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Rate the Harbor Freight Tools Thread- Pass or Fail?

Discussion in 'TOOL JUNKIES - TOOLS & TOOLING (Love Tools? This Is Your Forum)' started by Nels, Dec 2, 2011.

  1. Tompdw

    Tompdw United States Iron Registered Member

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    I have a pistol grip air die grinder that I just bought and it seems ok. I have had my bandsaw for years and with a few mods and a good bi-metal 14tooth blade it works great.
     
  2. Mike Nash

    Mike Nash Active User Active Member

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    I bought the blue flame helmet last year and just finally tried it. I CAN SEE! I had a really old auto-dark off ebay years ago that was absolutely terrible. After using this one I now realize just how bad it was. I had gone to a fixed shade but still could not really see the puddle or where I was going (MIG and TIG). Now I can see everything and no "flashing" at the start either.

    I think my piddly welding efforts are going to be much more enjoyable now.

    A coworker bought the second helmet shown. While neither of us have actually used it yet, I do like the fact that it doesn't bump my nose whereas the blue flame will right smack it if I nod it down.
     
  3. kizmit99

    kizmit99 United States Active User Active Member

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    A word of warning on the HF welding helmets -- they vary A LOT. I bought one of the "blue flame" helmets about 3 years ago along with their cheap flux-core welder. I could never see the visualize the weld-pool with that helmet. I always just assumed that it was me, I would shine 500watt shop lights on the work - helped a little, not much though... About 6 months ago I decided to try another helmet, I got another of the HF blue-flames (figured I'd just take it back if I still couldn't see with it). To my very pleasant surprise, I can see with this new helmet just fine. Apparently my first one is biased so far to the dark end that it can't be adjusted light enough to see out of.

    The new helmet has a "grinder" setting just below the lightest shade though - be very careful about adjusting the shade with the arc going. It's very easy to turn the knob just a bit too far and click into grinding mode and flash yourself.
     
  4. Mike Nash

    Mike Nash Active User Active Member

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    Yes I was tickled pink with the helmet, but I have quite a collection of the "misses" on the tools that some folks got "hits" on.

    I got the hydraulic crimper with the wrong size dies, the electric impact wrench that weighs a ton and chatters quite loudly but does nothing about actually removing a nut. I have the squeeze ratchet set that gives you one click per squeeze, 2 on occasion. Magnifiers and visors that don't or are distorted. One use battery drills too.

    I got some similar type junk from Homier.

    I'll watch for the grinder setting thing. My eyes are so bad that the grinder setting is nearly too dark for me to see. That's why I love the helmet - my fixed shade is simply too dark period - I can see the arc and that's it.
     
  5. FREDROSSE

    FREDROSSE United States Iron Registered Member

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    Location:
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    Building my steamboat, bought the FEIN vibrating saw tool for $350. A few months later, the FEIN monopoly (probably a patent expired) ended and Dremel had one for $100, and Harbor Freight has them for under $20.
    So I bought the HF vibrating saw and used it without mercy in boatbuilding. Plenty of plunge cutting with weird angles in boatbuilding, hard and soft wood, cutting off screw heads occasionally, etc. Burned up one of the HF tools in a year. Not as good as the FEIN, but considering that I can buy about 20 of the HF tools for the price of the FEIN, the HF tool is a very good bargain. I don't worry about dropping it, or forcing it, as they are so inexpensive, and do the job.
     
  6. autonoz

    autonoz United States Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    I recently purchased their powder coat system after reading good reviews on it. Well it is a PASS. Worked flawlessly right out of the box. Simple set up and easy clean up. Hopefully this will continue to work well and last a while. Only paid around $55.00 with 20% coupon + powder. I also purchased the $13.00 free replacement for a year.
     
  7. FanMan

    FanMan Active User Active Member

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    They're definitely hit or miss.

    I bought their air nibbler a couple of years ago. Used it maybe a half dozen times before it quit working. Around the same time I bought a drill powered pump, it worked for 10 minutes or so before seizing. Took them both back this weekend (no receipt). I wanted to replace the nibbler and get my money back for the pump, they were willing (after a minor hard time) to replace both but no money back. Not really complaining after a couple of years ago with no receipt. Bought a $25 multlimeter the same day, so far it's working fine. I also have their oxyacetylene welding rig (the one with the tiny bottles in the plastic carrier). It's cheap and the adjustments are touchy, but I have no complaints for the price. One regulator started leaking but they replaced it for free. Their siphon sandblaster is marginal but then again I'm using play sand and most siphon sandblasters are marginal anyway. All in all you get what you pay for, which is not much.
     
