This is Milwaukee’s M12 Fuel SURGE hydraulic impact driver, which I’m sure you’ve seen or heard about by now. We posted about the M12 Surge shortly after it was announced, and the M18 Surge has been on the market for a few years longer.
See Also: Milwaukee M18 Fuel SURGE Hydraulic Driver: 12 Things You Should Know
As you might know, the Surge is all about being quieter.
When is the last time you drive in a lag screw, deck screw, or other larger fastener with a cordless drill? I can’t do it anymore – well I can, but I’d really prefer not to, as impact drivers often provide a faster and easier experience and without any kickback.
Here are 5 reasons you might want to consider Milwaukee’s M12 Surge hydraulic impact driver for your fastening needs:
1. Milwaukee M12 Fuel SURGE is Quieter
As I had just mentioned, the Surge is about being quieter, and it’s something you really have to experience to understand. It still delivers an impact-like torque pulse, but without the sharp *clang clang clang* metal-on-impact sounds of a traditional impact driver.
Use this tool, and your ears will thank you.
2. M12 is a Great Complementary Platform
Every now and then I engage in an internal philosophical discussion. How do I feel about 12V class vs. 18V (and 20V Max) class cordless power tools?
These days, 18V-class tools are becoming more compact, and brands are shifting to 36V, 40V Max, 60V Max, and other higher voltage platforms to deliver far more cordless power than tools from even a couple of years ago were capable of.
Milwaukee’s M12 system is vast and diverse, and they haven’t showed any signs of slowing momentum.
I can all but convinced that anyone buying the M12 Surge either already owns another Milwaukee M12 tool, or tools, or more tools will be in their near future.
I’m of the continued stance that 12V-class tools are great complements to 18V-class tools, as least in regard to tools of overlapping type and functionality.
If you bought into a competing brand’s 18V or 20V Max class cordless power tool system, the M12 Surge and M12 system offers more non-overlapping opportunities than the M18.
3. It Gets the Job Done
In my experience, the M12 Surge doesn’t quite stand up to the performance of leading 18V-class cordless impact drivers, but it does provide enough power for most of my needs. And even when a larger tool might be faster, the M12 Surge is smaller and lighter, making it a better fit for tighter spaces or overhead tasks.
4. It’s Becoming Harder to Justify 12V-Class Impact Drivers
With 18V-class brushless impact drivers getting smaller and smaller, all the while not sacrificing power or speed, it’s hard to justify buying a 12V-class impact driver.
I typically use an 18V compact brushless model almost exclusively, and some brands’ 12V-class impacts just don’t post any competition.
I will occasionally reach for a 12V-class cordless drill, and certainly 12V-class cordless screwdrivers, but impact drivers have somewhat lost my favor.
But this – the Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge – it offers a different experience than typical compact brushless impacts, and to me it helps it stand out a lot more.
I tend to use a compact screwdriver (or a drill) for smaller screws and light fastening tasks, and an 18V-class impact (or wrench) for heavier duty work. Where does a 12V-class impact driver fit into all this?
5. 4-Mode Drive Control
Are you still using a brushed motor impact driver?
With the Surge, as with other modern brushless impact drivers – except entry-level options of course – you get several speed and torque settings, plus a self-tapping screw mode that helps to reduce stripped or overdriven fasteners.
In my opinion, this makes the Surge a great complement to many different types of users, including those who have yet to upgrade from a brushed or earlier generation brushless impact driver.
Bonus: FREEBIE with Purchase!
At the time of this posting, Acme Tools and Tool Nut (links below) have a freebie promo offer, where you buy the M12 Fuel Surge kit and can select a free Milwaukee bare tool or battery of your choice.
To choose the free tool, add the kit to your shopping cart and then select the free tool. The offer is valid thru 7/31/20, or while supplies last.
Freebie tool selection is slim, but there are a couple of options, all decent. Personally, I’d go with the XC 6Ah battery as the freebie, with the Rover LED worklight my second choice.
