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Harbor Freight tools to avoid or not expect much from

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What Harbor Freight tools broke the first time you used them?


*** Name of the tool, and even a link if you can find it, synopsis of what failed.


We all know this stuff isn't professional grade, but I'd like a list of Harbor Freight tools which didn't work right out of the box. Might see a helpful trend.

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1 Disc brake caliper set - broke first time I used it. (was 5-7 years ago or something like that)



2 Multimeters (2 different ones) (summer 2012)


even the "expensive" one didn't work right out of the box! LOL:



LCD's inconsistent on both, can't read the numbers on the LCD display - first time I turned them on.

Edited by grossgary

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I have quite a bit of HF, erm what's the word I'm looking for, stuff. In general it seems to work ok for my light duty use.

Let's see, the ugly, the heat gun, no good, that thing something went wrong with it and the fan started blowing like it was a turbocharger, it is kind of scary actually.

1/2" VSR drill, I've been very happy with mine, it's taken quite a bit of abuse and still keeps on ticking. My brother however had it shear the drive shaft bolt or whatever it is right off the chuck.

Compressed air filter/regulators GARBAGE, I tried a couple times from them, leaks no matter what you do, complete junk not worth the box it comes in.

Drill bit sharpener, not very good, did not do a good job.

GFCI outlets, not worth it, had several dead out of the box.

Electrical tape - GARBAGE it won't even stick to itself (though they might have improved this in later years it seems to get better reviews).


The black pry bars. They are ok but do not rely on them for any major work. They are a cheap brittle pot metal and the head will snap off at random.

NPT pipe thread kit, mixed thoughts, it does work, but threading pipe by hand is tricky, you have to back off to keep the chips out or the threads come out all uneven and almost guaranteed to leak. Would have threaded only at the box store like with the Rigid threader now.

Good stuff:
6 ton jackstands, win, those are very nice when on sale. Front wheel adapters for doing the bearings, pretty nice, works great. Inner tie rod end tool, excellent, seems well made too. Goodyear 1/2" air hose, very good, I don't think they sell it anymore though. Was a great price at like $25 for a 50 ft roll. Tarps usually seem pretty good when on sale. Toolboxes, a couple of the ones they have when on sale with a coupon seem like a really good value, well made, lesser quality ones at Sears sell for 5x the price. Best value thing I ever got there was the air cutoff tool for $4.99. Man I've run the heck out of that thing and it still works great.
14" metal cutoff wheel, very nice, powerful, makes cutting pipe and other metal stuff a breeze. Bench grinder with stand, not bad, it works quite well. 20 ton press, not too bad, only used it a few times but I think it will handle anything I'd ever need from it.

Edited by porcupine73
bad stuff first

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my HF goods and bads:


good experiences:

6-Ton Hydraulic Jack has been a real trooper


$13 spring compressors have given me no problems, have been used atleast a dozen times probably more.


4" angle grinder/cutoff tool has had no issues.


90 amp flux core welder has worked out just fine, my welding skills/dicipline arent the best, but the welder hasnt failed in any way.


i had a 8 gal air compressor for 10 yrs before the tank drain rusted (i NEVER drained it in the time in owned it. shame on me)


26 Gal compressor is working just fine when powered by the proper 20 amp circuit, 15 amp is just a tad small for it. which is stated in the instructions.


all air tools purchased work well, brad/finish nailer, air ratchet, scaler, bought but havent tried the auto body work flanger yet.


propane torch pistol grip handle has been great, kinda wish it was a little smaller if anything.




Bad/not so great:

piezo torch, it melted on first use, but then it was $3.


1st 26 Gal compressor, cooked motor, but it was my fault, knowingly used it on a non dedicated 15 amp circuit, pump kicked on while i was welding LOL


12 ton Pipe bender. it works, but search the net for ways to improve it for better results. thinwall pipe will kink if not filled with sand and capped

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Spent over $100 on a 5 gallon pail of Redline oil only to have my then-new HF pail pump fill the oil with metal shavings as I pumped it into a graduated cylinder. I HATE HF, tarps and other BS only. All tools/hard parts will be quality from now on...

Edited by carfreak85

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10" 2hp metal chop saw:



Would not cut a square/straight line no matter how dilligently I squared and bolted it. Returned it and bought the 3 1/2 hp version open box for less money, way better saw.


40lb abrasive blaster:



Clogged, clogged, then clogged some more. Terrible idea to have a ball valve on and off with something abrasive. I have a very high end devilbiss line dryer and it still clogged up. Took me about 10 hours to blast a motorcycle frame.



They don't sell it no mo.


Anvil shattered when I was hammering a piece of steel; which caused the whole vise to fall apart. Since been gifted another 5" vise that has not failed, but was a different design.


