Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge Hydraulic Driver Video Review

Lets face it – impact drivers are loud and it’s just a fact of life so we’ll just have to live with it. WRONG! There are options out there that offer us the usefulness of an impact driver with about half the noise. This is possible with hydraulic oil pulse driver technology. Makita was one of the first power tool companies to bring this to the masses with their oil pulse driver, then soon after Ridgid and Ryobi joined the ranks with quiet hydraulic pulse drivers of their own. Now Milwaukee has recently come out with their own hydraulic pulse driver named the M18 Fuel Surge.

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge hydraulic driver appears to be just another impact driver but it’s packing hydraulic oil pulse driver technology. Milwaukee calls their version of this techology a Fluid-Drive Hydraulic powertrain. It’s main purpose is to provide the same impact of an impact driver while offering a quieter tool operation, reduced wear because the hydraulic fluid reduces metal on metal contact, and smoother performance with less vibration.

Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge Hydraulic Driver claim:

  • 50% quieter
  • 3x less vibration

Specifications:

  • Volts: 18V
  • Chuck: ¼ in. hex
  • Brushless motor
  • Torque: 450 in-lbs
  • Max Speed: 0-3,000 RPM
  • Max Impacts Per Minute: 0-4000 IPM
  • 4 mode drive control
  • Weight: 2.1 lb baretool / 3.1 lbs with XC battery
  • 5″ length
  • Pricing: Baretool $149; 2 compact battery Kit $249; 2 XC battery kit $329
  • Warranty: 5 year

Performance stats provided show that it’s packing 450 in-lbs of torque making this overwhelmingly underpowered, or so it appears. The deal with the very low 450 in-lbs torque stat is that Milwaukee says that the torque is sustained torque meaning it holds on to the torque longer with each impact. They also say that traditional impact driver torque stats while much higher only show peak torque that peaks out quickly and quickly drops down. So you only get higher brief torque for a tiny bit with higher spec’d impact drivers.

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge not only looks like a regular impact driver, it features a brushless motor just like the current second gen Milwaukee M18 Fuel impact driver. It actually looks very similar to the Milwaukee M18 Fuel impact driver as well with many cosmetic characteristics making it’s way over to the Surge. Same goes with features as it has the same 4 mode drive control with 3 selectable speeds and 4th self tapping screw mode. The biggest two differences between the Surge and the M18 Fuel impact driver is that the Surge is more compact than the impact driver at a very short 5 inches in length and has a rubberish sleeve that covers the entire metal plate in front as opposed to only the tip on the M18 Fuel impact. So if you’re looking for the most compact impact driver from Milwaukee, the Surge is the way to go.

Tested Performance

So the main reason for going with a hydraulic oil pulse driver such as the Surge is because you’re looking for a quieter impact driver. Milwaukee claims 50% quieter performance so that’s exactly what I tested for first. To do this I measured the loudness of the Surge with a decibel meter while it drove 3 small 3 inch screws. I also compared the sound output to Milwaukee’s own 2753-22 M18 Fuel impact driver which is a regular impact driver and also the Ridgid Stealth Force since it’s another hydraulic driver to see how the Surge compares to a fellow quiet driver.

Sound measurement

  • 80 dBA Milwauke M18 Surge Hydraulic Driver
  • 92-93 dBA Milwaukee M18 impact driver 2753-22
  • 81 dBA Ridgid Stealth Force Hydraulic Driver

The Milwaukee M18 impact driver 2753-22 set the baseline loudness at about 92-93 average for a typical impact driver. For comparisons sake the Milwaukee Surge was about 12-13 decibels less at 80 decibels. For reference, 10 decibels more is twice as loud and 10 decibels less is half as loud so since the Milwaukee Surge is over 10 decibels less than the standard impact driver, it makes it over half as quiet according to numbers. So Milwaukee’s claim that the Surge is half as quiet as a standard impact driver is accurate and a bit modest. The Surge also matches the Ridgid Stealth Force, another quiet Hydraulic Driver, which managed 81 decibels in action. A one decibel difference is not much of a difference so I’ll call it a tie between the two in terms of loudness making them both similarly quieter than standard impact drivers.

