Isn’t it satisfying when you haven’t seen someone in a while and their first question is, “Have you been working out?” Way back in April 2016, I reviewed Milwaukee’s M12 Drain Snake and found it clears small stoppages like waste arms really well. It easily maneuvers into small cabinet spaces, it’s cordless, and the enclosed drum keeps the workspace relatively clean. Well, It looks like the Drain Snake has been watching its macros and hitting the gym because it’s all beefed up! The Milwaukee M18 Fuel Drain Snake with Cable Drive recently swaggered into the Curry & Company shop and started bragging about how much it could bench.
Ok, not exactly, but it certainly looks like it’s capable of doing more work than its smaller iteration. And it’s not just a more powerful tool – it has some important feature improvements that I’m ready to test on site.
Drain clogs are by far and away the most common plumbing service call. Sure, sometimes they happen because little Johnny or Susie threw some LEGOs in the toilet. Or sometimes grease that can’t pass through the trap finally builds up too much. But quite often, we find a pipe that’s been compromised by age restricting the flow. Time and sludge have cooperated to block the line. Veteran plumbing Pros won’t be surprised – but a lot of homeowners are – when the tiniest root senses moisture and grows through the joint of a galvanized pipe. Whatever the cause, the first line of defense is a cable that can break the logjam and get water flowing freely again. Let’s see if the Drain Snake’s M18 version is up to the task.
Motor, Electronics, Battery
Regular readers and avid tool fans will recognize the three horsemen of Milwaukee’s Fuel system that powers the new Drain Snake: a PowerState Brushless Motor, RedLink Plus intelligence, and RedLithium batteries. What’s significant about all that? First, brushless motors last longer and require less maintenance than brushed motors. Mechanical contact inside a brushed motor produces friction and wear. But brushless motors not only last longer, they can make a tool smart. Milwaukee’s intelligence – Redlink Plus – allows the battery and motor to communicate, optimizing performance and preventing damage from thermal overload. The RedLithium batteries round out the trifecta as the powerful fuel source.
Cable Drive and Cables
The original M12 Drain Snake had a slide action cable lock mechanism but you still had to pull out the cable manually. Perhaps the most significant improvement the company’s made with the Milwaukee M18 Fuel Drain Snake is the patented Cable Drive. It’s a self-feeding and retraction mechanism that eliminates the need to manually push or pull the cable. No touching a “goopy” cable? Sounds good to me. And it looks to feed and retract quickly. You might have seen videos of the M18 handily beating a competitor’s corded drain snake at the 2017 Milwaukee New Product Symposium. Of course, the demonstration was in nice, clean pipe – but it’s likely still faster all things equal. In short, Cable Drive is designed to allow the user to feed, twist lock, and retract the cable into the enclosed drum without touching it.
But Cable Drive isn’t the only cable-related improvement. Whereas the M12 held 25 feet of 1/4- to 5/16-inch Inner Core Cable, the M18 can double that. It holds 50 feet of 1/4-inch Inner Core Cable, as well as 35 feet of both 5/16- and 3/8-inch. Both the M12 and M18 accept other cable brands.
Variable Speed Trigger
Both Drain Snakes feature a variable speed trigger for 0 – 500 RPM. But Cable Drive allows the Milwaukee M18 Fuel Drain Snake to feed up to 8-inches per second. The manual feed of the M12 had no such measure.
Enclosed Drum and Bucket
Traditionally, it seemed as if clearing a clog was the focus and mess containment was an afterthought. But as a practical matter, keeping customers’ homes as clean as possible during the job is important. It saves you time and leaves a good impression. Milwaukee accomplished mess containment with a fully-enclosed drum in the M12 and of course, it’s the heart of the M18, too. Moreover, I suspect automatic retraction of the Cable Drive will keep it even cleaner because less dirty cable will be exposed in the process.
So what happens to all the sludge in the drum? Well, ultimately you’ll need to remove the drum and clean it at the shop. But for the distance between the customer’s house and the shop, the Drain Snake is itself contained in Milwaukee’s specially-designed bucket. The M12 came with a regular 5-gallon bucket, but the new M18 fits like a glove into what looks like a slick Milwaukee trashcan. In fact, some of my fellow plumbers asked me where I bought the cool trashcan! The Drain Snake fits nose-down in the bucket. There’s even a plastic tool bin that sits over the Snake’s handle under the lid, which then latches closed.
Other Notable Features
I’m going to have to put both of these snakes on scale because I’m not sure there’s an apples to apples comparison in the weight specs. The bare M12 specs show 10.25 pounds and the bare M18 specs show 10.0 pounds but I don’t think that can be correct. Of course, the overall weight will depend on the cable used, but the bigger tool almost certainly weighs more.
The LED work light made the transition from the original to the new Milwaukee M18 Fuel Drain Snake with Cable Drive. I also like the 5-year tool, 3-year battery, and 2-year cable warranty.
The Milwaukee M18 Fuel Drain Snake with Cable Drive looks so promising that I couldn’t keep my initial impressions to myself. With some limited testing, it certainly looks like a winner. But I haven’t had enough time with it in the field to give you a really thorough report. So stay tuned – my thoughts on its performance are imminent!
Milwaukee M18 Fuel Drain Snake with Cable Drive Features
- PowerState Brushless Motor delivers maximum power 50-feet down the line
- RedLink Plus Intelligence ensures maximum performance under load and improves control throughout the entire process
- RedLithium Batteries power through multiple jobs on a single charge, the first to bring cordless mobility, safety, and power supply to the drain cleaning industry
- Cable Drive Locking Feed System maintains selected feed speed, and auto-adjusts to compatible cable sizes for the best cable grip when feeding and working the clog
- Fully Enclosed Drum: Best protection and mess containment
- LED Light: Illuminates work area underneath sinks and other dark spaces
Milwaukee M18 Fuel Drain Snake with Cable Drive Specifications
- Item Number:
- 2772A-20 (Bare)
- 2772A-21 (Kit A)
- 2772B-21XC (Kit B)
- Voltage: 18V
- Cable Lock: Yes, Twist Lock
- Feed Lock: Yes, Twist Lock
- Powered Cable Feed and Retract: Yes, Cable Drive
- Variable Feed Speed: 0 – 8 inches Per Second
- Variable Spin Speed: 0-500 RPM
- Warranty: 5 Years Tool, 2 Years Cable
- Cable Locking Mechanism: Yes, Twist Lock
- Length: 19.5 inches
- Weight: 10.0 pounds
- Height: 11.25 inches
- Width: 10.00 inches
- Inner Core Cable Capacity:
- 1/4 inch x 50 feet
- 5/16 inch x 35 feet
- 3/8 inch x 35 feet
- Tool Warranty: 5 Year Tool, 2 Year Cable
- Accepts Other Brand Cables: Yes