  8. Chuck Torman

    Chuck Torman United States Steel Registered Member

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    Over the years I have bought quite a bit of stuff from Harbor Freight, I can say that their "General" tool boxes are as good or better than most on the market and a ton less costly. I own Snap -On, Par-X, and Craftsman boxes also and honestly prefer the ones from HF, Harbor Freight is a good example of why we need Brick & Mortar stores, you need to inspect and touch what you buy because they have some good stuff and some junk too. Some products they sell are marginal in quality, but without them, I don't know if I could afford to have many of the items in my shop. So I for one am glad that they are here.
     
    uncle harry likes this.
  9. The Liberal Arts Garage

    The Liberal Arts Garage United States Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    I've bought no "large" tools from them, but last time I spent $40 on " nothing "
    BLJHB
     
  10. vincent52100

    vincent52100 United States Active Member Active Member

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    I tend to buy a lot from Harbor Freight. It's hard to beat the cost. Most things I have gotten are good. These are the items that I've had good luck with. The numbers are out of the catalog. I tried to match up the item number with the tools I have
    Motorcycle lift #69904, Motorcycle lift #99887, 14" Cutoff saw #91938, 6" Cutoff saw #61204, 3" Electric cutoff saw (not a tool to use forextended periods) #60415, 3" Air cutoff tool #69473, 4 1/2" grinder (x2) #91223, Diesel compression tester #46800 (sold), OBD2 Tester #60693, Heat gun #96289. Also a lot of hand tools.
    I'm going Friday to pick up the five drawer tool cart.
     
  11. visenfile

    visenfile United States Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    During a recent visit I saw the big breaker bars on sale again. I warn you against these , pretty as they are. The round configuration is simply not stiff enough to perform as a breaker. There is flex and the required force to break loose hi torqued or corroded faseners cannot be transmitted. Sears "i beam" breakers are expensive, but they work. Do not be tempted with the looks and price of the HF breaker bars.
     
  12. jmarkwolf

    jmarkwolf United States Active User Active Member

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    Location:
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    eI've always had a healthy skepticism about Harbor Freight products, and consequently always research others' experience, in threads such as this, before I buy.

    Ultimately, I'm very satisfied with the all HF purchases I've made:

    1. RF-31 table-top milling machine clone. At the time, shipping was free on this 750lb machine, both ways if I didn't like it, once it arrived. Turns out it was a real gem, used it regularly for 15 years then sold it for what I paid, when I upgraded to a used Bridgeport!

    2. A.C. winch that I use to stow a snowmobile trailer to the wall in my airplane hangar to save floor space. Been using it for over 10 years. Works reliably.

    3. 4ft x 8ft fold-up trailer with 1100 lb capacity. Had two of them. Used the first one many years but it was stored outside and didn't fare well, rusted badly. Sold it and bought another a few years later, store it inside, holding up well. Light enough to pull behind the lawn tractor for yardwork, strong enough to haul full sheets of plywood and transport the lawn tractor, although I wouldn't trust it to the rated 1100lbs. Have a bigger trailer if I need the capacity.

    4. Recently bought the full size hydraulic motorcycle lift table with 1000 lb capacity. Researched heavily on the web and learned all the complaints prior to purchase. Decided I could either fix or live with shortcomings. Was plasantly surprised that all the complaints I'd read about on the web had been fixed! I think the Harbor Freight marketing people read forums like this. It's rock solid and makes it a pleasure to work on heavy things at waist height instead of on the floor. This table is a real gem, particularly for the $295 I paid (with coupon).

    5. Recently bought one of their ball bearing 16-drawer red tool boxes from recommendations on forums like this. This box is very high quality, certainly noticably better than my Craftsman ball-bearing boxes. Paid $269 (coupon and floor model). Very pleased.

    6. Recently took a gamble on one of their 4x6 horizontal bandsaws having read all the web
    complaints. The damn thing has been working flawlessly, cutting perfectly square right out of the box with the stock blade. Paid $199 (with sales coupon). No misgivings that the blade probably won't last long. Glad I bought it.

    7. Recently wanted to construct a welding booth. Priced out fabricating a structure from Unistrut and welding blankets. The HF heavy duty scaffold was cheaper and it was basically ready to rock right out of the box. I adjusted the platform all the way to the top to form the "roof", hung the same welding blankets around the perimeter. Makes a nice welding booth. When I don't need the booth anymore I'll have an adjustable scaffold/bench/shelving unit instead of a pile of cut Unistrut sticks!

