Cheap Tools

Who let the Uglydolls go to HF by themselves?

Who let the Uglydolls go to HF by themselves?

A couple weeks ago, I posted about hacking a couple holes in my Elise seats. A commenter named Brad mentioned that I should post something about eye protection. I thought I’d do one better and dedicate some blog space to my favorite cheap garage tools. It seems like the expensive or rare specialty tools always get things written about them, while the daily workhorses get overlooked.

So, here we go! With a little Uglydoll help, I proudly present my favorite inexpensive garage tools.

#1: Harbor Freight safety glasses
(shown above)

They’re super inexpensive. Every time I stop at HF, I pick up another pair or two. I have, at the time of this writing, 11 sets in my garage. I keep most of them in a central depot, but have a few pairs scattered around the garage for ease of grabbing. One set lives with my Dremel, one set lives on the towel bar beside Sharka… I think I have one next to my floor jacks.

I’ve saved my vision many times over thanks to these glasses. They also make working under a car 100% less annoying. The dirt and sand dropping into my face can be pretty much ignored. That’s worth a couple bucks every Harbor Freight trip.

Well worth the $2.



#2: Harbor Freight scissors

These are the other thing that comes home with me every HF trip – the $1 scissors. They’re not extremely sturdy and will pretty much self destruct after a year of use, but… that’s not really a bad thing. They’re super inexpensive and hold their edge about as long as the plastic hinge can stay together.

Always having scissors nearby no matter where you are in your garage or house? That have a fairly fresh edge? Yes please.

Worth it. A+. Would buy again.

Gotta protect those ears.

Gotta protect those ears.

#3: 3M Tekk earmuffs

This one isn’t a Harbor Freight special, but you can find them pretty much anywhere. I believe I got this set at a local home improvements store. They’re rated for 30 dB noise reduction and are quite comfy to wear.

Seems to me like ear protection is often overlooked. But when you’ve got a lot of cutting to do? Man, they’re nice. After a half hour of work, you don’t feel like you’ve been through the blender. I wear mine quite often. Pretty much any time I’m cutting something, these are on my head.


Cheap unibits.

Cheap unibits.

#4: Harbor Freight cheap step-drill pack

These things are fantastic. For $10, you get a pack of three differently sized step-drill / unibits. You can just look at them and see the design flaw – the tiny 3/8″ shank. If you plan to do some serious cutting, these are NOT the bits for the job. However, if you want to drill in plastic or wood or not care if the bit breaks after a half dozen holes, you cannot beat these things.

Honestly, it’s all about your expectations. If you expect these bits to last a long time, you’re gonna be angry. But if you’re a little more realistic and don’t mind throwing them in the recycle bin after they wear out, you’ll be a happy camper.

These rank a solid B+. They’re hugely useful.

Gloves! Not for sack racing.

Gloves! Not for sack racing.

#5: Gloves

I admit, I don’t wear gloves that often when working on the car. They tend to wear out or be misplaced or whatever other excuse is convenient. But when you have to stand over a radiator for a half hour squeezing the upper hose to burp it? Yeah, gloves are needed.

I’ve worn through probably 10 sets of the red $10 Craftsman gloves. The fingers always go first on mine. I recently grabbed a set of these $20 red Harbor Freight gloves and am pretty impressed. They’re a lot tougher than the Sears brand gloves. The fingers and knuckles have rubber inserts. I’m pretty impressed. I’ve not worn them out in 6 months, which is something the C-man gloves can’t always claim.


Er... where's Icebat going?

Er… where’s Icebat going?

#6: Cheap Harbor Freight wire strippers

I strip a LOT of wires thanks to the window and hazard switches in my store. Each window switch has 24 strips required. While this HF stripper is not my favorite wire stripping tool, I feel confident in saying that it’s pretty good. The blades stay sharp and the hinge is quite well made. It remains easy to open and close after heavy use.

And they’re like $3 each. The price plus the quality earns it the last spot on my cheap tool list.



I hope the list above helps some folks out. If anyone has a favorite tool or safety item I didn’t mention, please post in the comments below!

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  • Brad says:

    You know, I once was nearly stranded 4 hours from home because of how my wiring harness on the Supra was attached at the battery. I’ve kept a set of wire crimpers / strippers in the glovebox ever since.

    As far as my favorite tools, I’d have to say my pair of Whack-o-meters. One is a 3 or 5 lb (I forget) sand filled dead blow, and the other is a 2 or 3 lb steel one with one of those unbreakable handles. They’re precision instruments, and allow me to smack things in just the manner I was hoping for.

    Admittedly, their applications are somewhat limited, but they’ve really come in handy with tearing the Supra apart. Things that have been together for nearly 30 years don’t always like to come apart, you know.

    Another favorite is the tungsten-carbide bit for the Dremel. I’m not sure how long they last, but that little thing has proven to be quite the useful tool for $9. It has certainly outlasted $9 worth of cutting discs and grinding stones, I know that much!

    • revlimiter says:

      My orange dead blow hammers also get a lot of use. I’ve got a 1, 3, and 5. Got a selection of steel sledge hammers too.

      I might have to add one of those fancy bits to my Dremel box… Thanks!

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