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Milwaukee V28 Cordless Powertools Product Review

Published by Trails Less Traveled on November 1st, 2006

 

Introduction

When I first contacted Milwaukee about reviewing a few of their power tools, I told them that I was looking for a 1/2” drill to power our JMR tubing notcher and a Sawzall.

Their marketing director asked if I’d be interested in trying out any of Milwaukee’s brand new V28 cordless power-tools. I declined as politely as I could, saying that I had some reservations about using battery-powered tools in a shop environment where power is a lot more important than portability. While I was sure there were a lot of other good uses for cordless power-tools, they definitely weren’t for me. I had used a few cordless drills and reciprocating saws in that past, and always been frustrated by their lack of power and short battery life.

impact, sawzall & 1/2” drill=
I still wasn’t convinced after listening to him explain that Milwaukee’s new V28 tools deliver 40-50% more power than older 18-Volt Ni-Cad battery-powered tools and the batteries last twice as long; but then he offered to exchange the V28 tools for their corded counterparts if I didn’t like them. How could I turn that down? So Milwaukee ended up sending us a 1/2” V28 hammer-drill, a V28 Sawzall, a 1/2” V28 impact wrench, a V28 powered work light, two batteries and a charger.

Batteries

It’s a good idea to look at the full range of compatible tools when you’re shopping for any cordless power-tool because you don’t want to have to buy different batteries and charging systems for any additional cordless tools that you may buy in the future. I didn’t have a chance to do any comparison-shopping before ordering these tools, but a quick Internet search confirmed that Milwaukee’s V28 tools were light-years ahead of most other cordless power-tools. I should note that DeWalt recently introduced a new line of 36V Lithium-ion powered tools, but I don’t have any personal experience with them.

Lithium-ion batteries are a HUGE improvement over the Ni-Cad batteries that most cordless tools use. First, they are much more powerful and last longer than Ni-Cad batteries. Second, there’s no gradual loss in performance with Lithium-ion powered tools (unlike Ni-Cad batteries) so you’ll get full power from your batteries right up until they need to be recharged. Third, Lithium-ion batteries do not have ‘memory’, so it’s not necessary to drain the batteries completely before recharging them.

As you might expect, Lithium-ion batteries are considerably more expensive than Ni-Cad batteries, but they should pay for themselves several times over because of their extended lifespan. The general consensus among cordless power-tool users is that properly maintained Ni-Cad should last about 500 charging cycles. By comparison, Milwaukee’s warranty covers their V28 batteries for 2,000 charges (or five years)! That’s a landmark improvement in battery technology.

Milwaukee has also introduced a V18 upgrade battery that allows owners of older 18-Volt cordless Milwaukee tools to upgrade to Lithium-ion batteries.

Sawzall

V28 sawzall=
This is the tool that made me take back everything I had said about cordless tools having no place in a metal-shop. Milwaukee’s V28 Sawzall has handled everything I’ve thrown at it. It’s every bit as powerful as any corded model I’ve ever used and I can make upwards of 20-30 cuts through 1.5 x .120-wall DOM tubing on a fully charged battery. I can’t find a single fault with this tool. It’s perfect.

Milwaukee also offers a wide variety of Sawzall blades and selecting the right one has a lot to do with how well the job at hand will get done. Milwaukee’s Wrecker blades are great for general demolition, but my favorite blade for general fabrication work is called the Torch. It allows me to make very precise cuts in a variety of types and thicknesses of material and it has a very narrow kerf.

1/2” Drill

assorted drills=
Milwaukee’s V28 1/2” Cordless Hammer-Drill filled a big gap in my tool collection between a little 3/8” DeWalt hand drill and a MONSTER of a 1/2” Milwaukee drill called the Hole Hawg. The new 1/2” drill essentially replaced both of the other drills that I had been using because it had a 1/2” chuck, but was a lot lighter and easier to lug around than the Hole Hawg and I used it for everything, until it died…

JMR notcher=
The power is on par with similarly sized corded 1/2” drills, but I don’t think this drill is ideally suited to the type of work I was doing with it. While I was building a rollcage for our Tacoma, I used it to power our JMR tubing notcher and I definitely noticed that it started losing some steam after making several hundred cuts with 1 1/2 & 1 3/4” hole-saws through 1 1/2 & 1 3/4” x .120-wall DOM tubing. Then it finally stopped working altogether. It was pretty obvious that I had burned-up the brushes.