    Not kidding myself that I won't get a "stinker" from HF someday, but I always read threads like this before any purchase and have never been dissappointed yet with HF purchases yet.
     
  13. w9jbc

    w9jbc United States Active User Active Member

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    only thing machinist wise I have is the dial indicators I use them a lot at work and when they give up I break out a new one. the oil and dirt in my work environment is tough on them. but they seem to do ok by me thus far
     
  14. fmj1911

    fmj1911 United States Iron Registered Member

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    I first found HF 30 years ago while living in CA up in Camarillo. I was a machine tool repair guy and their ball nose allen wrenches were the bomb. I've always bought things there with the full understanding of what I was getting but back in those days, I needed specialty tools for my job and keeping my car running and you simply couldn't beat them. But since then, the quality and warranty have only gotten better and better, so I'm a huge fan. I even use their brazed cutting tools in my lathe and mill. Again, not the best stuff in the world - but good enough for most of what I do.
     
  15. brav65

    brav65 Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Harbor Freight 3 in 1 battery jumper - PASS This little $35 unit has been riding around in the back of my SUV for the last 8 months. My battery decided to go bad last night, I had the kids in the car and was able to jump it first try. I had to use it again this morning and a third time after I stopped at Checker to have them run a test on it. This was all on one charge, that has lasted for 8 months. It's a keeper!
     
  16. kvt

    kvt Active User Active Member

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    I have bought a bunch of stuff from them, I use to have my father in law pick stuff up from the store in CA and send it to me. I knew it was not the best but it was what I could afford at the time and normally only needed it for a couple of uses. I still pick up some stuff there with the expectations that it may no last or it may. I have a heavy duty 1/2 inch drill that I bought to mix some thin set when doing my floor, It lasted just about as long as it took me to do 2 bags self leveler, and 2 bags of thin set. But was able to take it apart and repair it, and it is still around. I have one of their welding helmet and it works great even after about 5 years. Had a sander that lasted just long enough to do the body work on a car then died. Had a nail gun that lasted just long enough to do a shed, but then have one of the multi tools that vibrates and it has done more than expected. As you can tell I use them a lot but I don't expect much from them, figure they are one use tools in most cases then get surprised if they last longer.
     
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  17. catskinner

    catskinner United States Active Member Active Member

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    I agree with kvt, if I was using them professionally I'd by high quality tools, but for a hobby user most things work pretty well. I to buy the $10 grinders and get what life I can out of them, it seems that the quality is getting better. My orange one died and one of the blue ones died but one blue one is still working and the black ones I have are still working after about 4 years. I have one with a cut off wheel, one with a grinding wheel, and one with a wire wheel all plugged into a power strip so I grab which ever one I need at the time. I have several large items that have worked well also, the horizontal metal band saw still working after 7 years of occasional use. The 14" metal chop saw just lost the switch after 5 years that should be an easy fix. I have a 12 ton floor mounted press that comes in very handy at times. I bought a 160 amp wire feed welder still working great after 7 years. A self darkening welding helmet after 7 years is still going strong. I have several air tools most of which have survived several years, the 1/2 drive impact is running ok after 9 years, a little problem with the direction switch but with a little observation of the switch position it work fine. Several Halogen lights that only need bulb replace periodically. I only live a few miles from the store so can go look at the hand tools to see if they are durable or not. Hope this helped I don't have item numbers sorry.
     
  18. Franko

    Franko Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    I've gotten Harbor Freight tools that have been pretty good. My mini-lathe and mini mill were so inexpensive I couldn't resist. I think with sale and 20% coupon I gave less than $300 for each and they've both performed very well for what they are and with a few upgrades. Some of their wrenches have been decent.

    I have a couple of their base toolboxes that are first rate. Good heavy strong boxes rated for a ton and half of tools, also picked up for a bargain on sale and with the 20% coupon before they quit honoring the coupon on toolboxes. Flat free wheel barrow wheels are good and half the cost anywhere else. Also, a couple of aluminum floor jacks have been great.

    But, the 20 ton shop press I got from them was a piece of junk. It's the sorriest excuse for a tool that I ever seen. First, it wasn't the same unit that was on the display floor or in their web side or catalogs, which has bolted beams and bottom brace and diagonal bracing on the foot. It is a welded piece of crap with the ugliest welds I've ever seen. And, it is crooked. When I let off the jack the thing springs back to its crooked shape and nearly jumps off the floor.

