Milwaukee M12 Fuel 3453-20 (Gen 3) Impact Driver Review

Milwaukee 3453-20 Angle 5
Table of Contents

Quick take

The Milwaukee M12 Fuel 3453-20 is worthy of its flagship status with a sub-compact size that doesn’t sacrifice performance for a svelte footprint, unlike most competing models. It is incredibly light in the bare tool form and with a battery, and impresses with its driving performance, primarily due to the high RPM, high torque, and high impacts per minute. No 12V impact driver is the tool of choice if you need a dedicated tool for heavy-duty tasks, but the 3453-20 is highly capable in a pinch. Otherwise, it shines in everyday driving tasks with solid driving versatility and accurate finish, great for DIYers requiring versatility and woodworkers demanding accuracy. The primary letdown is its poor battery run time performance.

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Brand Milwaukee
Platform M12 Fuel
Motor Brushless
Tested torque in-lbs 696.0
IPM 4,000.0
Drive modes 4
Collet 1/4-inch hex
Same as M12 gen 3

Global rankings

21 models tested

TestResultRank
Driving speed (sec.)21.715
Torque (in-lbs)696.06
Battery run time (min.)19.021
RPM3,515.02
Bare weight (lbs)1.571
Impacting noise (dBA)97.313

Editorial opinion

Methodology used: Light duty

Editorial rating

4.56 / 5 ⭐️’s

Pros

  • Great driving performance
  • High RPM, torque, and impacts per minute
  • Versatile drive modes
  • Exceptionally lightweight
  • Sub-compact size squeezes into tight spaces

Cons

  • Poor battery run time

Buy

Kits and bare tool options

3453-22

Includes (2) M12 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery

3453-21

Includes (1) M12 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery

Series lineup

Model #PlatformDrive ModesTorqueIPMReview
2462-20M121491.4 in-lbs3,300.0Full review
2551-20M12 Fuel Surge4472.8 in-lbs3,400.0Full review
3453-20 (Gen 3)M12 Fuel4696.0 in-lbs4,000.0Full review

Alternatives

Dewalt 12V Xtreme DCF801: While not as powerful, the DCF801 is a solid alternative in the Dewalt ecosystem. It has solid build quality, multiple drive modes for versatility, and a compact size. Compare side by side

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551-20: The 2551-20 is a hydraulic impact driver that is more subtle, precise, and quiet. It is an exceptional choice for woodworking. Compare side by side

Milwaukee M12 2462-20: Moving to the 2462-20 saves money, though there are some downsides to consider. The 2462-20 has a brushed motor, making it less efficient and powerful. But for budget-conscious buyers, few impact drivers can match the quality at this price. Compare side by side

Lab results

Design & ergonomics

Stands upright w/o battery: No
Stands upright w/ battery: Yes
Grip material: Rubber overgrip
Magnetic holder: No
Bit holder: No
Belt hook: Yes
Handle angle (deg.): 90.0
Head angle (deg.): 103.0

The 3453-20 follows the design language familiar to Milwaukee’s M12 impact driver lineup with a forward-biased handle and head angle that reaches toward the sky. The forward design provides excellent reach in certain driving conditions. The handle includes a rubber overgrip that feels more premium than other impact drivers and offers good shock absorption.

A belt hook is included and is mountable on either side. There is no bit holder or magnetic fastener holder onboard, unlike some Ryobi impact drivers with these features built into the tool.

The battery slots into the handle to give it a svelte design compared to other impact drivers. Milwaukee’s higher Ah M12 batteries are more traditionally designed to widen and lengthen the base, albeit remaining extremely compact. Without a battery, the 3453-20 doesn’t stand upright.

Weight

Milwaukee 3453-20 On Scale

Bare weight (lbs): 1.57
Weight w/ 2Ah battery (lbs): 1.96
Weight w/ 2.5Ah battery (lbs):  Not tested
Weight w/ 4Ah battery (lbs):  Not tested
Weight w/ 5Ah battery (lbs): Not tested

The 3453-20 is nimble and incredibly lightweight in its bare tool form and with a battery. This impact driver is one of the lightest setups available on the market.

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 3453-20 with Milwaukee’s M12 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery for a good balance of performance and weight.

If weight is less of a concern, Milwaukee offers several higher Ah M12 batteries in its lineup. However, you forego the in-handle design for a slightly bulkier footprint and weight. Upgrading to Milwaukee’s M18 lineup may be more suitable as the size increases.

