Harbor Freight - what sucks and what doesn't list

Discussion in 'Spare Parts, Tools & Product Developement' started by arceeguy, Dec 6, 2008.

  1. arceeguy

    arceeguy Active Member

    Since we all like to tinker with mechanical things like our motorized bikes, and do it on a "low budget" - I thought it would be helpful to post which tools sold at HFT are good, and which ones are not.

    I have found that most of the tools are OK if you are not a professional contractor/mechanic that depends on them every day - but there are some items that aren't worth the shipping from China. There's a reason why some have nicknamed them "horror freight". When I placed my first catalog order from them several years ago, they were "Harbor Freight Salvage". Where did the "salvage" go? I can risk $25 on a 4.5" grinder, but I wouldn't trust a HFT pacemaker!

    Post your experiences both good and bad!

    Also - let's not get into China bashing. It's all about getting cool tools cheap. For example, a HFT auto feed wire welder for 90 bucks can get a fellow MB enthusiast making custom frames where they wouldn't be able to afford the $500 Miller or Lincoln.

    The Good-

    Central Pneumatics 2HP pancake compressor. - I've had mine for several years now. It is oil lubricated with cast iron cylinder. Great for dusting things off with compressed air, and to run small air tools. I even run my IR 230C impact gun with it. (in short bursts, enough to knock off lug nuts with ease!) Can be had for $89 on sale.

    4.5" Grinder - Had mine for about 5 years. It hasn't failed me yet! Gearbox is noisy, but my buddies Home Depot Ryobi is worse.

    Bench Grinder w/flex shaft - I use this one a lot. I had to replace the brushes already! (it is about 3 years old)

    3/8" butterfly impact wrench - Great for automotive work. Knocking off oil drain plugs, caliper bolts, etc. Small enough to fit in most spots, powerful enough to break small fasteners (less than 15mm bolt head) loose.

    Electronic Fly Swatter - yep, this one is silly, but they had a pile of them on sale for $2.99. Kills flies and yellow jackets with a hearty "SNAP" and a bright blue spark.

    Engine cleaning gun - add compressed air with some detergent mix and end up with a sparkling clean engine. (cars, lawn mowers, etc.) Works great on alloy rims blasting away brake dust with ease. I do have to crank up my 220V compressor to run it continuously, as the little HFT compressor cannot keep up.

    6.5 HP Horizontal Shaft Engine - we beat the living carp out of these Honda GX clones and they keep coming back for more. Disable the governor, and keep it under 5000RPM! The ones I've purchased had the "Central Machinery" brand and were made by Lifan in China - a large motorcycle/scooter manufacturer. "Greyhound" is a new trade name for HFT. I have one of their new 2.5HP engines, but haven't powered anything with it yet. (it is going on a rack mount motorized bike project)

    The Bad -

    1/2" drive impact extension set - The metal is too soft and considerable energy is lost in the extension and not applied to the nut or bolt you are trying to hammer off. My Craftsman impact extensions are hard enough to transfer the power, yet not shatter like a standard extension would. The HFT set is the one I will loan out. :devil2: (Golden Rule #1 - Never loan out tools you actually want back!)

    Anything cordless. (and less than say $35) The chargers are most likely overnight trickle chargers, the batteries self discharge in a week, the motors are not too powerful.

    1/2" Drive Electric Impact Wrench - Rated at 240 lb/ft, I doubt it exceeds 120 lb/ft. Very disappointed. Another one to loan out. :)

    1/2" Drive Impact Wrench - This one is kind of a toss up. For 20 bucks did I really expect it to deliver 250 lb/ft of torque? It doesn't, but I do use it quite a bit. I'll pull out the Ingersoll Rand impact if this one doesn't have the balls to do the job.
    Rico glover likes this.

  2. Happy Valley

    Happy Valley Active Member

    Good thread, positive input.

    When was the last time that compressor was on sale @ $89? I'd like to watch for that,
    it's the next item I really need to add to the shop.
  3. arceeguy

    arceeguy Active Member

    It goes on sale for less than $100 quite often.
    This unit with a larger tank is on sale for $99 at their store. Combine that with a 15% off coupon I got in the latest flyer and it is a real bargain. I'm going to pick one up tomorrow. It looks like many of their small compressors use similar direct drive oil lubricated pumps with cast iron cylinders. I have found that you really can't go by their "horsepower" ratings, as it seems their horses vary in size. I pay attention to the current draw on the motor label. More power used means a more powerful motor.