Price: $149 for the bare tool, $199 for the kit
Buy Now: Bare Tool via Acme Tools
Buy Now: Bare Tool via International Tool
Buy Now: Bare Tool via Tool Nut
Buy Now: Kit via Tool Nut
Buy Now: Kit via Acme Tools
Reason #4 above sounds like a reason why I shouldn’t buy one of these. And honestly, it’s the Exact reason why I don’t buy one. I have a Dewalt brushless 20v impact driver….but still want one of these for my Milwaukee 12 v platform. My Dewalt 20v, 3 speed, brushless was under $100. I can’t see spending $150 for a 12v….A price of $99, or $89 makes more sense. The lower decibels doesn’t make a difference to me. I have never used a drill or driver so loud that I needed hearing protection. This tool is a want, rather than need for anyone who owns a 20v or 18v impact driver. But I still want one!!!
I’ll pick up my m12 surge over my normal m18 hex first. Small foot print and a bit more pleasant to the ears. Both the m12 and m18 surge impacts have the same torque specs, so this actually one 12v tool you won’t see power loss compared to the big brother. If you need to be driving huge lags all day, yeah go with high torque drivers. If you’re doing screws and what not, m12 surge is just fine.
I’m in the automotive industry. The smaller, more compact design is a must for under dash fastener work or even some tight spaces under the hood/engine bay. The larger battery on the 18v units are too large to fit in tight spaces. It is the main reason the ratchets are only offered in the 12v platform I believe. Of course there are different situations/circumstances for different industry duties! I opted for the 12 v hacksawl for the compacted design over the 18 as well. It may have a little less punch, though when paired with the proper blade, it cuts through exhaust pipe like butter!
This is their FUEL line, which is more expensive than the regular M12 line. I can tell you after using a typical impact all day, that this is definitely a treat to our ears. I mean, I typically wear ear plugs all the time anyway, but every db you lower on the jobsite helps.
M12 aside … all impacts, with even the quieter “oil” impulse models considered, are loud enough to justify hearing protection. If you’re using them for any consistent length of time, you’re doing damage to your hearing. Throw in some plugs, friend.
That said, even if the “50%” reduction is suspect, my M12 Surge is SIGNIFICANTLY quieter than my standard M12 impact. So much nicer to use inside of a cabinet, or in a small room, enclosed garage, etc. The torque is satisfactory for driving screws all day long without missing a beat. Save the 18v for large lags. This will handle just about everything else.
Instead of paying $150 for the surge, which being quieter isn’t something you care about. Then just get the non surge M12 Fuel impact. It’s right at $100 most times with near constant sales and according to most YouTube reviews and comparisons, is actually a little more powerful than the surge (being quieter comes at a small cost in power)
Short of a full day of construction or building, I never reach for a 18v-20v anymore.
Dude – you need hearing protection. Take it from a guy who didn’t and is paying for it now.
Beyond that, the Surge is quiet (no problem believing the 50% reduction at all), is comfortable to use for long periods of time (less vibration), really light and very powerful. All the M18 model offers is more battery life and compatibility if you only have that platform. There’s no power advantage, etc. (both 3400BPM, 3000RPM, 450 in-lb). No idea what #4 means – if you’re picking up an unnecessarily-heavy tool when the lighter tool offers the performance to do the job, you’re torturing yourself for nothing. And 12v tools fit in spaces 18v won’t.
I’ll never go back to a regular impact if I don’t have to, and Milwaukee is clearly committed to the 12v product line. The Surge is easily one of my favorite and most-used power tools.
I do use hearing protection, and have been eyeing the Surge impact drivers for a while.
What are the pros/cons of getting this over the M18 surge driver?
Pros – smaller, lighter, less expensive, newer, cuter
Cons – less power/torque, different battery/platform, potential money pit in buying even more tools
12V tools are great for everyday/DIY use and for anything on a jobsite where you don’t NEED 18V+ power/torque. They are particularly nice if you’re holding a drill for several hours a day and the lighter weight makes for less fatigue and overall easier handling.
The only big downside is if you don’t already own any tools in the 12V line, then you’re starting down the path of a new platform, and Milwaukee makes a lot in the 12V line that isn’t in their 18V line, so you wind up finding a lot of new tools to buy.
If you already have the 18V tools, then I’d say get the 18V driver, unless you want to give the 12V version a whirl or have other 12V tools already and want the smaller size driver.
Actually same specs as M18. So if you’re already in m12 theres no downside.
