Milwaukee M12 1/4″ Ratchet 2556-20

By Stan Durlacher on Tool and Product Reviews

Milwaukee M12 1/4″ Ratchet Review

So it is past time to tear down an old BMW engine I have in the workshop. The first major milestone in this endeavor is to remove the cylinder head. And that entails removing almost 100 small fasteners.

Clearly, it is time to get out the extension cords, lug the portable compressor over to the engine, break out the air hoses and oil up the pneumatic ratchet.
Put on the hearing protection, try not to trip on the cords or hoses all over the floor –  and now we are ready to start. What a hassle, but it sure beats spinning all of those nuts and bolts by hand.

But wait – now the rest of the story…

For this job, I went over to the tool bench and grabbed ahold of the new available Milwaukee 2556-20, M12 -¼” ratchet to start the work.

That’s it for the preparation.

Milwaukee M12 1/4″ Ratchet

The Milwaukee M12 1/4″ Ratchet is a real work horse of a tool, powered by the M12 Lithium Ion Battery pack. The tool weighs only 1.9 pounds, is nicely balanced and so much quieter (and safer) than my pneumatic ratchet setup.  Milwaukee is very proud of its entire line of new M12 FUEL™ Ratchets. They market these as the first cordless solutions to offer the power and size to replace pneumatic ratchets, and are the highest torque cordless ratchets on the market. I can verify that is the case for the ¼” ratchet. The Milwaukee line of M12 ratchets come in ¼”, 3/8” and ½” sizes. The ½” M12 has 600 ft-lbs of torque!

My engine tear-down took just over 45 minutes of near continuous use and the 2556 only showed ¼ of the battery charge used up. Very impressive.

The Milwaukee M12 1/4″ Ratchet has a POWERSTATE brushless motor and the efficiency of this type of electric motor, even in a 12 volt system, shows through. The tool never heated up past a comfortable warm temperature, while providing a very controlled trigger adjusted speed from 0 to 250 rpm. This top speed is more than sufficiently high for spinning off nuts on long studs.

The Milwaukee M12 1/4″ Ratchet 2556-20 is a WINNING design – a very relevant tool without over-engineering the hand tool it replaces.

Wiggler Head

Like many ratchet mechanisms, the head has a “wiggler” component that is attached to the axial motor shaft with a crank type connection. As the ratchet rotates, this piece wiggles back and forth in the middle portion of the head of the tool. While I was working on a relatively clean engine, I wonder if this part of the head could become clogged with oily grit when working on the underside of a car or full of sawdust if working overhead on construction. Would this become an issue or just reinforce the reasons why you should always wear eye protection as the grit gets flung into your face by the wiggler?

This tool is a true keeper for lots of reasons. It will sell itself to you. But let’s look at the features and specifications for the Milwaukee M12 1/4″ Ratchet .

Milwaukee M12 1/4″ Ratchet 2556-20 Features

  • 12-volt motor delivers up to 30 ft-lbs of torque
  • Produces 250 RPM, with variable-speed trigger for greater control
  • RedLithium Battery Technology
  • RedLink Intelligence: Provides optimized performance and overload protection using total system communication between tool, battery and charger
  • On-board fuel gauge: Helps you monitor the charge precisely for less downtime on the job
  • Built-in LED light: Illuminates work surfaces in dark locations
  • Model: Milwaukee 2556-21 (kit), 2556-20 (bare tool)
  • Battery: Milwaukee M12 RedLithium battery pack
  • Length: 10-3/4 in.
  • Weight: 1.9 lbs
  • Peak Torque: 30 ft-lbs
  • No Load Speed: 0-250 RPM
  • Width (head): 3/4 in.
  • Warranty (tool): 5 years
  • Warranty (battery): 2 years
  • Price: $159 (bare), $239 (kit)

Finish Feature

The project at hand for this review was 100% disassembly, The Milwaukee M12 1/4″ Ratchet has some neat features for assembly, as well. As you know, today’s cars and construction equipment in addition have some delicate parts made from plastic and rubber. If you use a 3/8-inch air ratchet or even a corded tool of some kind, you can easily break a fastener or strip it out. With the 2556, you can finish the last turns and synchs without power like a traditional ratchet for the last couple turns if you’re worried about over-torqueing the fasteners.

But should you need all the power of the Milwaukee M12 1/4″ Ratchet, it will stop, flash, and let you know that it won’t go any tighter when it gives you its full 30 ft-lbs of torque.

What Do I think?

Milwaukee has a real winner in this tool and created a design with the 2556 ratchet that produced a very relevant tool without over-engineering the hand tool it replaces.

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About the author

Stan Durlacher

Stan has been a project manager in the Boston commercial real estate and construction market since 1978. He is currently a Project Executive for a major Boston Construction Manager, building High Rise apartment and office buildings. Two of his current projects are Air Right Developments over the Mass Turnpike in downtown Boston. One of the hallmarks of his career has been innovative problem solving. As Assistant Secretary of Transportation for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Stan was instrumental in bringing the hydromill slurry wall machinery and technology to Boston in the 1990’s for use on the Central Artery Third Harbor Tunnel Project. Stan has been an avid woodworker since college and brings an innovative point of view to this field. He owns an 1886 farmhouse near Concord, Mass and his skills and time are never idle for long. His barn and attached spaces serve as his ever-expanding workshop. Stan is a self-avowed tool hound. In 2013, Stan decided to design and build his own CNC router. This machine has become a centerpiece of his woodworking and his craft focus Stan will share many of the ways that this innovative technology has solved many current problems and how CNC will begin to impact the woodworking and home renovation businesses.

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