I decided to write about this subject after looking at the official feedback review of Milwaukee batteries on their official websites. There are quite some unexplained low ratings there while many ratings are very good or excellent. So there must be something wrong. Well, here comes the story.
In the power tools industry, just like in the Li-Ion cell industry there’s an invasion of fakes on the market. Just like you have the blue or striped “ultrafire” 18650 cells that are marked over 4000mAh and they actually have between 100 and 400 usually and that’s just for a few charges, you also have fakes for power tool batteries. In DeWalt’s case it’s a lot worse, there are low quality tools overmarked, nicely painted and sold as originals even if they are totally low entry level tools. Don’t get me wrong, may are actually usable and good for low power precision work but will instantly fail at work that suppose to be achievable for them. Batteries are even labeled 36V and have only 4 cells (so it’s a 14.4V tool). This is as far as things went for DeWalt.
But let’s get back at Milwaukee batteries. I had hundreds of such batteries ranging from 2Ah and ending up with 12Ah with most intermediaries between (3, 4, 5, 9 and the newer 3 and 8Ah). All originals were excellent, even very old ones. I have plenty of them still that are 4-5 years old and have more than 85% of their capacity intact. The only thing I found strange so far was a lot that I had from 2019-2020 of 5Ah ones that were practically self-discharging extremely fast, as in more than half capacity each month. Nothing else wrong with them; they had the stated capacity, the original cells, everything was good except this. I did not find something to explain this yet. But other than this, I can definitely rate the Milwaukee batteries as the best power tool batteries there. I will explain the details why in another article, as I want to focus now on fakes.
Given my experience with all types of their M18 batteries (which I also repair in my spare time as a hobby), reading the user product reviews, I could only come up with the conclusion that many people get fakes instead. And fakes are not only one type, they are multiple types, some totally junk, some nearly acceptable in quality. I will rate the fakes from highest to lowest quality: fakes that have original cells, fakes that have alternate cells (of high current or not of high current) and the junk fakes that have low capacity low current cells.
Grade B fakes (with original cells) – those are the best of the fakes. You actually get original Samsung cells but of lower capacity. Here’s an example of a 3Ah one having 1300mAh Samsung cells instead of 1500mAh ones:
You can clearly see that the soldering is done manually. So this is the best type of fake you can get: you have high current cells, you get near the stated capacity (2.6Ah instead of 3.0) but the electronics are usually pretty bad and won’t last too long. So let’s say you have almost 2 out of 3 reference points here.
Grade C fakes (with other cells) – for this type you may have 2 lottery tickets to draw: high current alternate cells and low current alternate cells. You may have variations from low current cells with all the stated capacity to high current cells with less capacity. The circuit can also vary in quality.
In the below case, a 9Ah battery has an actual capacity of 4Ah, because it’s using 1500mAh cells, but at least those support a good discharge current (I tested them and they were able to keep a load constantly throughout the discharge without overheating so they passed the current test).
So a battery like this one you can safely use even for high power stuff but it will still not beat an original 5Ah. You will end up spending the $ you give for an original 5Ah and get something below that. And this is a best case scenario situation. If the cells are not high current you may end up with a fire. For this specific one the actual electronics looked pretty solid, but the connectivity was poor (low quality wires, low thickness for the battery nickel stripe, poor welding. I’d rate those 1.5 /3.
Grade D fakes (with junk everything inside). I don’t have inside pictures of such type of a fake anymore (but will publish them if I will get my hands on another battery of this type); I have just some overall external pics to show you:
This is the worst fake battery I ever tested. It’s marked as 6Ah. It actually has 2 at most and it has low current cells. When I put this in my saw, it took about 6 seconds of usage to turn off. Absolute trash. You can only use this for extremely light torque. You get only disadvantages: fake cells (low current, very low capacity), junk internals (wires, stripes, etc) and a very cheap circuit that can fry at any moment. The rating for these would be 0.5 / 3. You can use them for testing if a tool starts up, but in most cases that’s about it.
Now that we covered enough fakes, let’s talk about the originals. I am putting below an original 9Ah battery so you can spot the differences by comparing it with the fake.
A few noticeable differences: the Milwaukee logo on the LED area, the shape of the LED indicators, the overall look from a side and most importantly the back side label. There you have multiple markings that prove the authenticity of the battery: the GMBH tag, the INR type of cell, the manufacturing date. Note here in regard to the INR markings that I also found what seemed to be original batteries with ICR (I’d consider these as Grade A batteries and the INRs as A+) markings and had original Sony cells inside , which are lower current than the Samsung cells but still fall under medium current category. It’s likely those were designed for usage in tools of up to medium power and they looked authentic by all criteria. It’s still go for INRs with Samsungs though. If anyone has any solid info on the possibly original ICRs, feel free to give some feedback.
That said, I’ll put here some more original labels so you can spot how they look.
Another thing to note is the screws type. The originals are like in the 3 pictures below, it’s a hex screw. The fakes can have any type, hex included, but also cross or others (recent fake 9Ah had cross screws).
This final ones are also original, this type of label from the right has been used widely until around 2019 when the QR code was added for some models. There’s one more type of label, similar to this one, but without the manufacturing date number. That is also original, but it’s for 2015 and earlier batteries. Quick update: I ‘ve added it to the left – as you can see, it still has INR tag but it’s on the label. There is no manufacturing date on the back. The manufacturing date can be determined by a special code which is written in the contacts area (I will not detail since these types are no longer use since 2015).
Now you should have an overall idea on fakes and what not to get. And please stop putting bad reviews on official sites due to using fakes. That contributes to lowering the reputation of originals and will only cause fakes to get even more spread and selling power.
If you encounter weird batteries that you are not sure about, don’t hesitate to drop a line here along with some pics and we’ll see what we deal with.
End note: I am not affiliated in any way with Milwaukee, DeWalt or any other tool manufacturer. I just use lots of their tools ranging from simple drills to chainsaw and I repaired many batteries so far so I’m quite familiar with many of the top or even mid range brands.