Harbor freight tools

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Lone Ranger
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Harbor freight tools

Postby Lone Ranger » Tue Mar 14, 2017 8:17 pm

Everyone knows harbor freight tools are cheap to purchase and cheaply made but not every job requires the most expensive tools. What tools do you guys recommend from harbor freight and what tools do you recommend to steer clear of?
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Re: Harbor freight tools

Postby Ohiotinkerer » Tue Mar 14, 2017 8:45 pm

I've had pretty good luck with hand tools - wrenches, sockets, hex wrenches......things like that. They seem to hold up as good as the more expensive stuff. Mixed bag on the electric tools - dad buys them for the garage on his car lot and sometimes he gets a couple years out of them and sometimes a month or 2. I personally just stick with the hand tools and if I need an electric tool I buy the good stuff.......just my :2cents:
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Re: Harbor freight tools

Postby tsherry » Tue Mar 14, 2017 8:51 pm

I've got a slug of HF stuff. in short, if it's got a lot of moving parts, be really careful.

Things I don't like:
-screwdrivers with terrible handles for ergonomics. I have some 'free' ones, which are in seldom used toolkits. My nice ones are vintage Craftsman.
-ratchets with plastic parts. Break frequently.
-ratcheting wrenches--nowhere near as good as my gear-wrench set (it was free from a friend, so the price was at least right).
-air hoses--get overly brittle with age and will crack. Shiny blue ones in particular.
-never was impressed with their wrenches or socket sets. Too much slop and variance between one set and another. My daily use set is vintage craftsman, with a mix of ancient Vlchek wrenches that I absolutely love.
-cordless tools. underpowered to start with, internal bearings suck, battery replacements cost more than the original set. Don't go there.
-lower grade ratcheting straps. They're perfect until you take them out of the welded plastic case, and then they will shred and come completely apart, metal included.

Have only had two catastrophic failures of their larger stuff: 1) brick saw, where one of castings disintegrated within minutes of starting it up, (replaced without question); 2) bore-sight type fiber optic camera, which failed within a month of purchase (again, replaced without question)

Things that are OK:
Engine hoist, engine stand, hand trucks and better-quality ratcheting straps, hydraulic press, paint guns, sanders, grinders (but they can go through brushes), casters, tarps, inflator kits, o-ring kits, zip ties, battery charger,misc small parts stuff, LED work lights (seemingly indestructible), ball joint removal kit, pipe threading kit. Black textured-paint, two or three section tool boxes. I was really pissed off after I bought one and found out how much better than the then-current Craftsman tool boxes were, and less than half the cost. Craftsman boxes were one step above a beer can.
Their air tools are OK, but definitely use more air than higher quality name brands, and their air fittings will leak more as well. They're probably all made in China, but the higher quality name-brand straight-line sander that I paid $150 for--and looks just like the HF sander for $30--is far more efficient with the air supply.

I regard the several drills (3/8" VS, hammer drill, etc.) as being completely disposable.

My rule of thumb is, if a failure of the tool can maim or kill you, you really need to be careful when buying and using it.
too many Fords, no where near 'nuff time.

or, money.

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Re: Harbor freight tools

Postby sargentrs » Wed Mar 15, 2017 4:36 am

When I first built my house 15 years ago I was tool deprived so I bought a ton of HF stuff. Very little of it remains. I do like their $15 spray guns for spraying POR-15. No way I'd run that stuff through my DeVilbiss! I'll also buy the "consumable" stuff like wire brushes, files, etc. As my HF tools bit the dust, and they will, I've gradually replaced them with better quality tools like Cambell Hausfeld, Stanley, Husky, Milwaukee, Makita DeVilbiss and Dremel. Those have stood the test of time and I haven't had to replace any of them. The couple of Ryobi electric tools I've bought haven't lasted that long either.
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Re: Harbor freight tools

Postby 67mann » Wed Mar 15, 2017 6:42 am

:2cents: if your gonna buy harbor freight...ya might wanna check out Northern Tool....frequent sales and free shipping on purchase minimum's
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Re: Harbor freight tools

Postby Ranchero50 » Wed Mar 15, 2017 3:22 pm

NT kills us on shipping. We print the catalogs and their prices aren't that great either. HF air tools are OK except the sanders. Most hand tools are garbage except I do have a set of the 6 free screwdrivers that I doctored the tips up and use for firearms. I bought the English wheel rollers from them and they are OK, the wheel frame itself was garbage. Kid bought a toolbox and it's flimsy.

HF's greatest product for me is the heat shrink and the $9 heat gun. I'm due for another jack but hesitant to buy one.
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Re: Harbor freight tools

Postby magic bus » Wed Mar 15, 2017 9:07 pm

I just bought and returned an air saw and an air chisel, absolute junk, will not buy those again.

I compared an older sears grinder to a new hf grinder, no comparison. The hf one is junk.

I compared a hf da sander to a snap on blue point da sander, no comparison the hf is lame.

You really have to watch what you buy there, consumables etc are ok.

I do have a 3 ton floor jack that I bought there that is holding up nicely for several years under moderate to light use.

As far as northern tool I researched heavily and bought the Homak tool box. The best box I could find for the money, very nice indeed. Generally I feel that northern tool has better quality tools than harbor freight and as you would expect the prices are a little higher.
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Re: Harbor freight tools

Postby Jacksdad » Wed Mar 15, 2017 11:16 pm

I used to buy almost all my tools from Craftsman, but a couple of incidents soured my opinion of them.

