Milwaukee M12 Auto Technician Borescope Hands-On Review

Milwaukee's first venture in automotive diagnostic tools is a win.
Milwaukee M12 Auto Technician Borescope Review

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It’s never fun to find a problem. It’s way less fun to guess wrongly about what’s causing your troubles and proceed to fix it. And by the time you realize you were way off, you’re hours into a tear-down that’s done nothing but add the cost of gaskets to the bill. A borescope saves you the headache by giving you means to look inside without having to take things apart. Models like Milwaukee’s M12 Auto Technician borescope that specifically target automotive work aid the process with a few seemingly basic, but super-effective features.

Don’t get me wrong; any borescope is a game-changer for working on cars. They are universal tools, though. Basic versions can be a bit limited for this field. The M12 Auto Technician borescope elevates itself with its pivoting screen, 5mm dual-lens head, and field replaceable cable. There are a few more trick features, but after testing one out for a few months, these really stand out.

I’ve used this thing to troubleshoot several jobs since Milwaukee sent it to me for review. I’ll say right up front that it’s a really nice piece for professionals on the market for a competitively-priced borescope. It is a little pricey to be DIY-friendly choice, but it does a lot of things right that might make it a worthwhile investment for anyone serious about working on cars. 

M12 Auto Technician Borescope Rundown 

Milwaukee has called M12 Auto Technician borescope its first automotive diagnostics tool. It’s a cordless borescope that runs on Milwaukee’s M12 battery. It’s a member of an incredibly solid ecosystem with other great tools for automotive work—including the M12 Insider ratchet. I swear, I’m not a Milwaukee fanboy, I’m just thoroughly impressed with what this line has to offer. 

The Milwaukee M12 Auto Technician borescope is packed with features aimed to make it better for working on cars. The first of which to jump out is the pivoting 4.3-inch screen. It shares this feature with the M12 M-Spector 360 borescope, which really boosts the flexibility of these tools. That helps you work around having to twist the head and try to match  the screen so you can get a clear shot at whatever it is you’re trying to look at. It also allows you to position the camera as you need so you can set it down wherever and use both hands to manipulate the cable. 

The cable is where this sets itself apart from the M-Spector 360. It’s got a 5mm head, which is half the size of the M-Spector’s. Despite the small size, it’s also got two lenses—one facing straight ahead and the other facing off the side. Switching between the two is easily done with the push of a button on the handheld portion of the device. 

The cable being field-replaceable is a really nice touch. If something goes wrong, you can swap the cable out without having to replace the entire unit. The cable is backed by a warranty, which is a good thing because the replacement costs $229.00. It is also protected with Milwaukee’s Heat Sense technology that will let you know if an area is too hot for the camera to be safely used.

The head also features LEDs with adjustable brightness. This allows you to see clearly in dark places without having to contend with glare created by the reflections on smooth surfaces. Pictures and video can also be stored on the included 32-GB SD card. That makes it easy to transfer files, but you can also playback clips and delete files on the borescope itself. Another useful feature is the 4x zoom that allows you to get a better look at things without having to adjust. The 720p resolution does fine with spotting fine details with the help of these functions.

The retail price of this unit is $429.00. That doesn’t include the battery, just the case, cable, and borescope itself. The borescope is backed with a 5-year warranty, with a 2-year warranty on the cable. Still, for that money, it’s nice to have the aforementioned cable protections and robust construction to offer peace of mind. 

Using Milwaukee’s M12 Auto Technician Borescope 

Several real-world demands for a borescope have presented themselves since the M12 Auto Technician borescope’s arrival. I have to say that the rotating screen, compact dual-lens head, and adjustable lighting really do work nicely with one another. 

The job where its flexibility really shined was when diagnosing leaking valve seals on my 1969 Dodge Charger. The 440 in that car is due for a good rebuild. However, it shouldn’t be so tired that burning oil is a major issue. But when I started seeing a few puffs of blue smoke, I knew I’d better take a look inside. Paired with a compression test, the borescope helped me rule out worn rings as the issue. Being able to switch to the side lens on the cable easily gave me a look at the valves, which showed me where the oil was getting in. The pivoting head helped keep a kink out of my neck, especially as I checked all eight cylinders. I still have yet to pull the heads off, but some Bar’s Oil Seal did seem to clear up the smoke issue and buy me some time. 

Some friends have also used this Milwaukee M12 Auto Technician borescope to diagnose bent valves in other project engines. I’ve even used it to probe around the vintage Suzuki TS185 I’ve been chipping away at. In all cases, clarity and flexibility really make all the difference in the world when compared to the borescopes I’ve been using. 

My old borescopes are cheap models that use my phone as the screen. They work all right and are really maneuverable, but there’s a big difference between them and this piece, which is clearly intended for professionals. The image quality is far better, and the features Milwaukee added for this segment really do come in handy as they help this standalone feel as nimble as my old setups. That said, it’s really nice not to place my delicate phone in or near an engine bay while I work. Instead, I have this beefy borescope to work with. Dropping it on the floor or brushing it up against hot or sharp objects isn’t as much of a concern. 

Battery life is beyond excellent. I don’t think I’ve recharged it a single time since it’s been here. I fully expect that as the batteries it uses also power grinders and cordless ratchets, but it’s still worth noting. 

As usual with Milwaukee tools, the only potential problem with this borescope is the price. $429.00 is a lot of money, especially for a bare tool. However, it’s important to understand that this tool isn’t designed for DIYers like myself. This is a professional tool meant to help folks who make a living working on cars do the job to their best ability, and it’s priced accordingly. Based on my research, this is actually competitively priced in comparison to some tool truck options. Mind you, that’s in respect to some of the more basic offerings. As you climb the rankings to models with smaller heads and more trade-specific features, you can easily end up spending thousands of dollars.

The Verdict 

The Milwaukee M12 auto technician borescope lands in a bit of fine line. It’s either a really good buy or totally overkill. Ultimately, it’s a quality tool aimed at professionals. It’s a robust piece of equipment that’s packed with features to help technicians do their job. While we can definitely put it under a microscope and argue that investing more in a 1080p setup with a smaller head is better yet for pros, there’s no denying that this will get the same job done. Really, the most divisive aspect is the price. Again, it’s cost-effective in some ways and incredibly expensive in others.

Whether or not it’s the right buy for you really depends on how serious you are about working on cars and what you have at your disposal. If you’re just a casual hobbyist, then no. I don’t think it’s worth the money for you. Especially since you’ll also need to buy the battery, and there are really good and really affordable alternatives. But, if you’re dancing right on that line between a serious DIYer and a professional by trade or are actually doing this to make a living, then yes. The Milwaukee M12 Auto Technician borescope is worth your consideration.

Milwaukee M12 Auto Technician Borescope