15 Ft. Heavy-Duty Pet Tie-Out

08/13/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, Outdoor Living, MoHo/RV

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

Heavy-Duty Pet Tie-Out
Item: 15 Ft. Heavy-Duty Pet Tie-Out
Item number: 96484
Retail price: $5.99
Frequent sale price: $4.99
Target price: $3.99 (on-sale plus 20%-off coupon)
Item Link

This is the second part you're likely to need (not already own) to secure your pet for your rest stops during your summer outings (click here for our review of Harbor Freight's 18" pet stake). This 15 ft. lead is the right length and made with chew-resistant galvanized steel aircraft cable. It features swivel snap hooks on both ends which make it suitable for attaching to an overhead line. You'll probably need your 20%-off coupon to get it down to our target price and then we'll feel like you got a good deal. (Yes, I know using a 20%-off coupon to save a buck seems like a waste, but you should have plenty of them and your spouse may be willing to make the trip into the store to redeem this one so that you can use another 20%-off coupon on a bigger purchase during the same visit to Harbor Freight.) Be sure to note that this line is rated for pets only up to 50 lbs. and don't overwork it. Its failure could be catastrophic resulting in the loss of your best friend and companion. (Yes, your spouse may leave too if you loose her dog; you figure out which is which.);D

Bottom line: A good value when purchased at our target price and a necessary item (or its equivalent) for using the pet stake securely.


18" Pet Stake

08/13/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, Outdoor Living, MoHo/RV, Product Safety Warnings, Novel Uses

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

Pet Stake
Item: 18" Pet Stake
Item number: 95489
Retail price: $2.99
Frequent sale price: $1.99
Target price: $1.99
Item Link

As the reviews for some of our favorite and least favorite products from Harbor Freight are starting to stack up, Sasha just reminded me that I should include a sample of Harbor Freight's selection for your pets (she prefers the term "little friends"). So, need a quick pet screw, ah, pet stake? Check out this little item for your pet from Harbor Freight. This 18" pet stake provides a solid anchor for your pet's lead and is complete with a swivel ring which permits 360-degree runs without tangling. Simply screw it into the ground, attach a 15' or so lead/line (click here to view our review of Harbor Freight's 15 ft. heavy-duty pet tie-out), and you're free for a few moments repose. (Did we need to tell you to attach your harnessed pet to the lead?)

Advisory: Consider keeping your pet's lead at around 15 - 20'. Shorter leads do not provide sufficient movement and longer leads can lead to trouble (Oops, that one just slipped in or was it out? ;)). Not only do the longer leads permit roaming larger areas unsupervised (with more things to get into trouble with like wondering pets, people, and other edibles), but they also permit stronger force to be exerted on the ground screw should your pet begin chasing a squirrel from near the center position (i.e., a longer 'run-out' before the lead 'snaps'). The greater force increases the chance that your Siberian Husky may be able to dislodge the stake from the ground and continue his/her chase into the woods. Also, if your pet is a chewer, be sure to use a lead/line which is chew resistant so that they can't quickly bite their way through the lead. Lastly, strongly consider using a harness instead of a collar -- a harness is a more solid restraint which also causes less stress to your pet when they're tugging away; definitely avoid the choker-style collar that could cause serious injury should your pet have a long run before being 'snapped' back into obedience.

This pet stake is particularly useful for RVers and those who seek a little R & R in public parks that will need to limit the range of their pets. Obviously don't leave your pet unattended. This is simply to prevent your pet from darting off after the next rabbit while you enjoy a sandwich or just a few leisurely moments. And although most of us may use this infrequently, it's a pleasure to have on-hand when needed. We keep one in our MoHo and another in our van for those unexpected rest stops while traveling.

Hint: I also carry a 'real' climbing carabiner (rated at 3,000 lbs.) for attaching Sasha's lead to nearby solid objects or to my belt when we're out. It permits me to work hands-free while enjoying her company. Don't use the cheap models for restraining your medium- to large-size pet; even a small dog can exert a lot of force when they've gained some momentum before reaching the extent of their run.

Bottom line: A must have item for pet owners priced right at Harbor Freight. At our low target price, buy one for each vehicle and be prepared for those impromptu roadside breaks while traveling.


OK, need a novel use for this item? This use is so obvious that I hardy consider it "novel," but if the obvious hasn't occurred to you, consider the following use.

These 18" pet stakes make excellent "tent stakes" for soft soil or sand. Similar to the ice screws used in winter mountaineering (a former hobby of mine from my younger years), these screws (AKA "stakes") hold much, much better is soft, unstable material such as loose soil. They will also hold better in firm, clay soil but that is usually overkill.

