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Milwaukee's new M12 Cordless Ratchet is both tough and sized to be very handy in many situations. And, no air hose!
Click image to enlarge

Milwaukee M12 Cordless 3/8” Ratchet Kit

Easy to use speed and Red Lithium™ Powered

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Posted – 11-4-2011

I have around 20 years of experience using a powered 3/8”-drive ratchet but back then air was the driving force. Now Milwaukee has developed their Red Lithium™ battery technology which takes that aggravating air hose out of some situations. What isn’t gone is the time and labor-saving versatility of this type of ratchet. With Milwaukee applying their engineering and manufacturing capabilities the M12 cordless ratchet reviewed here is surprising only in how it feels in the hand and its price.

The Basics

The Milwaukee M12™ Cordless Ratchet kit includes the ratchet itself, instruction manuals, (tool & charger) 1 M12 RED LITHIUM™ battery pack, a 30-minute 110-V charger, a 3/8” to 1/4” adapter and a nice canvas carry case.

The Milwaukee M12™ Cordless Ratchet is just 10-3/4" long and 1.9 lbs. which makes it less tiresome to use. That is especially true when making use of its small size to reach into confined workspaces. The ratchet head on the Milwaukee M12™ Cordless Ratchet looks small but delivers a stout 35ft-lbs of torque at up to 250-rpm without a whimper. The ratcheting mechanism is designed with a long service life in mind to comply with the Milwaukee “Nothing but Heavy Duty®” motto. The power is delivered by the 12V motor which has a remarkable runtime because of the Red Lithium™ (lithium ion) battery.

The body of the Milwaukee M12™ Cordless Ratchet is re-enforced with steel and covered with a rubber-like overmold that gives the operator a comfortable, slip-resistant grip. A row of small red lights on the side of the body depicts the amount of runtime remaining. The paddle-style trigger gives the operator full use of the variable speed control that makes driving fasteners easier.

The paddle-style trigger (left) makes it easy to use the variable speed. When you squeeze the paddle the
LED headlight (right) comes on and then stays on several seconds after you release the paddle so yo can find the next fastener.
Click images to enlarge

At the front of the body a single LED headlight illuminates when the trigger is engaged to light up the area around the fastener to make getting the Milwaukee M12™ Cordless Ratchet on the fasteners easier. The LED light stays on for several seconds after the trigger is released so you can find the next fastener.

Battery & Charger

The Milwaukee M12™ Cordless Ratchet is powered by Milwaukee’s new Red Lithium™ (Lithium Ion) battery pack that boasts greatly extended run times, cooler operation, low fall-off of the power as the charge nears its end, quick charging turnaround and no memory from charging at different states of discharge. What all that amounts to is less hassle on your part. You keep on working until the battery really is depleted and then stick it in the charger to be refreshed in about 30-minutes. Buy an extra battery and you pretty much lose the charging excuse to take a break.

The small size and weight of the Red Lithium™ packs mean you work easier and longer because you are carrying less weight in your hand. The charger is “intelligent” in that you can just plug the battery pack in and it does the rest. When the green LED light on the charger comes on, the battery pack is ready for use, usually in 30 minutes or less depending on the state of discharge.

In the Shop

Using the Milwaukee M12™ Cordless Ratchet is identical to the air powered versions except the hose is gone along with all of the frustrations that brought to the task. Not long ago I would have laughed at a battery-powered ratchet but the advances in battery technology ended that concern. The Milwaukee M12™ Cordless Ratchet feels good to the hand and the paddle trigger is placed right for easy control. The only other control on the Milwaukee M12™ Cordless Ratchet is the direction selector on the top of the head.

This kit comes with the 110V, 30-minute charger (left) and one battery pack. When you squeeze the paddle trigger this row of red lights (right) keeps you apprised of the battery's state of charge.
Click images to enlarge

I expect many will see the 35-ft-lbs of torque and consider that low but it really is not. It is low enough to prevent you from snapping off smaller fasteners but will tighten most fasteners securely. If the fastener needs higher torque I would first spin them down with the Milwaukee M12™ Cordless Ratchet and then go back with a torque wrench to get that tension right. The speed and ease of use the Milwaukee M12™ Cordless Ratchet brings to the shop makes many chores much faster.

One of the things I have always liked about powered ratchets is how well they work in confined areas where swinging a regular ratchet handle back and forth is more frustrating than effective. With the Milwaukee M12™ Cordless Ratchet you need enough room to get it in on the fastener and then squeeze the paddle switch to make your project go a bit faster.

Throughout the evaluation the Milwaukee M12™ Cordless Ratchet worked perfectly. I like the feel in the hand though had to get used to the air hose being gone. The habits of 20-some years of dragging that @#$%# hose around took a little while to break. But this is a welcome change in every situation I could find.


Video Tour

The Milwaukee M12™ Cordless Ratchet is made to the standards we have come to expect from Milwaukee and it’s still-relevant “Nothing but Heavy-Duty” motto. Milwaukee shows their confidence in this tool by covering the tool itself with a 5-year-long warranty and two years on the battery.

The Milwaukee M12™ Cordless Ratchet is carrying a street price of just $129.00 (11-4-2011) for the kit shown here. You can find better deals yet on the tool itself if you already have this kind of battery on hand. Milwaukee makes a bunch of tools that use this battery so that might be worth investigating as well.

I know a ratchet like this is not an everyday tool for some of us but when you need it the purchase price means very little compared to the time effort it can save. And, if you have a bunch of years dragging that air hose around the Milwaukee M12™ Cordless Ratchet can be just plain fun to use. However, expect odd looks from the younger folks who don’t understand the chuckles not having an air hose can elicit from us veterans.

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