I like the brushed Bosch 12V platform more, since you can get a drill and impact driver for -$80-99. Of course their impact driver isn’t hydraulic, but they do also offer a compact non-impact driver as well, making it quite the set to have for the price.
$149-199 seems pretty pricey for a single tool, though the newer Bosch 12V brushless stuff is priced about the same.
That’s the price you pay for their FUEL line, since it is for professional, daily use.
I use m12 Fuel exclusively for over 4 years now. Just my old m12 fuel drill finally crapped out. I bought the newer generation drill and may try to get the old one fixed, not sure. Every m12 Milwaukee tool I use (I have alot) has performed to my satisfaction. My 1/4 inch fuel ratchet is worth every penny. Yes they cost more, but they do more and if you are a professional like me, you will appreciate the line.
I have the M18 surge and the DeWalt XR impact driver as well. The surge isn’t as powerful, but it is quieter and smoother. I find myself favoring it 95% of the time for pretty much everything. It is a pleasure to use. If I need repetitive driving of 2″+ screws then I grab the dewalt, but the surge is more easily to finesse. The surge cost me $80 as a bare tool.
I was going to buy one of these on a promo but my local HD was sold out, so I bought an M12 inspection scope instead (forgetting I already owned Ryobi Tek4 and a Milwaukee 9v scopes).
I do have the Ridgid Stealth pulse driver and enjoy using it. Much quieter than a conventional impact driver and powerful enough for most tasks.
I have the m12 surge, the m18 surge and well lots of other milwaukee products.
You could say that I am all in.
My review of the m12 surge…
Its a great everyday carry. I use this for most of my projects.
The M12 is just as powerful as some of the other brands 18 or 20v.
Its light and compact. why would you want to carry a 18v drill with a big battery when you could carry the smaller version that takes care of 75%+ of daily tasks.
I dont care what brand you carry, if their 12v is strong, get it. I bet you will find it a daily user.
I agree. I bought a Hitachi 12v Drill/Impact combo, then bought more from pawn shops just to have in multiple rooms. They cover most of my needs quite well and are smaller/lighter than my 18v Ryobi stuff. I do like the Ryobi’s but currently don’t use them much. Since I just started buying Makita, I probably won’t buy as much 18v Ryobi. I do love quiet tools, but not worth it given how seldomly I use them. I’d absolutely buy if I was a pro.
I’ve been carrying/using an M12 Fuel Gen 2 impact driver as the only power tool in my initial-carry-in too bag for years. Last fall I bought into the hype of the surge during a $199 with free battery promo. I used it for almost 6 months, and returned it. Yes it’s quieter (I still laugh at the “2 times quieter” claim – it mathematically makes no sense), but that was its only advantage. It ran through batteries like nothing else, and consistently stalled while using a 1″ spade bit in a single layer of 5/8″ drywall. Additionally, it doesn’t eliminate kickback to the degree that a traditional impact driver does.
If there’s ever a Gen 2 model, I may give it a try, but for now, I’m back to a traditional impact driver.
Db measurements are logarithmic so every 10db is a doubling in sound pressure levels. But it’s a weighted measurement that Is highly dependent on measurement conditions and doesn’t always correlate to perception at the human ear. In general, every 3 dB is a doubling in perceived loudness. But adjusting for the typical audible spectrum of the human ear, it’s better to use phons or sones but still, it’s subjective.
The surge doesn’t seem strictly 1/2 as loud, but it does dip the loudness peak into a range where repeated use is less likely to result in long term hearing damage. Don’t put it next to your head though. The measurements were probably taken at a meter away.
That’s why you don’t use a typical drill bit in an impact driver. Some brands are starting to make impact drill bits, but i still don’t like using them compared to a drill and spade/paddle bit, regardless of the material I’m drilling into.
The surge excels in multiple areas:
The sustained pulse helps drive long screws faster and more smoothly than with an impact. Sure, an impact will put out more maximum torque, but in shorter bursts that lead to more stripped screws in my experience.
Its low power mode is excellent as well…the 12v is awesome for removing and replacing panels on HVAC units without stripping out the sheet metal.
With a 6AH battery, I also have no trouble drilling 1 3/8″ holes in 16 gauge galvanized ductwork with an impact rated hole saw.
That said, i wouldnt use it for spade bits.