I inherited a Craftsman 1/2" torque wrench that was already set to 120lb/ft, and had probably been that way for a few years. I figured it was probably way out of calibration at that point, and never used it. Anyway, I found myself in a Sears waiting for my wife, and decided to check out the torque wrenches. One of the associates came over and asked if he could help, and I asked if they could check the one I had. Even though I 'fessed up and told him it was given to me, he said that it was under warranty. Long story short, he said to bring it in and they'd exchange it for a new one, so I drove 30 minutes through rush hour traffic in the rain, grabbed it from the garage and headed back. When I arrived at the store an hour after I left, he denied ever having spoken to me, and said torque wrenches weren't warranted anyway. I didn't buy anything from them for years after that :x

When I did start shopping there again, I probably dropped five grand on them in a two year period. I was in there often enough that they'd tell me they were worried if they didn't see me for a few days. I'd bought a drill press on sale, although I didn't need it at the time. When I came to unbox it, the chuck was way off and clearly damaged from a fall. When I put a drill in it, the tip drew a circle in the air 2" across. I took it straight back, and explained I'd bought it less than a year ago, and it was clearly unused. The guy asked for a receipt, and I told him they should have a record of the purchase as I'd used a credit card. After going round and round a lot longer than seemed necessary for a cheap drill press, he told me it might be best to take it to their repair center, and when I asked if it was covered under warranty, he told me I'd have to pay to get it fixed.

That was the last large purchase I ever made there, and not just because the guy was an ass. I went to a couple of places to find a replacement - both selling Chinese stuff. The first was a small operation, but the drill press they had was exactly the same as the Craftsman (I'd pulled it apart at this point to see if it could be repaired, so I knew how it was put together). The only difference was the paint color and a cheaper looking switch. It was a little pricey, so I headed to Harbor Freight where I discovered their drill presses were also made in the same factory. Everything was the same as the Craftsman except for the paint and switch. I bought a 10" drill press for less than Sears had charged me for a 9" model on sale, and swapped all the Craftsman specific parts over. The switch, sheet metal and nicer looking handles all fit with no modifications whatsoever - all the bolt/screw holes were in the same place. Obviously, the same factory in China makes them, but with different paint treatments.

I hate getting Chinese stuff, but realistically I'd have half the tools I do if I didn't go to Harbor Freight. And despite Craftsman's much touted lifetime warranty, I always seem to have trouble taking stuff back. With Harbor Freight, they never quibble.
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Re: Harbor freight tools

Postby colnago » Wed Mar 15, 2017 11:41 pm

My town just had a HF open, so I had to check it out. I didn’t give everything an exam under the microscope, but I tried to gloss over everything. I was really impressed by the tool chests. Much heavier than Craftsman or Home Depot, and the drawers all use roller bearings. I almost bought a 44" chest this weekend, but I have to deal with some bills first. The box-end wrenches were junk. The flare nut wrenches were nice, but I already have a set. I bought a digital micrometer for ten bucks. Not top-notch, but it's accurate, and will fit my needs. I almost bought a bottle jack and small compressor, but finally decided to do without for now. I didn’t bother checking out their scewdrivers. They had a good sale on ratchet straps, but they're not exactly precision instruments.

As has been pointed out, many brands are made in the same factory. If you have to buy it sight unseen, steer clear. If you can see what you're buying, you'll find some of it great, and some of it lacking. When it comes time to paint the truck, I'll probably buy a compressor from HF, but the paint guns elsewhere.

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Re: Harbor freight tools

Postby Ranchero50 » Thu Mar 16, 2017 4:53 am

That micrometer will eat batteries so keep them out of it when not in use.

If you want a good tool box, look at the Milwaukee boxes at Home Depot. As said above, the kid's HF box is pretty crappy and he wanted something that didn't twist when shutting a drawer. Craftsman, Kobalt, Husky etc were pretty. The Milwaukee box however was stout for not a lot more cash. He got the 40" one, top and bottom. Had to order it and they shipped on two different days so we had to deal with two trips and fighting the CS folks in the store. A year on it's still the best / strongest box in that shop.
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Re: Harbor freight tools

Postby colnago » Sun Apr 23, 2017 3:58 pm

I ended up getting the General "Pro" base from Harbor Freight. I was told there is a big difference between the General and General Pro lines, and you can feel it. I'm still impressed with the "bang for buck" factor. I'll probably end up getting the top chest next year, if the base still proves its worth.

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Re: Harbor freight tools

Postby DuckRyder » Sun Apr 23, 2017 6:02 pm

There are many HF :yes: :no: threads on the net.

The red tool boxes generally rate a buy, the others not so much...
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Re: Harbor freight tools

Postby Delta Bob » Sun Apr 23, 2017 9:03 pm

I have a motorcycle jack from HF that is good, but, like most have said,I have been underwhelmed by the quality and reliability of a lot of their stuff.
Seems like it is basically an entry level tool store, and sometimes not even that good.

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Re: Harbor freight tools

Postby HIO Silver » Sun Apr 23, 2017 11:44 pm

Gotta be picky what ya buy and how ya use it. If a long term tool, then opt for better quality. If limited use like a ball joint press, then lower your expectations.

... skip all the welders. They are really inconsistent.

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Re: Harbor freight tools

Postby basketcase0302 » Mon Apr 24, 2017 5:11 am

Harbor Tools is about two miles from me here, (yeah dangerous) and Northern Freight is about five miles from me, (even more dangerous)!
Don't waste your money on HF's leather gloves-they last about one good hour of working and are literally falling apart. :doh:
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