Product Safety Warning -- Blades can become detached without warning on the Windmill Mole Chaser (item no. 47987)

08/23/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Outdoor Living, Product Safety Warnings

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com/HFRreviews.html

We are issuing a product safety warning for the Windmill Mole Chaser (Harbor Freight item number 47987) noting that the blades can become detached without warning. We are not big on frivolous safety warnings: we know that hot coffee carried away from a drive-through pick-up window at a fast-food restaurant can burn you if spilled and that peanuts may contain peanut products. We do believe in product warnings when the risks are not apparent and such is the case with this Windmill Mole Chaser. We advised in our earlier review that we didn't expect this item to last long and that there was a potential danger with the sharp rotating blades. However, we didn't predict that the sharp rotating blades could become detached from this unit potentially producing an airborne meat slicer.

Click here to read the original review and full safety warning for this product.

We have also just noticed that Harbor Freight has removed this item from their website. We are unaware if it is still being sold in their retail outlets. Companies are sometimes faced with the dilemma of potential product-liability lawsuits versus dumping surplus inventory. We'll watch for this item to show up en-mass at their liquidator outlets -- so far it's been hardy 'a blip on the radar.'

Bottom line: If you own this product be aware of the potential safety risks. We strongly advise not having this unit in an area where there are small children or animals that can reach the blades or where the detached blades could reach small children or animals.

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5-Piece Auto Trim and Molding Tool Set

08/22/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, Automotive

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com/HFRreviews.html

Auto Trim Tool Set
Item: 5-Piece Auto Trim and Molding Tool Set
Item number: 67021
Retail price: $7.99
Frequent sale price: $4.99
Best price: $3.99 (with coupon)
Target price: $4.99
Item Link

I have to admit that nobody around here at Harbor Freight Reviews even knows how to use this set properly, let along what most of these different tools are specifically used for. So why would we review this automobile trim and panel removal tool set? Easy, we can give you the perspective of someone who would never invest in this sort of tool unless the price is very, very cheap, and then we might buy-it-to-try-it as we do many other small tools from time-to-time.

I hate the press-on plastic screws that are used to hold interior automobile panels and trim. I invariably break some screws or rip up some interior panels anytime I try to work inside my vehicles. Whether it's routing a wire or replacing a defective power-window switch, I just make a muck of it every time, leaving the job looking like my vehicle has been vandalized. Enter this 5-piece tool kit for removing interior auto panels and trim professionally. It's designed specifically for this type of work, replacing the old-standby screwdriver as a pry bar.

The wide flat pieces squeeze behind the interior panels and trim to gently remove the item while distributing the pressure over a wide area or at just the right point. The tools don't make one an instant auto-interior professional, but they do go a long way in doing the job right.

For those of you staring at our thumbnail picture of the kit, here's what the various tools are listed as:

  1. wide edge remover,
  2. narrow edge remover,
  3. pull-type remover,
  4. handle remover, and
  5. upholstery clip remover.

Does that help? Not enough for us around here, but it does give us some ideas about how to use these specific tools. Each item in this set is designed to help keep your vehicle's interior looking OEM-fresh and unscathed after simple repairs.

For us this is a typical buy-it-to-try-it item and a great investment the first time we used it -- another great example of how Harbor Freight makes available some specialized tools at a price that is worth a try to see if you can figure out how to use them. We can't comment on how well this auto trim set holds up to professional use, although the plastic tools seem to be of substantial quality; do any professionals really expect to get by with a $4.99 tool set for regular professional use?

So far we're up to using a couple of tools from this set, but the set has been a great investment for us. Not trashing up the interior panel when we had to repair a defective rear latch assembly in our Ford van was worth the small investment the first time we used it. Each time since then (e.g., routing some wires through interior door panels) has been a bonus.

Bottom line: A very inexpensive tool set for removing auto trim, molding, and interior panels. It's well worth our target price the first time it saves your interior during a simple repair.

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Three-Way Tacker Staple Gun Kit

08/22/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hand Tools, Hot Buys

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com/HFRreviews.html

Heavy-Duty Stapler
Item: Three-Way Tacker Staple Gun Kit
Item number: 96755
Retail price: $9.99
Frequent sale price: $6.99
Best price: $5.99 (with coupon)
Target price: $6.99
Item Link

A good price for a decent quality tool. The stapler is pretty much the same as other heavy-duty industrial-type staplers with a spring-loaded slide strip magazine. It shoots standard and U-shaped staples and 3/8" brads. The depth is adjustable by a knob located on the top of the stapler. The spring action is very stiff when set to the maximum depth, but then the staples are driven very hard into the material. In fact, it can drive the staples into the material considerably harder than most similarly appearing and comparably priced staplers. Pressing the handle sets a strong internal spring which releases when the handle has reached the end of its cycle -- boom, the staple has landed.

If you are doing a lot of stapling, you may want to invest in an electric or air stapler because this manual stapler can fatigue your hand pretty quickly on a large project that requires maximum stapling pressure. For the young, macho type or for the slow, methodical type, this stapler may get you through the day. But for us older folks tackling a big project, the pressure required to operate this stapler becomes very tiring after awhile.