Impacts? Ingersall Rand makes the best cordless impact driver. It is industrial grade.
That would be a subjective statement. I’m running Milwaukee M18 Fuel series and drive over 1200 + screws/ lags/bolts and not to mention drilling through plate steel with my M18 Fuel impact everyday for the last year+ including accidental dropping from heights of up to 20′ and absolutely never an issue. Generally only use 1 1/2 small pancake batteries a day of damn near nonstop use, extreme hot and cold conditions, wet conditions and never 1 hiccup or a sign of slowing down. I make my living off of these machines and is the most used tool in my toolbox and personally I would never gamble my income on another brand. Not to mention seeing other brands break and burn up under the same amount of pressure while the Milwaukee powers through.
All of the guys on my jobsites lately that are,… were using IR are breaking, smoking, flat out not working, dropping and cracking their tools. I’m not sure what the deal is, but a few have switched and upgraded to Ryobi or Rigid. I tell them to bight the bullet and spend a few dollars more and get a professional grade tool set, like Milwaukee or even a DeWalt.
IR, Delta-Regis and Atlas-Copco cordless screwdrivers seem to be more popular in factory/assembly work as opposed to the construction trades. With tools like the Delta Regis ESBb6-X12 18V cordless screwdriver selling for around $800 and their cordless angle-head drivers selling for $1400 to $2400 – these tools don’t offer much price appeal, compared to Milwaukee, Makita, Dewalt et al. for the DIY or contractor markets.
When I retired – we were still using mostly pneumatics on our shop floor – but could “read the tea leaves” that cordless tools were making inroads.
I work in apartment maintenance and the M12 Surge is my go-to driver. Switched from the M18 Surge and have no regrets. The main reason for me using a Surge instead of a traditional impact is noise reduction. When working in occupied units I try to be as unobtrusive as I can, especially now with so many people working from home.
This is probably a bit too expensive and special-use for me to prioritize it’s purchase, but I appreciate the pleasure of having just the right tool for the job. I could see adding it to my collection some day.
I have a 12v Dewalt drill, a compact 18v Bosch drill and a heavy-duty brushless 18v Ridgid hammer drill – and even a Dewalt 20v high-torque 7/16 impact wrench.
They all drill holes and there’s definitely overlap between them.
It’s nice to pull out the Dewalt to speed up furniture assembly or other light-duty tasks. My Bosch is old and wimpy for an 18v-class tool, but it’s light and I like the ergonomics and tactile feedback so I still use it a lot.
The Ridgid is heavy-duty, but also heavy – and kind of loud. However, it’s way lighter than the Dewalt 7/16 impact (which now gets used way less since I bought the Ridgid). The Dewalt is a monster and is what I reach for if I need extreme power.
If I could only have one it would be the Ridgid – but the weight, noise, and precision would sure have me missing the others if I tried to use it to assemble furniture, for example.
how does the hydraulic surge match up against the screw driver device. As lack of strong impact strength I would think the shift would be to pick up the screw driver device (team red has 2 don’t they?) vs this. While like you said keeing the 18V strong but compact impactor with controls.
Similar in the yellow world while they don’t may a surge device I would be inclined to get the 12V screw driver device while also running the 3sp 20V impactor which I do have. And I would say similar of the other color brands I’ve cross shopped for people.
I have the M18 Surge and the first gen M12 screwdriver, so not really a fair comparison, but there’s no contest in power, speed, or capabilities. I hear the M12 Surge is pretty similar to the M18. I’m sure the M12 Fuel screwdriver is a beast but I have no doubt the Surge would smoke it in any contest. I’d love to see a video comparison of that, though!
For smaller fasteners, I like a clutch for repeatability and control. The Surge offers some control, due to the mode selection, but you don’t need an impact driver for smaller fasteners, say #6 or #8 x 1″ and under.
But for construction fasteners, say #10 x 2-1/2″ and larger, the speed and ease is incomparable between a cordless screwdriver and an impact.
It’s similar to the choosing between 12V and 18V class cordless drills, but compact 12V impacts also face overlap with compact 12V screwdrivers, which I really tend to like using for lighter tasks.
Screwdriver: light to medium duty
12V Impact: medium to heavy duty
18V Impact: medium to very heavy duty
The Surge can handle lag screws and deck screws, but larger and longer fasteners do benefit from a high-powered tool.
