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Mechanic Responds to Harbor Freight Tool Shaming

What brand of tools does one of the most respected mechanics on the internet rely on to make repairs on his customer’s cars? Find out now with this unique tool show and tell response to a Harbor Freight tool shaming comment.

Where Do You Buy Your Tools?!

In past articles we’ve learned that there is no shame in buying tools from Harbor Freight and that in fact it makes sense in many cases to choose a tool from “Heart Break” ---one of the more strained monikers I’ve heard---over many other name brand tools that promise quality at a price.

Other nicknames for the HF brand include:

• Harbor Hate
• Harbor Fright
• Bottom of the Harbor Freight
• China Fright
• The Chinese Cheesecake Factory

But is this fair and accurate? Weeeeeeeeeell, nobody would deny that there is an element of risk and even perhaps danger with SOME HF products---and I have one near eye fatality photo to prove it---but like in all things you have to be smart when you buy anything by doing your research, apply a little common sense…and wear proper safety equipment whenever in the garage. DOH!

Case in point: online you will find some items that are no brainers when it comes to “Things to Never Buy from Harbor Freight” such as:

• Bullet proof vests
• Parachutes
• Elevators
• Birth control devices
• Fire Extinguishers
• Pacemakers
• Vaccines

But seriously, the general advice that the more components in a tool, the more likely it will fail on you is a good yardstick to measure by when making a shopping decision at Harbor Freight.

Enough with the Hate Already!

What prompted this article topic was a Rainman Ray’s Repairs YouTube channel episode today where Ray responds to a comment made by one viewer that is an example of misguided notions when it comes to mechanics and where they buy their tools.

In other words, a little online Harbor Freight tool shaming that if the source of the comment had taken the time to actually look inside the tool cabinets of most mechanics, he or she would very likely discover that only in advertisements will you see a single brand tool in a mechanic’s garage.

Here’s the video that makes the point quite aptly:

NO Repair Today! Snap-On vs Harbor Freight Mechanics

And finally…

We would like to hear from you: Do you have a favorite off-brand tool that is your favorite or one that you've kept for many years? Let us know about it and why in the comments section below.

For additional articles that are tool related, here are a few that seem appropriate right now:

Save Money with This Best “Made in USA” Tool Test Review

An Important Tool all Tesla Owners Should Carry to Revive a Dead Tesla

Save Money with This Small Anti-Scam Investment for Your Current or Next Car

COMING UP NEXT: Toyota Prius Hybrid Battery Replacement Warning

Timothy Boyer is a Torque News automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily new and used vehicle news.

Image Source: Pixabay


john r. warren, sr (not verified)    August 13, 2022 - 5:53PM

Great place to buy inexpensive (throw away) tools for first timer/new mechanics. Learn your trade while you learn your tools.
Also lots of new let's that stuff for those things outside the box.

Timothy Boyer    August 13, 2022 - 9:22PM

In reply to by john r. warren, sr (not verified)

I agree with it being good for first timer/new mechanics---turns out to make pretty good Christmas gifts for my kids who are not into doing repairs on a regular basis. Plus, don't have to worry about them stopping by to "borrow" my tools. 8 ^ )

Bill Braun (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 12:22PM

In reply to by Timothy Boyer

In 35 years of buying off the Snap On/Mac trucks I never once busted a knuckle or cut myself deeply when a quality tool broke. They did the job I bought them to do reliably. Can’t say the same about acquaintances who bought Harbor Freight, Buffalo, or other cheap brands. I guess it just depends on how much you feel your skin/knuckles/arms are worth. Buy it once, buy it well, make it pay for itself. Of course, most of you Harbor Freight guys know what your time is worth. Sorry about your luck.

Tom (not verified)    August 13, 2022 - 7:18PM

As a driveway mechanic, Harbor Freight is my go to tool supplier. If you want a “lifetime” tool, Lowes can sell you Craftsman. Remember, they probably have much the same quality now.

Ron pellettiere (not verified)    August 14, 2022 - 9:35AM

In reply to by Timothy Boyer

I always try to buy United States made when possible. If it’s a ratchet that’s tucked inside of an engine and will require torque, the name brand is the only way to go. However, if it’s an easy stress tool, with no possible injury involved, save a few dollars and go with the offbrand. Most tools are made overseas these days sadly. We can only hope the name brand tools that come from there, have better specifications than the offbrand‘s. Steel requirements, heat treating, plating and so on

John Gratz (not verified)    August 13, 2022 - 11:02PM

In reply to by Tom (not verified)

Actually if u want a lifetime guarantee with in my opinion a high-quality product from H.F is ICON. I've yet to break a single ICON tool & I've got many & literally use them everyday from doing my own me mechanic work, major& minor as well in my day job in construction. I won't buy anything unless it's ICON

Robyn (not verified)    August 14, 2022 - 12:00AM

Harbor Freight has been improving with their Icon line. I have some of the Icon sockets sitting in my box alongside my snap-on and at first glance you would not know the difference. I am in my fifties and have a hard time spending $600 on a set of truck sockets when the Icon line works for what I need. In addition to that, some of the US general and new Icon boxes that HF is offering are more than adequate for 80% of the mechanics I have worked with. Starting out in this industry with mountains of debt do to a box choice seems to be a rough way to do it when there are other choices. If you are to the point in your career you need a 72" roller with full powered top and side lockers and have the income to afford $15k plus for a toolbox off the truck then more power to you, but I think there are other options that work just as well and HF is a viable option sometimes.

