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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Harbor Freight's Dirty Little Secret - How Their Tools are so Cheap and Which Ones You Should Avoid

Harbor Freight has a secret. This secret is the key to how they are able to make and sell their tools so cheap. When you understand how it all works, you will know what tools you should buy from Harbor Freight and which Harbor Freight tools you should avoid.

VIDEO HERE  (9:11 minutes)

*****

I had a fair amount of HF hand tools for the job when I worked out at the ammo plant. Oh sure, I had good tools as well from the Snap-On truck that came out once a month, but there were those hard to get to nuts and bolts, and there was no way in hell I was going to heat up and bend or chop and weld a good wrench - that's what the HF tools were for.
That and loaners - if you came up and wanted to borrow a wrench, guess what I'm going to hand you?

I did buy a stick and a mig welder from HF when I decided I wanted to learn to weld. I wasn't sure I was going to stick with it, so I didn't want to spend the money on Lincoln welders. The HF cheapos served their purpose for that.

And the generator out in my shed is a Predator from HF that I bought when we first moved out here because I couldn't afford a Honda that would cost me 2-3 times as much but only delivering half the wattage. It's a 4000 watt generator and I don't think it cost me but maybe $350 back then.
I just now checked for a 4000 watt Honda and they're 1900 bucks. I don't recall what they were back then but it was more than I wanted to pay.

It's served me well for 6 years now, no complaints. The only time it's ever failed to fire up on the first couple pulls was over some bad gas. I drained it, filled it with fresh gas and it fired right up just like it's supposed to.

33 comments:

  1. I have a bunch of those cheap screw drive sets and volt meters that they used to give away when you bought something else. Most often, the thing that I need a meter for is really just a continuity check, either there is power or there is not. And the screwdrivers are like you said, good for day to day use as pry bars, etc.
    I have decent tools also, but those are only used for things like guns or other things that need a quality tool. I even have a good set of punches, after learning my lesson on a cheap set. But there are times when I have bought a set of some metric tools for just one use, to sit in the corner forever, and I am not paying 50$ when I can get the cheap set for 15$ at HF, use it once, and hide it away.
    It is a lot like those fast food joints, you know what you get is crap, but you have to eat, and so you stop for a moment, grab your food, and hop back on the road. After you check your bag, of course.

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  2. I've never had a real problem with HF stuff. Both at work and at home. At work was funny, everytime the guys destroyed something, the first thing I heard was... did Carlie get this at Harbor Freight??

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  3. When I worked in a machine shop, had a lot of HF tools-still have them. I bought a 3 pc. set of adjustable wrenches because I needed a 24" wrench so I didn't always have to hunt for a cheater bar. But don't buy their calipers/mics, etc. Every time a new guy brought one in to get certified-100% failed.

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  4. Watch the video. HE echos my comments almost to the letter. Single use cheap and done. HF is your place. Complex with motors - often used in demanding jobs? Go for best. I shop HF and Home Depot and on line.

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  5. I would not set foot into a HF store same reason as Tractor Supply = both are massively dominated by utter garbage junk from China. Try and find any thing of quality = both these chains hold out empty pockets.

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    Replies
    1. The problem is most tools are made in china now. Im not spending more money on craftsman when they are made in china as well, and they are cocksuckers about returning shit now. Now your fucked when you do return a broken usa tool and they exchange it for a chinese one. GRRRR
      What really pisses me off is companies (craftsman, danner) that now make their products in china and charge the same as when it was made here. Fuck them

      Delete
  6. I too, have a Predator generator. It's a great machine & has never failed me.

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  7. My HF story. Years ago I got an HF catalog in the mail at work. I found a $5 hand counter-sink. I called the 800 number (this was in the early days of the net). The lady who took my order said the computer was down, but she'd write my info down and enter it later. About a week later I got a call from from building management saying that my order was over at the loading dock, and could I come over.

    ?????

    I go over. There's an 18-wheeler. In the back is a $1,500 generator. I rejected the order. When I got back to my office I found the catalog. The item numbers for the counter-sink and the generator were close - but not that close.

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  8. I always figured they were good for rough work; if they break after a couple of uses, what the hell, they were cheap anyway. (For the record, I probably have a quarter-million dollars' worth of Mac, Snap-on, Craftsman (old Craftsman), etc., that I inherited from my Dad, who was a master mechanic, plus my own 30-plus-year collection.)
    They can fool you, though. About 15 years ago I needed & didn't have a couple of torque wrenches, so I bought an inch-lb and a ft-lb from Horror Fright. I took them to work to check them (I'm a calibration tech), and, to my surprise, the Chinese fuckers were about dead-on.
    The really amazing part was that I rechecked them about every 6 months. After all these years, they have drifted OOT. Hell, a Kobalt, S-K, or (modern) Craftsman will go OOT long before that, but the Chinesium ones are still good.
    --Tennessee Budd

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  9. I've some HF tools that are excellent, and some that were junk. I have one of their blue "Hercules" drills, and it's da bomb. Lots of torque, good battery life, and seems made quite well.

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  10. HFT (Pittsburg) screwdrivers and combination wrenches have served me well.
    Lifetime guarantee and the price is right.

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  11. I consider HF tools to be a one job and done investment. Any more life out of them than what I originally bought them to do is a bonus.

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  12. After having cars busted into and decent tools stolen, I went for Harbor Freight toolsets for the vehicles. Kneepads and work gloves from them are in the car kit as well. Good enough for light use, and I'm not going to cry about losing them.

