Battery in cordless tools


You’re right, don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote that. The M12 batteries definitely only have space for 3 cells, and I seem to remember wondering why 12V would have 4 when they have 3 and just ignored it…

Fixed the post, thanks for keeping me honest!


It’s okay Tim. Here in North America, the tool companies did decide to do some wacky stuff with naming the voltage lines. I think the choice to distinguish the Lithium Ion batteries with all sorts of fancy names throws us all at times. Milwaukee “Fuel” for example, or “Red Lithium”… And yet still the M12/M18 lines above that… If you’re a Milwaukee person, it’s easy. But when you’re trying to teach someone new stuff about batteries in general? How do we throw in the DeWALT/SBD family into the conversation?

We all have off days where that is just confusing. We all get ourselves into trouble when we go outside the system we’re used to. We don’t mean to, we’re just human.


Yeah, I really don’t know what I was doing when I wrote that post, being a computer/electrical engineer, I know better, just wasn’t paying attention I guess. But it’s definitely confusing for most everyone who cares about getting down to the internals! More so than the batteries even, I think the differentiation between lines within a manufacturer is confusing. Each manufacturer may have some subset of low end brushed, mid range brushed, mid range brushless, high end brushless, or even more options for tools. DeWalt has the XR brushless, the brushed regular 20V max, the compact brushless, XRP still with the old batteries, and I even remember seeing some branded as “20V max premium XYZ”. Plus flexvolt 60v and flexvolt 120V. Makita has their white low end brushed, blue mid range brushed, full size brushless, compact brushless, and black subcompact, plus their 18V x2 (36V) tools. Milwaukee has their brushed regular brushless, and then “Fuel” high end brushless. Plus I’m pretty sure they’re starting down the compact brushless road separate from their regular brushless, like the 2702 vs 2902. It definitely helps being bought in to a line to justify the effort to keep up with all the differentiation.

I suppose it helps sell tools and maybe push people toward more tool than they need (The “Fuel must be better than just a brushless right?”) if they don’t know the differences. But I think that’s to consumers’ detriment as it becomes harder and harder to determine what is what, how it fits in the overall line, and thus which best meets their needs. I’ve even been bit by it, I bought one of the XR dewalt drills for my robotics team, thinking it was their only brushless option, when what I really wanted was the lighter weight and smaller compact brushless. Or for Milwaukee especially, and makita and bosch even, with their very viable and capable 12V lines, where does 12V brushed and 12V Fuel / brushless fit in the overall scheme. I couldn’t tell you which is better between the last-gen regular 18V brushless drill and last-gen 12V Fuel drill. Granted most people will buy to the battery and not worry about crossing 12V and 18V lines though.

Then there’s still the batteries as you mention, Red Lithium, M12, M18, LXT, CXT, 12V Max, 20V Max, XR, XRP, Octane, High Demand, High Output, Flexvolt, Multivolt, … Now the new skil ones where some batteries looks like they have USB ports, and some don’t. Even the lines I own I can’t always keep straight. Like the difference between dewalt XR batteries and non-XR batteries. I own some slim 3.0Ah non-XR batteries, some 1.5Ah (I think) slim XR batteries, and some 5Ah XR batteries, and I couldn’t tell you what the XR means. Maybe they’re designed to pair with XR tools and are higher performance batteries or something? Milwaukee was just as confusing with their high demand vs. high output nonsense, I think someone in marketing just got overzealous in putting some kind of “better than the rest” branding on the 9Ah batteries as high demand, but then when they made the high output tools to compete with flexvolt and needed differentiated branding, they got stuck.


In simplest terms… All these companies are actually trying to make their battery and tool lines Nameable. A “Red Lithium” Drill or Saw goes with a “Red Lithium” battery, and so forth all the way through all these lines.

As to the SBD family, and their choice to use the Nominal voltage in North America… You’re going to kick yourself when you realize how stupid their naming scheme is. 20/12/8 Volt Max TOOLS are Brushed. The 1.5Ah and 3.0 Ah/3.0 Ah Slim Pack, are all considered 20 Volt Max Basic Batteries. EVERYTHING newer than them, the 2.0 Ah, 4.0+ AH, and FlexVOLT batteries, are all called XR. Along with their Brushless line, the XR stands for (The embarrassingly simplistic) eXtended Runtime. XR to differentiate it from the 18 Volt XRP line, which was eXtra Running Power, or something equally odd.

