Milwaukee M18 Polisher Puts A New Spin On Detailing

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milwaukee m18 polisher

My son’s friend Cliff, a rabid car buff, posted the pic below with the caption “I like shiny fast things.” He has some sweet cars, and meets regularly with a group of friends who also like shiny fast things. These folks take a lot of pride in their rides, and generally do most of the detailing themselves. We recently received a cordless Milwaukee M18 Polisher to evaluate, and while it’s aimed mainly at detailing pros, my guess is Cliff and his friends wouldn’t mind having it in their garages to help keep their fast things shiny.

milwaukee m18 polisher
I like shiny fast things, too…Photo courtesy @Porschekid (aka Cliff) on Instagram.

Cliff said he normally does his detailing by hand. He has a 6” random-orbit polisher, but he said it can be annoying to use, and makes his hands numb. He also said he sometimes takes his cars to a detailer, when they need a professional paint correction. I think that’s car-speak for “$#!^ – I scratched it!” They use the big-boy polishers, but he’s leery of them, because he’d rather not screw up his paint job.

milwaukee m18 polisher
Yes, he likes his cars clean…Photo courtesy @Porschekid on Instagram

Being a good detailer is definitely an art. Move the polisher too slowly, or spin the pad too quickly, and you risk burning the paint. Also, up until now, most polishers have been corded, because cordless polishers simply didn’t have enough power to get the job done – over and over again. That meant the detailer gets to drag a long cord around, generally draped over his shoulder. And if that cord happens to scuff a freshly-painted car, it’s back to the paint booth. And NOBODY is happy when that happens.

Enter the Milwaukee M18 Polisher, the world’s first cordless full-size rotary polisher. At only 6.4 lbs. including battery, the tool is actually a pound lighter than their corded polisher. The efficient brushless motor, combined with Milwaukee’s proprietary RedLink technology, provides enough power to buff all day. And without having to drag a cord around.

milwaukee m18 polisher
The Milwaukee M18 Polisher, ready to polish up your act…

The tool has a rubber overmold around the front, to protect the painted surface from scratches. There’s also a removable dust cover, to keep wool fibers and other random undesirable debris out of the motor and electronics. To optimize control, there’s a variable speed dial AND an oversized variable speed trigger, which can be locked on. You can get exactly the speed you want, from 0 (probably the safest bet for me) to 2,200 RPM.

milwaukee m18 polisher
The Milwaukee M18 Polisher has a variable speed dial…
milwaukee m18 polisher
And an oversized, locking, variable speed trigger.
milwaukee m18 polisher
A removable screen helps keep the fuzzy crud out.

Here are the features and specs from Milwaukee, followed by a short video featuring some REAL detailers:

Cordless Detailing
Total Control
Full-Size Car On One Charge
7″ Pad Capacity
Variable Speed Dial and Trigger
Constant Power Technology

Voltage: 18V
Length: 19.8″
Weight: 6.4 lbs w/ 5.0 Battery
Polishing RPM: 0 – 2,200 RPM
Height: 3.31″
Width: 4.10″
Trigger Lock: On/Off
Capacity: 7″
Tool Warranty: 5 Years

Kit includes:
(1) M18 FUEL™ 7” Variable Speed Polisher (Tool Only) (2738-20)
(2) M18™ REDLITHIUM™ XC5.0 Extended Capacity Battery Pack (48-11-1850)
(1) M18™ & M12™ Rapid Charger (48-59-1808)
(1) 7″ Wool Cutting Pad
(1) 7″ Yellow Foam Polishing Pad
(1) 7″ Black Foam Finishing Pad
(1) Backing Pad
(1) Screen Cover
(1) Side Handle
(1) Bail Handle with (2) Bolts

Getting Some Pertinent Details On The Milwaukee M18 Polisher

When I opened the box for the Milwaukee M18 polisher, and got a look at the random components, I decided to take a quick peek at the manual. It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t figure out how to assemble it; that was pretty obvious. You just have to decide whether to screw in the straight handle, which can be attached on either side, or to go with the bail handle. Then, you just have to spin in the hook-and-loop backing pad that holds the polishing pads.

milwaukee m18 polisher
A spindle lock holds ‘er steady…
milwaukee m18 polisher
So you can spin the backing pad into place.

No, being a detailing rookie, my confusion was due to the variety of pads. The kit came with two foam pads, one yellow and one black, and one wool pad. My impulse was to go with the nice, soft wool pad; after reading the manual, I’m glad I didn’t. Turns out that’s for applying compound and doing the heavy duty, big scratch jobs.

The second place the manual came in handy was related to speed. I was ready to go full speed ahead, while applying a fair amount of pressure. The manual helpfully told me “No, dumbass; unless you want to burn your paint, use a slow speed and keep that sucker moving.” They may have phrased it more politely, but that’s the gist of it.

A little more research clued me in to the fact that the yellow pads are for polishing, and black for finishing. Armed with my new knowledge, I charged up the two batteries, grabbed the yellow pad, and headed for the test site, aka our driveway.

milwaukee m18 polisher
Turns out the yellow foam pad was the right choice.

Taking The Milwaukee M18 Polisher For A Spin

I decided the test vehicle for the Milwaukee M18 polisher would be my wife’s Subaru Forester, for three reasons. Reason one: Spousal brownie points. My usual modus operandi is “it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.” From time to time, however, the scales must be balanced. Reason two: Her Subaru is a helluva lot smaller than my F150 SuperCrew. And reason three: Cliff refused to drop off a Porsche, despite the generous offer of a free rookie detailing job. Go figure!

milwaukee m18 polisher
The test vehicle had a good protective coating of dust.

