Harbor Freight Jack Stands Review

VD August 08 2021

Competition is tight among manufacturers of jack stands. Among the best-known and popular devices is Harbor Freight jack stands.

What Is Harbor Freight Known For?

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Harbor Freight Tools is a privately held discount tool and equipment retailer, headquartered in Calabasas, California, which operates a chain of retail stores as well as a mail-order and eCommerce business. The company was founded in 1977 by Eric Smidt and his father Alan Smidt. Harbor Freight has been known for its discount pricing on tools and equipment and its often humorous commercials.

Harbor Freight sells more than 7,000 different tools and accessories through its 800-plus stores nationwide and its website. The company's product categories include automotive, air and power tools, shop equipment, hand tools, generators, material handling, storage, welding, and woodworking.

As a leading jack stands manufacturer in the US, Harbor Freight has a great history full of accomplishments, especially in manufacturing signature truck jack stands by Harbor Freight. This product alone has got national and international fame that came along with some impressive distribution contracts.

Unfortunately, 2020 wasn’t a great year for the company. In that year, the company got into serious trouble due to a major defect in their specific jack stands model, resulting in the Harbor Freight recall.

What was the main reason behind the harbor freight recall?

It all started with a severe error in specific jack stand designs. Back in the day, the Pittsburgh 3-ton and the Pittsburgh 6-tons harbor freight jack stands were considered one of the best jack stands available in the US market. Being affordable and super durable, these jack stands were commonly used for lifting heavy-duty trucks. 

That’s why the majority of the customers believed that the truck jack stands by Harbor Freight will be perfect for their industrial applications.

But this is the point where everything changed. The recently launched batch of the Pittsburgh 3- and 6-ton harbor freight jack stands had ample manufacturing errors. The batch contained around 1.7 million faulty units recalled as a part of the infamous Harbor Freight recall.

Unfortunately, the trouble didn't end. All the faulty jack stands got replaced by even more broken and damaged jack stands. 

The company witnessed a whopping 1.7 million loss in the first round, which grew to another 1.7 million or more units in the second round. In simple words, things aren’t much great for a company like Harbor Freight which introduced itself as a pioneer of security and safety in the jack stands domain.

Does the new Harbor Freight jack stand useless?

The primary issue behind the Harbor Freight recall remains a mystery for the general public. At the first glance, the faulty jack stands were just like any standard jack stand manufactured by Harbor Freight. 

But the main issue was lying in the pawl of the jack stand. Due to the manufacturer’s fault, the pawl didn’t perform as it should, just as many other Harbor Freight jack stands. Under excessive pressure or due to the slightest shift in the overall potential weight of the load, the pawl can come down, crashing the person working below the lifted item, for example, a vehicle.

As a product that was supposed to provide safety and durability, these faulty car jacks have undoubtedly created an environment of panic among users around the U.S. Especially since it seems there has never been an error with Harbor Freight jack stands in the past.

damaged-harbor-freight-stand

broken-harbor-freight-jack-stand

harbor-freight-damaged-jack

In the pictures, you can see the specific reason why Harbor Freight jack stands were recalled. All photos are taken from user reviews. As the customers themselves report, they clearly followed all the instructions and did not overload the tool. But, as it turned out, the design is not able to withstand even the loads specified in the manual. The material from which the jack was made was of extremely poor quality, which, combined with errors in the assembly, caused such a sad effect.

But the moment someone gets comfortable with their work thinking that the jack stand is holding all the car weight, things can go south quickly. Fortunately, the error was identified in time, so no causality has been reported to this very day.

What Are The Consequences Of Using Defective Harbor Freight Jack Stands?

Harbor Freight jack stands have been involved in a few serious accidents where the stands have failed and people have been seriously injured or killed. In one incident, a man was using a set of Harbor Freight jack stands to support his car while he worked on it. The jack stand failed and the car fell on him, pinning him underneath. He died of his injuries.

