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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


Quentin (not verified)    August 19, 2022 - 8:02PM

I'm a driveway mechanic and avid DIY guy. I own almost every tool Harbor Frieght makes it seems. Except welding equipment. That's one thing I haven't done yet although I've heard they have some decent welding tools at least for small projects. Any time I tackle a new project and need a tool that I don't already have, Harbor Frieght is the first place I go to. I've gotten tons of things done with these tools and saved myself tons of money in the process, both on the tools and by doing the job myself. There have been a few issues with breakage and whatnot. Some were replaced under warranty. Others I've had to replace at my expense. No regrets. Some of the tools in my opinion are near equal quality to professional, expensive stuff. To each his own I guess.

Robert Barker (not verified)    August 19, 2022 - 11:41PM

I like a lot of the HF hand tools especially the prybars. I won't buy anything that contains an electric motor from them. For being able to have duplicate sets of tools in different locations boxed up and ready to go, HF is amazingly affordable. Also the scan tool, and FLEER (Infrared imager) I got from them are both durable and preform great.

Dan Fox (not verified)    August 20, 2022 - 1:54PM

I find it to be a mixed bag. the largest issue is quality control. there are tools that I beat the hell out of and have lasted from harbor freight and there are tools that fail out of the box, have been returned thrn buy the next one in that fails out of the box too. Some of it is ordered junk some other stuff is made in the same factory as name brand stuff and just rebranded. My long arbor buffing wheel has lasted quite a bit and I use it frequently. My other tool is much like a Fordom flex shaft die grinder, and that thing is very nice for a fraction of the cost.

Phathog (not verified)    August 20, 2022 - 3:23PM

Keep buying those Chinese tools and sending your money to the communist. One day they are going to give you something. And retailers will only sell what people will buy.

Stephen (not verified)    August 20, 2022 - 3:44PM

I had been working on my truck since I got it at 16 years old, but when a shop flubbed some work and blew my engine, I had to do the entire engine swap on my own. I've been using a Harbor Freight Bauer 3/8 drive impact for the whole process, and it's been nothing short of fantastic. Seriously, I've been amazed at just how capable that thing has been. There hasn't been one bolt it was unable to remove.

geoffrey Jones (not verified)    August 20, 2022 - 5:13PM

As far as I'm concerned 90% of the tools I buy at harbor freight is a single use tool. If I get more out of it its a bonus. I don't see the sense in spending 4 or 5 times the price for something I'll probably rarely use again.
If it's something I use frequently I'll buy the name brand because it's a permanent item I need

Handyman Roy (not verified)    August 20, 2022 - 8:19PM

I wouldn't recommend the 3/8 drills or car battery chargers, I've had pretty bad luck with them, having not learned my lesson with just one purchase I went back for more disappointment. I bought a lot of stuff I really like, saw blades, both circular and reciprocating, grinding wheels, drywall tools, tarps, drop clothes, paint brushes wrenches, socket sets.
All in all I love the place, a lot cheaper than any other tool supply store, including northern tool which I used to frequent. The electrical tools are probably okay if you don't use them much, the problem with the drills is always the trigger, the drill seems okay even under heavy use. It would be nice if they sold replacement parts for items they know will need them. I was told drill returns are frequent by an associate in the store.

Ken Harrod (not verified)    August 20, 2022 - 8:30PM

I think all the people that are so filled with hate towards Harbor Freight have not been there or used their new stuff from the last few years.

By far, the most broken tools I have been Craftsman, but I would still buy them if there was still a Sears around the corner. I don't have many SnapOn tools, but have broken a couple.

In recent years, since I live close to a HF, it has been my go to store. Essentially, there are no other tool stores near me. I have been impressed w the range of tools available. Many items I would expect as only available by order from a tool truck brand.

My 8kw generator is about 12 years old. I've used it to power my house a few times for a week or longer following hurricanes.

I've abused my Predator post hole digger. I would easily have spend 4x as much renting a name brand.

I've never had an issue w the Maddox brand. Lots of use on my vehicles and repairs on others over the years. My scanner (forget brand) is pretty great for $160. Reads ABS data, battery reset, steering angle sensor alignments etc...

I have different expectations between a $5 tool and a $100 one. However, I've had almost no problems w the HF ones.

Steven (not verified)    August 20, 2022 - 8:45PM

I have a whole bunch of snap-on sockets that I use on a regular basis and when I can find a truck or chase one down I'll replace it I also have harbor freight screwdrivers I also have spare harbor freight sockets which I leave in the car in case of an emergency I have a harbor freight MIG welder small one been working great for years must have gone through 10 spools of wire still working harbor freight Chicago grinder went through three of them bought the $10 warranty twice okay it's not a DeWalt but it did the job any case harbor freight has a lot of stuff that is a lot more inexpensive but I'm still trying to return Craftsman tools to Lowe's not much left

Robert Nicholson (not verified)    August 20, 2022 - 10:54PM

I've been a mechanic for over 50 years choosing your tools is relative to what you're using them for i have several different brands that i use for different repairs like the man said use some common sense.