Timothy Boyer    August 15, 2022 - 5:27PM

In reply to by Robyn (not verified)

I have a cousin who started Diesel school and was shocked at how much he was expected to dole out for his own tools as part of the course training. Fortunately he had a very generous grandmother who reasoned it was better (and cheaper) to get him started in a good trade school rather than go to college, and gifted him by covering his tool investment. Thanks for the reply.

Geary Garton (not verified)    August 14, 2022 - 12:41AM

I bought 2 Drumond, nonsubmersible pumps on the same day, 2/17/22. Neither pump works and the store will not accept a return. As of today, 8/13/22, l have to receive a refund. The purchase price for both is over $150.

Dennis Conner (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 1:35PM

In reply to by Geary Garton (not verified)

How bizarre one of main reasons I buy things I buy from HF is warranty! If it breaks in first 90 days replace or refund! Never any trouble with it! Had a problem with a pressure washer I bought exchanged no problem and then you can always buy extended warranty! Vast majority of hand tools are lifetime and never a problem!

Mike Blumenfeld (not verified)    August 14, 2022 - 2:25PM

The wire strippers from Harbor freight are great. Most electricians I know have them.

Jeff (not verified)    August 14, 2022 - 4:14PM

I've bought one Harbor Freight tool, an impact wrench. It died after removing three tires! The fourth I had to remove with a lug wrench and hammer. Never again.

whicks (not verified)    August 16, 2022 - 7:54PM

In reply to by Jeff (not verified)

I bought a HF $15 Electric Multitool to save wear and tear on my good tools. I ground out the grout in my tiled kitchen and dining room tile. I ran the HF tool for long hours every day for a week. It never quit! Yea, I don’t believe it either!

Halifax Max (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 1:17PM

In reply to by Jeff (not verified)

It can be hit or miss. I have a HF impact that I bought in 2011. Not the earthquake brand, just the cheap one. With enough air it takes off everything I've put it on, though I've not had to remove commercial diesel truck wheels.
I'd recommend a pro tool for heavy duty work.

AvE on YouTube does awesome teardowns of lots of tools and shows the weak links. Some tools will surprise you.

Ralph Spooner (not verified)    August 14, 2022 - 6:55PM

I have not had to buy any hand tools in a LONG time. That is due to acquiring most, if not all, my hand tools years ago when I worked for a commercial two-way radio sales, installation and repair shop. They are a mix of Penny's Penncraft and Sears Craftsman hand tools. I have had the Penncraft since the mid 70's and the Craftsman hand tool collection started in the early 80's. The wrench and socket sets are both American standard and metric.

Greg Bilbo (not verified)    August 14, 2022 - 7:28PM

I'm a retired master mechanic and millwright. I've used a lot of tools from harbor freight. Cheapest to replace. I have had the other name brands fail just as easily. My crews were relentless in the abuse. One tool is as good as another if you know how to use them.

Timothy Boyer    August 15, 2022 - 5:22PM

In reply to by Greg Bilbo (not verified)

Good point they do take a lot of unintended abuse. I always cringe when I see someone take a hammer to a wrench to loosen a nut that won't budge. There are better options than whacking on a wrench handle with a hammer. Lesser offences are using the wrong sized tool for the job. Thanks for the input!

Carl anderson (not verified)    August 18, 2022 - 8:59PM

From experience, harbor freight has had some poor tool lines, ex. Drillmaster cordless, junk. But I have Pittsburgh sockets, and other various tools from hf. Have broken adapters on impacts but never a socket and that's working on semi's/trailers, I have other brand tools, yes they are geared toward the professional mechanics, nothing beats a snapon 1/4dr ratchet , harbor freight has changed alot of its brands and if I didn't have them already I'd buy them. I have no complaints with hf, I like the tools I have from there,currently.

Halifax Max (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 1:07PM

In reply to by Carl anderson (not verified)

Mostly agree with the Drillmaster comment.
I will say, though, for hobby work, that those $9.99 cordless screwdrivers are pretty great in a pinch. I keep one next to my electronics/3d printer setup. I don't need crazy torque to take out 100 machine screws.

Dave (not verified)    August 18, 2022 - 11:32PM

Tools do have lifetime warranty. I have broken all tool's from crap on to crapsman. Had a set of taps out do a set of crap ons more that once. Also the torque wrenches will hold a cal longer than a crap on. And yes I'm a journey man, work at a dealership, been doing it for 20 years. And ave a wide variety of different manufacturers tools in my box.

Nate (not verified)    August 19, 2022 - 11:40AM

I'm a diesel mechanic and here's how I look at it, if it is something I am going to use rarely harbor freight is fine like the rivet gun I use once a year or two, and my carry around box that sits in my pickup is harbor freight, I have mostly old craftsman hand tools and Cornwell air tools, strap on is my last resort for tools I can't get from anywhere else, toolboxes I also get from Cornwell

Trinity Mobile… (not verified)    August 20, 2022 - 7:25PM

In reply to by John484 (not verified)

I am a Rv Service provider as well as a former ASE certified technician. I have always had a mix of snap on, Mac and matco tools with a variety of Harbor freight tools in the mix. It's not as much as the tool being used but rather the abuse you give a particular tool. I have never had problems with HF tools. They work as intended as far as I have noticed. So say all the tool slamming you want too. My tools are as good as the knowledge I bring to the repair center.