In another incident, a woman was using a set of Harbor Freight jack stands to support her car while she changed a tire. The jack stand failed and the car fell on her, crushing her pelvis. She survived but was seriously injured.

There have been other incidents as well, leading to a recall of the Harbor Freight jack stands. The recalled jack stands have a red warning label on them that says "Do not use for vehicle support."

If you own a set of Harbor Freight jack stands, do not use them to support your car. Use another type of jack stand or support the car in another way. Do not put yourself or others at risk by using these stands. But if you still need a jack for work, and you want to be sure of their reliability and safety - look at one of these car jacks! They are time-tested and reliable, and their honest name is confirmed by hundreds of positive user reviews

Harbor Freight plans to get back on track

To quickly get their production, finances, and reputation back on track, Harbor Freight replaced all the faulty jack stands with even worse jack stands. Consumers were allowed to exchange their old truck jack stands by Harbor Freight with the newer ones. But the campaign backfired on the company itself when severe issues regarding the tooth grips of these ‘improved’ jack stand got discovered. For a second time in a matter of a few months, the company initiated a recall campaign. 

Now infamously known as the Harbor Freight recalls around the globe, this time, the company’s CEO and chairman Eric Schmidt wrote an apology letter to the customers himself stating that there are indeed some drastic welding errors in the Harbor Freight jack stands which will be resolved as soon as possible. 

But the customers can’t easily forget the horrors a failed hand jack will create for the person working under a lifted car or standing right next to it.

Conclusion 

We don’t know for sure if Harbour Freight will manage to get its reputation back. For now, the situation seems grim for the company and the notorious Harbour Freight jack stands.

Comments:

I have a ‘calibrated’ set of oak timbers that I use instead of jack stands. I cut them to the maximum height a floor jack can lift my car (minus a half-inch). I don’t need a bunch of height options, just one that’s trustworthy.
spw87 / 2021-08-16 08:27:29

I have no real qualms about working under jackstands, but that's because I buy big, beefy jackstands that won't fail or topple over unless something cataclysmic happens. I still leave the jack extended under the car unless it gets in the way, though.
Stang70Fastback / 2021-09-16 09:04:42

The secret of jackstands is to get them superwide. I actually have an old pair of Harbor Freights that are stable as hell. The bases are something like 16" square and they are very heavy and the weight is down low in the stands.Although the stands in this story are failing because of defects, the most common failure is when the stand tips and then the stand twists, like the photo below. A wide based stand is what you need, so this doesn’t happen.
yeardley68 / 2021-09-27 11:01:18

Yep. I do the same: Hydraulic jack still in place and the wheels slid under the car. Still get nervous, and more so the older I get. (When I think about the foolhardy setups I used 30 years ago to get under cars, I’m sometimes amazed I’m still here...)I keep looking at those portable lift setups; maybe I should just make that my next big purchase. The only trouble is, do they make one set that’s small enough to fit under an MGB, but also strong enough to lift a full-sized 4x4 truck? Can’t afford to buy 2 sizes...
markbt73 / 2021-10-12 05:35:37

You are using them wrong..Jackstands by design do not lock in place until they have weight on it.If you press (rotate/lift) the release lever it’ll drop completely. But if the jackstand is under load it is impossible to rotate the release lever.You need to lift with a lift jack (hydraulic / scissor) past your desired height, put the jackstands and release pressure in your jack to lock them in place... then jack it up just slightly back up to build pressure in the hydraulic/scissor jack.In that way you’ll have 3 points of safety (jacks + 2 jackstands). All 3 need to fail to crush you.If all of them are taller than your chest, (they should), you should be safe.If I’m working on brakes, I also throw the wheel under the edge rail of the vehicle’s floor pan for a 4th point of safety.
aec007 / 2021-10-30 16:49:23

When I was a kid, like you my dad used “other” items: metal wire milk crates, 1 to work on the brakes and 2 work on everything else like the exhaust, tranny and to find lost (10mm?) sockets. They were free and plentiful at the loading docks at finer grocery stores. Now that he has grandkids, he pays someone to work on his cars.
jcn-txct / 2021-11-08 13:34:44

