4 Tips for Shopping at Harbor Freight

harbor freight toolbox

Harbor Freight is a well known place among mechanics, carpenters, electricians, contractors, builders, do it-yourselfers, etc. Essentially anyone who needs a tool for something or likes working with their hands has gone to Harbor Freight at some point.  If you don't know about Harbor Freight… just don't go! Seriously once you know about it it essentially impossible not to go there.

You won't believe some of the discounts and prices they have on tools there. Mostly everything is imported from China, but when you need a tool you need a tool.  Harbor Freight is great if you need that tool only once or some spare odds and ends.  You know like gloves, small flashlights, hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, etc.  Here are my 4 Tips for Shopping at Harbor Freight.

  1. Always use Coupons: Harbor Freight frequently circulates flyers, ads, and emails with coupons on many of their products. It would be stupid to not utilize them as much as possible. Paying regular prices for a lot of their product is too much for what you get. You can find 20% off coupons for any item in the store.  Of course a lot of items are excluded for these 20% off coupons.  Typically you can also find HF coupons in the back of magazines. You can also find coupons when you get items for Free, just for making a purchase. There are lots of mega threads for Harbor Freight coupons on forums all around the internet.  Do a search and you can print some out.  (I print them out in Black and White to save color toner.)
  2. Make a List: Inevitably if you go to Harbor Freight without a list, you will spend more than you really want to. Obviously this is how they want it, but don't fall for this trap. Try to make a list of necessary tools, items, and equipment you need. Try not to get too distracted by things you don't need, since there will probably be a lot.
  3. Pay with Cash: When I make a trip over to my local Harbor Freight in Parkville, I try to only pay with cash and what's on me. If I use my card, I would probably spend a ridiculous amount of money everytime I go. This allows me to say “I will only spend this much today. I can come back and get that later if needed.” It's easy to spend only a small amount of money for different and various items you need but easy to spend a lot on items you don't.  If you are buying a larger item and expensive item, such as a toolbox, you can obviously break the rule and use a credit card as that would be easier (and safer) than bringing cash.
  4. Check Reviews: If you look on a lot of forums and sites around the web you can find reviews of what you should and should not buy at Harbor Freight.  I would recommend checking them out as I have found people have written reviews for almost anything there even down to small screwdrivers sets.  This has made it so that I have made good buying decisions at Harbor Freight, like my toolbox, and avoided bad items there.

I know a lot of you have a love-hate relationship with Harbor Freight, like I do, but sometimes you just need to go there.  It's a guy thing I guess! 🙂

If you think my list of tips is good, please leave a comment below and let me know.  If you think something should be added about Harbor Freight also leave a comment.

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Why I Love Fixing Cars!

I Replaced These!

Two weeks ago I replaced the Valve Cover Gasket and Spark Plug Seals on my '96 Honda Accord.  I checked the spark plugs and saw that they had a good amount of oil on them.  It was clear the Seals needed to be replaced, but also it was obvious that the Valve Cover Gasket needed to be replaced because you could see it wasn't sealing properly anymore.

It was a simple job that only took a little over 1 hour & 30 minutes with basic hand tools.  After I had finished, I drove my car to make sure everything was working well.  I had an immense feeling of pride on that drive and after I had done it.  I was reminded of the reason I love fixing cars and other things.  Sure, you save money when you Do-It-Yourself, although that is not why I love fixing cars.  The pride came from the fact that I had taken something that needed to be fixed and I made it right again.  I had done it!  Not anyone else!  I was able to fix my own car.  It felt like I had conquered a mountain or crossed an ocean.  I had accomplished something that most people haven't done or will do.  That's what made it so special to me!

 

How to Jump Start a Car

Today I had to go over to my brother's apartment to help him get his Mazda3 started.  The culprit?  A dead battery!  It had been awhile since I had actually done a jumpstart with a car, since I usually use a “jumpbox” when a car has a dead battery.  It was a good refresher for my brother and me.

First thing you want to do is make sure the car with the good battery has sufficient gas.  My 96 Honda Accord had plenty of gas before going over to my brother's.  Also you want to make sure you have jumper cables.  This is embarrassing to admit, especially since I have an auto blog, but I did not have jumper cables in my car.  I had to get a set out of another car before going over to my brother's apartment.  I will buy jumper cables for my Accord though!  I promise!

When I got over to my brother's apartment, I parked my Accord as close to his car as possible.  Obviously leave enough room for you to get between the cars.  Hook up the cables in this order:

  1. Red Positive Cable onto Positive Terminal to Dead Battery
  2. Attach the other Red Positive Cable onto Positive Terminal to Good Battery
  3. Black Negative Cable onto Negative Terminal of Good Battery
  4. Attach the other Black Negative Cable of the Engine Block, Alternator, or Some Ground
Here is a good picture on the jumper cable bag, if you feel my instruction don't cut it!
How to Setup Jumper Cables!

After you have the cables hooked up start the car with the good battery and let it run for about 5-10 minutes.  It's important to make sure the cables have a good connection or you will be wasting your time.  (I know this from experience, but got a reminder about it today.)  After letting you car run for awhile, therefore letting the good battery charge the dead battery, try to start the car with the dead battery.  If it starts, let it run with the other car with the good battery for 2 minutes.  If not, keep the car with the good battery running since the dead battery needs more time to charge.

Once you have the dead battery car running keep it running for awhile to let the alternator charge the battery, shut off the car with the good battery.  Remove the cables in the REVERSE of how you put them on.  Refer to the instructions above.  I would drive around the car that had the dead battery to bring up the charge.  It might even be good to head over to an auto parts store that will test your battery for free.  You could wait a day, drive it around, and then see if it gives you trouble.  Most likely if you do go to an auto parts store after having to jump it you will be told the voltage will be low.  My brother and I still did this today to see if what the voltage of the battery was.  I would recommend driving it around to give it a chance to bring the change back up.  If the battery has been giving you trouble and been dying on you a lot, I would recommend changing it, since that battery will only continue to give you trouble.

