious to our team that this mower has a ton of power and it’s clearly the strongest battery-powered lawn mower we’ve tested.
Milwaukee M18 Fuel Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Cut Quality
Before we jump into cut quality, there are two modes to work with that affect the performance. Standard mode runs exactly the way we’re used to from battery mowers: the brushless motor throttles down under light loads and automatically kicks up when the grass gets thicker (2800 – 3300 RPM). It has an impressive response time to the changing conditions and shifts more quickly than most mowers we’ve tested.
The second mode is specifically a high-RPM mode to increase the blade lift (3300 RPM constant). If you’re bagging your clippings or vacuuming leaves, it’s a more effective way to run even when the load is light.
The M18 Fuel mower has all the standard cutting options: mulch, bag, and discharge. With the mulch plug in, the mower does an excellent job of keeping the grass up in the deck and cutting it multiple times before dropping the small pieces back down to the grass. It’s interesting that Milwaukee didn’t go with a stacked blade system, but it doesn’t look like it would be much more of an advantage for mulching.
As we mentioned above, bagging is most effective in high-lift mode and it produces a ton of airflow into the bag. We didn’t have other mowers on hand to test side-by-side, but it’s obvious Milwaukee’s design is among the leaders in bagging efficiency.
Side discharge is something every design team has to decide on. On one hand, discharging clippings out the side of the deck does the best job of spreading them. On the other, you get better deck airflow for bagging and mulching without it.
Milwaukee’s team chose to go with a rear-mounted discharge. In our tests, it threw the grass about 8 feet. Since it’s a back-angled throw, it makes the spread closer to 5 feet to the side. That’s not as effective as high-end conventional side discharging. However, it’s better than most rear discharge mowers we’ve used and the design doesn’t add width to the mower.
As far as the finished look goes, we had a few straggling blades popping up, but overall, the cut was very even.
Milwaukee M18 Fuel Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Runtime
With the questions of power and cut quality out of the way, we turned to runtime. Milwaukee offers some helpful estimates. In standard cutting mode with a pair of 12.0Ah High Output batteries, expect runtime up to an hour. That assumes you’re mulching, removing one inch of grass, and running the drive at 3.0 MPH. In terms of professional lawn crew use, that’s enough to cover three homes sitting on 1/4-acre lots.
When you’re running in high-lift mode, that estimate drops to 40 minutes.
We went out and cut our test lawn in mulching mode, taking 4 – 6 inches in most areas with several thicker sections. It’s what we expect from 8 – 10 days of growth and far tougher than a standard maintenance cut. By the time the mower quit, we ran for 43 and a half minutes. Given our testing conditions, Milwaukee’s 60-minute estimate in maintenance cut conditions seems right on.
Milwaukee M18 Fuel Self-Propelled Lawnmower Design and Features
As we unboxed the mower and assembled the handle, we were impressed by the quality of the build. The steel deck is solid and there’s very little flex in the frame.
The tires have a slightly softer feel that gives them excellent grip and the wheels spin smoothly without the wobble you get from some mowers.
Overall, this is one of the best-built battery-powered mowers we’ve seen.
The mower is adjustable up to 4.0 MPH with an infinite roller adjustment. Just down from your left hand during operation, you roll the dial to the speed you want. It’s stiff enough to hold its position while you’re bumping around the lawn, but not so stiff that it’s difficult to adjust on the fly.
To engage the drive, you press a thumb bar down in the center. It’s large enough to accommodate multiple hand positions and overmold keeps your thumbs from slipping off. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of thumb bars because they tend to cause some fatigue during use and that’s the case for Milwaukee as well. I greatly prefer a second bar that pulls up to the main handle with a more natural grip.
However, Milwaukee did something that’s unusual for a self-propelled lawn mower. In addition to the roller dial speed adjustment, the thumb bar is also a variable speed controller. If you come across a section of grass you need to slow down for, just ease up on the drive bar instead of reaching over to adjust the roller.
Some mowers have chronic issues releasing the wheels to pull the mower back. We had the wheels stick on us a couple of times in our initial tests, but the majority of the time they release easily.
Milwaukee’s 21-inch steel deck ranges from 1 – 4 inches with a single-point adjustment in 7 increments. It’s a little unusual for such a well-built mower to opt for a single-point over 2 or 4-point, but we’ll take the more convenient operation. Time will tell if there’s any downside, but we don’t have any cause for concern at this point.
The fact that there are LED lights on the front of the mower isn’t a big deal. The fact that there’s another set on the side is. Instead of just lighting up what’s in front of you, the additional lights on the side give you a much better picture of what you’re mowing.
When you’re not mowing in low or no light conditions, just leave the lights off. There’s an on/off button right next to the speed adjustment.
There’s another set of LED lights facing you as you mow. These red bars are battery level indicators and it’s SOOOO nice to be able to just look down and have an idea of how much capacity is remaining.
- Handle easily folds for vertical storage
- Bag fits between the handle frame, making installation and removal easier
- Drive system engages even if the blade is off
- Presence bar recesses into the handle
- 3 handle height positions
- Front and rear deck handles make storage and trasportation easier
- Weighs 85 pounds with two 12.0Ah batteries
Milwaukee M18 Fuel Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Price
The last piece of the puzzle is the price. You can get Milwaukee’s mower for $1099 with two 12.0Ah batteries and a dual-port rapid charger. At the time we’re updating this article, Acme Tools still has it for $999, though. There’s no bare tool option at the moment.
Is that expensive? Yes. If you’re comparing it to even high-end residential mowers, it’s an eye-popping number. But Milwaukee is targetting professional lawn care crews, and that’s a whole different class. Those mowers can start north of $800 and run $1300 or more for a similar 21-inch build.
Note that Milwaukee’s warranty is 3 years on both the mower and the batteries.
Replacement stock blades are available for $24.99 each. There’s also a more aggressive high lift blade that’s $29.99.
The Bottom Line
After taking a comprehensive look at the Milwaukee 2823 M18 Fuel Self-Propelled Lawn Mower, we believe it’s the most capable professional-grade battery-powered option currently available. It has legitimate professional gas-replacement power and a build that can handle professional use, though there are still a few minor areas for improvement in the design. If performance has been your major sticking point against battery-powered lawn mowers, Milwaukee has breached that barrier.
So what do YOU think about this new lawn mower from Milwaukee Tool? Share your thoughts in the comments below—we’d love to hear from you!
Milwaukee M18 Fuel Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Specifications
- Model: Milwaukee 2823-22HD
- Power Source: 2 x M18 batteries
- Voltage: 36V
- Deck: 21-inch steel
- Deck Height: 1 – 4 inches
- Grass Management: Bag, mulch, rear discharge
- Drive Speed: 0 – 4.0 MPH
- Weight: 85 lbs with two 12.0Ah batteries
- Warranty: 3 years
- Price: $1099 kit