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post #1 of 58 Old 05-17-2019, 07:07 PM Thread Starter
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Harbor Freight time?

I was curious what others thought about this. Now would be the time to buy anything made in China because of the tariffs, especially something expensive.
My thought is (and not to be frivolous) if there's something you can buy now for, say, $500...within a few months it may be $750.

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post #2 of 58 Old 05-17-2019, 07:17 PM
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Re: Harbor Freight time?

I've had the same thoughts...
I have yet to visit a HF store,the closest ones are 15 miles away,and both in towns with a not so great reputation as far as being "safe" there..
I have bought several HF items off a flea market dealer though,a 1/2" Earthquake impact gun and sockets,but nothing else yet...I do need a 4" angle grinder,and for $10,I will probably get two of them if I ever brave a trip to the stores..and I know I'll blow a LOT more money on other things while I'm there,that is one reason I've held off..

I would like to get one of their rolling tool chests they have in the coupons often for just under $200,before the prices goes up..my "tackle box" hip roof tool box cant hold all my tools ,nor can I pick it up any more..tired of having to empty it out to find a tool way at the bottom,not being able to close it,etc..

I fear it wont just be HF that will have prices go way up,so will all the things in other stores too,since we have gotten way too dependent on China to produce everything..and that might include food too!...been thinking I should have started a garden this year,and I'll be visiting farmers markets more too..


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post #3 of 58 Old 05-17-2019, 07:22 PM
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Re: Harbor Freight time?

I've bought HF stuff and as long as you realize that you aren't probably getting "best" quality the prices have been good. Picked up a 79cc engine, a small drill press, some assorted boxes of clips, pins, and cotter keys a week ago. I'll be watching prices to see the impact of the tariffs.

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post #4 of 58 Old 05-17-2019, 08:33 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Harbor Freight time?

I've bought lots of HF stuff over the years, most of it was ok, it was worth what I paid. It may help in two ways, buying now before price goes up and maybe we'll see more made in USA things. When America is on, we're on!

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post #5 of 58 Old 05-17-2019, 08:52 PM
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Re: Harbor Freight time?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevenhills1952 View Post
It may help in two ways, buying now before price goes up and maybe we'll see more made in USA things. When America is on, we're on!

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post #6 of 58 Old 05-18-2019, 10:13 AM
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Re: Harbor Freight time?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevenhills1952 View Post
Now would be the time to buy anything made in China because of the tariffs...
Didn't Trump impose heavy tariffs on steel a long time ago that would have already affected prices? Due to Canada getting caught up in these trade wars, I've avoided buying anything made of steel since Canada imposed countervailing tariffs.

I think we were getting double tariffs, first with the US tariffs and then the countervailing tarrifs. At least between Canada and the US, steel is no longer subject to tariffs but there is agreement to closely watch for cheap steel from China so I probably will still avoid Harbor Fright.

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post #7 of 58 Old 05-18-2019, 10:22 AM
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Re: Harbor Freight time?

I have a lot of HF tools. After spending 75% more for snap-on tools years ago and Craftsman tools are made cheap now. I have their earthquake impacts and they work great, sockets, wrenches, and screw drivers. I will NEVER buy their electric tools. I got a 4 1/2" grinder for free and it blew up in one use. I have the 52" roller tool chest and it was great until a year ago and now the rollers are wearing out.

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post #8 of 58 Old 05-18-2019, 10:46 AM
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Re: Harbor Freight time?

I'd just buy a rolling tool box at the Lowe's up the street,if they could match the price of the HF one I'd like to get..but all their tools & boxes,are a lot higher priced,now that they took over Craftsman,the Kobalt ones seem to have been either sold off or hidden away,there was a few on "clearance" ,but not the type I want,nor was the price as low..

HF electric tools are hit & miss from what I've heard and read about..
Their welders aren't that bad,some say they suck,but I know guys who bought their 220V MIG welder for under $200 and say they work fine for their needs..and they have used Lincoln and Hobart's at work ,said the HF ones are as easy to use,but their longevity remains to be seen..

Friend bought a "Chicago Electric" 110V metal snips for doing sheet metal,it was $50 at HF,anywhere else a "good brand" like Milwaukee or Dewalt,etc,would be over $150 .
They seem to work good,but he's worried about getting replacement blades in the future--ones for other brands probably wont fit,and HF may not have any in stock,or they may change the brand or design of the tool so no replacement parts can be had..
"It's cheap enough--just buy another one",seems to have replaced quality and the ability to keep a tool for years any more..

I've heard nothing but good about the Predator engines too...