Cars can topple off of in ground lifts too. The goal is to know what you’re doing. Do your research, and buy (and inspect) parts that you know you can trust. Then do research and learn the proper way to use those parts. If you’re smart about it, then you shouldn’t need to worry about using those parts. There is always an element of danger to everything in life, but if you’re crawling under your car, and do not feel comfortable with whatever is holding the car up, then you need to reevaluate some part of that process.I’ll always take extra precautions whenever possible, but I’m also not using dinky stands that may or may not fall over if someone leans on my car funny. I leave the jack under the car same as you, for the same reason - in case something goes horribly wrong. But I’m not leaving it under the car because I don’t trust the stands, or think there’s any more than a snowball's chance in hell that the car might topple over.
Stang70Fastback / 2021-11-23 08:09:09

That’s great, but what about if he needs to take the wheels off? A couple of good, solid ramps might be a better option than a pit. Of course purchased ramps come with their own issues, but if you only need a few inches for like oil changes and such, they can be built quite easily and cheaply out of a 2x10.
Sethersm / 2021-12-12 13:06:37

I personally don’t like the looks of those - too many welds. Each weld is a potential point of failure. If the weld on just one of those horizontal braces on the legs were to fail... Still better than the “split pipe” ones I grew up with though.I like the design of the HF ones up top, but not purchased from HF. 
Sethersm / 2021-12-22 21:19:30

Don’t do it!I did this when I built my garage. I even had a set of raised floor panels made in China and shipped over by a company that makes raised floors for datacenters. It’s ~4ft deep and 3ft wide. It is OK for working, except that usually you’re not using it. It can be covered, but it’s a pain to cover or uncover it. It’s pretty dangerous when it’s uncovered, so it mostly stays covered. You have to climb in and out.It’s got its own microclimate. It can develop inches deep of water at the bottom just from condensation on hot moist days. When it’s covered, critters get in and live in there (it’s currently home to a snake, so at least we don’t have mice right now).The WORST thing about it is that it cost more than a lift to have put in and to buy the cover tiles, and I ended up putting in a two-post lift anyway, ‘cause it’s just too much of a pain to uncover it and use it.
ivan256 / 2022-01-11 02:16:11

Next week we will read“The directors of the firm hired tocontinue the jackstands after the otherpeople had been sacked, wish it tobe known that they have just beensacked. The jackstands have been completedin an entirely different style at greatexpense and at the last minute. “Unfortunately, the next generation of jackstands might not need a warning about moose bites, but will need warning stickers about seizures and llama bites.
yeardley68 / 2022-01-25 03:06:55

This is a big deal in the car community, because Harbor Freight is a go-to for pretty much every automotive wrencher I knowI’ve been wrenching for 22 years and have never bought anything from Harbor Freight. I’ve only walked into that horror show twice, and that was accompanying other friends. I guess that makes me a wrenching elitist, but stories like these make me feel OK with that.
JTSnooks / 2022-02-08 21:41:44

They are fine for select items that your life doesn’t depend on. The “U.S. General” tool boxes are much nicer than the big box store tool boxes at a similar price point (I have a Home Depot Husky and a HF 44 inch box, and the HF box is light years better quality).I’ve not used it for anything overly heavy duty, but the 20 ton shop press has pressed any bushing I’ve thrown at it like butter.No beefs with my engine hoist either. Gets the job done, though I’ve only used it for aluminum 4 bangers. Might hesitate before using it on an iron v8. But jack stands? Not even once.
golfball / 2022-02-19 23:38:38