Motorcycle wheel cleaning doohickey:



No way to effectively use it unless you have someone holding the bike upright while you clean the chain/wheel. It was somewhat sorta helpful for working on the front end of my old GS850 with a center stand, but not really.




3000lb compact aluminium racing jack:



Works well for what it is. Doesn't lift very high and needs to be bled more frequently than I would like. However; it lifts quickly, has a huge pad, and is very mobile/light.


6000lb jack stands:



Nice and sturdy, however useless on pinch welds unless you buy the rubber pad; the "fork" is too deep and hits rocker before pinch weld.


5mil nitrile gloves:



Great for grunge, not so great for anything caustic. Brake clean will cause them to melt/break after a few seconds. I buy several boxes a month because they're cheap and effective.


Macpherson strut compressor:



Feels cheap, takes awhile to crank down, but they work great and have been used about 10 times by now. The safety hooks don't inspire ANY confidence though.




2000lb shop crane:



Got mine for $90 with a coupon combination. Easy to assemble, works well, and you will not find even a used one cheaper. I have pulled a couple dozen engines with mine with 0 incident.


Service cart:



Basic, cheap, efficient. Get one if you don't already have a cart; it'll change your life.


Goat skin welding gloves:



Been used in very close proximity to where I'm laying a bead of weld with no burn through. Can't really beat $9 for a nice pair of gloves.

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We have a TON of HF "stuff" and I agree with most of what has been said already.


the 4.5" angle grinder is JUNK - plastic gears in the head - major fail.


The shop crane/cherry picker - WIN! possibly the most useful tool we have purchased from them.


The welder that was posted is ok, does a decent job for the low price, but we just sold ours since the other half bought a nice Hobart recently


The spring compressor set - they do work, but we trashed one set by trying to use an impact gun on it (ate the threads)....went and got another set and only use hand tools (ratcheting wrenches are great!) - works fine, just a bit slower.


Have a large assortment of odd shaped wrenches - regular stubbies - both SAE and metric, "S" wrenches - both types, offset boxends - both types, and various others - all do the job, perhaps not as precisely cut as say Craftsman wrenches, but for the price and infrequency of use, they do the job.


Have a pretty large assortment of impact sockets from HF as well including these items:








They have been used and abused & held up pretty well over the years - have only cracked one in a particularly stubborn situation.


the 1/2 drive "Earthquake" Impact gun is not bad for occasional use, just remember to keep it well oiled! (we had the older version that cost less & lasted many years - the newer version just doesnt seem quite as robust...)




The other half stumbled upon a really good deal for an Ingersoll-Rand model (requires a LOT more air flow), so we use that more than the new Earthquake model now that we have a bigger compressor. =)


We also picked up the Goodyear 50 ft airhose from HF - not that long ago - believe we paid like $20 for it...excellent quality.


We also had purchased one these:




but it doesnt work so good when the exhaust runs partially under the bike as with older Japanese inline 4 cyl bikes (of which we have several)...would work fine on a v-twin or something where the exhaust runs off to one side - in fact, sold this to a buddy that had a V-twin Kawasaki Vulcan - he likes it.

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i've used an impact gun with my spring compressors with no failure, i usually try to use my air ratchet instead tho, but when they are pretty compressed it wants to torque the ratchet out my hand, doh.


with the spring compressors, i would say to alternate sides more than its probably convenient to. just to keep the pressure even on both sides

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I just want to say that these little lights are AMAZING.


Insanely bright and easy to magnet or hang from their hook just about anywhere. I bought 10 of them and stashed them in the cars and around the house.

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I have had the spring compressor fail on me twice. The first one broke the first time, and the 2nd one broke after a few swaps. It was a bit scary to use and awkward t mount on subaru springs.


the corded impact has served me well for a good 5 years already and the only thing about it was the brush popped out once, and i had to tighten the screws that hold the head together.


I had a palm sander fail after 15 minutes when the rotating assembly ate itself. I had 2 angle grinders, the first one worked great before it got stolen. the 2nd one failed after a short period of use.


Hand tools have been pretty good to me, but i have cracked a few of the sockets, including the impact sockets with very rusty and jank nuts and bolts on old subarus.


The sawzall i had stripped the worm gear out the first week i had it. Now i have a real milwaukee cordless sawzall that spanks the pants on harbor freight.


Harbor freight tools are great if you use them within their capacity, and are cheap to replace. I decide what i am using by which will happen first; will the tool break or get stolen. Generally tools get stolen before they break, as i have proven to myself with 2 instances of one tool out of an $800 milwaukee m18 lithium set when my angle grinder walked away from a jobsite and the hackzall got stolen with a whole van.