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post #9 of 58 Old 05-18-2019, 10:54 AM
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Re: Harbor Freight time?

My tools include some I inherited from my father, who got them from his father. Most I purchased starting in the 60s. I have Matco, Snap-on, Craftsman, SK, Thoreson, Gilbert, Stanley, New Britain, and too many others to name. I also have a lot of HF tools. Since I am a putterer and not a pro, none of these tools are taxed except for when I do stupid stuff with them. The HF stuff does as good as any, to be honest. I also think they've stepped up their game in recent years and more and more of their stuff is showing up in professional settings.

HF had a few brands that were "cheap Chinese stuff", particularly things that use electricity and go whirrrrr when they get used. Those tools are still there, but they have new brands that are an obvious step - or two or three - above the Chicago Electric brand. Hand tools, too, have been upgraded. Everything was Pittsburg (<--spelled without the "h" at the end) but now they have at least one and in some cases two brands above them.

Also, their hand tools, just like Craftsman, carry lifetime replacement warranties. I have never tried to use that warranty, so I can't say how easy it is to get them to honor it.

My failures from HF may also be interesting:

The heir Chicago Electric line of welders are not even worth the paint they're painted with. Striking an arc is more difficult. They spatter more than other welders I've used. Their consumables are also substandard. I do, however, like their mid grade welding autodarkening helmets. For an occasional welder like me, they work great.

The few cordless tools I have from them are no fun. Mine are what they had a few years back. The batteries don't last. The tools feel cheap. Just yesterday I had to change the locks on the front and rear doors of a house. I used a small electric screwdriver of theirs and the battery ran down before I finished installing two door knobs and two two deadbolts. I had plugged the thing overnight in preparation for the job. Their newer brands look better bjut I have no experience with them. My son says a friend of his who uses tools professionally has some of their Earthquake brand and finds it okay. He has that big impact driver they make and has had no trouble from it.

One tool I sorta bought as a joke turned out to work really well, albeit pretty crudely. Their mini tire changer works good on the 8" and 12" tires for my Gravelys. Nothing on the tool fits with precision (to be kind about it!). Materials are cheap. It takes some practice to use. But it gets the job done. I paid less than the $45 they are now asking for it. I think I paid $29, but I am not sure; it was years ago.

Anyway, given the convenience of getting to a store (15 minutes from me), the prices, and my low demand of the tools, they work for me as well as anything so long as you buy smart and avoid certain lines and brands.

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post #10 of 58 Old 05-18-2019, 11:26 AM
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I wrenched on diesel trucks and trailers for 20yrs. Have a mix of tool truck and Craftsman tools bought in the 80s and 90s.

Some of the HF stuff is really good for the money. I used their little 4" air angle grinder modded to use 4 1/2" disks for years grinding welds and steel daily.
Used the 20,000rpm super speed drill for buzzing alum trailer panels and roof sheets for millions of holes.
Used the air recip saw for cutting foam insulation blocks, alum z-posts and other things for years--broke the arbor on one but I abused this thing daily and bought another.

I bought their big air pop riveter and pulled thousands of 1/4" TLRs and alum mono-bolts with it--like HD pop rivets.
The only thing I've had really bad luck with was an angle mini-die grinder. The trigger/lever quit working. Took it out and it was just a piece of rubber a plunger pushed down to open and it was torn after a few uses. Super glued it back together and have been using it for years. Built junky tho.

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post #11 of 58 Old 05-18-2019, 01:02 PM
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Re: Harbor Freight time?

I've heard HF welding wire and rods suck,many who bought the "wire feed flux core welder" said they were able to weld much better when they used Lincoln or other "good brands" of wire instead of the stuff HF supplied with them..

I have had some "Radnor" welding rods from the welding shop store that were very tough to get lit and keep a good arc going--bought a box of Lincoln rods at Lowe's (for less $$!) and they were a world of difference ..

I bought a like new 90 amp HF flux core welder I saw on craigslist for $30,with a brand new cart they sell that costs $50 alone..it was located only 2 miles up the road,so I hurried over to get it..

The guy said he bought it in hopes of using it to weld body panels on a '48 Pontiac,but gave up on it the first day--it still had 3/4 of the original roll of HF wire it came with in it!...he bought a "real mig welder" instead,that uses the argon/co2 gas and showed me the nice welds that made,compared to the HF ,that blew holes and left tons of spatter..
HF lists the welders as "flux core" and people assume they are MIG welders,but in fact are only a wire fed ARC welder..

