By on November 29, 2013


If there ever was a combination of good and bad offers for the DIY auto enthusiast, it’s the so-called Black Friday deals.

5 Quarts of Valvoline with a Purolator Classic for $9.99 plus a $5 Valvoline coupon is pretty much the best oil deal I have seen since the G-Oil giveaways.

Impact wrenches that are made of low quality materials and old-school heavy batteries, utter garbage. Some of the manufacturers of these models should be shot on principle alone.

You can also throw in cheap wrench sets into the mix. I know they work in a pinch. But I just hate em’. Too many bad memories.

So what’s worth buying?

The only items I tend to buy on Black Friday are commodity goods. The oil change deals are a perfect fit for my line of work, and are usually the best deals of the year for that automotive line item. I used to also get brake pads, coolant, free spark plugs (as many as 32 a visit), and power inverters which tend to be pretty difficult to screw up.

As for tools, I avoid the Black Friday program altogether. I follow what I consider to be the Germanic school of gradual parts gathering. The expert tells the apprentice what he should buy, and the one learning shuts their mouth and simply buys the stuff without complaint. If you still want to time this sort of thing, Father’s Day tends to be a pretty good time to buy power tools along with the springtime sales. But when it comes to investing in work, I just listen to those who know more than me and get what they value. This Autel OBDII scanner is a great example.

Today will be one of those quiet days for personal shopping. One store, and then I will go home and observe the quiet of autumn. So I guess I should offer a two-fold question.

A) Are there any great automotive deals in your lifetime that still stick in your mind?

B) Was there ever a time in your automotive life when you just kept quiet and followed the advice of an experienced soul?

One of the great rewards of auto auction work is getting to know folks who know far more about certain things than yours truly. They live it. They repair the under-engineered engines and transmission issues, and upgrade those pesky plasticized parts whenever the bean counters are all too happy to shovel low-quality crap to their current customers.

Cheap almost always has a price, but there are a few notable exceptions. So what were yours?


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60 Comments on “Black Friday: Valvoline Motor Oil And Recyclable Low-Quality Tools...”

  • avatar

    As far as tools go I’ve learned the hard way that anything that goes on sale probably isn’t worth buying. I wish someone would have given me the advice to avoid cheap tools early on but I feel this is a secret known only to tradesman and hardcore enthusiasts.

    The biggest bargain I’ve found on tools was a Proto socket and ratchet set that I paid full price for at Grainger. Possibly the best $400 I’ve ever spent. They have been my constant companions thorough project after project and I have yet to round, crack, or otherwise damage a single tool.

  • avatar

    All the cheap tools I had broke. Ratchets stripped, breaker bars that pull apart around 100 ft-lbs, sockets that tear apart. Not only that but I hated using them, they felt bad in my hand. Then I got a Proto screw driver some 30 years ago. I still have it and it’s not bent or rusted. Never bought a cheap hand tool again.

  • avatar

    Well, ironically enough, my best automotive tool was an Autel MaxiScan scanner that cost all of $13.88 + $5 shipping through Amazon. My check engine light was going on and off mysteriously, and I found out it was a minor gas cap leakage and wasn’t really worth repairing.

    My otherwise excellent auto mechanic would have charged me $120 every time I wanted that checked, so I saved a snappy $100 by just using it once. And I’ve used it twice :).

    I plugged in the scanner, it was easy to use, and it gave me a code and a quick explanation of what it was. For fuller details, a quick Google of the code found them straight away. A real lifesaver if you’re too cheap to deal with your by the book mechanic for minor things.


    • 0 avatar

      O’Reilly Auto Parts has been kind enough to give me a free OBD2 on two occasions for free, with paper printounts of the faults and lists of porwntial fixes. I’m not the exception; free OBD2 checks are SOP for them.

  • avatar

    Canadian Tire’s “Mastercraft” brand of tools and tool accessories are good quality (I have only ever broken 1/2″ to 3/8″ converters, trying to break things loose in tight confines) with a lifetime warranty, and Canadian Tire seems to be always blowing out one or another package, be it socket sets, screw driver sets, etc, on any given flyer. A patient buyer can slowly and economically accumulate an excellent hand tool collection this way.

    I don’t know what the American equivalent would be. Probably Sears “Craftsman”, but I don’t think the randomly sell kits for 40-70% off like Canadian Tire does.

    • 0 avatar

      Seconded on Mastercraft tools being durable and great value. I have a set of sockets still going strong after 20 years (maintaining my own cars and other hobby use, although not professional day in and day out use).

      There are good deals at bargain-basement sources, given a lot of caveats- careful shopper, reasonable expectations, and only applies to a few specific kinds of tools. I have a Harbor Freight bending brake. Things like heat guns and rubber mallets are pretty hard to screw up… but overall these are the exceptions that prove the rule.

      • 0 avatar

        I recently got the Mastercraft Maximum flex-head wrench set (one end is a normal wrench, the other end is a ratcheting socket on a pivoting arm). They are so damn useful it’s almost comical how much I like them.

