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Harbor Freight

Discussion in 'Ask All Sailors' started by jviss, Oct 12, 2017. Add this thread to a FAQ

  1. jviss


    Joined Feb 5, 2004
    2,583 posts, 253 likes
    Tartan 3800
    US Westport, MA

  2. CloudDiver


    Joined Sep 8, 2014
    2,525 posts, 405 likes
    Catalina 22 Swing Keel
    US San Diego
    There are many tools at HF that are of actually good to high quality and at the right price, especially if you just need it for a one times use or just a few jobs. I have a motorcycle/atv rolling floor jack that was super handy for swing keel removal and maintenance. I also have a full engine hoist (but I got if off of CL for 1/2 the HF retail cost) that I use for lifting the bow of the boat to remove the hull from the trailer and put on boat stands. I also have a pneumatic rivet gun that has been real handy from HF.
    On the same token, there are numerous tools there that I wouldn't trust or touch even if I had YOUR credit card to pay for them, LOL! It's really on case by case basis, but in general HF is a good resource for low cost stuff that will get the job done.

  3. Captain Larry-DH

    Captain Larry-DH

    Joined Jun 14, 2010
    349 posts, 122 likes
    Quorning Dragonfly 1200
    US home
    I like that fish tape better than the metal ones in have. Mine always bind in the plastic housing.

  4. victorhoisington


    Joined Jan 22, 2008
    173 posts, 27 likes
    Islander Freeport, 41 Ketch
    US Longmont, CO
    1. I bought the hydraulic wire crimper, it worked well on new battery terminals. I also have their heat gun and 300 piece tool set as basics. provides nice base for things and not a lot of $$ out of pocket

    capta likes this.
  5. Tally Ho

    Tally Ho

    Joined Jan 7, 2011
    983 posts, 124 likes
    Oday 322
    US East Chicago, IN
  6. jviss


    Joined Feb 5, 2004
    2,583 posts, 253 likes
    Tartan 3800
    US Westport, MA
    I like the crimper; I still use the old "smash with the hammer" crimper for the big stuff.
    I like the thermometer, too!



    Joined Jun 15, 2012
    389 posts, 23 likes
    Hunter 50 AC
    US Greenport, NY
    I have found the 50 Ft. Nylon Fish Tape that I purchased a few years ago from Harbor to be too flexible to use. When I needed to run wires in a PVC tube that Hunter installs for this purpose, I had to buy a set from HD like the screw together fiberglass rods.

  8. Allan12210


    Joined Jan 22, 2008
    1,394 posts, 142 likes
    Hunter 34
    US Alameda CA
    The nylon fish tape didn't work for me. It stays in a permanent coil and you just can't push it through a chase. I ended up going with a flat metal one. I like the looks of the fiberglass sectional kit.

    Its always a good idea to have flare nut wrenches when working on fuel lines on the engine so you can't round the fittings.,f,Sale+Rank,f&q=flarenut+metric+wrenches

    Don't forget an impact screwdriver:,f,Sale+Rank,f&q=impact+screwdriver

    jviss likes this.
  9. jviss


    Joined Feb 5, 2004
    2,583 posts, 253 likes
    Tartan 3800
    US Westport, MA
    I'm a bit of a tool nut, and already have a set of flare nut wrenches and an impact screwdriver; but they don't stay on the boat.

    I have a metal, 60' fishtape, I thought the nylon one might be useful sometimes.

  10. Allan12210


    Joined Jan 22, 2008
    1,394 posts, 142 likes
    Hunter 34
    US Alameda CA

  11. LeslieTroyer


    Joined May 20, 2016
    1,607 posts, 532 likes
    Catalina 36 MK1
    US Everett, WA
    Don’t forget the optical tach so you can calibrate yours. I also have rubber strap wrenches for stuck sea strainer and spin on fuel filter.

  12. jviss


    Joined Feb 5, 2004
    2,583 posts, 253 likes
    Tartan 3800
    US Westport, MA
    Thanks for reminding me about the tach.

  13. Rick Webb

    Rick Webb

    Joined Jun 2, 2004
    2,668 posts, 99 likes
    Hunter 23.5
    US Fort Walton Yacht Club, Florida
    I also use the sectional fiberglass sectional fish tape frequently.

    I bought the longest breaker bar they sold and the appropriate socket to use instead of the provided lug wrench in each of our cars. The two cars that use the scissor jack also got a ratchet instead of flipping the lug wrench over several dozen times to jack the car up.

    The one that is the most fun is the electronic fly swatter. Gave one to one of the busboys at the club the kid went after them like a ninja. It was a ball to watch.

  14. Jacktar


    Joined Sep 14, 2014
    598 posts, 217 likes
    Catalina 22
    US Pensacola, Florida
    The soldering iron with gun grip is great with flattened tip to cut and seal synthetic rope and line.

  15. kloudie1


    Joined Nov 6, 2006
    7,845 posts, 517 likes
    Hunter 34
    US Mandeville Louisiana
    Most of the above plus the multi-tool.. I bought the old single speed one when Fein first lost the patent 7-8 years ago.. It still works great.. The blades I get from HD or Lowes because the HF ones aren't as good..They have new models now with variable speed but my old one does a fine (Fein?) job.. The quick change tool feature of the high priced brands is the only real advantage they have. EDIT: for home use and not production shops..

  16. Ned Ludd

    Ned Ludd

    Joined Apr 4, 2016
    200 posts, 84 likes
    Newport 28
    US Richardson Marina
    The best part of Harbor Freight tools is you can afford 2, 1 for Neptune and 1 for the boat.