I've had my eye on one of Harbor Freight's greenhouses for a while now, but the Buffalo winds do blow strong and I've been afraid that the greenhouse will end up in the neighbors yard and their attorney will be visiting me with a lawsuit. If I do eventually purchase a greenhouse, you can bet it will be anchored with one of these stakes on each of its four corners even though the soil here is a firm clay-type. Ditto their canopy and other types of makeshift dwellings that can act like sails in high winds. Of course you could just by one of their canopy anchor sets instead. It would be interesting to put these two styles to the test to see which hold the best. In ice climbing, the ice screw dominated (25 years ago) for ice and hard-packed snow but the blade-style anchor was used more often in loose-packed snow. My guess is that the screw style will penetrate hard-packed soil easier than the blade-style canopy anchor and that the screw will sort of 'thread' itself into the ground. The blade style would most likely win in sand or very loose soil.

One last thought on the style comparison: The pet stakes should provide some holding power even if they only partially penetrate the ground, whereas the other blade-style anchors are probably much more difficult to place in hard-packed ground. Therefore, if I add a canopy for our traveling show (AKA on-site sales venues) I will be using the pet stakes as tent stakes not the canopy anchors. Please don't leave your pet attached to my canopy unattended.


Solar Shed Light

08/13/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Lighting, MoHo/RV, Solar Power

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

Solar-Powered Shed Light
Item: Solar Shed Light
Item number: 95573
Retail price: $29.99
Frequent sale price: $19.99
Best price: $17.99 (with coupon)
Target price: $19.99
Item Link

This is another one of Harbor Freight's solar products that looks well designed but fails in implementation. We were initially very excited about this solar-powered fluorescent light. The solar panel is separate from the lighting fixture and attached by a 10 ft cord which helps optimize positioning of the solar panel. The mounting is pretty easy unlike their solar-powered quartz security light that was a challenge. The bracket holding the solar-panel is well thought-out, designed to attach easily to a vertical structure while providing flexibility in positioning the solar panel. The specifications claim it will run around 50 minutes on fully charged batteries which would make it suitable for some RV applications (e.g., bathroom light for nighttime relief ;)).

If you're using this to light a dark area during the daytime such as a shed interior, the 4-watt fluorescent light is woefully inadequate; the contrast between the daylight and the dimly lit interior will leave you in the dark for the first 30 seconds to a minute after you enter the darker area. If on-the-other-hand you are using this for nighttime illumination, the small fluorescent light is sufficient to find your way about and put up your evening tools. There are probably numerous other applications besides 'shed' lighting; the solar-powered light could be very useful in the RV as well -- it provides just the right amount of low-level illumination many RVers are use to when enjoying their evening coffee or a nightcap.

Now comes the problem: it doesn't work. Our test unit failed within the first year. After surviving our Buffalo Winter Test (the lighting unit was located inside an unheated storage area, the solar panel on the roof), it failed during the spring. We never really tested how long the light illuminated even when it was working properly. Our application required short cycles of only a few minutes with each use. It seemed to work well until one night, nothing.

Good luck if you decide to purchase this item. We have yet to disassemble the unit and determine the cause of the failure. Perhaps it's only substandard batteries in the original light; perhaps it's another water leak such as that which plagued Harbor Freight's solar-powered quartz security light. We'll revise our evaluation if we determine it's simply the batteries, but other reviewers have reported similarly failed units suggesting the problem is more serious.

Bottom line: Nice idea, poorly implemented. Harbor Freight strikes out again with this inferior solar product. Our recommendation is to leave this in the store.


The Real Deals: What to Buy this Month at Harbor Freight

08/12/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, Real Deals

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

Harbor Freight has some great deals this month. Some are sale items and others require special coupons. Below is a list of some of our selections complete with links to our online reviews. We may revise this list, so check back later. Happy shopping at the Harbor!

Second Edition (release date: 16 August 2010)

  1. Folding, Locking-Back Utility Knife: $4.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review
  2. Mover's Dolly: $7.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  3. 4 Ft. x 12 Ft. Canvas Dropcloth: $4.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  4. 12" Ratchet Bar Clamp/Spreader: $1.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  5. Black-Cap Knee Pads: $2.99 (with coupon; click the item's name for our review)
  6. 4-Piece Nesting Toolbox Set: $24.99 (use a 20%-off coupon and get this for only $19.99; click on the item's name for our review
  7. Clear-Lens Halogen Lights (pair): $9.99 (or $7.99 with a 20%-off coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  8. 13-Piece Screwdriver Set: $4.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  9. 3" High Speed Air Cutter: $6.99 ($2 below our target price with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  10. Portable Air Compressor: $79.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  11. 4 x 36"/6" Disc Sander: $59.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  12. 12-Volt Portable Electric Winch: $39.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  13. 9-LED Mini Flashlight: FREE (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  14. Pack of 12 15" x 13" All Purpose Shop Towels: $2.99 (with coupon click; on the item's name for our review
  15. 40-Piece 3/8" and 1/4" Drive Socket Set: $2.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  16. 1001-Piece Nut and Bolt Storehouse®: $6.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)

The coupons mentioned above are from several different sources: online at Harbor Freight.com, magazine and local newspaper ads, and mailings. Locate your coupons early and check the expiration dates. Some of these offers are only for this week!