Just because the Subie is smaller doesn’t mean it was cleaner. We are renovating an old farm house, which is located on a dirt road. This means that, depending on the recent weather, the car gets a good coating of either dust or mud. Fortunately, the weather had been pretty dry recently, so…dust it was. I got out the hose and bucket, and gave her car a nice bath.

milwaukee m18 polisher
Aha, that’s what color it is…

Once the car was clean, it was time for the Milwaukee M18 polisher to shine. I had attached the bail handle, figuring I could use all the control I could get. I had also threaded the backing pad into position, and attached the foam polishing pad. I was skeptical of how well the hook and loop attachment would work to keep the pad in place; after pressing the pad into position, and trying to remove it, I was skeptical no longer.

milwaukee m18 polisher
Pad on, ready for its maiden voyage.

I tried two methods of applying the liquid wax. I started by squirting some onto the surface of the car, then bringing the pad down onto it. I also tried squirting the wax directly onto the pad. I’ve seen pros do it both ways, and end up with excellent results. I ended up sticking to the “squirt it on the pad” technique, which seemed to work fine. Both methods did equally well at flinging any excess polish all over me and the already-polished surface. I may have used a tad too much polish; have I mentioned I’m a detailing rookie?

milwaukee m18 polisher
I tried applying the polish to the car…
milwaukee m18 polisher
And right on the pad, with similar results.

The Milwaukee M18 polisher did a really nice job of spreading the wax around and buffing it. After reading the “burn the paint” warning, I dialed the speed back pretty far, and took the job slowly. Someone with a clue could probably have finished the job in far less time than the almost two hours it took me.

milwaukee m18 polisher
And off we went. The Milwaukee M18 polisher was easy to control.
milwaukee m18 polisher
Slow and easy around the mirrors. And everywhere else.

The polisher wasn’t overly heavy or hard to control, and I used it several times one-handed, to reach the center of the hood or roof. Just the weight of the tool was the perfect amount of pressure to get the polishing done. Using one of the 5.0 Ah batteries that came with the kit, I still had juice left when the job was finished.

milwaukee m18 polisher
The polisher was easy to use, even one-handed…
milwaukee m18 polisher
That made it easy to get the center of the roof.

Using a polisher really speeds up the detailing process, once you get the hang of it. There are some spots that still need to be done by hand – under the door handles, and between the door and the mirrors, for example. On the bulk of the car, though, the Milwaukee M18 polisher was able to get right in there and work its polishing magic.

milwaukee m18 polisher
Better here…?
milwaukee m18 polisher
Or here?

Winter is coming, at which point we trade the dust and mud for snow and slush. When I do get motivated to get a good coat of wax on my truck, the polisher should be a huge time saver.

milwaukee m18 polisher
We’ll save the truck for another day.

The Milwaukee M18 Polisher – The Final Details

If you do detailing for a living, or you’re a car fanatic who obsesses over keeping your rides clean and pristine, I’m betting you’ll love the Milwaukee M18 polisher. It’s well-balanced, easy to control, and it works great. It can do everything a corded polisher can do – except trip you or drag a cord across your perfect paint.

milwaukee m18 polisher
Brownie points earned – the universe is in balance.

The kit we got comes with two 5.0 Ah M18 batteries and a charger. Milwaukee estimates that it takes a pro roughly 45 minutes to detail an average car, and that a single battery is enough to get the job done. Ready for the next car? Grab the second battery, slap the used one in the charger, and by the time the next car is finished, the first battery is ready to play again. Do a lot of stretch limos, yachts, RVs or the occasional Lear Jet? Slide in a Milwaukee High Demand 9.0 Ah battery, and get to it.

milwaukee m18 polisher
Got a larger vehicle? Slap in a High Demand battery. Photo courtesy @Porschekid on Instagram

The Milwaukee M18 Polisher is a solid unit; it looks and feels like a quality tool. It’s clearly aimed at the pro user, and should hold up well in a shop setting. Milwaukee obviously thinks so, too – they back the tool with a five-year warranty. If you’re tired of working all day with a cord hanging off your shoulder, pick one up and take it for a spin.

milwaukee m18 polisher
Don’t be jealous, Cliff.

Buy kit for around $499 from HF sponsor Ohio Power Tool:

Buy Now - via Ohio Power Tool

Bare tool for around $249 from Ohio Power Tool:

Buy Now - via Ohio Power Tool

Photo of author

About Phil

Phil’s path to the pinnacle of success as HomeFixated’s Senior Writer was long and twisted. At various stages of his life, he worked as a framing carpenter, attended motorcycle mechanics school, served as an Army MP, did a hot and itchy stint installing insulation in Phoenix, owned and operated a small contracting firm doing residential renovations, and worked as an employee of a major airline (Motto: We’re not happy ‘til YOU’RE not happy). He is currently semi-retired, but continues to take on little projects, such as the total renovation of an old farmhouse. Yes, he is a slow learner. Future projects include a teardown restoration of his 1965 BMW motorcycle, and designing and building a kick-ass playhouse for his grandsons. Phil loves spending time outdoors, hanging out with family and friends, cool tools, and a cold IPA when beer o'clock rolls around.

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