Next I tested performance because a quieter impact driver sounds great but it wont matter much if it wont perform well, especially since the Surge is touting only 450 inch lbs torque. I also tested the Surge directly against the Milwaukee M18 impact driver 2753-22 and the Ridgid Stealth Force Hydraulic Driver. I ran a series of test to compare the speed between all three to see how the Surge kept up with the other two. The first two tests were driving fasteners, first 3 inch #8 gold screws, then a 3-1/2″ lag screw. Next they drilled holes first with a 3/4″ Irwin Speedbor Max bit and then with a 1-1/4″ bit.

The results were pretty much the same across the board, if you haven’t watched the YouTube video Review above, you really should to see how they all compared. The Surge although having 450 in-lbs torque had almost identical performance to the Milwaukee M18 impact driver with 1,800 in-lbs of torque. So this is where Milwaukee’s claims about sustained torque are absolutely correct. The difference between the Surge and the M18 impact driver where only a split second difference, with the M18 Fuel impact driver having a slight almost unnoticeable edge in driving and drilling speed. In real world use, you really wont tell a difference between the Surge and any other high performance impact driver, that is unless you go through the tedious task of doing side by side video footage. The Ridgid Stealth Force was noticeably quicker than the other two FYI and considerably more so at driving the 3 inch gold screws. But this doesn’t surprise me because the Ridgid is a different beast and is marketed as being twice as quick as regular impacts – although it’s not twice as quick as the other two because they’re not regular impact drivers, but high performance impact drivers.

The next test criteria was checking for vibration since the Milwaukee Surge claims to have 3X less vibration. With the Milwaukee M18 impact driver being the reference for vibration, the Surge did indeed feel like it was smoother and had less vibration although I wouldn’t go as far as say it was 3 times less vibration. I’d say it’s closer to half the vibration and the difference is subtle. I also noticed that the Surge maintained less vibration than the regular impact driver ONLY when driving smaller fasteners. Of course all other impact drivers get more vibration when they are pushed to max, but I noticed that when I was drilling with the 1-1/4″ drill bit, the Surge had significantly more vibration than the other two drivers in the group. So the Milwuakee Surge maintains less vibration only when driving small fasteners. Out of the 3 the Ridgid had easily the least vibration across the board in all 4 tests.

Note: Many viewers have commented that the Ridgid Stealth Force appears to have lots of vibration, this simply is not true. Each impact has considerably less vibration and feels like a soft pulse. It may appear to vibrate more but this is due to the fact that the Stealth Force has considerably less impacts per minute so it takes less impacts to get the same job done. It’s one of those things that you have to take my word for and test out for yourself to believe.

Final Verdict

The Milwaukee Surge lives up to its claims. After testing it out, it is indeed half as quiet than a standard impact (actually more than half compared to the Milwaukee M18 Fuel impact driver) and the 450 in-lbs sustained torque is no compromise in performance as it keeps up and has nearly identical performance to it’s brother that has 1,800 in-lbs torque. You really can have your cake and eat it too. The no compromise Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge continues with a smaller package making it the most compact Milwaukee impact driver to date. It also has a brushless motor just like the M18 Fuel impact driver and all of it’s features carry over such as the 4 mode drive control. It also has less vibration than the Milwaukee M18 Fuel impact driver although only when doing light fastening. If you push the Surge to the max, you actually get considerably more vibration than other impacts.

If you’re in the market for a quieter impact driver, I’d say the Milwaukee Surge is definitely worth taking a look at. And your ears will thank you. It’s a fully equipped high performance impact driver without the extreme noise of traditional impacts. If a quieter driver is not of much interest for you, I have a hard time suggesting the Surge over other impact drivers as it doesn’t offer anything new or break any performance records.

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