I think we can all agree that some Harbor Freight tools are a good value and some are pure junk. If we only knew the difference ...
A sale catalog I received recently prompted me to think that many on this forum could give their experience with tools they've bought there - both good and bad.
Seems to me there are at least two things we need to know about a tool. 1. How well it does its job, and 2. How long it lasts.
Here's my input:
Battery float chargers (on sale 5.99). Work really well. I have 5, the oldest about 6 years old. I have taken apart and reverse engineered - well made - good circuit.
Torque wrench. Did an actual calibration of the Pittsburg 1/2" wrench. Very accurate. Owned two years. No problems.
Compound miter saw. Works well but slowly falling apart (heavy use). Repaired on/off switch in handle. Degree markings on table rubbing off.
What experience have you had ?
Die grinders work fine for me
Warranty you buy for 2 years,no problem getting them to honor it if you have the receipt.
Nut drivers,the 1's I got the handle spins on the metal part,no good. And this was being used to take a radio apart,not a rusty T.So I can say for sure,beware of the nut drivers.
Electric sheet metal shears,work good.
magnetic bolt bowls work fine.Kinda hard to screw that 1 up.
Tap and die sets ,the biggest 1's in the black case, been using mine purty hard and no problems and MUCH cheaper than the Chinese 1's from Sears craftsman. I have the standard and metric sets.cost about 60 bucks each.
Tarps,work as good as any of the cheap 1's you buy anywhere else.
The Honda clone engines,used to get a bad rap, but I must admit,for the money,WELL worth it. I was in Northern tool the other day and they had the chinese clone,the Honda, and the Kohler,and I coulda swapped parts from 1 to the other.Almost exact duplicates of each other.
That is all I can think of at the moment.
Engine hoist 2 one air over hydraulic 10 years no problem had a navy calibration lab weight test it for me. other one is a hand pump only works great in tight areas. 20 ton press 3 years good. sliding compound miter saw 3 years laser went out. Wire feed welder FOR MINOR REPAIRS ONLY! TIG welder is very good and great for body panels. Paint guns use them once sell them for scrap.
I bought an upright tool chest at HF under the U.S. General brand name after going into all the other big box stores. I found it to be heavier gauge, the drawers are ball bearing and come prelined. The fit and finish is perfect. In fact, it was comparable in quality to the Kennedy they have here in the shop at work.
I used to have brand loyalty to American brands, but once I realized that their loyalty to the American consumer was given long ago, I stopped feeling guilty.
Now it's everyone for themselves.
(Message edited by Dan B on November 26, 2014)
I stand by Harbor Freight winches
I have used them for years and trust them for
$350,000 cars to load and unload with confidence
Badland Winches ....
Aluminum racing jacks too ...
I carry a pair of 4000 pound models in my trailer
Like anything else - there are things I would not buy there ....
Harbor Freight Warranty
Buy only a one year warranty - no longer than that
You can only return once within a warranty period
so I buy just an annual warranty ....
I'd stay away from their Chicago Electric brand of power tools...they're junk. The jack stands I bought last year for a pittance are as good of quality as the Crafstman brand that I bought a decade ago. Maybe even made by same group of Chinese! They look absolutely identical.
The little 1-Ton engine hoist so far is doing very well, pulled two engines, other assorted work, so far so good.
I have had many years of good service from a hydraulic press, a parts washer, and media blasting cabinet from them. I would characterize my usage of them as light, hobbyist duty.
I like the cheap digital volt meters. I loose em,run over them and forget to change ranges from ohm to voltage before checking hot circuits. At $3-5 each I just toss it and am glad that I didn't fry or destroy an expensive one
Bill I like the volt meters too sometimes if you download the coupons you can get them for free I have at least 2 that I cut the probes off and replaced them with alligator clips makes them much more useful if you haven't been subjected to radiation and grown a third hand
I buy the cheap 4.5 " grinders, when I go there they are disposable and I keep different wheels, wire brushes on them, easier than changing. Electric sheet metal sheers work really good, engine stand works good, 20 ton press works great, air die grinder work ok, laminate router. Most of this stuff is under 20 bucks so I am OK if it breaks in a couple years. Just bought some loading ramps for a pick up for 50 bucks dont think I can make a set for that.
I don't know if any of you are heavy chainsaw users but I was getting tired of paying and waiting for my chains to get sharpened. I bought their $40 chain saw sharpener (electric) and use it all the time. I can sharpen a full size chain in under 2 minutes. Awesome purchase.
I did not have good luck with their socket sets. Keep an eye on the thickness. Cheap Chinese metal splits the thinner sockets open like nothing with any torque.
Tape measures that I have bought there are pretty good. Hammers are fine too.
Again, for the price you cant beat it.
The Technical school here in town recommends to their 1 and 2 year AUB (auto body students) to buy their HVLP paint guns from them. I have to say the paint jobs 2 year students put on the cars that come through there are really nice.
The reasoning is the "high grade" paint guns are much higher and the students are told to learn the techniques first with the cheaper guns.
Once they do that they can buy what they want.
The instructors that do auto rebuilds on the side also use them. You ought to see those guys custom jobs.
The key is what the instructors are trying to teach. Its the techniques and body prep that is 90% of a good paint job. The paint can be applied with most any well made gun.
I used the harbor freight guns on my cars and for an amateur they turned out pretty good.
The customer reviews on Harbor Freight's website will let you know what's good and what's junk.
There are also customer reviews on Youtube including ways to improve the tools and modifying or hacking HF tools.
I think it's a good place for speciality automotive tools for the backyard mechanic.