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  13. Harbor Freight spring compressors.....not recommended......
    Differ

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  14. Been dealing with HF for 25+ years now. Seen a *huge* improvement in quality. That guy's video nothing new to me. He could have stated it differently, HF hits the 90% as their goal, and they usually hit it. Just shopped there today, tarps, socket organizer, limb lopper. These are going to do better than 90% of what I need. I'm a coupon whore too, so there's that. Yeah, it's chi-com stuff, but I can't pay snapon/matco/mac prices. Rules: 1. use coupons. 2. mechanical items (sockets, wrenches, screwdrivers, usually safe bet. Inspect before buying. 3. electronic/complex items, evaluate and read reviews before buying.

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  15. There's a blog (or used to be) where the blogger would buy HF power tools and... take them apart. Seems the most problems with HF power tools is there is no real grease in the gearboxes and there's swarf and smutz inside said gearboxes. He'd clean them out, put in new grease, and suddenly the Horrible Fright tools worked as well as name-brand-not-made-in-USA tools.

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    Replies
    1. It's like those cheap 4x8 trailers, clean and grease the wheel bearings and they're 100x more reliable.

      Delete
    2. The HF wrenches also are well made and appear equal to the Kobalt, Craftsman (Chinese) Stanley. The mechanical properties are similar as well, however the HF & other Chinese tools are not properly heat treated. Get them up to 600F - 800F and hold the temperature for an hour then cool down helps the grain structure, hardness & strength considerably.

      Delete
    3. Ok, you just annealed your tools. And how do you know what the material is in said tool to know if it is even possible to harden? Amateurs, paying for professionals to do it in the end for ever.

      Delete
  16. I needed a garden roto-tiller (I think that is what it's called), never needed one before and have never needed one again. I bought it at HF, beat the crap out of it for three days (and man, was it smoking by the third day!). Finished and didn't try to find a place for it in my garage, I deposited it directly in the trash.
    Half the price of rental as I remember.

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  17. There's a youtube channel called Project Farm that does very good comparative reviews of products.
    Check it out before buying!

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  18. Mixed bag, hope the video gives some clues. Until then, my experience thus far:

    Bought a Chicago Electric angle grinder to see if it would serve a purpose. It ceased and smoked in under 20m of operation, but got 20m of work done. $20, and now I know I need an angle grinder, bought a miluakee for more like $200, both were worth it.

    On the other hand, I bought a tiny, cheap DC inverter based arc welder: barely up to welding 1/8" diamond plate, but with patience, it served. I burned through at least 400 sticks making a 4' wide 12' tall stairwell. Tended to overheat, but it never failed or even degraded. I was so impressed, I went back and bought a backup. (it's still in the box)

    Harbor Freight is a crap shoot... (unless this video enlightens further).

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  19. Some of you have mentioned that you know this garbage is from china. Why buy and support communist china? I NEVER buy Chinese unless there are no other choices. Please quit supporting communism. Hybo

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  20. When theft is a problem, HF is a solution. We were losing grinders at work, the 4.5 ones would vanish in a day or two. The HF ones burnt out in a week, but at a third the cost, it was better than feeding the thief.

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  21. Not tools, but tool boxes - Check out this video by SuperFastMatt:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHY-08vLEkM

    where he talks about build quality and who owns what, and that you can't trust most brand names any more.

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  22. Great for Kleenex tools, and stuff with no moving parts. OTOH. I have maybe 4 HF angle grinders. They all work fine. Comes down to convenience. I can pick one up in 20 minutes for
    $20, OR I can go home, grab one, fix lunch, drink a beer, and go back to the site .Looking at 2 hours. HF and a burger for the win. Both of my sons have the ~$40 tool sets (this one:https://www.harborfreight.com/hand-tools/tool-sets/tool-kits/tool-set-with-case-130-piece-63248.html ) which I bought for each when they got cars.

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  23. HF is a good place for inexpensive 'consumables' like sandpaper and screws / bolts that are needed for securing together. But if the construction is for long term need, I would pay the extra money for heavier construction Nails bend - threaded break and I don't feel saving a couple of cents is worth the risk.

    I still have a heat gun that I infrequently use to construct knife / machete sheaths out of PVC pipe. Cheap and durable - I like that, as sheaths sold with machetes are generally crap (useless thin fabric that will actually bend in a light wind breeze) The gun cost less than $20 and I've made at least a dozen sheaths with it with no sign or failure or performance degradation. I call that a win..

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  24. Kobalt is the tool I don't like atall. Never been to HF. Good tools are important and I'd rather pay the price then to be under something with a piece of junk in my hand.

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  25. Harbor Freight is what I always wished the tools department of Sears had been. Everything you want for a decent price. I never buy batteries, bits or blades at Harbor Freight, but I can get a variety of hand tools without breaking the bank. Who cares if I rarely use the short box wrenches, they were cheap and I have them when I need them. For power tools, I usually buy higher quality elsewhere, but my little HF pancake compressor works when I need it.

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  26. I put together a selection of cheap HF basic tools for my Classic 2002 Durango. Just in case. I had a half dozen of those little LED flashlights they used to give away. I had them around in case my old eyes needed some help but the switches have gone bad one by one.

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  27. $40 kit in each car. Yes, not pro stuff, but when you need it, you need it real bad. Otherwise, it’s the tools you loan to your brother-in-law.

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  28. I souped up a mini bike that came with a 2.5hp engine with a Harbor Freight. It's 6.5hp and it's been solid as a rock for 7 years. It's hard to keep the front wheel on the ground! Other than that, I bought some some bar clamps which work decent enough...

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