    I don't have 220 in my garage, so when I need my "big compressor", I need to fire up a portable generator to run it. What a pain.

    Hopefully, the new compressor will be able to keep up better. (the larger tank will certainly be a plus!)

    I'll use the smaller one in my basement workshop for airbrushing and other small stuff.

    I recommend that you sign up for their emails and flyers. Some friends of mine have been snapping up those 6.5HP engines for $99 (email special) and getting an extra 15% off with the flyer coupon!
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2008
  4. ocscully

    ocscully Member

    Good: 6in. Digital Caliper a Great buy @ 18.00 the usual sale price. Everybody should have one. It reads out in english decimal, english fractions, and metric.

  5. bluegoatwoods

    bluegoatwoods Well-Known Member

    Dont' forget the bicycle LED headlights and tail lights. About 1/2 what you would pay
    the Beast of Bentonville. Inexpensive enought that you don't have to chew your cud over buying it.

    I also buy my basic wrenches from HF. they're not great, but they're good enough. but you gotta watch out: they have many that have those little notches in the jaw. In theory it allows the wrench to ratchet back and forth like a socket. In practice they're the worst wrenches you could ever find.
  6. Pablo

    Pablo Motored Bikes Sponsor

    I shopped in CHINA and I am admitting it.....

    I went to HF at lunch on Thursday for the $99 SALE 12 speed 10" BT drill press -AND They also had two 5 speed 9.5" Bench Top Drill presses, $79 and $89....man I couldn't decide, small seems more precise and holds smaller bits, etc, they all have the same motors - the 10" press has a bigger chuck........ I finally asked to get the bigger job out of the back .........of course, SOLD OUT. Dang. I was gonna walk. The guy actually took pity/didn't want to lose a sale and sold the $79 unit to me for $54.99 and then the dude at the counter gave me a 15% off coupon. $46.74 for a new drill press!!

    $79 HF Drill Press: Drill Press under $50

    I must admit begrudgingly it's not THAT junky. The action is smooth, the motor quiet and strong. The chuck is true. Bore holes with ease.

    Under $50? Sweet. (and yesterday I got a 20% off coupon, naturally)
  7. loquin

    loquin Active Member

    They also have a 6HP Robins-Suburu engine for $250. Which is not a bad deal at all for a high quality engine.

    About a year ago, I bought one of their 7 function digital multimeters on sale for $3. Worked great until last week, when I checked AC voltage when the meter was set for resistance... Oooops! :dunce: I was able to verify that there WAS 120 VAC on that wire...
  8. arceeguy

    arceeguy Active Member

    I just picked up the same drill press as Paul (Pablo) for $44.95 with a coupon! I just set it up on my bench and the motor is quiet, the action is smooth, and the quality is pretty darned good!

    I also picked up a couple of the 6.5 Honda knock off engines for $99 (with coupon) for some future karting and/or mini-bike projects. The new "Greyhound" brand 6.5's are made by Lifan (good quality) like the Central Machinery brand was.
  9. machiasmort

    machiasmort Active Member

  10. ZnsaneRyder

    ZnsaneRyder Member

    I have two of the CEN-TECH multimeters. One is the regular $3 sale one, the other one was $9 and has a back light, but they go on sale sometimes for $5! They look identical except for the button for the backlight. Next time, I'll get more of the backlighted ones!

    These meters are REALLY GOOD for the price! They have batteries included! They have Transistor HFE (gain) check, and these meters are accurate!!!

    A STEAL FOR A METER. Heck, if you mess the test leads up, just buy a whole new meter!

    No more Radio Shack meters for me. If a $3 meter at HF can do more than the RS $50 meters, why even bother with RS? Heck, even the test leads at RS cost more than a HF meter.

    THANK YOU Harbor Freight tools!
  11. lordoflightaz

    lordoflightaz Member

    Arceeguy has the good and the bad, left out the ugly. I bought their solar panel kit, you get 3 solar panels, Power Center [a voltage regulator (DC-DC conversion) 2 12v light bulbs 8 output connections; a cig lighter type connection, 5v USB, 3,6,9, 12(2), + - battery and a digital display.] You also get a cable to connect up to various bayonet type connections for the 3,6,9 output. Got it on sale and with a 15% off coupon for under $200. I use it to power a wireless webcam, charge my cell phone The Kit is fun.