I have only tried using the HF welder twice,I'm glad I didn't pay full price for it at the store,maybe its just the crappy wire,or me being used to only stick welding,but I've yet to do much more than blow holes in thin stuff or lay good looking beads that do not penetrate and hold..
I tried welding nuts to studs in a cylinder head ,the welds looked great,and the welder had plenty of heat,the nuts were bright orange--but after letting them cool,the minute I attempted to turn the studs out using a wrench on the nuts,the welds cracked like glass with hardly any torque!..I ended up brazing the nuts on with my torch,and that held fine,they unscrewed without having to re-braze them..

That welder is probably OK only for 1/8" to 3/16" mild steel,if you used good wire in it..other than that its pretty useless IMO..though I have seen a few videos on YouTube that guys using one like mine made decent looking welds with them..mine seems to have a "jerky" wire feed,and I read they use cheap plastic rollers in the mechanism,which are likely unavailable..


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post #12 of 58 Old 05-18-2019, 01:07 PM
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TH, the HF flux core wire is trash. I ran a spool of it and had voids and dirty welds that needed to be ground out. Went hack to Hobart wire and all my welds were fine.

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post #13 of 58 Old 05-18-2019, 01:39 PM
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Re: Harbor Freight time?

I think the fact the welder is AC and not DC makes a big difference too.
My friend buys HF wire for his "Dan-Mig" 220V mig welder and says he sees no real difference as far as their brand vs "name brands",but his welder uses argon/co2 and is DC..
He has a 90 amp Chicago Electric HF welder identical to mine for a back up unit in case his 220V MIG has a problem,and he's had success welding up a door bottom on his Monte-Carlo with it--not pretty or smooth welds,but a lot better than I did with mine!..but he admits the one time he used Hobart wire in it it did seem to weld better..

I picked up a Dayton AC-DC arc welder a year or so ago for $50 and with DC I find its much easier to strike and maintain an arc,and it makes a nice deep penetration weld on thicker metals,and reversing the polarity does help keep from blowing holes in thinner metal...

I'm much better with it set on DC than AC,and my other AC arc welder has only been used a few times since I got the DC one..but I don't weld that often ,not enough to get really good,or keep in practice..
Ever since I had cataract surgery and artificial lens implants done about 7 years ago ,my vision isn't what it once was,now I have bad "floaters"now,the first 3 years or so after the surgery my vision was excellent--not so great now-- and bright lights and video screens irritate them bad,and I'm rather paranoid about getting any spatter in my eyes now..don't want to risk damaging the lenses and having to get one replaced..
I used to be out in the shop creating things with metal & the welder,now I only do what I have to,like repair my plows or truck parts..

My friend has warned me not to buy HF hose clamps,they like to snap the heads off just as you get them tight!..also doesn't like their zip ties,they either break easily or they don't "hold",you can un-zip them quite easily...he does buy solderless connectors there and says they are no better or worse than other brands he's used..

He gave me a bunch of HF hose clamps he was going to throw out due to them breaking so easily--got enough to fill a 2 gallon bucket,I only use them on things like small engine fuel lines though,I wouldn't use them on a radiator hose that has clamps in a bad spot to get at..that is why he was disgusted with them--some cars you cant get at the clamps and if the head snaps off,you have take half the car apart to get at them to cut it off!.


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post #14 of 58 Old 05-18-2019, 01:49 PM
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Re: Harbor Freight time?

You guys all need to understand that while HF does have a well deserved reputation for cheap shoddy Chinese tools, it is getting better every day. Generally, what you pay for at HF is what you get: Buy cheap and it is cheap. Buy more expensive at HF, get better stuff.

We here in America have always thought that tools made here were superior to other tools made elsewhere. However, the industry has changed and American made tools are less and less each month, if you can even find them. Vast majority are made somewhere else and shipped here. They can be assembled here and have a "Made in America" tag on it. The FTC is very vague about this. Many companies have only their headquarters here and everything is made elsewhere, yet still have the made in America tag on it.

Another thing to consider is that what is currently the derisive moniker about Chinese made stuff, is exactly what they said about German tools after WWII and Japanese made tools in the 1970's. Yes the Chinese made ones are going thru the growing pains, just as the others did.

HF does have great stuff, you just have to know your tools. Their impact sockets are every bit as good as ones costing many times more. With their new Hercules and Bauer tools, they are getting much closer to the tradesman tools.
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post #15 of 58 Old 05-18-2019, 01:59 PM
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I think someone on here posted about talking to a Chinese mfg rep who said that they have no problem building high quality products that will last.
The problem is that importers want the lowest bottom dollar product so they build to that spec.

That may have been in the "Chinese Tractor" thread

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