The welder there has worked well for what it is, but best know how to use a crappy welder for it to work well. a better welder requires less skill for a good weld.


But i have decided i am done with cheap tools for anything i have to rely on to go to work with. although a tool can be replaced for cheap or free, it is terribly unproductive to have it fail in the middle of a job.


+++1 on the engine crane and the floor jacks. Pretty solid for the price. make sure to get them on sale. worst comes to worst you may have to add jack oil if it has sat around too long or you have been using it for over 5 years. I still have my crane after 7 years and have pulled more than 25 subaru engines with it.

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seeing patterns here, some redundant so i agree with what has been posted



** broke first time or not strong enough for the job


three piece three jaw puller set - broke pushing an axle out, ok for small jobs


14 piece gear puller - shaved off edges of the tool while pulling a wheel bearing inner race off a hub



** good tools imho


digital calipers

IR temperature gun

impact sockets

8000 lb cable winch puller - "come along" tool

3 lb copper hammer

cylinder compression tester

heat gun and shrink tubing


tie rod and pittman arm puller - only used for pushing out stuck bushings from the lateral links


2.5 ton low profile floor jack - good valve control, doesn't drop a car like other jacks i have used


20 ton shop press - comes with plates that help with odd shapes like knuckles


large bearing separator - with press, removes remains of wheel bearing off hub




** some problems


leak-down tester - quick connect missing a ball so they sent me another, had to use a third party adapter to fit my air hose


clicker torque wrenches - low settings don't always trip the clicker


piston brake bleeder - can't hold a seal on the reservoir without grease

Edited by 89Ru

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The bad: I've twisted a few (socket) drive size adapters in half, twisted an impact socket, but only one of them, screw drivers are twisted (they work great for tightening after you twist them loosening though :grin:), flashlights are junk, and their 500 watt halogen bulbs, on the few occasions they're not dead or broken out of the box (seriously, just spend a little bit more on a decent bulb). I've killed one of their 1/2 air impact wrenches.


The decent: The shop light I got there has held up alright, although it doesn't adjust very far, and it's not as nice as similar ones, it only cost me like $20 (just get better bulbs). The sockets extensions I have are holding up, but I don't use them that often. For the price, the wrenches aren't too bad. My 3-ton floor jack does fine lifting and holding, but it's hard to gently lower stuff. Magnetic trays are fine. Haven't had an issue with the cheap multi-meter I got to keep in my car, but I'm not sure how accurate it is. And tape measures are pretty good.


Most of the stuff I've bought there though, I don't expect more than a few uses out of. So when it lasts, it's just a pleasant surprise.


Oh, and at work, we twisted on of their car dollies. My boss had put some heavier-duty casters on it from Cornwell... casters help up great, wheel dolly folded in half. But, we weren't being very nice to it either.

Edited by Dj7291993

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Air hose fittings all seem to leak where Lisle ones or even the ones in the CH bins at Lowes don't.

The floor type spring compressor bends under load.

Those vehicle dollies mentioned above I have had decent luck with. No good on rough surfaces but that's expected.

20 ton press seems ok so far-1.5 years of pro type use but not heavy use just a monthly manual trans rebuild.

Sand blast cabinet ok but latch on door failing. Should be an easy fix but I don't like fixing tools I like using them to fix or do things. I have enough work to do.

The commonly on sale Sawzall is a piece of junk. Replaced with a Hitachi from Lowes for about 40 bucks more and never looking back.

I do buy my Baking Soda for my blast cabinet here-not too bad a deal with a coupon which is virtually constant at this store.


I run my own shop RetroRoo-a Subaru specialty shop and virtually everything in my shop is Snap On. I can finance it and its nice to ultimately own "the best". I dont think this is often necessary for do it yourself guys but if you are going to spend the time to save yourself the labor money of paying a mechanic maybe you can justify the cost of professional tools. New or used. Pawn shops, ebay, Craigslist, etc. Treat yourself to a few key good ones and don't look back. Pass them on to the next generation of mechanics when you kick the bucket and keep the money in the USA instead of China with most of these investments. Cornwell and Snap on for example employ many people in Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio. Nice, hard working Midwestern Americans still making long lasting Chromed stuff. End rant. :)


The only reason I have any of their stuff is for my Junkyard toolkit now. Its lifetime guarantee and if I lose it I don't cry much. Lose a Snap On Wrench or socket and a little tear might appear since 20-100 or more bucks just disappeared. Everything to pull an engine, transmission, axle or an entire dash/interior is in a bag the size of a SLR camera bag and hides in my wagon discreetly and moves from car to car easily.