Compare weight test results

Footprint

Milwaukee 3453-20 Size

Max height (bare tool, in.): 7.125
Max width (bare tool, in.): 2.375
Collet to back length (in.): 4.875
Base length (bare tool, in.): 1.625
Base width (bare tool, in.): 1.625
Trigger circumference (in.): 6.500
Handle circumference (in.): 6.250

The 3453-20 is exceptionally compact, especially the max height with width. The collet-to-back length is on par with many other impact drivers. As a result, the 3453-20 performed well in our interior clearance tests (more on that below).

Compare footprint test results

Motor

Motor: Brushless
Impacts per minute: 4,000.0

Brushless motors, such as Milwaukee’s Powerstate motor included in the 3453-20, are highly efficient, increase battery run time, and are more durable than their brushed motor counterparts.

The advertised 4000.0 impacts per minute are high for a sub-compact, partly explaining the snappy driving performance in our tests.

Drive modes

Milwaukee 3453-20 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 3453-20 vastly 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 4000.0, 3500.0, and 1300.0, respectively.

Drive mode 1 is the best option for heavy-duty tasks, such as driving lag bolts and decking screws. This mode finishes screws nicely enough compared to the brute force high-speed modes on most 18V impact drivers. But any impact driver’s high-speed setting is rarely the best option for an accurate screw finish.

Drive mode 2 is the best for a clean and consistent screw recess in most materials. The mode has enough power to drive screws into dimensional lumber, treated lumber, plywood, and hard and softwood.

We found ourselves favoring drive mode 2 over drive mode 1 since the lower setting lacks power, and drive mode 2 is already highly accurate in all density materials.

The self-tapping mode works well enough driving common screw sizes in 1/2-inch to 1-inch lengths in thin sheet metal. In this mode, the collet spins until impacting and slows down to tap the screw.

This approach differs from other Milwaukee impact drivers, with a more consistent and versatile self-tapping drive mode. The Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551-20 has a better self-tapping mode. The 2551-20’s collet stops once a specific light rotational force is reached, and then it starts again slowly for a short moment. The 3453-20 doesn’t restart when holding the trigger, and we found this lacking feature reducing the self-tapping mode’s consistency.

Driving speed

GRK total driving time forward (sec.): 21.7
GRK average driving time forward (sec.): 4.3
GRK total driving time reverse (sec.): 15.7
GRK average driving time reverse (sec.): 3.1

The 3453-20 efficiently and impressively drove long GRK screws into treated lumber, far outshining other sub-compact impact drivers in our driving speed tests. But consider that the driving speed for big screws and lag bolts doesn’t compete with more powerful 18V impact drivers. So, it’s not an ideal fit for heavy-duty driving jobs only.

For the most common driving tasks around the home, the 3453-20 is fantastic. It powerfully drives decking screws and quickly drives common screw sizes into dimensional lumber, plywood, softwoods, and hardwoods.

Compare driving speed test results

Torque

Milwaukee 3453-20 Torquemeter
Milwaukee 3453-20 Torque Charts

Max torque drive mode 1 (in-lbs): 696.0
Max torque drive mode 2 (in-lbs): 549.6
Max torque drive mode 3 (in-lbs): 265.2
Max torque drive mode 4 (in-lbs): N/A

A frequent theme in Milwaukee’s flagship Fuel lineup is a trade-off between torque and speed depending on the task. Milwaukee gears most of its Fuel lineup to speed through the most demanding tasks, giving up some speed performance to competitors in lighter-duty jobs. This approach explains why the 3453-20 is geared to generate such high torque output.

The 3453-20 packs in a powerful torque punch in the 12V class. It not only secured the podium position for torque output in our Summer ’23 sub-compact test fleet but it also outpaced many larger 18V impact drivers.

Compare torque test results

Battery run time

Power type: Cordless
Battery run time (min.): 19.0
Battery tested: 12V Red Lithium CP 2Ah (48-11-2420)
Voltage: 12

The primary downside of the 3453-20 is its poor battery run time performance, which is one of the worst results we’ve encountered.

We tested battery run time with the 2Ah battery version. With a higher Ah M12 battery, expect the battery run time to continue underperforming competing models running the same Ah setup.

The practical run time may differ under load since Milwaukee offers highly efficient and powerful motors. But we haven’t tested beyond no-load run time to understand how it performs.

