Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20 (Gen 4) Impact Driver Review

Milwaukee 2953-20 Angle 5

Quick take

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20 rightly deserves its flagship status within the M18 ecosystem. It impresses with its high torque and ability to breeze through driving big screws and lag bolts, which it’s designed for. There are several helpful drive modes, improving its versatility and making it an acceptable fit for a consistent and accurate screw finish when in a pinch. However, the battery run time performance is a critical letdown for a tool of its caliber. Accordingly, it’s best suited with a 5Ah battery setup on the job site or for prosumers who appreciate carrying a high-quality tool in their tool belt. Otherwise, it’s overpowered for most DIY tasks.

Brand Milwaukee
Platform M18 Fuel
Motor Brushless
Tested torque in-lbs 1,236.0
IPM 4,400.0
Drive modes 4
Collet 1/4-inch hex
Same as M18 gen 4

Global rankings

21 models tested

TestResultRank
Driving speed (sec.)11.21
Torque (in-lbs)1,236.01
Battery run time (min.)26.018
RPM3,788.01
Bare weight (lbs)2.2017
Impacting noise (dBA)95.25

Editorial opinion

Methodology used: Heavy duty

Editorial rating

4.72 / 5 stars

Pros

  • Best-in-class driving performance
  • Versatile drive modes improve accuracy
  • Compact footprint fits into tight spaces
  • Brushless motor improves efficiency and durability
  • Long tool and battery warranty

Cons

  • Poor battery run time

Recommended configuration

2953-22

Includes (2) M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery

Series lineup

Model #PlatformDrive ModesTorqueIPMReview
2656-20M181611.4 in-lbs3,450.0Full review
2760-20M18 Fuel Surge4480.6 in-lbs4,000.0Full review
2850-20M181850.2 in-lbs4,200.0Full review
2953-20 (Gen 4)M18 Fuel41,236.0 in-lbs4,400.0Full review

Lab results

Torque

Milwaukee 2953-20 Torquemeter
Milwaukee 2953-20 Torque Charts

Max torque drive mode 1 (in-lbs): 1,236.0
Max torque drive mode 2 (in-lbs): 857.4
Max torque drive mode 3 (in-lbs): 390.6
Max torque drive mode 4 (in-lbs): N/A

The 2953-20 is a torque beast, generating the highest torque output we measured among the best impact drivers in our test fleet. It did so by a long shot as well, which is impressive in such a compact and agile footprint.

The torque output isn’t surprising since this is Milwaukee’s flagship gen-4 impact driver that’s designed for brute force over all else. The performance is even more impressive knowing the robust torque profile doesn’t come at the expense of slow driving performance. The 2953-20 shines at both, partly explaining its high price tag and why many pros carry it in their tool belt.

Compare torque test results

RPM

Milwaukee 2953-20 RPM Charts

Max RPM drive mode 1 (fwd.): 3,788.0
Max RPM drive mode 2 (fwd.): 2,874.0
Max RPM drive mode 3 (fwd.): 1,427.0
Max RPM drive mode 4 (fwd.): 3,334.0
Max RPM drive mode 1 (rev.): 3,735.0
Max RPM drive mode 2 (rev.): 2,905.0
Max RPM drive mode 3 (rev.): 1,560.0
Max RPM drive mode 4 (rev.): 3,177.0

The 2953-20’s impressive driving performance is also a result of its RPM profile. The max RPM confidently drives screws and lag bolts quickly, albeit risking cam-out in the highest speed setting.

There is no meaningful RPM difference in forward or reverse. Some impact drivers increase RPM in the reverse direction for specialty drive modes to power through loosening stubborn nuts and deeply embedded screws.

Compare RPM test results

Driving speed

GRK total driving time forward (sec.): 11.2
GRK average driving time forward (sec.): 2.2
GRK total driving time reverse (sec.): 8.7
GRK average driving time reverse (sec.): 1.7

Milwaukee generated impressive driving speed performance in our heavy-duty tests. The 2953-20 powerfully drives big screws and lag bolts, resulting in one of the fastest results driving GRK screws in our speed test. The 2953-20 is among the few impact drivers to buy if brute force driving power is essential.