    I learned a bit from it. They make a shed cooler as well. You don't get a battery or an AC inverter, you need the battery to power things at night. They sell an AC converter if you want want.

    When I had issues with the power center, they sent me a new one at no charge.

    Make sure you sign up with them. They send 15 and 20% off coupons pretty regularly.
  12. arceeguy

    arceeguy Active Member

    Let me edumukate you a little -

    The "Pearl Harbor store" you speak of does not sell tools. The Pearl Harbor Stores sell Mitsubishi cars (Mitsu made the planes that attacked us), Hondas, Toyotas, and Nissans. Best Pearl Harbor Buy sells Sony, Sanyo, Pioneer, Mitsubishi (again!), Panasonic, and other Japanese brands. China has not attacked us - ever. Americans used Chinese slaves to build the railroad system. Thousands died. Not one cent of reparations has ever been paid, nor have there been cries for affirmative action or other social justice for Chinese-Americans.

    In any case, since you are a typical UAW worker, it is easy to see why the American auto industry is quickly going down the toilet. You've singlehandedly convinced me never to buy a new American car ever again, as I do not wish to support the UAW in any way, shape or form.
  13. I bought the drill press for 49 bucks and 4 sets of wrenchs on sell for 14 and 9 bucks work great and come with a handy carrier to keep em in order. Ive bought alot from them so far. Only when on sale do i buy stuff ,i think its fun to go in and find the bargains.
  14. machiasmort

    machiasmort Active Member

    You speak nothing of the radio active metals used and this will become a serious problem in the future.

    China is a very beautiful Country (rural areas), so beautiful almost cartoon like. It's people are top shelf. However, they treat their citizens like animals, specifically the labor force. If you don't want to be treated like that (in America), we can't compete with their price on labor.

    Ron Gettelfinger was supposed to turn things around for the UAW. What most people on the outside don't realize is that the higher up (International) Union Reps are appointed and not elected. These appointees elected Gettelfinger. The individual Union members had no say in who the Grand POOBAh would be! Such appointments in the Union chain of command are very anti-Democratic. Union members of individual plants should at least have the right to pick their International Rep. but don't. Overall, for an appointee, Getelfinger has done a fine job, keeping in mind he must please the International Reps who appointed him.

    If you want to support the spread of Communism, buy goods made in Communist Countries.

    Attached Files:

  15. machiasmort

    machiasmort Active Member

    Having made this statement, where is my HT made?

    This is where we agree, the Eco-weenies would rather see us support Communism than create another American job.
  16. arceeguy

    arceeguy Active Member

    And what does this have to do with Harbor Freight Tools? Same goes for your claims of spreading communism. When I buy stuff from HFT, I am supporting a local business that employs local people. I am also supporting the capitalist economy of China, not endorsing their authoritarian government. I will also not buy an automobile assembled at a UAW plant because I do not wish to support labor unions. This is my choice. If you don't want to buy products made in China, that is yours. I just wanted to point out your erroneous Pearl Harbor reference.

    Back on topic - I noticed that in the latest flyer, they are selling this small gas generator for $99 on sale. While I do not own the Chicago Electric version of this generator, I bought the Pep Boys branded generator a couple of year ago. It is identical to the HFT generator, and I have had good luck with mine. It has a cast iron cylinder for durability, and it is fairly quiet considering it is a two stroke.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2009
  17. srdavo

    srdavo Active Member

    these are on sale at Joplin's HF, for $89.99 !! I gotta have one. Maybe tomorrow?

    do you know about how much it weighs?
  18. arceeguy

    arceeguy Active Member

    It is roughly 23 pounds.
    For my project, I picked up a centrifugal clutch at Tractor Supply Co., and I am making a rack from 12 gauge steel. A buddy of mine has a sheet metal brake (from HFT!) and said that he can make a "U channel" chassis pretty easily.
  19. seanhan

    seanhan Member

    they also have some cool r/c airplanes real cheap !!!!
  20. uncle_punk13

    uncle_punk13 Guest

    Let's keep our politics outta this one okay guys? I'm having a hard time biting my anti-union pro-american tounge here... Play nice. This is about cheap tools for the motored biker hobbyist.
    (Anti-Union) Aerospace Machinist