12V-class impacts are definitely worthwhile, but it depends on user needs and the fastener and material sizes they work with.
If it helps, I guess I would say that I use cordless screwdrivers for finishing applications. Impacts and the Surge can handle the same, but not with quite as much finesse.
I have both the M18 and M12 Surge drivers. I have been amazed by just how much power there is in the little M12.
Been cutting a portal between two buildings and we encountered a little problem, one floor is 10″ higher. Of course, we started on the low side.
Thankfully hadn’t pulled our bracing yet. Had to pull the header and jack studs, and nobody wanted to pry the 3 layers of 6by apart on the jack studs to renail normally. Able to get the nailer(M18 framer is the PIMP! by the way) and nail from behind, but we wanted some strong insurance. Had a box of GRK 5 5/8″ handy. Using the M12 we sunk the heads about a half inch into the top layer, giving enough penetration into the original stud without having to delay another day and make a store run.
90% of the work that 90% of people who own a cordless drill or are in the market for a cordless drill can be done with a 12v system. 18v is simply overkill and is higher in price when buying from the same brand.
I have a 12v surge and I really like it. Mostly because it makes less noise. It has done every job I’ve asked it to including drilling though concrete in order to put in anchors of various kinds and sizes.
It’s smaller and therefore takes up less room in my bag which I travel with on subways with. Smaller tool = more space for other tools!
I also have the mini charger which is powered by any cellphone wall charger. It is at least 60% smaller than the regular Milwaukee charger included with their tools and in my opinion is a must have
Agreed. But here’s the problem – what happens when you come across a task where a 12V tool isn’t powerful enough? That’s why I tend to see 12V as a complement to 18V.
I also travel by subway. I have 3 go bags that are fully equipped with different compact setups. I consider the task at hand each day and opt whether or not to bring bigger guns. When I’m riding in by train, it’s generally detail work – installs, finish work, assembly. For what I do, if I’m on a new build site or in a shop, they’ll have the bigger stuff if it comes up.
Space in the kit is at a premium. 2 hrs commute with 60lbs of gear on my person on top of an 8-14hr day is miserable.
But I do have a van and sometimes gear up for big projects or if I’m running a crew. But it doesn’t save any time and then you’re minding a parking meter all day, if you can find a spot.
Therefore 12v 🙂
Or just move closer to your average work site?
I believe this is how the West was won. :p
So imagine we lived in an alternate reality where for years all we had were quite hydraulic impact drivers like the surge, quiet strike, stealth force (lol), and the blue one. Then some company releases what we know of as a traditional impact driver – loud, obnoxious, slightly different performance characteristics, etc. What would we think? Would anyone be excited about that?
Tim the Toolman Taylor is not in this timeline.
I’m having a hard time imagining a timeline where fluid dynamics are developed before the hammer.
I have one of these and love it. I can do house projects when the kids are asleep and not cringe at the ear shattering noise. It is a joy to use.
Previously had a gen1 m12 fuel impact. Traded up to a surge and I couldn’t be happier with the purchase. I’m trying out a small bit kit that includes some drill and driver bits that are impact rated so I only have to carry my surge for house projects instead of two tools. It’s not quite as nice to drill with but it’s good enough, quiet enough, and lighter than carrying two tools.
I can’t express how much of an incredible tool a hydraulic driver is. Seems to be just as fast, very smooth, and so quiet you don’t need heating protection in my opinion. I listened to so many video comparisons and it didn’t sound that different, but when you do a side by side with a traditional impact-it’s jaw dropping.
Helps so much when working in occupied spaces, and in cabinets and other enclosed areas where the sound bounces, and around metal surfaces.
I have the m18 surge, for reference
My wife & kids hate the sound of a regular impact lol. Hydraulic impacts are the only way to go.
Thanks for the ToolNut link. Got the kit with the extra batteries. Happy Fathers Day to me.
I’ve had and used the M18 Surge for a number of yours. I’ve not picked it up once since the M12 Surge version was recently delivered. I don’t do deck size 8-10” lag bolts either.
To me they’re all 12v reinforcements to my original purchases of the Bosch 12V system. So I’ve got both. The Bosch still “feel” better in my hands but I’m ever more often just using the M12 versions.