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Treat yourself to a few key good ones and don't look back. Pass them on to the next generation of mechanics when you kick the bucket and keep the money in the USA instead of China with most of these investments. Cornwell and Snap on for example employ many people in Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio. Nice, hard working Midwestern Americans still making long lasting Chromed stuff. End rant. :)


Man, I like your thinking! Thanks.

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The extendable 3/8 1/4 ratchet... I have done SOO much cheater-baring on this thing. Still strong. Had for a year and a half


The Chicago Electric 1/2" impact gun. Done things the dewalt couldn't. Although the brushes did come out one time :-p then superglue happened


Their colored sockets aren't too bad either. Only broke a single 12 point 3/8 while using a stepdown with a cheater bar.


Cant weld with the sticks they sell, complete garbage. Makes me cherish the Lincolns.


Overall, they have made my father & I money. So that's good :cool:

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I wanted to get some air drive ratchets.


I looked at H.F. at what they had to offer, then drove to Sears, 3/8" & 1/4" drive air ratchets, 25 ft hose, couple air chucks and oil. Understanding these are home use, light duty air ratchets. The Sears had a better feel to them, looked better made etc..


Compared to the price of H.F. it wasn't that much more. I also ordered it on line from their in store Kiosk, which saved me 10% and then walked to the back of store for in store pick up.


They have worked well for my garage adventures. Didn't realize how nice air driver tools help.


Purchases H.F. shock/strut spring compressing clamps.. they work.


H.F., Sheet metal nibbler. Actually works well... surprised the heck out of me.


Lots of consumables, acid brushes, agent orange degreaser, rags, tarp but not a fan of their power tools, BUT why not if it does the job.

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Alllrriigghhttyy now that I stopped laughing {My dogs lookin at me like I"ve lost it} I"m fortunate enough to have Snap-on stuff :) But have had the Unfortunate dealings w/HF STUFF? I"m being nice here...I know everybody can"t afford to step on the truck{snap-on} and most peple like craftsman-which I suggest people buy-it"s affordable and the warranty is good! As for me though I"ve just been doing it to long and am used to snap-on stuff Soooo...My HF stuff is very little..The good; The little hand torch-I"ve had that thing for 10yrs.,Killer for heat shrink {and lighting a smoke} Next up is the 20ton press,after making a new stands for it {the table and the press part-slider,heavier steel and straight} it"s actually lived for 8yrs.now with plenty of abuse from more things than Subies <_< 1 pair of big jackstands-had to replace the rollpins in the locks :huh: huh!!  Now the Bad&Ugly; 4-1/2"grinders :horse: 1st one lasted 1/2hr-just DIED=physically threw that out the door w/grindwhl.on still :angry: 2nd lasted 10min-head stripped out huh :banghead:    3rd1 mtr quit :dead: SOOOO I took the head off 3rd1 an put on 2nd1 :banana: right?that lasted a 1/2hr.needless to say those 2 joined It"s buddy out in the driveway!!!! My buddy had my good 1 at that time :banghead: 20mi.away!!! Next up is ALL THE grinding wheels they have HF,Norton,any cheapo disc made out there JUNK!!!! YOURS AND ANYBODIES SAFTEY IS FIRST!!! Three for a $1.00 is NOT worth it!!! I only use 3M stuff it"s $$$but worth it and last waayyy longer and does a nicer JOB!! The Grinders were given to me {I know better than to buy that crap!!!} If I had bought them I would"ve thrown em thru HFs frt. window {like the discount tire comm.} Now my buddy bought their meters-Now that was :lol: 10min later took it back got another1 then he threw it out in the street an said f**k that garbage after I told him not to buy it-And he called me a smarta** for saying so!! I"m done now THANKS! HF stuff <_<

Edited by 88wacaroo
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Treat yourself to a few key good ones and don't look back. Pass them

on to the next generation of mechanics when you kick the bucket and keep

the money in the USA instead of China with most of these investments.

Cornwell and Snap on for example employ many people in Wisconsin,

Illinois and Ohio. Nice, hard working Midwestern Americans still making

long lasting Chromed stuff. End rant. :)




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Wanted to add to this. After my recent rash of transmission work (Stuff seems to come in droves) I got sick and tired of having my aluminium jack only lifting 14". It was a process of lift, get stands under it, lower and add a wood block, lift some more, jack stands, work. Which really sucked on my car since I had to lower it in 2 stages as well; otherwise I could get the jack out with the block.

Enter; 5000lb shop jack:

Minimum clearance of less than 3" and a lifting height of 20" make this a very useful asset. It feels much moire solid and confidence inspiring for lifting to maximum height (Though I wish the foot had some sort of rubber pad)

Still got the aluminium one for an extra/track days.

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