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Old 05-06-08, 10:46 PM   #1
iamlucky13
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$2 Multimeter?

Harbor Freight sometimes astounds me. Apple probably couldn't even ship an iPod into the country for $2, much less build it, package it, hang it on a shelf, and ring it up at the register. Meanwhile, I wander into Harbor Freight this weekend, and leave with a $4 fiberglass-handled hammer, a $2 multimeter, and a $0.59 paintbrush.

Yes, I know quality isn't a word in the Harbor Freight dictionary. I've broken plenty of their tools and for stuff I plan to use seriously I get Craftsman, but I've generally gotten my money's worth out of Harbor Freight. I'm just boggled that they can sell stuff, even utter crap, for as little as they do and remain in business.

The multimeter did give some initially spurious readings, but I couldn't duplicate those. It may fry the first time I forget to switch the dial from Ohms back to Volts, but for $2 it's a risk I'm willing to take. Not only did the multimeter come with a battery and leads (those alone are $10 at Sears, although much better quality), it even seems to be reasonably accurate when compared to a nicer Triplett DMM I have:

Outlet: 118.7 vs 118.5 VAC
Camera Battery: 7.49 vs 7.47 VDC
*Camera Battery: 7.4 vs 7.5 VDC
Resistor 1: 9.91 vs 9.93 kOhms
*Resistor 1: 9.8 vs 10.0 kOhms
Resistor 2: 460 vs 470 Ohms
*Resistor 2: 468 vs 471 Ohms

* Alternate range setting

Ok, I admit it, the multimeter was probably a loss leader, but even the regular price is less than the leads are at Sears, and who in their right mind says "Limit 10" for a loss leader?

/Rave
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Old 05-06-08, 10:50 PM   #2
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some of their stuff i had had for years, I bought a racheting tap wrench about 9 years ago and still going strong the cheap stuff you dont feel bad when it breaks
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Old 05-06-08, 11:18 PM   #3
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I bought a $6 digital multimeter from HF some years ago that I keep in my toolbag in the car. I didn't want to keep my Fluke in there as I didn't want to take a chance on it getting stolen.
For the simple car diagnostic stuff I've used it for, it has been just as accurate as the Fluke with the exception of measuring resistance where the cheapie multimeter sometimes fluctuates and repeated measurements are needed.
Another HF tool I carry in the car tool bag is 1/2" torque wrench as I don't want to carry my SnapOn in the car. It has been every bit as accurate as the SnapOn as calibrated by my local SnapOn truck guy.
Most of their stuff is crap but if you tend to not use the stuff that often, it will usually do.
If my livelyhood depended on reliable tools (like an auto tech) I wouldn't go close to HF.
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Old 05-06-08, 11:20 PM   #4
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I purchased a 7" angle grinder from them for less than it was to rent. A tool I have needed only that one time.
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Old 05-06-08, 11:34 PM   #5
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a $4 fiberglass-handled hammer, a $2 multimeter, and a $0.59 paintbrush.
I can kind of see the first two, but cheap paintbrushes are awful. They just make the job more difficult than it needs to be.
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Old 05-07-08, 12:41 AM   #6
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I can kind of see the first two, but cheap paintbrushes are awful. They just make the job more difficult than it needs to be.
Yep, but I only have a small patch job to do. It's about 6 square feet total.
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Old 05-07-08, 01:23 AM   #7
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If you need a tool for something where its not used, or used only for a project and chucked, Harbor Freight is great. A couple years back, they had great deals on clicker torque wrenches.

Just note the tools are intended to be cheap, and are not really intended for everyday use for the most part. If you want tools for professional use, hail the Snap-On truck, or hit Sears/Lowe's/Home Depot for their premium lifetime warranty stuff.
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Old 05-07-08, 06:09 AM   #8
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If I can't find it at the pawn shop, I'll look for it a Harbor Freight. However I don't think I would use their tools to make a living.
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Old 05-07-08, 06:52 AM   #9
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They have decent digital calipers as well. I got a pair of "Cen-Tech" calipers when I visited them a few years ago. The jaws on these things are not ground or fit to be parallel, but it could get you within .002" no problem.
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Old 05-07-08, 07:24 AM   #10
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As a guy that has made a living with tools his entire life...I hate crappy tools.
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Old 05-07-08, 07:40 AM   #11
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I will stick with my Fluke multimeter. It never gives a bad reading.
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Old 05-07-08, 08:02 AM   #12
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When I need tools, I just head to the the LBS or the local garage and ask the guys behind the counter if I can borrow theirs.
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Old 05-07-08, 08:19 AM   #13
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When I need tools, I just head to the the LBS or the local garage and ask the guys behind the counter if I can borrow theirs.


You know how to get a mechanic's goat.
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Old 05-07-08, 09:05 AM   #14
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If I used it in my work, I'd get a Fluke or Simpson (I was an electrician in a former life) But for the house, all I need is to verify voltage exists, or an open circuit. So a cheapo suits me fine.
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Old 05-07-08, 09:26 AM   #15
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We give our students those exact multimeters. They work fine until they don't, but then, they're only 2 bucks.
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Old 05-07-08, 10:36 AM   #16
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I will stick with my Fluke multimeter. It never gives a bad reading.
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Old 05-07-08, 10:46 AM   #17
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They have decent digital calipers as well. I got a pair of "Cen-Tech" calipers when I visited them a few years ago. The jaws on these things are not ground or fit to be parallel, but it could get you within .002" no problem.
I've got a set of those for less than 1/10th the price of a Starrett or Mitutoyo. I was surprised to see half the guys at my work use them too. It calibrated fine and is more than enough for 95% of the work I need them for, but for official measurements, I check one of the nice sets out from the instrumentation department.

I should qualify my earlier statements though. I don't bother with their electric power tools. I was given a variable speed "Chicago Electric" drill. I was tearing apart a deck awning and it started spewing out smoke. Remarkably it still works, but despite being an AC drill, it's probably got less torque than my 18V cordless.
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Old 05-07-08, 11:57 AM   #18
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HF T-handles are awesome!

Air hoses (and I imagine other hoses) and quick disconnects suck.
Hammer's are good.
Jack stands good
Vise grips are okay, nothing special but they work fine
Compression tester is good
Tire inflater sucks, but the old one I had from them worked great but got run over.
Brake caliper spreader good
I know someone who bought a spot welder to replicate factory welds from Ford and it worked fine
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Old 05-07-08, 12:22 PM   #19
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If I can't fix it with a hammer and or screwdriver, I call a pro.
Only exception to that is when explosives work...then I'll gladly do it myself.
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