Neither are HoleHawg or Sawzall equivalents but nor do they weigh a half ton each or have the ability to literally twist you off a ladder by accident.
I have an M18 (2760-20) surge too – that I rarely use anymore.
I use a 2765-20 M18 7/16 driver for landscape projects and pick up my older M12 2401-20 non-impact screwdriver for most repair and shop work. But being retired for some years – my focus has shifted and the kids seem to have slowed down on getting me working on major projects.
Tempting but the newest Makita 18v is much quieter than other impacts I’ve used and I generally don’t need ear protection using it. Sill curious to try a hydraulic driver.
Slightly off topic, but I repaired a table that I bought for the work area in my basement. My wife managed to break it in two, by stacking heavy stuff about 5 feet on top of it while the extension was in… Urrr. Anyway, I screwed some long boards underneath it and used those star screws after drilling pilot holes. Man did they go in easily! I thought they were a lot easier than Philips… No cam out at all. I wonder why we even still use the Philips?
We probably still use Phillips mostly because of force of habit. But in manufacturing cam-out can actually be OK to prevent overdriving although there are more precise ways (like torque controlled drivers) to accomplish this.
At an extra $100.00 over the other 12m fuel driver. Currently $99.99 with battery and I want to say charger and a bag. Seems like a lot of money for being 2x quieter? Oh but you do get two 2.0 batteries with the surge. Can take that extra hondo and buy a m12 fuel hammer drill with a battery and case. So $200.00 for a drill, a driver, two batteries and two soft bags for the cost of one surge driver.
Take and sell either the driver or hammer drill on ebay with the fixings for about $ 130$. After shipping and fee’s pocket $10.00 and you have the one you didn’t sell for free.
My bad, if money was no object, I would run with the surge for sure.
Noise is the #1 complaint or comment we get from our wealthy clients when doing custom cabinet installs (at least that we can control). We now mostly use cordless nailers, though i still prefer pneumatic. The Surge is on the wishlist that has been put off due to Covid. $100 is a pretty small price to pay to keep clients happy when you’re talking about $30 to $50k worth of cabinets per job. We feel it’s the small things that often drive our repeat business when a client decides to add a job such as redoing a closet or some built-ins down the road. We don’t leave a mess and obviously do our best to contain dust with our costlier HEPA-rated dust extraction so reducing noise pollution in a client’s home seems like a no-brainer. As more clients will probably be working from home post-Covid, I feel the noise reduction will be even more valuable.
I could totally understand the need for the surge in your situation. I might even put a couple wraps of something around it , just to silence it a bit more.
I hope they did a better job at building the 12 Volt the 18 surge is junk it will not stand up to continued use not one of the 5 18 volt surge lasted more then 60 days, I switched back to marital and it is a far superior tool to the Milwaukee
Makita’s 18v is nicer, if they made a 12v I would certainly buy that over the M12.
I love my MIJ soft impact – my most used cordless tool and would absolutely buy a cxt version!
Absolutely; the soft impact is amazing.
So do i understand this correctly that all the vendors who use this type of technology consist of Milwaukee, Ryobi and Ridgid. So all TTi companies. Correct?
This seems appealing especially for 3/8 size models.
Makita has one as well, and I think they were first to market
I am going to say that this home depot deal here is pretty good for a surge 18V , two batteries -5ah and 2 ah, charger nd a bag for $199.99.
Think I may buy it?
The m12 surge has become my go to impact since I got it a couple of months ago
Just my opinion, but Makita’s Oil Impulse ‘Soft Impact’ driver (18v) is the best hydro-driver on the market.
Which one is quieter?
I’ve got a whole stable of M18 but the M12 Surge, just like everyone else has said, is my go-to. I love the balance of it and I have yet to wish I had more battery life or torque. The reduced sound is nice but for me the biggest upside is the ability to fasten everything from delicate cabinet hardware to long deck screws. For someone who hasn’t experience it, the impact ‘feel, for lack of a better term, is very unique…like pushing your kid on a swing after your hands are on his back compared to making hard contact and smacking him forward every time- you get the same result but the point of impact is TOTALLY different. The level of control it provides in light applications is night and day compared to a regular impact.