Harbor freight makes lots of good stuff. Yes, I could have spent 5x more on many of my tools....but for the things that I don’t rely on, it doesn’t make sense.My $15 HVLP paint gun is a better painter than I am. Could I have spent $250 on a similar one from a name brand? Yes. Would the results be any better? Doubt it. My HF welder does everything I need it to do (primarily exhaust work). My craftsman breaker bar broke again, and my local Sears didn’t have a replacement. So I bought a HF one to get me through one job, it’s easily been 10 years, I use it all the time, still have the broken Craftsman one in a drawer. I’ve probably done a half dozen wheel bearings, 20 bushings, and a few ujoints on my HF press. I buy their variety packs of adhesive-lined heat shrink tube regularly, as it’s the only local source that’s reasonably priced.The HF box on my trailer tongue keeps my straps dry and not-lost.I love my HF jack, it lifts so much higher than anything else for 5x the price. I was taught at an early age to never trust a jack alone. And working at an equipment shop (I’m not a mechanic, but it’s still drilled into all of us) has taught me never to trust any hydraulics.I just had an AC Delco jack stand fail. It was only sheer luck that I had to readjust it before putting the weight of the vehicle on it, otherwise it may have failed under load. Not that those were premium quality, but the point is failures happen. Don’t trust anything when your life is at stake.I’m not saying it’s great stuff. But don’t look down your nose at the very thought of it.
numbchuxsoad / 2022-03-08 23:24:15

This is a sad fact, buying good quality tools is hard these days, at least without going broke. Most “name brands” are decent enough that you’ll be fine for light use, but I try to only get really high quality stuff for what I use most often. In the case of emergencies I just go to the closest place which is either Advance Auto or Home Depot, depending on what I need.Part of the issue is probably that the closest HF is a good 40 minutes from my house while Advance and HD are both under 10.
JTSnooks / 2022-03-23 00:15:51

Agreed. I have a bunch of tools from HF. I received that email from HF today. My jackstands are from Walmart, and my hack is an AC Delco from O’Reilly. I recently bought some Pittsburgh tools from HF. I agree with the other commentor that car tools shops are hard to come by these days. I’m a hobby garage mechanic who will never be able to afford the higher end tools. Stores such as Home Depot don't carry specialty tools for disconnecting fuel rail lines, or tools for compressing springs. Sure I could order online, but there are cases where I need to have the car running before Monday morning and can't wait for shipping. 
digitaluser32 / 2022-04-10 11:28:48

I have a US General 56" top and bottom toolbox filled with Hazet, Snap-on, Mac, SK, and just about every premium tool you could name. They’re phenomenal for the price.The thing about HF is that they don’t actually make anything, it’s all rebranded stuff from Taiwan & China. When my Torin/Big Red engine hoist broke, I went to HF and bought replacement parts because it’s the exact same product. Those new ICON wrenches? They’re made in Taiwan by Hi-Five LTD, you can buy the exact same ones with either a DeWalt or Carlyle label.My Daytona 3T floor jack? It’s the exact same one Snap-on sells for three times the price, or so a lawsuit between SO and HF revealed a couple years ago. $10 says these jack stands were not exclusive to Harbor Freight, and dozens of other companies are selling them through a different house label without a massive recall.
b0ssplaya / 2022-04-25 23:47:26

No absolutely not, and I can tell you this because I’ve owned them all and had them side by side in my shop. I’m a trade professional and I’ve been buying all this stuff for years. Husky & Milwaukee boxes were made by Waterloo Industries. DeWalt, Husky, Craftsman, Lenox, Kobalt, and a few others I am forgetting sold the exact same boxes, only with minor differences to trim, paint color, and drawer arrangements. Waterloo Industries sold out to Stanley Black & Decker, but their manufacturing division continues making these boxes under contract despite the ownership change.The last Milwaukee box I purchased (~42", May of 2019) had inadequate reinforcement on the underside, the casters were held in Rivnuts through the steel, and when you removed all the drawers, 2/3 of the inside was unpainted bare steel. Need parts? They’re all coming from the same place, and those drawer slides are interchangeable with Husky.Compare that to my 56" US General box which is stronger, has boxed sections on the underside, top, and walls, and complete painting on the interior. Honestly, if I didn’t get a deal on the Milwaukee box through my building trade supplier, I would never pay full retail for that POS. In fact, I ended up selling it two months later for near MSRP because of how gullible the “team red” home gamers are. It’s just a Husky box with red trim, rubber bumpers, and a power strip.
b0ssplaya / 2022-05-09 06:55:18