Also consider the Makita 18V LXT XDT19Z and Dewalt 20V Max XR DCF845 for impressive driving performance.

While the 2953-20 offers solid accuracy and driving versatility in its class, we don’t recommend it as an all-around impact driver around the home. It is overpowered for many DIY tasks.

Compare driving speed test results

Drive modes

Milwaukee 2953-20 Drive Modes

Drive modes: 4
Drive mode 1:  High speed 
Drive mode 2:  Medium speed 
Drive mode 3:  Low speed 
Drive mode 4:  Self-tapping 
Variable speed trigger: Yes

Four driving modes on the 2953-20 improve driving versatility over single-mode models. Drive modes we label as 1, 2, 3, and 4 correspond to high speed, medium speed, low speed, and self-tapping screw modes. The advertised impacts per minute for the speed modes are 4300.0, 3400.0, and 1200.0, respectively.

Drive mode 1 is ideal for heavy-duty tasks, such as driving lag bolts, decking screws, and structural screws. This mode doesn’t offer a clean and accurate screw finish with such high torque and speed.

However, drive mode 2 offers better accuracy while retaining solid torque. This driving mode has sufficient power to drive screws into dimensional lumber, treated lumber, plywood, and hard and softwood.

Drive mode 3 is ideal for the most accurate and consistent screw finish in most materials, including harder woods and dimensional lumber.

The 2953-20 is more powerful across each drive mode than competing models set to equivalent high, medium, and low-speed modes. This powerful performance profile explains why we suggest using the low-speed mode to finish screws. In contrast, we typically prefer using the medium-speed mode to accurately recess screws with other, less powerful impact drivers.

In the self-tapping mode, the collet spins until impacting and stops shortly after. Milwaukee has optimized this setting for driving #8, #10, and #12 self-tapping screws between 1/2-inch to 1-inch in 18-22 gauge sheet metal.

Collet

Milwaukee 2953-20 Collet Closeup

Collet size: 1/4-inch hex
Quick-change collet: Yes
Bit-eject collet: No
Easy-insert collet: Yes

Milwaukee rarely includes a bit-eject feature on its impact drivers, but some models have an incredibly smooth easy-insert design, both of which are true with the 2953-20.

Many Dewalt impact drivers include easy-insert and bit-eject collets that are smooth with the best collet design we’ve come across.

Motor

Motor: Brushless
Impacts per minute: 4,400.0

The 2953-20 includes Milwaukee’s Powerstate brushless motor, which improves driving efficiency, battery performance, and durability over comparable brushed motors.

The high advertised impacts per minute, combined with its torque and RPM profile, explain why the 2953-20 so capably breezes through heavy-duty tasks, as demonstrated in our driving tests.

Battery run time

Power type: Cordless
Battery run time (min.): 26.0
Battery tested: 18V Red Lithium CP 2Ah (48-11-1820)
Voltage: 18

The 2953-20 had underwhelming no-load run time performance in our test, the primary letdown we came across.We tested battery run time with the 2Ah battery version. With a Milwaukee M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery, expect the battery run time to continue underperforming competing models running the same Ah setup. However, run time is significantly improved over the 2Ah battery.

At the same time, we recognize the limitations of our run-time tests that don’t currently test battery performance under load. Once testing the battery performance under load, we’ll update this review.

Compare battery test results

Charging time

Milwaukee M18 Fuel Gauge

Charger tested: Milwaukee M12 & M18 Multi-Volt (48-59-1812)
Charging time 2Ah battery (min.): 41.0
Charging time 2.5Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time 4Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time 5Ah battery (min.): 98.0
Charging time per Ah (min.): 20.1
Fuel gauge: On battery

The Milwaukee M12 and M18 multi-volt charger (model 48-59-1812) included in most kits is reasonably fast at charging batteries, including to beat out team red’s most frequent adversary, Dewalt. It takes 41 minutes to charge an M18 2Ah battery and 98 minutes for a 5Ah battery, or approximately 20 minutes per amp-hour.