    DArcy - Islay Mist and Parsons like this.
  17. Maine Sail

    Maine Sail Moderator

    Joined Feb 6, 1998
    10,648 posts, 480 likes
    Canadian Sailcraft 36T
    US Casco Bay, ME
    Because of the nature of my work I use HF wrenches almost exclusively, unless I need a good quality thin-walled 6-point wrench then I need to dig into my Snap-On or Mac stuff. With HFT I actually don't care when I loose one.

    I like their stubby wrenches and their regular wrenches. Their ratchet wrenches I can blow out in two - three uses..... Other than their impact sockets, actully not too bad, though a bit soft, and a few breaker bars (I have snapped about three of them but they replace them), I find their sockets pretty poor. Occasionally they do have some some okay quality thin walled 6-point sockets that are worth buying. Their 12 point sockets are pretty bad..

    Their screw drivers are a joke, too soft & poor tip-shape & their drill kits are made of steel so soft they actually un-twist when you use them to drill anything but a peanut butter & jelly sandwich....

    I find their electrical stuff to be pretty awful including such sillyness as a made up die standard for the hydraulic lug crimp tool.... Their heat shrink crimps are borderline dangerous. I wanted to like their wire ties, I go through thousands, but they simply do not compare to a quality wire tie like a T&B.

    I actually grabbed one of their 500A carbon pile load testers a few years ago and it burned up and let the smoke monster out in just the second test I ran. They refunded me completely so customer service can be decent. I DID NOT replace it. I only bought it so I did not need to carry my expensive one to customers boats. Their battery capacitance tester is another horrible joke and is 150% misleading.

    I had a job where I needed to buff a boat on short notice and hired a local kid I know and grabbed a spare HFT buffer (a Makita knock off). My Makita has done thousands and thousands of linear feet of boat hull over about 17 or more years and is still going strong. The HFT Makita knock off burned itself up half way down the first side of the boat. HFT replaced it no questions asked but I lost my additional labor and it actually wound up costing me money. My bad decision, I know... D'oh...

    I also own the HFT multi-tool and until you own or use a Fein Multi-Master you can't even fathom how bad it really is. Their multi-tool blades are also not worth the packaging they ship in, unless you plan to cut only balsa wood with them.

    A few years ago I was missing a gasket for my vintage break bleeder, so I grabbed a HFT brake bleeder kit. Simple tool how can you mess that up right? Wrong..... I could not even get the brake job done before it failed. Spent two hours searching locally for an o-ring to fix my vintage break bleeder before I could finish the job. I have had that tool since I was 16 and it is still going strong, the HFT bleeder did not even last 15 minutes. HFT took it back no problem but it wasted a lot of my time.

    Their step drills are actually okay quality but when I actually priced them out I realized can buy them from my nut & bolt distributor for less money and in a high quality product, so you need to be careful with their pricing. Their Phillips #2 tips for magnetic holders also are horrible quality also and I can snap them before a stainless screw snaps.....

    I even bought a trailer tongue jack, and figured how bad can it be? I installed on my work boat trailer in April 2017, to replace the 16 year old tongue jack that still actually worked. Just four days ago discovered the jack is totally frozen and already does not work. Junk....

    Some stuff at HFT is a good value other stuff is a complete joke. Unfortunately until you buy it and kill it you don't know what's good or bad. I still get suckered in from time to time but these days I have a few simple rules with HFT.

    If it plugs in or uses batteries = fagedaboutit
    If it has to do with electrical or electricity = fagedaboutit
    If it needs to cut, grind or drill = fagedaboutit
    If it is pneumatic & powered by air = fagedaboutit

    If it has no moving parts = probably worth a try if the price is right

    Sadly Home Depot/Husky, Lowes/Porter Cable, Craftsman and far to many others have now followed HFT into the drain hole of low price = low quality so HFT is now almost on-par with other brands that are now just riding on their name and also selling pretty low budget junk.

    Sadly there really no more "mid quality" tool brands (eg: Craftsman) just Snap-On, MAC & Matco and then the rest of them......

  18. Joe Blizzard

    Joe Blizzard

    Joined Feb 5, 2009
    160 posts, 10 likes
    Gloucester 20
    US Kanawha River, Winfield, WV

  19. jibes138


    Joined Jan 27, 2008
    2,794 posts, 107 likes
    ODay 35
    US Beaufort, NC
    I bought a a half inch drive Universal drive to get my torque wrench above the floorboards when torquing my keel bolts. The pins ripped right out of the U joint at just over 100 foot pounds. I must admit though that the cheap crap steel it was made of was very ductile :>). I buy chip paint brushes, nitrile gloves, and work gloves. I needed a snap ring recently and they had a kit with the size I need and snap ring pliers. Seem OK so far

  20. jviss


    Joined Feb 5, 2004
    2,583 posts, 253 likes
    Tartan 3800
    US Westport, MA
    RC, I actually think Lowes' Kobalt tools, and Home Depot's Husky tools are pretty good. I hate Craftsman now, their hand tools turned to junk about 20 or 25 years ago. I've broken about every ratchet handle I got form them, and I even got replacements that didn't work!

    On the topic of low cost, have you tried this moisture meter, available at Home Depot?

    Professional Digital Pinless Moisture Meter with Backlit LCD
    • Measures wood, concrete, subfloors, walls and more
    • LEDs clearly indicate moisture level
    • 1-year warranty
    $39.98 /each


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