Ron Smith (not verified)    August 20, 2022 - 11:38PM

One of my favorite off brand tools.. 10 inch vice grip pliers. No name, just "Made in Taiwan" stamped on it. Have had more than 40 years. I've beat it, cheater barred it, and more. Still works, can't break it! It's my go to for lotsa' stuff.

Jay Turner (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 1:27AM

I have bought a lot of things from harbor freight. I am usually impressed with the fact that they work and don't immediately crap out. I bought an electric ratchet from them a few months ago and it works great. The video i watched showed it test stronger than any of the other brands; Milwaukee included. I have had a lot of issues with HFs vice grips. The adjustable piece on it always unthreads itself. Real dollar store quality. The bauer shop vacuum is really decent. I vacuumed out a plugged up black water tank with it. It was absolutely revolting, but the vac worked great and is sanatized and still works. The locking mechanism seems a little flimsy, and the hose is cheap dollar store junk, but its otherwise good buy. I bought a solar panel from them that also works decently. I intend to get a paint sprayer from them and see how that works.
Oh i bought 1 of thise $950 predator super quiet generators and i run it hard and it works really good. Harbor freight is awesome imo. But as stated, do research.

Eric (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 7:50AM

I am a professional at a dealership. I have Snappy, Mac, Marco, Cornwell, Craftsman, Aircat, Dewalt,, Lenovo, V-linker and even some home-brew stuff in my toolbox. I recently moved to a spot where the roof leaks between old and new sections of the building, so I was looking for a hutch for my box to keep the work surface dry. After price and in person quality comparisons I bought an Icon setup. Under $5k for the box, work top, lights, and hutch where just the hutch for my older, smaller Snap-on would have been close to $7.

AJ (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 8:01AM

When I was a professional mechanic I used SNAP ON, MAC and Craftsman (back in the day they were USA made). Never had a Snap On or MAC socket fail. Had Craftsman socket and wrench failures. Sears just swapped the failed tools out.
Now I am retired. I needed a 13/16 Flare Nut Wrench for a project I am working on. Went to the MAC guy 76.00 bucks for that wrench. A few weeks later Harbor Freight started to carry SAE Flare Nut wrench set with a 13/16 for 35.00. You bet I was pissed. For non professional work there is nothing wrong with Harbor Freight tools. The tools are on par with Performance Tools. Been working on cars for 50 years. It’s my go to place as Snap On, MAC and MATCO are way too much money. Craftsman tools are ok but they never kept up with all the new technology. ADT keeps up with new technology. Their tools are good.

jeramy cleghorn (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 8:43AM

I work in maintenance at an HDPE pipe manufacturing plant, my tool cart (US General) is loaded with a hodge-podge variety of big-name brands as well as cheapo off-brands. From flea market bargain grease guns to my Strap-on 1/2" cordless impact, every tool of every price point has it's use. Pittsburgh brand is the most prelevant brand owned by everyone in the maintenance dept as there's a Harbor Freight jusy a few blocks from the plant and we've NEVER had an issue with getting a tool under warranty replaced. The nature of our work, our tools are very heavily abused, being able to get a broken tool replaced and get back to the task at hand in under 30 minutes is something unheard of with Strap-On and the likes.
In the years I've worked with HF brand tools, I've had to replace less than a dozen tools, mostly being the ball-head allen sockets and dead blow hammer--- all of which endured excessive abuse before failing.
At least with the HF we use, it's "no-questions-asked" when getting a tool warrantied even if it's beyond apparent the 3/4" socket was beat on to a buggered up bolt with a sledge hammer.
HF tools are beyond doubt slightly inferior to top-shelf brand name tools however the trade off with convienence and quick no-hassle replacement is well worth it.

Mike (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 10:06AM

IMO, Harbor Freight tools as most know are not of the highest quality as it quite evident by their price. That behind said if you are a DIY guy or girl and need a speciality tool such as a grinder, sawzall, or basically really any tool that you cannot do without to start or complete your project and will use very seldom if ever after your home project is completed it makes ZERO sense to spend 5 to 10 times the money on a high quality professional tool only to have it sit around to collect dust. For light homeowner use Harbor Freight tools are a money saving hit, I've purchased several of them over the years and on occasion when I've pulled them out to do something they've worked just fine. If you are not a professional who's livelihood depends on quality, dependable, high usage tools, Buy Harbor Freight, your project will get done and your budget will thank you.

Rob (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 11:41AM

Journeyman Lineman IBEW local 9 and I always buy American made tools.