Compare battery test results

Battery lineup

Milwaukee M12 Battery Lineup

Milwaukee offers 1.5Ah, 2Ah, 2.5Ah, 3Ah, 4Ah, 5Ah, and 6Ah batteries in its M12 lineup. Upgrading to the higher Ah options increases battery run time and improves driving performance, though we’ve not tested all of these batteries to understand the cost tradeoffs.

Having at least two batteries in your setup is best so you don’t miss a beat when draining one battery. We recommend buying two Milwaukee M12 Red Lithium CP 2Ah batteries for most M12 impact driver setups for a good balance of performance, price, and size.

Many Milwaukee impact drivers come in kits with chargers that charge multiple voltage batteries in one, conveniently saving space in your shop if you have several M12 and M18 ecosystem tools.

Charging time

Milwaukee 3453-20 Fuel Gauge

Charger tested: Milwaukee M12 & M18 Multi-Volt (48-59-1812)
Charging time 2Ah battery (min.): 38.0
Charging time 2.5Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time 4Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time 5Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time per Ah (min.): 19.0
Fuel gauge: Onboard tool

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 38 minutes to charge an M12 2Ah battery, or 19 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

RPM

Milwaukee 3453-20 RPM Charts

Max RPM drive mode 1 (fwd.): 3,515.0
Max RPM drive mode 2 (fwd.): 2,686.0
Max RPM drive mode 3 (fwd.): 1,301.0
Max RPM drive mode 4 (fwd.): 3,540.0
Max RPM drive mode 1 (rev.): 3,521.0
Max RPM drive mode 2 (rev.): 2,783.0
Max RPM drive mode 3 (rev.): 1,344.0
Max RPM drive mode 4 (rev.): 3,547.0

The 3453-20 is one of the fastest impact drivers we’ve come across. The High RPM performance partly explains why it breezes through driving common screw sizes and lengths. The high RPM also helps set screws quickly, though there is some cam-out risk with such a high RPM. However, the cam-out risk is reduced significantly by using the other drive modes and by the fact that it’s a 12V impact driver with less torque than an 18V impact driver.

There is no significant measured RPM difference between forward and reverse for each drive mode. Some models increase RPM in reverse for specific drive modes to help bust loose bolts and stubborn screws. We didn’t encounter a situation where the 3453-20 was underpowered removing screws.

Compare RPM test results

Driving clearance

Min. interior width clearance (in.): 7.625
Min. top edge clearance (in.): 1.000
Min. interior 45-deg. clearance (in.): 5.875

The 3453-20 performed well in our clearance tests due to its sub-compact size, narrow footprint, and in-handle battery design. The short collet-to-back length results in outstanding interior 45-degree clearance. Outside our standardized tests, we found the 3453-20 highly agile in practical situations with easy access in tight corners and spaces.

Compare driving clearance test results

Noise

3453-20 Impact Driver Noise Chart

Max noise no load (dBA): 87.8
Max impacting noise (dBA): 97.3

The 3453-20 is a moderately-loud impact driver registering 97.3 dBA in our impacting noise tests. This impact driver is comparably loud driving common screw sizes under impact and with no load.

The Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551-20 and Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge 2760-20 are worth considering if you want significantly-quieter impact drivers. Both are hydraulic impact drivers with subtler impacts, albeit lower torque.

Compare noise test results

Vibration

Max head vibration no load (m/s2): 48.6
Max grip vibration no load (m/s2): 2.4

Compare vibration test results

Light

Milwaukee 3453-20 Light
Milwaukee 3453-20 Light Closeup

Light: Yes
Light on/off: No
Number of lights: 3
Light time delay (sec.): 10.0

The work light brilliantly illuminates a 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.

Collet

Milwaukee 3453-20 Collet Closeup

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

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 3453-20.

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

App integration

App integration: None

There is no bluetooth app integration to review impact driver diagnostics or to customize driving profiles on your phone. Some high-end Milwaukee impact drivers come in a One-Key version which includes an app integration to track impact driver usage, displays tool diagnostics, and allows you to set custom driving profiles, such as adjusting the RPM for each drive mode.

Warranty

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

Milwaukee stands behind the durability of its drills with exceptionally long warranties. The 3453-20 has a five-year warranty, which is among the longest offered by any manufacturer. Milwaukee’s M12 Li-Ion batteries have two or three-year warranties, depending on the specific model.

What's new?

7/14/23: Preliminary review published
8/2/23: Full review published

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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