Motion-Activated, Solar-Powered, Quartz Security Light

08/12/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: The Junk, Lighting, Security, Solar Power

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

Solar-Powered Security Light
Item: Motion-Activated, Solar-Powered, Quartz Security Light
Item number: 93661
Retail price: $49.99
Frequent sale price: $34.99
Best price: $29.99
Target price: purchase not recommended
Item Link

This item takes us into new territory at Harbor Freight Reviews: we are advising against purchasing this product. Yes, in the past we have concluded that some other items were bad buys and we added them to our list of The Junk. But this item comes with a stronger "do not purchase" advisory. Other items on The Junk list are poorly constructed, but they may have limited usefulness for some people. This product sets precedence in that it fails in its only possible application and therefore merits a special "do not buy" rating.

We were initially very pleased with this item; well, very pleased after we suffered through the poor design that makes installation a real headache. The primary mounting bracket must be removed to install the light to the building or other support and the placement of the mounting bracket back onto the main lamp body is very difficult, requiring very agile (and small) fingers. They must have had munchkins assembling this light in the factory. Other online reviewers have pretty uniformly complained about this as well. Once mounted, the light is secure and easy enough to position for our application, although some people have complained about this as well.

The performance through the first half of our Buffalo Winter Test was excellent. The solar cell charged the battery pack adequately to give us 20 to 40 30-second bursts of light each time it detected motion. The quartz lamp provided amble illumination which was relatively bright by solar standards (we generally don't expect solar-powered lights to produce the illumination level of other lights; by their nature solar-powered lights are usually low power so that they can be adequately charged by correspondingly small solar panels). On a busy night preceded by an overcast day, the solar light would run out of power before the night was over. On less busy nights preceded by bright days, the solar light would perform well throughout the night and into the morning hours. (We thank Sasha with her frequent trips outside throughout the night for her assistance in conducting these tests.)

The light's electronic controls are well designed. Its has controls for motion sensitivity, light duration, and ambient-light levels determining whether the light will activate (no point in having it flash on during the daytime). The fatal flaws come in its housing design and its manufacture. The light appears to leak water into the battery housing and/or electronic control circuit and the unit fails within a year or two.

We have tested two of these lights purchased about 6 months apart. One outside light failed within the first year; it had severe corrosion at the jack which connects the solar panel to the main light body. The second light failed after remaining inside for about 1 1/2 years! We have not yet determined the cause of this failure, but the second light was not even subjected to outside moisture or temperature extremes.

Harbor Freight's track record with solar products is dismal in our evaluations. We have tested 7 of their solar products to date and have posted reviews for several of them. Out of the 7 products tested, 5 failed within two or three years' use and some failed within the first year. One out of the two products that has performed well so far (i.e., Harbor Freight's 45-watt solar panels) is still being evaluated and we are awaiting the outcome of our first Buffalo Winter Test. Too bad there are so many problems with these solar products because several of them appear solid in their design and features, and Harbor Freight's sale prices have been great.

We will disassemble and attempt to correct the problems with these lights. After we've determined the cause of the failures and have assessed whether simple user modifications can render them operational, we will revise this review. Meanwhile, we have a strong advisory against purchasing this item for any use, including interior use. Indeed, this advisory is stronger than what we have issued for ANY product to date inasmuch as this item suffers catastrophic failure that renders it useless for any application.

The items that make our list of The Junk often have limited usefulness but are still suitable for some applications. For example, their 36" pickup and reach tool does not stand up well to regular use meeting my handicapped wife's needs but remains useful for my occasional use picking-up litter in the yard. So although it made our list of The Junk, one of the three test items remains in service for very limited use (fortunately, we don't have much litter in our yard, and I'm very patient with the tool's unresponsive, sticky mechanism). In contrast, this solar-powered security light seems to self-destruct leaving it simply trash.

Bottom line: Expect to replace this unit after about a year of outside use and expect to have difficulty with its installation if you decide to purchase it. We recommend that you leave this product in the store despite its attractive appearance and low sale price.


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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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