Hint: If you are doing a lot of light stapling, it would save considerable hand fatigue if you adjust the depth setting appropriately. More stapling pressure equals more depth but produces more hand fatigue. Those of us who like to always run every tool at its maximum are well advised to remember this hint. Even staplers costing two to three-times this much do not usually have a pressure adjustment, and thus many of us are likely to ignore this important feature.

The kit includes 1000 standard and round staples and 500 brads. The information available online at HarborFreight.com indicates that this tool is covered by their lifetime warranty; there is no warranty information in the product manual. However, watch for a warranty sheet inserted into the box and be advised that the printed warranty on some similar tools has been limited to 90 days, conflicting with Harbor Freight's online information for the same product.

Bottom line: A good price on a heavy-duty stapler which is flexible enough to shoot two types of staples and even brads. Watch for it to go on sale at our target price.

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8" Black Cable Ties, Pack of 100

08/21/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Electrical

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com/HFRreviews.html

8-inch Black Cable Ties
Item: 8" Black Cable Ties, Pack of 100
Item number: 34635
Retail price: $3.99
Frequent sale price: $1.99
Low price: $0.99
Target price: $1.99
Item Link

We bought several packages of these cable ties over a two-year period and for us they've been a mixed bag (pun intended :))). The first lot seemed to work pretty well, but the next several bags seemed to have an increasing number of defective cable ties. In some cases they broke easily, but very often they wouldn't even tie because the small 'tooth' in the retainer was broken or missing. The price is really cheap, so you can afford to sort through the batch using only the good cable ties, but this does get rather annoying at times. And at some point, it just isn't cost (or aggravation) effective. (More than once we had precariously held together a bundle of wires only to have several cable ties fail in succession when trying to tie the bundle. :()

We've tested several batches of these cable ties and the first ones seemed to work well, even passing our Buffalo Winter Test for several years without failure. Subsequent batches seem to have an increasing number of 'bad' ties, and the last batch seemingly had more bad ties than good ones. Is this a quality control problem or cost cutting at Harbor Freight?

This item just misses our list of The Junk. We'll probably even buy more when they hit their best price of 99 cents again. Had we paid the full retail price of this item, it would have definitely made our list of The Junk. The next batch of cable ties will be the deciding factor in whether they ultimately make the list. Meanwhile if you try to use them, be sure to buy more than what you think you'll need for the project and sample a few from each package (Remember, Harbor Freight has a 30-day satisfaction guarantee; you may need it.). If they're all good, you got a great bargain.

Bottom line: Not one of the better items at Harbor Freight. In fact, this is the type of item that gives Harbor Freight a bad reputation. Still, at the very low target price we keep buying more, occasionally.

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33-Piece Security Bit Set

08/21/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hand Tools, Hot Buys

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com/HFRreviews.html

Security Bit Set
Item: 33-Piece Security Bit Set
Item number: 93388
Retail price: $7.99
Frequent sale price: $4.99 (with coupon)
Target price: $4.99
Item Link

Whether you do home repairs on electronic devices and appliances or you simply scrap defective items out for interesting parts, you've probably encountered odd-type screw heads that impede your progress in even opening the case. These unusual screw-head styles are collectively termed "security" screws and they're used to prevent consumers from tampering with a company's product, thus preventing what are usually vein attempts to repair or modify the device yourself. By the time I'm tearing apart a case I'm no longer a consumer; I'm a pirate plundering the item for any useful parts, and there are always useful parts. (Click here to read our commentary on recycling used equipment and salvaging parts.)

Some manufactures seem intent on keeping customers from opening their products. The use of those annoying so-called "security" screws is easily defeated with this inexpensive set from Harbor Freight. Buy one just for the satisfaction of knowing they can't keep you out of the product YOU bought and paid for!

The set includes spanner, torque, star, tri-wing, and hex bits of various sizes including metric. All of the bits are neatly organized in a form-fitted case for easy transport and quick identification. Most of these you'll probably never use, but the set is well worth the price just for the one odd bit that you need for your project. At our low target price, this is another buy-before-you-need-it item to keep on hand for that screw or bolt that would otherwise impede your repair or salvage project.

Bottom line: This security bit set is a great buy for the next time you encounter one of those odd-looking screws while trying to dissemble an electronic device or home appliance. The 33 pieces pretty much have you covered with the most commonly used styles.

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This review and discussion forum was created for those of us who love Harbor Freight(tm). It's well known to those who frequent the store that the prices are always cycling up and down, and most of us usually accept it as a personal challenge to get the lowest price possible. It's also well appreciated that some products at Harbor Freight are good, even very good, but that many others are also substandard, yes, even junk. This review and discussion forum is dedicated to the savvy Harbor Freight shopper and is intended to provide some guidance to the best and the worse buys. Similar products from other retailers will also be reviewed from time-to-time. Please be advised that everyone's experience is unique, and what works well (or doesn't work at all) for the reviewers here may or may not suit your personal needs. With this caveat and with notification that Harbor Freight Reviews assumes no liability for the accuracy of information provided here for educational purposes, enjoy the forum and good 'sa(i)ling' at Harbor Freight!

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