To be fair, Milwaukee’s website clearly indicates that the capacity in steel for this drill is 1/2” and I frequently exceeded (that by a lot). I would recommend this drill for general use and light metalwork, but it’s the only V28 tool I tested that can’t quite compare to a corded model in the shop. If I could only have one 1/2” drill, it would probably be Milwaukee’s 1/2” Magnum drill.

1/2” Impact Wrench

Milwaukee created a really funny ad to promote their new V28 1/2” Cordless Impact Wrench. It shows two team members performing a tire change for a rally/autocross car during a pit-stop and when one of the guys tightens the first lug-nut with the Milwaukee impact wrench, it’s so powerful that it immediately flips the car over on onto it’s roof.

V28 1/2” impact=
Maximum torque is rated at 325ft. lbs, it has a no-load speed of 1,450RPM’s and delivers 2,450 no-load Blows Per Minute (BPM). Those numbers are pretty impressive when you compare them to Milwaukee’s 1/2” corded impact wrench. The corded version does spin a little faster at 1,800RPM’s and delivers 2,600BPM, but it’s only rated at 300ft. lbs max torque.

I’ve probably removed over 200-300 lug-nuts and several sets of old rusty leafspring U-bolts with the V28 impact wrench and it’s only failed to break two lug-nuts loose. One of those had seized onto the wheel-stud and it snapped off when I put a breaker bar on it and the other time I found out that the threads on the wheel-stud were damaged after I removed the lug-nut with a breaker bar.

reversible battery 1= reversible battery 2=
The reversible battery is supposed to make it easier to get into wheels with a deep offset, but I found that I still needed to use a short extension to use the tool comfortably and I did have one small complaint about the 1/2” socket-driver. The V28 impact wrench uses a straight-cut pin to retain 1/2” sockets, while most socket-drivers use a spring-loaded ball and that radius makes it a lot easier to install and remove sockets and extensions.

I was surprised that the V28 impact wrench doesn’t have any type of adjustable torque settings, but impact wrenches really shouldn’t be used to tighten lug-nuts with anyway. I tried it anyway and found that the final torque varied quite a bit (sometimes above 120ft.lbs and often below 80ft. lbs). So I use the impact to install lug-nuts quickly and then tighten them down with a torque wrench. It’s still much more efficient than doing it all by hand.

When I searched for 1/2” cordless impact wrenches online, I found several other tool manufacturers making high-quality cordless impact wrenches. Snap-On’s 18-Volt 1/2” Cordless Impact Wrench, Ingersoll Rand’s 19.2-Volt 1/2” Cordless Impact Wrench and DeWalt’s 36-Volt 1/2” Cordless Impact Wrench are all worth checking out if you’re in the market.

Contractor’s Bag & Flashlight

My tools came in one of the contractor’s bags that are usually included with the 4-piece combo kit. It’s a nice place to store the tools when I’m not using them because they didn’t come with hard-cases like they would have if I purchased them individually.

V28 flashlight=
I also got one of the V28 portable worklights, and it died the very first time I used it. It just burned the bulb up with a quick flash. It’s worked great ever since I replaced the bulb though. It’s probably not a tool that I would buy if it didn’t come in a kit, but I use it pretty often. It’s nice that it has a base so you can stand the light up and the head pivots so you can adjust it to shine exactly where you need it.

Band Saw

portable band saw=
I was so impressed with all of Milwaukee’s V28 tools that I recently picked up a V28 portable bandsaw, but I haven’t had a chance to use it yet. It should be perfect for those times when a Sawzall isn’t quite accurate enough, like narrowing axlehousings, etc.

Circular Saw

V28 circular saw=kirt’s playground=
I don’t do too much woodworking, but our friend Kirt put this V28 circular saw to good use. He’s building a skate-park underneath his house and told me that I might not get that circular saw back.

Metal-Cutting Saw

I’ve also been eyeballing the V28 metal cutting saw. I think this could be really useful for cutting down sheetmetal, but it’s a pretty expensive alternative to an oxy-acetylene torch.

Conclusion

After using these tools on a daily/weekly basis for the last six months I am thoroughly impressed. I can use the 1/2” drill and Sawzall on and off all day in the shop alternating between two batteries (using one while charging the other) and I’ve never had to wait for a battery to charge. The problems that I’ve had with the drill are almost definitely a result of misuse, but Milwaukee offered to repair or replace it under warranty. That’s pretty great product support. More than anything else though, these tools made me realize just how much of an inconvenience extension cords are, especially in a small shop. I hadn’t ever thought about it before, but I was constantly tripping over them, lifting floor-jacks and rolling tool-boxes over them, having to put them away in order to sweep and clean up, etc.

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