The Tools We Buy and Why
Back in my earlier days working on cars I was a Craftsman tool fanatic. I was sold on their chrome coating, their broken tool replacement guarantee, their name, their commercials, and the convenience of shopping for a needed tool at a nearby store.
But times have changed and so have my tool shopping decisions.
Today, I still buy some Craftsman tools but more often than not I also buy what some would refer to as “off-brand” or “other-brand” tools and even horror of horrors…Harbor Freight products.
There two main reasons for this: money and the internet.
A Harbor Freight Story
Case in point: I recently had some external engine parts to restore that were perfectly fine but had years of wear on them and I wanted to make the engine look like new. My last too-expensive-to-replace paint spray gun had died, and my goal was to make this restoration as inexpensive as possible. So, I went to a nearby Harbor Freight and bought a $17 gravity fed spray gun and finished the job this past week with good results.
To be fair, however, I already knew that their $17 spray gun was good enough for the job required because I had seen some reviews online and had previously used one in an emergency with custom paint threatening to curdle on me when my old too-expensive-to-replace paint spray gun suddenly died on me. Plus, I had learned some of the tricks to making a cheap Harbor Freight one work reliably such as adding silicon to the trigger pin to keep the action smooth.
The point to all of this is that sometimes we pay too much for our tools relying solely on the brand name and the expectations that come with it. However, experience has shown me that not all tool items under any single brand work equally well. Rather, that oft times money was saved by turning to “off-brand” or “other-brand” tools reviewed on the internet---that worked just as good or better!
Reasons for Off-Brand Tools
Saving money is a good reason for choosing an off-brand tool that has good reviews. In fact, the savings alone can be very significant in cost and could be put to better use---like toward a nice aluminum Edelbrock manifold to replace that cast iron intake manifold monster on a vintage engine.
But there is an equally important reason: saving time and preventing added damage to a repair.
One good example are bolt extractors to remove a broken exhaust manifold bolt. If you have ever had to remove a broken hardened steel (at least the packaging said it was) bolt extractor from within a broken bolt, you will understand how choosing an inferior quality extractor set just made a hard job much worse.
“Made in the USA” Video Tool Review
The genesis of this article is based on a recently posted video on the Project Farm YouTube channel where its host goes through an assortment of tools and products related to car care and maintenance.
The value of the video is that the host goes through (rather quickly) a wide range of common tools of both known and lesser-known brands (with pricing comparisons) using stress test and practical-use test methods that are very informative. And, reveals some significant savings in tool buying for tools that are proven capable of doing their job without spending too much.
That said, here is the video in its entirety and is highly recommended for watching and note-taking for that next tool you might need.
Top 10 "Made in USA" Tools? Best USA-Made Products Ever Tested by Project Farm
Do you have a favorite “off-brand” or “other-brand” tool that saved you a lot of money and worked just as well as a more expensive brand? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
For additional articles related to tools, here are a few for your consideration:
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.
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