I've only purchased a few hand tools from HF such as an offset oxygen sensor wrench and Torx bits and have not been disappointed. I've also purchased a new HF/Cen-Tech OBDII code scanner/reader on ebay for less than half of what HF charges when it's on sale. The code reader has come in very handy.
Also, many of the items sold at HF are sold at major retailers - same manufacturer but simply marketed under a different name.
My wife and I agree with Dan B about the tool chests. She got one for the kitchen and I got tool chest envy so I got one for the garage!
Also have HF floor jacks, torque wrench, wheel dollies for the Model A, jack stands, steel loading ramps, pry bars, tire irons, brad/staple nailers, air hoses, retractable hose reel, big adjustable wrench for the pack nut, a couple mover's dollies, a couple LED flash lights, quick clamps, 12 Volt LED trailer stop lights for the back of the T, and gloves.
The brad/staple nailers are a bit cheep but OK for what I do and the smaller quick clamps are almost as good as string.
I agree with the tool chests.
I bought their buffer (bench model) for polishing brass, aluminum, ect. 1/2 HP (I think). It probably would not hold up in a professional shop, but does a great job for our type of work. on sale 59.00 (comes with 2 buffing wheels) Eastwoods closest version 299.00. (no buffing wheels)
And dont let Eastwoods prices fool you. Most of their stuff is made in China to.I bought a brake tool set from them and the brake adjuster broke just trying to tighten a set of brakes on my truck.
The package had made in china wrote on it.
I was in a bind and bought their Chicago recprocateing saw about 3 years ago. I think it came to roughly $25.00. Have beat the living c**p out of it and it hasn't quit yet. Recently got a coupon for a small saber saw. Always wanted one. 50% off. $55.00 bucks. Good model/small project saw. Not much use yet.
The Floor model drill press is great once you redo the oiling system, ie the oil that dumps on your item for cooling, and I had to tighten the nut on the drill head.
Air compressor is great
Tank sand blaster is great
There small blue metal bench chop saw is great
I have their welders - all great
Their angle sander 6" orange is great
Their hand held pipe threaded is great once you mod the greasing system on it with a zerk
It's a great source for other items you will only use once in a while and don't need to spend a ton on...
I forgot the items I only use on a blue moon Shrinker/Stretcher Great English wheel with all the lower dies great Brake / roll / shear 42" (they were selling a display for $200) excellent, electric cement mixer,beats the C**P out of a wheel barrow,and the big red tool box.
I have their 29 gallon/150 PSI air compressor. Flipped it to 230 volt. Fairly cheap to operate and keeps up with their larger pressurized abrasive blaster. I've had good service out of both. Some of their air tools are OK too if you don't need them for daily service. I have used their HVLP pain guns. The lower quality ones are fine for primer, their professional model works about as well as some of the more expensive name brands out there. Engine stands, hydraulic jacks, and shop crane have all given me great service and value so far. For the most part their sockets are plenty fine for hobbyist use. Ditto Tim Wren's recommendation on jack stands. I stay away from the Chicago Electric tools: poor quality. I tested their digital caliper against my high dollar one and the readings were precisely the same. Tool chests seem to be decent quality as well.
I forgot to mention that I also bought their bench mounted buffer. It was the 1/2 hp version that was on sale for around 45.00 2 years ago.
Also bought different types of buffing material and wheels. They have all you need for T work
It did a nice job for me on my T coupe door handle end caps and other etc parts.
Again for the price you cant beat it for the part time mechanic and restorer.
I agree with Tim that the Chicago Electric tools are absolute junk!!! I would stay away from that stuff it's just money wasted!
I have also used their small multimeters and treat them as disposables, but they do seem to last a long time.
Their cutoff disks (4.5") seem to work well. I have nothing to compare to but they certainly do the job and seem to last.
My machinist who has every high end tool you can think of showed me a trick with there dials I use constantly with my T. He buys them six or more at a time for under ten dollars. Buys a matching diameter magnet for about three dollars removes the back mount on the dial and bolts the magnet to the now flat back. Very easy to use, lots of travel and checks exactly the same as my high end dials I almost never use.
The electric grinders wont hold up unless you open the head and put grease in the beveled gear before you use them. They don't put much if any in them in China and I had a couple fail before the first wheel was used up but now they last years for me.
I heard the air compressors have some sort of a switch problem, but a simple modification fixes it. i don' t have any more detail than that though.
Anybody ever use their car skates/dollies? Not on T's, but on heavier cars. I want to get some but I never trust feedback on a retailer's site.
I use the HF wheel dollies on my 31A town sedan without a problem
I have no problem with the customer reviews on HF website. People aren't afraid to provided negative reviews. (I've also posted two reviews for a couple of tools I've purchased.)
If you look at the online reviews for HF car dollies, you'll see that they no longer sell any with steel wheels - only plastic wheels. That seems to be the biggest gripe. Long term storage on the dollies could lead to flat spots on the caster wheels. Also, there's advice to lubricate the caster pivots and axles prior to use.
I have been in Harbor Freight many times, but have always purchased smaller items, such as cut off wheels, flash light etc. I also purchased 4 small movers to mave chassis minus Engine around
and it seems to work fine. Oh yeah I purchased a package of tie downs to secure engine in pickup bed for transport and it worked O.K.
I just bought a set of their 1500lb rated dollies (they also have 1000lb dollies made by a different brand) I could barely move my TT on smooth clean concrete. After oiling all the wheels, it was a little easier, but they're just a plastic wheel with no bearings, so I wouldn't recommend them for anything heavier than a T.