In everywhere that ISN’T the North American market, the 20 Volt line is called the 18 Volt XR line. They have no Max line, and they’re all branded XR. Also, there are no nominal voltages listed, only the loaded voltages. So the 12 Volt Max is, I believe, the 10.8 Volt XR line, or something similar.

Just remember… You may be GENUINELY interested in this stuff, but you’re still human. Making a little slip like this kind of thing is okay. We all screw it up at least once in our lives, and more if we’re tired. I severely doubt there is a single tool user on this forum, or who read ToolGuyd, who HASN’T got the math or the numbers wrong at least a few times in their lives, moreso in the past few years with all the new Lithium Ion and Lithium Polymer lines they’ve been toying with at SBD, TTI, and Bosch. You’d practically have to have entire shelves labelled “This belongs HERE, Stupid!” in order to keep your brain organized. If you’re doing good? You never have to read that label that insults you. If you’re on an off day? You wrote, with your own hands, that you’re being stupid.

We’re HUMAN. We have off days. Our brains go numb, no matter how good we are at something, we just have off days where it’s not there for us. You’ve really given “Learner” some great info, and you should be proud of that part!


I’ve had my friend argue that Milwaukee is better (without getting into the argument now) because they have fuel and the competition doesn’t:-)


Depending on the context of the statement, that’s either silly, or in some way complimentary of the tools.

Being totally honest, I’m a DeWALT guy, and I just refuse to invest in Milwaukee at this point. But, at the same time, I consider Milwaukee to be an integral part of a certain level of Construction and Industrial Trades level tools. You work on certain projects throughout your life, and you gradually get to a point where you decide “My Tools aren’t suitable to the size of my projects. I need something tougher and more capable of doing the job.” And at that point, either through your own work, or working with others on some sort of Crew, you are led to a choice of Either Milwaukee, DeWALT, or Both in a mix.

I used to be “Red Versus Yellow” on this, but I’ve really come to realize that the two companies are perhaps better characterized as a single, complete level of Tool Users. Bosch, Makita, Rigid, Dremel, Metabo, Hilti… All these other brands focus on one thing or another, but lack a complete top-to-bottom lineup that allows a Trades or Construction Professional to reliably get exactly what they need for the job, without switching systems. With Milwaukee and DeWALT, even if you’re packing both, you’ve got everything you could possibly need, and they have most of their tools capable of using every other brand’s blades/bits/accessories. So, you are never at a loss for consumables, and can always get the job done.

This is probably sacrilege to most tool users on the Red Vs. Yellow debate. But, nonetheless, I have come to see that both companies produce the highest quality products of their class, even if other brands have some sort of innovation that they don’t. I am utterly unfamiliar with the ins and outs of Milwaukee’s tool naming lines, and I am completely devoted to DeWALT out of trust. So, really… it’s not an argument with me around. Call it Zen Tool Use if you wish. I’m nowhere near as brand-centric as I used to be. For MYSELF, I have specific brands I’ll buy, but I’m not about to tell others that their tools aren’t any good.


I’d put Makita, and maybe Metabo and Bosch if you’re overseas, in with DeWalt and Milwaukee as fairly complete solutions. There is definitely still specialization, even with all the top brands though. DeWalt is playing catch up to Milwaukee on plumbing and electrical specific tools, Milwaukee is playing catch up to DeWalt on construction type tools. Makita has metalworking and concrete tools that DeWalt and Milwaukee don’t have. Bosch overseas at least has a good smattering of many of the trade specific tools, but I maybe wouldn’t peg them being as complete in any one line as much as DeWalt/makita/Milwaukee. Metabo is on par or better than makita for metalworking, but isn’t as prevalent in the States.

I’m not saying there aren’t plumbers who run dewalt or makita, or aren’t construction workers who run Milwaukee, or something completely different, it really depends on what tools each brand had available when you bought in, ans if you needed those specialty tools. For more general pro usage, or heavy DIY level or similar, I think any of the big three will suit just fine, if you stick with one line. You likely won’t be as dependent on specialty tools that would lead you to one line over the other, especially anymore as the distinctions grow blurrier as lines introduce tools to fill their gaps.

I’ve gone past sticking with one line now, there are different things each line does best, and being more of a heavy DIY type, I don’t mind mixing lines and batteries. I do stay Milwaukee for core tools or when there’s no clear “this other brand is much better for this tool” to keep things slightly similar, and went with that in the beginning because I would use more of Milwaukee’s specialty tools back then than any other brand. But I have at least a few tools from most of the major lines, hitting the high points from each to get the best and most durable tools or tools I can’t get from other lines.