        Even their power tools are fine, maybe not for people building a mechanic’s shop. I use my dremel-ripoff tool once a month, do I really need Dremel brand?

    • 0 avatar

      Craftsman has disappeared. What was once a great brand has become just more chinese crap. Mastercraft has been solid. They are, in reality, Gray tools. Good Canadian grade tools. Hopefully Cdn Tire keeps the legacy alive and not knock it off like Sears did.

    • 0 avatar

      My buddies and I all have our tool collections based around the Mastercraft Professional sockets and wrenches. I think they’re called Mastercraft Maximum now. Nice tools for surprisingly low prices when on sale. You can’t build a complete tool set from what they offer, but they provide a great starting point of good quality basics. You get something like a 300 piece quality socket set for around $200 when it’s on sale. It’s hard to believe they can even make it for that price. I’ve never had any problems with them in the fifteen years since I started using them, and I’ve heard no complaints from anyone else.

      The Sears Craftsman stuff used to go on sale for decent prices too. It wasn’t as pretty as the Mastercraft Professional line and the wrenches were shorter but they seemed like durable, quality tools and carried the same lifetime warranty.

      I like Fuller for screwdrivers. They were available from Peavey Mart and Home Depot.

    • 0 avatar

      I have 2 Mastercraft socket sets that I use. One was bought in about 1997 and the other one in 2006 I think. Great tool sets and CTC often has them on sale. I’m living in Maine now and they’ve started to open Harbor Freight stores here. HF has some okay stuff that might work for one time use, but I’d rather pay a bit more for something that I know will last. So whenever I go back home, I usually pick some sort of tool up at “Crappy Tire” because I know it’ll probably last (although they do sell a lot of cheap Chinese crap now too).

      When it comes to house stuff, I’ve had good luck buying refurbished pneumatic nailers from CPO sites. Again, Harbor Freight has some tempting deals but I feel more peace of mind with Bostitch, Senco or Makita nailers.

  • avatar

    I like SK tools. On a bulldozer job quite a few years ago my father unearthed a rusty brown-looking lump from the gray hardpan with the TD-18. After it was left to soak in a bucket of diesel fuel for a couple of weeks, a SK 3/4″-drive ratchet turned out to be in the center of the lump. He disassembled and cleaned it and added it to his tool set. It was ugly but it worked fine.

    Re advice: I once read a piece by Warren Weith in Car and Driver in which he wrote that one doesn’t really know a car until one has washed it. He was right.

  • avatar

    Bought a six piece metric Gearwrench set for $9.99. Should be plenty good for what I’ll use them for. 8,10,12,13,14,15mm sizes. Hope I don’t need a 9 or 11 mm. Have a fractional set I’ve used on rusty bolts on the Corvair for years.

  • avatar

    Some of the best tools i have found were on my early morning runs when i was still working. Flashlights, wrenches, screwdrivers, sockets. LED work lights and the best of all a complete radiator pressure testing unit made by Snap on Tool. I can only assume that they were left under the hood by the mechanic and fell out when the car was driven. As i was running just before dawn they were easy to spot. Now i run when the sun is up and the pickings are very slim. Just the thought of getting up in the dark to do a 5 mile run in the dark now leaves me cold.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    The question was, what are notable exceptions to cheap tools sucking?

    OK my answer is: used nice tools can be cheap and don’t suck. But it depends on where you buy and what you buy. They can be very nice indeed.

    I like tools from the first half of 20th century, if and when they do something I might ever do, and sometimes when I won’t use them. The steel feels different in the hand. Better.

    If they say USA or Germany on them I relax and admire and buy. England not so much. Never saw a prewar Japanese anything. I just bought pretty Swedish adjustable wrenches for $4 and $6 for medium and large. Nice chrome plating.

    I keep a couple pairs 4 inch US vintage baby groove joint pliers at my desk along with other very small tools in a coffee cup. Fool around with them on Group conference calls to maintain my de-stressed voice.

    Cheap tool cabinets- the stainless ones at Costco are example of cheap chinese that does not suck. $6-800 and you are set. I don’t need red paint on mine.

    Ball Peen hammers are around $5-10 in northern New England these days. Up since I bought mine.

    Large adjustable wrenches. Bought a 12 inch Snap-on for $10.

    Starett anything.

    I gotta pick up my old bench vice from the friendly body shop, he is sandblasting for me. It looks maybe 40-80 years old, non-swiveling with integral clamps to bench. $10 including grease and scale. The screw down the middle had clean looking 50 year old grease over cadmium looking plated steel down inside there.

    Second answer- new Chinese electronic stuff so long as it is not built cheap enough to fail fast. If it is thats the importers fault. Walmart stuff is near-sucky because walmart drew up the specs that way.

    My most recent cheap tool fail- I brought my new $90 Harbor freight tire machine to the town dump after one try. Offered it to the NAPA counter guys in town on way to dump, they got a good long laugh out of that. Chattered about it for a full minute.