I hope this post helps people who do not know how to Jump-Start their car.

Jumper Cables

Actron PocketPlus Scanner Review

Probably the first thing you will notice about the PocketPlus scanner is it's diminutive size.  This is the smallest scanner I have ever used.  This is actually a plus for many reasons.  It's very easy to store anywhere, which allows you to take it along with you to a friend's house or maybe just store in your vehicle.  It was always easy to find a drawer or place to put the scanner.  The size also makes it easy to handle and use when connecting to vehicles.  I found myself using it often, because it was in my pocket a lot.  I guess it is called a “PocketPlus!”  Additionally it is simple an easy to use for almost anyone.  Novice mechanics can use it easily.

What are my complaints about the scanner?  They were quite a number of codes I was able to pull from the PocketPlus, but it gave no definition.  So you will need to check what some codes mean yourself.  This is expected on a lot of scanners in this price range .  Overall when compared to more expensive diagnostic scan tools and scanners the PocketPlus did well.  It read the same codes and gave the same information in a lot of cases.  More expensive diagnostic scan tools allow for more analysis and will usually always read the codes, but they are more expensive.  Also opening the packaging was quite difficult.  This is a common problem with lots of products, but it really annoys me.  Why can't companies make product packaging easier to open?  I guess this is just nitpicking.

The scanner actually saved me the other day, big time!  I went over to a friend's house to work on some cars, while also doing some exhaust work on my Mom's van, which was all fine.  Unfortunately while driving home the “Check Engine Light” came on.  I decided to try to ignore it until I got home, thinking it was probably nothing.  Well after driving down the highway for only a short period of time, the van had no power, was making a load cracking sounds, was not accelerating, and the engine and whole van felt like it was pulsating.  I thought about what was going on with the car and whether to stop and get it towed.  I then realized I had the PockerPlus Scanner in my bag!  Probably the only scanner I would have taken along because of it's size and usefulness.  Luckily there was a rest stop to get off the highway.  I wiped out the PocketPlus scanner and hooked it up.  It read three codes, P0300 Randon Multiple Cylinder Misfire, P0304 #4 Cylinder Misfire, and P0302 #2 Cylinder Misfire.  Since it was late at night and I was unsure if the van was going to make it back to my house, I decided to head back to my friend's house which was closer.  We concluded that the spark plugs and wires could be the issue.  I stayed the night and we changed them in morning, which alleviated the issue a lot.  After some Fuel Injector Cleaner it was virtually fine with no misfiring.   Getting the codes with the PocketPlus scanner was easy, changing the spark plugs could not have been harder.  Chrysler could not have it made it any more difficult to change spark plugs on these vans!   I was really glad to have the scanner handy as it saved any added damage to the van.

What's there to say about The Actron PocketPlus Scanner?  Reviewing the PocketPlus scanner was a pleasure and actually saved me in a difficult situation.  Overall I like it and feel it performs it's job well.  For a scanner under the $50 range it is ideal for a DIY mechanic or home mechanic.

PROS

  • Small
  • Easy to store & handle
  • Simple to use
  • Helped a blogger in a difficult situation!

CONS

  • Will not read some codes
  • Does not give definitions for some codes

Another Freebie, an Actron Scanner

Nice, an Actron Scanner!

On Monday I received this in the mail.  It's an Actron Pocket Scan Plus Scanner.  It's used for retrieving diagnostic trouble codes from vehicles, when the Check Engine Light is on.  A lot of scanners just read codes, but do not tell you what the code means.  This Actron scanner does both, in a very small unit.  It reads OBD II and CAN codes too.  This will be a useful addition to my tool collection.  Code readers are useful for any serious or DIY mechanic.  The best part?  It was sent to me Free of Charge by Actron so I can test out it and write about it.  I can't wait to find some cars to hook it up too.  A thorough review to be posted soon!

3 Ways to Find a Good Mechanic

Going into the New Year, I'm sure many of you have New Year's Resolutions. Maybe goals like, losing weight, volunteering more, getting your house cleaned up, making more money, etc. How about the New Year's Resolution… Keep your car in good running condition. The best way to do that is to have a good mechanic to service your car.

There are several ways to find a good mechanic to service your vehicle. Here are 3 ways to find a Good Mechanic:

  1. Ask a Mechanic: Seems obvious. If you know a DIY or Shadetree mechanic ask them if they know of any good shops in the area. Even if they like working on their own vehicles, they'll have to go to a shop for some work. (Such as installing tires, alignments) More importantly than knowing what is a good shop, they'll probably know what the bad shops in the area are. Also if you have a specific brand of car, they might know a good shop to take your specific brand of car. Many shops specialize in certain brands of cars.
  2. Friends, Family, Neighbors: Asking people you know is always a good idea. Maybe they have a friend who is a mechanic. Maybe a neighbor has a great mechanic they've been going to for years. Word-of-Mouth is still a good way to find a mechanic. Ask around and see if you can find good shop or mechanic from someone who's opinion your trust.
  3. Internet: I would suggest checking online lastly. he internet is a great tool. However, I would be careful. I've seen several shops with great online reviews, but I know the service they provide is less than adequate. If you don't have anyone to ask or have come up with no good shops from people you know, you'll probably turn to looking at online reviews. The best website with auto shop reviews is the CarTalk Mechanic's Files. It's been around the longest and has the most extensive database of reviewed shops