I’ve literally been handed a brand new Makita, out of the box, and had it smoke on me. Never had a Metabo before, and I find Bosch to be… I don’t know… they feel terribly light to me. Not cheap in any way, they just feel too light for what they do. I think of Bosch as the third of the “Big Three” but they’re more… Engineered than the other two. It’s hard to describe in pure text, without it being insulting where I find them to be quite good. Bosch BLADES, on the other hand, are hands down my favourite blades to use overall. Jigsaw, Circular, Recip, Oscilating… Bosch and its baby company Dremel are my favourite to use, despite being a DeWALT person.

But, when push comes to shove, I’m not the be-all, and end-all for this. Plus, my budget is remarkably low, as the majority of this stuff is not how I make a living. I started as a Computer Tech with an interest in Woodworking and Metalworking, and due to failing health in my parents, turned into an Ergonomics and Invention/Customization builder. A Maker-in-general, if you will, as well as Caregiver. Not a lot of money to be made, if at all. I HAD to invest in tools I could put down, and not touch for years on end, and still trust them. I have such a wide range of specialties, and uses, that I couldn’t literally afford to invest in such a wide range as you did. I mean, ideally, if you’ve got the money to go all 3 of the big 3, then you really are optimizing the best of the best. You can’t, and WON’T be caught off guard by a project. But, then, you would fit into a category where you can afford a few things can go wrong, without you losing major chunks of your income trying to replace it and keep going.

Now, I was young and stupid once… Too arrogant for my own good, you’ve probably seen hundreds like I was. I was “DeWALT or nothing at all!” for a long time. Then I realized I was a Hypocrite, because I was RAISED using a Dremel Rotary Tool. For my 30th Birthday, my family gave me enough money to buy TWO top-of-the-line models, the 4000 and the 8200, with all the attachments. Right around then, my Father decided to yell at me until I bought the DeWALT tools I needed out of his account, and looking back on this person I was… I realized how stupid I was, playing “Red Vs Yellow” when the tool market was so drastically diverse. Even I had tools that went against that competitive argument.

I’m not saying Bosch or Makita are BAD, that NO ONE should own them. Far from it. They just fit at a different point in the ladder of tool users. Those with specialized tasks are slightly below the rung on the ladder where Milwaukee and DeWALT are. There are a LOT of people who have one foot on either rung. It’s not a matter of quality, it’s a matter of classifying what you do with your tools. Highly specialized, engineered work? You’re probably going Makita and/or Bosch. If you do the same thing, day in and day out, with giant chunks of work material that fights back when you try to make it do what you want… Chances are better that you have at least touched the rung where Milwaukee and DeWALT exist. Where all your limbs hit on the ladder, kinda dictate what tool companies you use. I’m FIRMLY placed on the rungs for Dremel, Stanley, DeWALT, and Veritas from Lee Valley. Not everyone is bound to land exactly as I have, and there’s no shame or judgement involved if they do land differently.

I’ve got too mentally old to still believe in competitive tool ownership. It’s not about TEAMS. It’s about TOOLS. Getting the right job done.

Our original poster here, @learning, has their own needs to fill with this phantom Makita Drill issue. It’s not about what team we’re on, it’s about helping THEM get what they need to get THEIR job done. If we’re good enough with tools to answer the questions asked, we should be good enough to do so without trying to convince them that what they have is junk, and that they should be more like us. The Job is what matters, not our own tool choices.

All the rest of this conversation is information they can use to understand the underpinnings of what is going on a bit better. Learning material straight from real tool users’ experiences. A bit like getting a free, online apprenticeship with all the posters who respond to their question.


If you’re not in a big rush to get the battery/charger, I suggest you wait a few weeks and start to look at the sales for the holidays. Chances are they’ll have a kit with a couple batteries and a charger for a very good price. In other words, the package deals really save money, especially over the holidays.

Amazon usually has $20 off coupons on Makita and other major brands over the holidays. In the meantime, go to Home Depot as suggested to make sure the current Makita Batteries fit. On Amazon and the other places that crop up with good sales/coupons on Toolguyd you can do some comparison shopping.

Makita is my main 18v platform and I have several of their drills. Love their ergonomics! I often use the smallest batteries in them (slim packs), but you could go up a notch. If you get to home depot, you can see the differences in real life. Also, their chargers are great and faster than many other brands.


