As a construction worker who relies on power tools every day, I was excited when Milwaukee introduced its innovative Surge hydraulic impact driver.
The technology promised much quieter operation and less vibration than traditional impact drivers.
After over a year of real-world use though, I’ve experienced concerning power loss issues with the Surge that leave me questioning if it can live up to the hype.
My Initial Impressions – Smooth and Quiet, But Less Power
When I first started using the Surge on job sites, I immediately noticed the quieter sound signature. It has a smooth “whirring” noise instead of the hammering cacophony of standard impacts.
My ears definitely appreciated the change after long days driving fasteners!
The tool felt great too, with less hand vibration thanks to the hydraulic drive. I could use it for longer with less fatigue.
However, I did notice the Surge lacked the same gut-punch power of my old anvil impact. It struggled a bit driving 3-inch deck screws and could barely handle lag bolts. I chalked it up to the trade-off for the innovative technology.
Ominous Power Loss Issues Emerge
After about 6 months, I started experiencing sporadic power loss issues with my Surge. It would suddenly lose torque while driving screws, leaving them only partially inserted.
This was annoying when putting up drywall or decking, forcing me to grab a pry bar to finish driving partially seated fasteners.
I suspected maybe I had a defective tool. But then a coworker reported similar problems with his Surge. The power would randomly cut out, failing to fully drive screws and bolts.
Some forums and YouTube videos also started popping up demonstrating the loss of sustained torque.
One video clearly showed the power loss issue trying to drive lag bolts. The Surge would get about halfway through before the torque abruptly stopped, though the chuck was still spinning.
Even using a breaker bar couldn’t get the lag the rest of the way. It became clear this was a systemic issue affecting the design, not just isolated tool defects. The hydraulic drive system in the Surge couldn’t maintain constant power delivery.
Frustrating Safety and Performance Concerns
The power loss quickly went from an annoyance to a serious concern. I realized the Surge cutting out abruptly could be dangerous overhead or on a ladder.
If it loses torque halfway through driving a fastener, the bit can unexpectedly slip and fall. A 3-inch decking screw dropping from a roof could impale someone below!
Not being able to trust the tool to complete tasks also hampered productivity. I found myself having to baby screws with the Surge’s low power settings. And I couldn’t rely on it for important structural fastening jobs.
A traditional impact may be loud and harsh, but at least it consistently drives until the screw is flush.
Attempting Repairs and Replacements
I wanted to believe in the Surge, so I contacted Milwaukee about a replacement. The new tool had the same power loss though! I also tried repairing the chuck and motor just in case debris was causing the issue. Unfortunately, the repair didn’t help either.
Some people suggest using higher amp hour batteries. I tried XC 5.0 and even 8.0 batteries but still experienced inexplicable power loss. At one point, I was so frustrated I purchased a second Surge to compare. This one performed even worse, barely able to sink lag bolts at all before losing power!
I even borrowed a coworker’s Dewalt 20V Max impact to see if other modern drivers had similar problems, but it performed fine with sustained power.
It became clear the problem was with the Surge tool’s internal hydraulic impact system, not the batteries. Milwaukee has an engineering defect on their hands affecting the Surge’s ability to deliver sustained torque.
Searching for Solutions from Milwaukee
Milwaukee clearly innovated with the Surge’s quieter and smoother hydraulic drive. But the execution is failing in real-world conditions. I hope Milwaukee acknowledges the widespread power loss problems and finds a permanent fix.
Some forums mention the company is working on revisions. But there is no definitive timeline. I worry they tried rushing the Surge to market without sufficient testing. This seems like an engineering or manufacturing defect they are scrambling to correct.
In the meantime, I will be sticking with traditional anvil impact drivers. They may be loud and jarring, but I know I can trust them to drive a fastener fully flush.
I wish the Surge lived up to its potential, but too many users are experiencing power loss for me to recommend it in its current state. Hopefully, Milwaukee can sort out the issues soon! They built a reputation for reliability that the Surge is jeopardizing.
Appeal to Milwaukee
Milwaukee, you have built a reputation for reliability and performance over almost a century, as outlined in this history of Milwaukee power tools. Please don’t jeopardize that hard-earned trust with issues like the Surge’s power loss.
I know you can draw on that legacy of innovation to correct this product’s defects. You’ve earned loyalty from tradesmen like me through generations of industry-leading tools. Please take the power loss problems with the Surge seriously and address them quickly.
This tool shows so much promise. With some revisions and quality control improvements, it could be a category leader. But you need to be upfront about the issues and take care of your loyal customers in the meantime. Consider extending warranties or offering cheap repairs/replacements.
And most importantly, keep us updated on your progress in fixing the problems. Don’t leave us in the dark! We want to stick by Milwaukee, but you need to address this issue transparently.
The Surge impact driver concept has so much potential. But the execution is clearly still a work in progress. I hope Milwaukee takes responsibility and resolves the power loss defect soon.
When Milwaukee innovates successfully, as with the One-Key platform, they really do lead the industry. I hope they can apply that same dedication to quality to fixing the issues with the Surge.
In the meantime, I cannot confidently recommend the tool to other tradesmen based on my experience. Please learn from this experience and keep innovating Milwaukee!
While waiting for a Surge fix, tradesmen may want to explore options from other brands like Makita. Check out this XGT vs M18 comparison to see how the platforms stack up.