Maybe I can get out of the grey’s but I tend to think like you do. I’m slightly above the average hobby wrencher, on the order of Mr. Tracy levels of wrenching but without the rust buckets. I try to buy the best quality tools I can but can’t afford to buy them new. The way I get around it: 1960's era made in the USA tools purchased from garage sales. You can find an old made in the USA tool for 10% of what it would cost today from a name brand.My prize purchases are a 1960s era Wilton Bullet vise for $25 that had been restored (they go for $600+ unrestored on ebay) and a Kennedy toolbox in hammer red powder coat for $10 ($200 new today). My old neighbor found a Craftsman Drill Press for $15 the other day - cleaned it up, greased it, slapped on a new belt, and it runs like a champ.I actually just picked up a set of the old style pin jack stands built in 1970 in Cleveland, OH for $13 at an estate sale.
bandit90 / 2022-05-24 19:14:00

Right, which is why when I’m actually buying a tool I want rather than an emergency purchase I make sure to look very closely at the tool.  I’ve found Milwaukee seems to actually make some very good hand tools now, I’ve been impressed with their quality and design.  Fortunately most of my tools are older Craftsman ones when they were still forged in the US.  I’ve never had one break on me, and I hope they never do because I’m not sure what to replace them with at this point.
JTSnooks / 2022-06-04 03:26:16

120. A word of advice: don’t assume that since an outlet on one wall of a room has been shut of via breaker that another outlet on the same freakin wall of the same freakin room shares that breaker. Also, not only does hand lotion make your dry skin feel better, but it makes tools slippery and is an excellent conductor of electricity.
Sethersm / 2022-06-23 08:22:57

Someone else posted those above. Here was my reply to them:I personally don’t like the looks of those - too many welds. Each weld is a potential point of failure. If the weld on just one of those horizontal braces on the legs were to fail... Still better than the “split pipe” ones I grew up with though.I like the design of the HF ones up top, but not purchased from HF. The heavy, folded single steel piece with 1 weld for the main body is much less likely to fail.
Sethersm / 2022-07-08 02:58:25

I love Harbor Freight, because I’m a cheap bastard, but I am also learning that there are just certain things you should spend the money on. Besides obvious things like jack stands and things that can kill you, a lot of what HF sells that cuts/drills/sands is hit-or-miss, quality wise. The set of Hercules impact driver bits that I recently got? They work just fine. The Bauer oscillating tool blades? Eh, not bad. The super-cheap “Warrior” drill bits and spade bits? Garbage. I replaced both with a nearly-as-cheap set of Irwin bits that are miles better.That’s actually something I’m noticing more and more - all the major companies seem to be engaged in a race-to-the-bottom for consumer dollars, especially in the “family handyman” market. You can get stuff made by Irwin, Ryobi, Crafstman, Stanley, Kobalt, etc. at Lowes/HD that is nearly as cheap as the stuff at HF and measurably better in quality. Heck, even some of the new “Hart” branded stuff at Walmart seems to be every bit as good, if not better, as the “premium” house brands at HF.
dbeach84 / 2022-07-18 11:10:54

I’m still waiting on them to recall the Pittsburgh jackstands I have , 3 ton model 38846. I have not had any problems with the pawl, but I noticed recently when I had them all put on a shelf next to each other that one of them has a noticeable bend where the feet meet the ratcheting mechanism.  Like someone bent the Eiffel Tower from the top.  There’s no way I went over the weight specs, the heaviest thing I had a set of them supporting was my Mazda3.  Needless to say they’re not getting used anymore and I might try to return them and see if they slip through the recall. 
petekill / 2022-08-03 17:12:19