Milwaukee’s 48-59-1812 charger charges multiple battery voltages in one, conveniently saving space in your shop if you have several M12 and M18 ecosystem tools.

Compare charging test results

Design & ergonomics

Stands upright w/o battery: Yes
Stands upright w/ battery: Yes
Grip material: Rubber overgrip
Magnetic holder: No
Bit holder: No
Belt hook: Yes
Handle angle (deg.): 75.0
Head angle (deg.): 90.0

Weight

Milwaukee 2953-20 On Scale

Bare weight (lbs): 2.20
Weight w/ 2Ah battery (lbs): 3.15
Weight w/ 2.5Ah battery (lbs):  Not tested
Weight w/ 4Ah battery (lbs):  Not tested
Weight w/ 5Ah battery (lbs): 3.81

The 2853-20 is designed for brute performance, not reducing weight. In its bare tool form and with a battery, it’s a reasonably heavy impact driver.

The working weight can differ significantly depending on the battery run in your setup, which is why we tested the weight in different configurations. To keep it lightweight, we recommend combining the 2953-20 with Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery for a good balance of performance and weight.

If weight is less of a concern, pair the 2953-20 with Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery for a longer run time and improved driving performance.

Compare weight test results

Footprint

Milwaukee 2953-20 Footprint1
Milwaukee 2953-20 Footprint2

Max height (bare tool, in.): 7.875
Max width (bare tool, in.): 2.625
Collet to back length (in.): 4.375
Base length (bare tool, in.): 3.250
Base width (bare tool, in.): 2.625
Trigger circumference (in.): 6.500
Handle circumference (in.): 5.125

The 2953-20 has an incredibly compact stubby-like head, rivaling the collet-to-back length of many sub-compacts. However, it’s a bulky tool viewed from certain angles. The max width and height are somewhat extended.

Compare footprint test results

Driving clearance

Min. interior width clearance (in.): 7.375
Min. top edge clearance (in.): 1.250
Min. interior 45-deg. clearance (in.): 5.750

The 2953-20 performed well in our clearance tests, especially for such a powerful impact driver. It impressed most in our interior 45-degree and width tests, finishing near the top of the pack, making it a solid all-around choice to squeeze into tight spaces.

Compare driving clearance test results

Noise

2953-20 Impact Driver Noise Chart

Max noise no load (dBA): 86.4
Max impacting noise (dBA): 95.2

No impact driver peacefully says hello when impacting. But the 2953-20 is quieter than many other models when impacting.

Jump to Milwaukee’s Fuel Surge lineup for best-in-class noise performance, albeit lower torque. The Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551-20 and Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge 2760-20 are hydraulic impact drivers with quieter impacts.

Compare noise test results

Vibration

Max head vibration no load (m/s2): 26.4
Max grip vibration no load (m/s2): 1.9

Compare vibration test results

Light

Milwaukee 2953-20 Light
Milwaukee 29530-20 Light Closeup

Light: Yes
Light on/off: No
Number of lights: 3
Light time delay (sec.): 9.0

The work light illuminates a moderately large work area. The work light can’t be disabled and doesn’t act as a dedicated flashlight. Several Makita impact drivers include a dedicated flashlight functionally with the forward/reverse switch set to neutral.

Warranty

Tool warranty (years): 5
Battery warranty (years): 2-3 (depends on model)

Milwaukee stands behind the durability of its impact drivers with exceptionally-long warranties. The 2953-20 has a five-year warranty, which is among the longest offered by any manufacturer. Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah batteries include a two-year warranty and the M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah batteries include a three-year warranty.

Nathan Hamilton
Nathan Hamilton
Nathan Hamilton is the founder of DIY Gear Reviews and a recognized expert in the home and DIY space. He has over 200 bylines covering topics such as power tools, hand tools, and woodworking. Nathan is the strategic director for DIY Gear Reviews, deciding everything from the content covered to designing the testing methodologies for lab-tested reviews. He can be emailed at nhamilton@diygearreviews.com.

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