    I mentioned this to the manager and he just said that is all they have. I offered to buy the one off the sales floor that fooled me into buying it, but he wouldn't sell it to me. So, beware of their welded shop presses.

    I may be able to fix it by cutting it apart and rebuilding it.
     
  19. hman

    hman Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    Not exactly a tool ... but this latest scam they're running, the "Inside Track Club" looks like it's going to kill all the good coupons :(

    I just don't relish flushing $30 down the toilet every year <grump>.
     
  20. Andre

    Andre Active User Active Member

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    Letter # punches: Pass, but are on the softer side.

    Transfer punches: Horrible, too soft for even aluminum. Perfect for woodworking though.

    Pencil grinder: Really good, really fast too, Much better than a Dremel, plus with a toolpost mount it doubled as a toolpost grinder. It does get very cold though, the air flowing throw the tool sucks the hear from your hand. ( It's actually not any colder than the air in the tank it's just an effect)
     
  21. catskinner

    catskinner United States Active Member Active Member

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    I used to get all the coupons on my email and don't anymore. I told them at the cash register and they did something to fix that, but it didn't.
     
  22. ozzie46

    ozzie46 United States Active User Active Member

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    I'm still getting them. In fact an e-mail arrived last evening.

    Ron
     
  23. roadie33

    roadie33 Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    I just got one of these Tool Carts from HF and it is put together really well.
    It is very heavy and needs 2 people to put it together.
    I have it sitting right beside my Lathe and have all of my End Mill and Reamers and other tooling in it.
    Got it for $107 with coupon in Email. Great buy.

    image_20251.jpg
     
  24. GA Gyro

    GA Gyro H-M Supporter - Premium Content H-M Supporter-Premium

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    I bought the red one that is the big brother to this one... the local store had a damaged (dented) one for $75.00. Took it home and after about 30 minutes of careful straightening... it is fine. The paint is worse for the bending... nothing a can of Rustoleum will not fix.

    Generally, my rule is: If it has bearings in it... be suspect... otherwise... give it a chance.

    One more thing: Bought a 115 pc cobalt drill set (1/64 to 1/2 by 64th's, numbers from 1 to 60, and letters from A to Z) Reg $129.95, sale $99.95, coupon... total price $79.95. So far, all is good. I am careful, when doing rough drilling (hogging out holes in angle, etc), to use regular sized drills, so they can be replace easily onzy-twozy.
     
  25. markknx

    markknx Active User H-M Supporter-Premium

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    I have their grey 20 ton shop press. the bolt up one. it works very well. I did have to make some nylon shims to glue to the 6 contact points of the ram to take out the play side to side and front to back. But I call it a pass as I caught it on sale for 140.00. (that was what I would have had into building one) So I call that a pass.

    As many have said before go on line and check the reviews. Make sure the part numbers are the same as they change all the time. this can bea good guide.
    Mark
     
  26. jasnooks

    jasnooks United States Active Member Active Member

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    Same here. I get an email from them about every other day.
     
  27. coolidge

    coolidge United States Active User Active Member

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    I purchased a Harbor Freight pallet jack yesterday, on sale for $259 and got another 20% off with a coupon $207 out the door. I used it today it worked great. I had a 800 lb mill arrive, replacement, had to uncrate the new one, re-crate the old one, moving both around my garage with the pallet jack was quite easy.
     
  28. Johnwright

    Johnwright Wannabe machinist Active Member

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    I am finding myself in need of an inexpensive drywall screw gun. I have about 25 sheets to hang and it might be years before I will do it again. HF has two listed for about. $40, one difference is the amp numbers. Any thoughts on these two, I really don't want to spend what Lowes or Home Depot wants.
     
  29. GA Gyro

    GA Gyro H-M Supporter - Premium Content H-M Supporter-Premium

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    From my construction days decades ago... the key to a drywall screw gun... is the clutch. If it adjusts well and feels substantial... then the gun will probably be fine for a one-time project. The other alternative would be to go 'pawn-shopping' and get a used name brand.

    BTW: Get a box of tips... they go fairly fast.
     
  30. bluegrass-engineer

    bluegrass-engineer United States Steel Registered Member

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    I recently needed a stepper bit and took a chance on a pair from HF. They worked very well in steel plate and a 1/8" steel bar.

    They are a PASS.

    On the other hand, their packages of bolts, screws, etc, are for the most part a FAIL. I keep some around in case of an emergency. The metal seems way too soft.
     

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