This is the same kind of drill I inherited, all beat up, but without a battery. The person who I gave it to to check out thinks it takes a 12v battery but they still haven’t had time to get into it. Hope the picture shows up.

And I want to thank everyone who’s posting. It all helps me to learn.


Same kind, or exactly the same is a bit of a difference unfortunately. Here’s a 12V class Makita drill, it looks nearly the same as the 18V one above…

The one you posted above is an 18V battery. Fred and Dorian has a good suggestion, take it to a Home Depot or similar and see if you can put an 18V battery on it. It’ll be very obvious if it fits the 18V or not, it’ll be much to small for the 18V, or much too big for the 12V. Or compare the connector to some of the bare tools they have out, same thing, look at the size, it’ll be obvious one way or the other. My guess continues that it’s an 18V drill.

If it has that BL logo on it, it means that’s it’s a brushless motor. Brushless motors will have better runtime and power than their brushed counterparts. You’ll probably be okay with just about any battery makita makes, but might be able to get a bit more performance from a larger battery (not likely noticeable under normal homeowner usage though). As ktash suggests, you might wait for the holidays if you can, Makita will usually have a “holiday” kit, that might include a drill or impact driver, battery, and charger, usually right around the $100 mark. The impact driver would complement a drill nicely, and you’d get the battery and charger to use. You might also look for deals around the same time where you get a free battery with another kit, 2 batteries is better than 1 if you’re actually using it for something, charge one battery while you use the other.


Thanks. Will do as suggested if the person I gave it to doesn’t do that.

Again, appreciate al the help from everyone.


Another Q: the drill is a Makita. Can you use other makers’ batteries in it - fi they fit? Do some batteries from other makers fit some tools of other brands? I would think not, but don’t really know. That’s one of the things I’m learning…


Nope. The only ones you might ever see are DeWalt batteries working in Mac tools or graco paint guns, but those are marketed as “powered by DeWalt”. Similarly, surebonder has a glue gun designed to be powered by ryobi batteries. But you won’t find cross compatibility between the major tool lines themselves, at least not directly. Some folks say Black and decker batteries work on one of their mid grade lines if you cut off a tab on the batteries, but not owning any of those, I can’t attest to that, nor ever recommend doing it. Same way I wouldn’t recommend 3rd party batteries. They’re cheaper, but you don’t know what’s in them. Cheaper B&D batteries may have inferior cells to porter cable batteries as an example, so while they might work to power the tool, you’re risking the lifespan of the battery, and more likely to overload it. The batteries made by the tool manufacturers meet the performance needs for their tool lines, are made with new and known quality cells. Not that you have much choice but stick with them anyway since nothing is cross compatible.

There’s a gray area if you wanted to exchange batteries from similar tier tools, like i would be comfortable using DeWalt batteries on milwaukee, Milwaukee batteries on makita, makita batteries on Bosch, and Bosch batteries on DeWalt, but for sure none of those are cross compatible. You’ll sometimes find 3D printed adapters that you have to wire up, but that’s also a risky proposition.

All lithium based battery tools have protection for the battery built in somewhere, because of disastrous results if you overload them too much or discharge them too far. Some manufacturers put the protection circuitry in the battery pack itself. Some put it in the tool body instead. Having two protection circuits can sometimes mess with each other, but at least is usually safe. If you make a combination with no protection, that’s not good. Especially if you use a lower grade battery on a higher end / higher power draw tool.


Porter Cable and Black+Decker batteries can be modified by cutting some plastic here and there to work on each other’s tools, and are internally identical and have the same cells IE 1.5 ah are the same in both etc.


But, for the love of God, don’t do that @learning. One slip and you can compromise whether it locks in place safely. Plus it voids warranties. The one and only time this is ever okay is when you are using the tool battery for something else, like powering a science fair experiment, or other “I know this isn’t what it’s meant for” reasons.

If you’ve got @cr8ondt’s guts for modifying the battery, you are definitely taking all the risks into your own hands. Not something you should do for the sake of getting a battery to fit your tool.


Another way to find out the battery size is to look at the model number. Then just go on Amazon or the Makita site to find out about it. If Amazon has it (likely) you can also see the reviews.



Thanks again. And no, no way I’d ever fool around with jury-rigging batteries, even though I’m great at jury-rigging lots of things :slightly_smiling_face: