Milwaukee M18 Brushless Drill/Driver – 2603-22

 

Like it, love it, hate it, the brushless is here and it is here to stay.  What is so special about a brushless motor you may be asking?  Bottom line it can be a better solution for motors.  The reason being is yes, there are no brushes, which means less friction, which means less heat built, which means more power, longer running time between charges and a longer life.  Wow my 4th grade teacher would have been mad at that last sentence.

 

 

Milwaukee is not the first to market a brushless motor, but I do have to say it is one of my favorites.  Well you may be asking what makes the Milwaukee Brushless so interesting.  There are three things, the motor, the battery and the Redlink system.

First, is the Powerstate brushless motor.   As we already discussed a brushless motor can transfer more energy to the tool.  In fact this drill produces 725 lbs of torque, one of the best in the 18V class.  Now if you are just using this drill to fasten plywood to studs, you might not notice.  However we did notice when sinking the screws.  Normally if you didn’t get the screw sunk the right way you would have to back the screw up a little and then run it into the wood again.  We did find that most of the time we could just drive it home without having to back it up.  Another place we notice the difference is when we hit knots in the wood.  We did hear the difference when we hit a knot, but the drill or screw kept on going.  One place we really noticed the difference was when we were using a hawg hole bit and an auger bit to drill through the floor to run pipe throughout the house.  It did an awesome job completing this chore, but you do have to make sure you hold onto the drill as you can really feel the torque and power of the drill.  Okay we also mixed up some Ardex with the tool.  Now we wouldn’t suggest using a cordless tool for this task, we would suggest using a corded mixer, but what the heck, we figured we would give it a try.  We had to lay down a self leveling compound on the front walk and this required us to mix the Ardex with water.  We put everything in a 5 gallon bucket and gave it a shot.  The first thing we noticed was that we had to use the side handle as this really pushed the drill to its limit.  Another thing we noticed was the overload protection didn’t kick in which was awesome.  Again we wouldn’t suggest it, but we know a lot of people do this as it is more convenient sometimes to grab the closest drill.

The second item on this drill is the battery, the Red Lithium.  The Red Lithium is a great battery and I have had a lot of good luck with these batteries compared to others we have used over the years.  We get some pretty cold winters in Chicago and I am one who just leaves the tools in the truck over night.  With these batteries they will operate at 0 degrees F.  This means you don’t have to wait for the batteries to warm up, you can start working right away.  Actually it was always a great excuse to have an extra cup of coffee in the morning when we had to wait for the batteries.

The third item is the RedLink system.  Now we would be lying if we said we fully understood how this system works, because we don’t.  We do know it is a way for the tool, battery and charger to all talk to each other to provide more efficiency.  The Redlink uses a circuitry system to be able to monitor the tool and battery.  So basically what it does is provide a better fail safe system between the tool, battery and charger.  In return because of less heat build up under loads, you get a longer running drill and longer life from the drill.

We really like this drill/driver.  Lots of power and a solid tool.  However what got us equally excited was the multi volt charger.  No more having two chargers taking up space.  Milwaukee has a single charger that will charge both the M12 and the M18, pretty cool.  As a note, it will not charge both batteries at the same time.  The system will charge the battery that was inserted first.  Once that is done charging, it will start charging the second battery.

One downside to brushless motors can be the expense.  With a brush version, you can change out the brushes and be on your way as these tend to go first on the tool.  If a brushless motor breaks, you have to replace the motor or buy a new tool.  You should get a lot more use and a great life out of this brushless version.  We have seen some stats say 10 times the life.

 Is it worth it to upgrade to the brushless?

If you already have a tough drill, then the upgrade probably isn’t worth it.  Unless you can dump your old drill and get good money towards the brushless.  If you are looking to get a new drill, the brushless is the way to go.  Look at it this way.  Say you have a truck that can tow 8,500 lbs and has a payload of 1,650 lbs.  Then the manufacturer comes out with a new truck and now it can tow 10,000 lbs and has a payload of 1,850 lbs.  Is there a difference?  Yes.  Is it worth the upgrade?  The truck still does what you need it to do.  Well that probably wasn’t the best example since a truck is around $30K and a drill is around $300, but I think you get our point.  If so let us know because we weren’t sure what we were trying to say.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Volts 18V
Torque 725 in-lbs
Speed 2 Speed
RPM 0-550 / 0-1,850 RPM
Chuck Type 1/2″ Metal Single Sleeve – Ratcheting Lock
Metal Sleeve Yes
Ratcheting Lock Yes
On Board Fuel Gauge Fuel Gauge on Battery
LED Light Yes
Battery REDLITHIUM™
Batteries Included (2) M18™ HIGH CAPACITY REDLITHIUM™ Battery Packs
Charger NEW M18™ and M12™ Multi-Voltage Charger
Charge Time 1 Hour
Tool Length 7.9 in
Tool Weight (w/battery) 4.9 lbs

Milwaukee Brushless Drill/Driver Includes

  • 2603 M18 Fuel 1/2 Drill/Driver
  • 2 M18 High Capacity Batteries
  • Multi Volt Charger

Warranty

Tool – 5 Year

Battery – 3 Year

 

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14 COMMENTS

  1. I have the 2604 and it is night and day difference over my brushed drills, of which I have cooked 2 already this year. 10 minutes of nonstop hammer drilling through solid granite today and virtually no motor heat. The hammer mechanism got pretty hot though. Also quieter, smoother start and stop, battery life seems way better.

  2. Finally got to play with a Fuel hammer drill the other day. I was really impressed with the performance and it looks awesome. Not to crazy about that high pitch whine it makes, but all things considered it was great.

  3. Are the batteries that come with the fuel kits the same as the other Red Lithiums? Thought about getting the bare tool drill and driver but don’t wanna do it unless I’ll get the full benefit. Noticed the red stripe on the new ones.

    • Hi Conductor, Eric should answer you in a few days, I have only held the tool once and didn’t get to check out the battery.

  4. Hey, same name and same comment as previous Dan, I have the original red Lithium batteries, are the new ones the same (they look different on the outside…)

    I want to know whether to go with the bare tool, or if I need the new look batteries to take full advantage of theRedLink…

    Same goes for the charger; can I use an old-style charger with the older batteries with no difference (save for the M12 capacities…). I.e. is the RedLink just in the tool, or do I need the batteries and charger?

  5. That is a great question and sorry about the slow response. I have looked around and found out conflicting answers. Some say you you get the full benefit if you use the old ones and some say you don’t. I sent Milwaukee an email to get the truth and find out. Once they get back to us, I will post it here

  6. I did notice that the Red Lithiums that come with the Fuel kits have an extra little lip along the back. It’s to small to house anything but I’m certain that if you use the “old” batteries in a Fuel tool you will have a slight overhang along the back base of the tool. Purely cosmetic, but irritating none the less.

  7. I heard back from Milwaukee and here is the deal. The batteries, charger, etc are completely backwards and forwards compatible with the entire M18 System so users can get a bare FUEL tool and use it with the Red Lithium batteries they already own. While there are electronics in both the tool and the battery that communicate with each other, the upgraded electronics (ie “RedLink Plus”) only affected the tool so a user would still get the full advantage of FUEL even when using an older battery. The new design on the battery is just cosmetic. All M18 batteries will look like this eventually. The new branding just made its debut in the FUEL kits.

  8. Nevermind, I got to looking and the older Red Lithiums have the same lip on them. Guess it was all in my head.

  9. Home Depot has a promo where you get a third battery when you buy this model or the 2604. I took advantage of that with a 2604.

    So far the drill works great.

    • So far it has been the Driver, Hammer Drill and impact. I think they are releasing an impact wrench soon. We are getting ready to use the impact driver which looks awesome.

  10. I love this drill I just bought one It was the 2603-22ct with the 2.0 battery and one battery out lasts my fathers dewalt. I did a test to see which one was better drilling in 1/4 metal with 3/4in. hole saw and the dewalt 1.5 holes and my milwaukee drill 3. both drills had lithium ion batteries.

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