A- they last longer and hold up better
B- if they break. Chances are they will get replaced for free
C- support your fucking country

Raab's Garage (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 11:55AM

It's not the tools that make the mechanic. I use every brand. They all have a place. I don't feel comfortable taking my snap on stuff to the junk yard so harbor freight comes in clutch. I do everything from oil changes to engine swaps. Lawn mowers, snowmobiles, gasers, diesels, etc. Some tools just arent worth the extra money especially when you use it once every couple years. But those Pittsburgh impact sockets from the freight are some of the best! Plus they have a easy warranty. No questions or receipt needed

Tommy (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 12:38PM

I bought a Bauer mini leaf blower and it's now one of my favorite tools. It's light enough for quick yard work (or use as a duster), but not too heavy to strain my back after repeated use.

Jaykob Stephens (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 12:47PM

Dad and I buy tools from Harbor Freight. If we use them enough to break them or wear them out, we upgrade. If not, HF tools are fine for occasional and especially hobby use.

Gerardo Gherbaz (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 1:16PM

I've been industrial mechanic for over 20 years and I would say without shame that 90% of my tools are harbor freight or off brands, only when I need really specific tools (torque wrenches, calipers, or high impact equipment) I use brand name tools. Now days most of the tools like someone already mentioned comes from China.

Raymond Clark (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 1:53PM

I bought a HF heatgun to put a vinyl wrap on the grill.
It was an exciting race to see if I would get the wrap done before the gun melted down.
I won but it smelled like it was close :(

Chris Ferguson (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 2:17PM

I took heads off early 90s Ford f250 with 460 in it..I broke craftsman. Mac. And snap on sockets..then I reached in bottom of my box got what I thought were junk..great neck Taiwan sockets. They were actually very thick Walled and did the job the others couldn't.. this was around 20 years ago. I still have the sockets and have yet to break one.. look at the tool not the name on it.. my boxes are Cornwell they are 50+ years old. Cornwell are by far best tools on market . I break snap on by looking at them hard. It's junk. Tools are made for work and everything becomes a hammer. I still wonder what the the guy working on semi's uses 1/4 drive ratchet on.. if you don't or didn't beat your tools with hammer you are not a mechanic in a real shop. Let me guess you use torch and take all the temper out of what your working on???.. heat wrench is for yard guys at junk yards. Heat a bolt it's useless after that.

Hint buying tools close your eyes and feel the tool .the weight mainly, how thick Walled the sockets are., how wrenches ,ratchets feel in your hand.

Geoff (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 2:51PM

Never buy from their magazine ads as these are low ball ads for cheap, inexpensive products. At their retail stores it's a different story. They have excellent tools and a broad selection of excellent products. I buy at their retail stores all the time.

KVollrath (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 3:24PM

I'm in the construction trade so I generally buy brand (all of my cordless are 20v DeWalt - first for quality and product range, second because it's single battery). For wrenches HF is fine. For socket wrench I use Husky for quality and warranty (have since way before HD carried them). I do own a good deal of HF impact pieces (swivels, extensions, deep sockets - all quality pieces). BUT in terms of consumables, HF is hands down just plain cheaper... Most of that stuff is all Chinese anyway. Reciprocating blades, cut-off wheels, flap wheel sanding discs, 4.5" diamond blades, multi-tool blades... They're every bit as good as big-box offerings and less cost. I just bought a 10" tile saw from HF after reading great reviews from industry professionals with access to $1k+ machines and I can def say it's a great machine for the money - even against big name comparable saws that I've had/used. Even the blade that comes with it is great. In an era when so much is made by China (unfortunately) there has become little distinction between higher priced and lower priced consumable quality. I think for most 'workers', quality hand tools and cordless tools is king, but as HF steps up they will gain market share. If you haven't, take a look at HF's $4k offering in the tool cabinet space - it's a beautiful piece and far, far cheaper than Snap-On or Mac and EVERY bit as good.

Anthony Marquez (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 4:05PM

So I am the owner/operator of a mechanic and handyman business. Yes I have a massive, in comparison to most, set of snapon box's filled with snap on tools. However I also have a substantial amount of tools from harbor freight brands and other online or less known brands. Harbor freight tools can be useful especially when on a budget as long as they are used safely. All tools break, high dollar tools have a high dollar warranty that takes a bit of time in many cases to apply. Where as cheaper tools usually live just past their warranty period before breaking, but are cheap enough to replace if you are in the market to upgrade. Learning a trade with tools that don't break your heart to break is always smart in my book. If you arent making money with your tools there is very little reason beyond want to own high dollar tools. Ultimately any tool is only as good as the operator using it can make it be.

James McDonald (not verified)    August 21, 2022 - 5:07PM

Have used Craftsman tools for years.
Since the collapse of Sears the "lifetime warranty" on Craftsman tools is not worth the paper it is written on. For a failed tool you have to go online and try to get a voucher to replace the tool. GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!!!