  • avatar

    The stuff I use everyday, and use most, is Snap-On. All my ratchets, some specialty, stuff, etc. Sockets are a mix, so are wrenches. I recently picked up a old f’d Snap on 1/2 drive ratchet at a junk shop for $35. Gave it to my tool guy, got it back looking like new.

    When I first started in the field, I was working at NAPA and bought a decent size set of tools for a few hundred with my employee discount 5mins before I gave my 2 weeks notice. I actually still have a lot of those tools, and use them daily. The Craftsman stuff? I haven’t been too impressed by those lately.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, Snap-On is good stuff. I have a lot of that, mostly bought used, and some are quite old.

      I have been toying with the idea of putting all my tools (several hundred of them) on sale over the internet, like eBay or similar. Do you know of an internet venue that does this kind of thing?

      A couple of my drinking buddies and I like to go to Garage Sales and Estate Sales to see what we can pick up, especially if they list tools for sale.

      The OLD Crafstman, made in the USA, Canada or W.Germany was also really good stuff, but the new stuff they can keep.

      • 0 avatar

        The switch from USA to Chinese-made Craftsman tools is interesting. I understand the logic that Sears is just trying to compete with the competition, all of which have been made in China and have been undercutting Craftsman for a while now. Still, it seems quite short-sighted. ‘Made in USA’ was just about all Craftsman had going for it in the non-professional, weekend-type, home-mechanic market.

        OTOH, from what I can gather, the Chinese-made Craftsman tools are selling just as well as their old, better-quality, Made-in-USA stuff. So, it’s just business. But I’m not sure it’s a truly viable, long-term strategy. Sooner or later (probably the former), consumers are going to realize that higher-priced Craftsman hand tools are no longer any better than those costing half as much from Wal-Mart, Harbor Freight, Lowes, Home Depot, etc.

        • 0 avatar

          It is a very poor strategy. I have a lot of older Craftsman, and the new tools Sears offers are simply not made nearly as well. It’s that built to a price point vs quality point thing again. Sears used to do it better. They had a lower priced line with the Sears name or Companion, which gave you a choice but instead they now have decided to cheapen the tools across the board. Classic short sighted American business thinking again. Not to mention the made in USA resonates with many of the people who take pride in doing things themselves, you know the ones who actually buy tools. If I am now stuck with commodity grade Chinese stuff, I certainly am not going to bother going to Sears as Home Depot is far closer. Funny thing is when I used to get tools at Sears, I usually bought a few more items than I planned on when I set out. Another loss for them.

          • 0 avatar

            One of the strangest things about the change in Craftsman marketing was the migration from the junky old Companion/Sears lines to the slightly higher quality (and packaged much better) ‘Evolv’ line around 2008.

            There used to be a much clearer distinction between the level of quality between Made-in-USA Craftsman and Chinese Companion tools, but with Craftsman hand tools now being made in China, and Evolv tools being better than Companion, there’s not nearly the level of difference there once was between Craftsman and Sears’ lowest tool line.

            Even more strange is how Evolv has the same lifetime warranty as Craftsman (Companion/Sears tools didn’t have the warranty). However, in a somewhat devious ploy, most Sears stores do not stock a complete line of individual Evolv tools (they might have a few ratchets, but no sockets or wrenches), so good luck getting a free replacement for your broken Evolv tool. At best, they’ll order you a new one and you ‘might’ get it a month or two later. That’s not very useful for even the most casual home repairman.

            Likewise, Sears has subtly altered their ‘unlimited’ warranty. In some cases (ratchets, mostly), you no longer get a brand-new tool to replace a broken one, but, instead, get a refurbished/rebuilt tool. In fact, they might even now require a receipt (it’s definitely a requirement for the Evolv tool ‘unlimited’ warranty).

            The main issue with this degradation of the Craftsman brand is that Sears hasn’t lowered their tool prices one bit. As mentioned, this might work in the short term but, quite soon, when it becomes apparent that the extra cost for a Craftsman tool over one bought anywhere else is completely unjustified, well, Craftsman (and likely Sears as a whole) will cease to exist.

          • 0 avatar

            I never tried Evolv but I have seen them at K-Mart. They’re pricey!

            When I needed a special tool, like a 15mm/half-inch-drive 12-pt thin-wall socket to tighten down the head bolts on my buddy’s BMW R100RT motorcycle, I went to Lowe’s and bought one of their Kobalt brand individual sockets.

            They’re also expensive but they sell them individually and I didn’t need a set. But it was evident that the socket was made of a softer kind of steel because after I used it and washed it in gasoline you could clearly see the pressure the head bolts had exerted on the inside of the socket points.

            You don’t see that on harder, higher-quality steel sockets from the days of old. Some of those have been with me since before I left home in 1965 to join the Air Force, and were used to rebuild my dad’s 426 Hemi Dragster engines, since I was 12 years old.

            Ditto with the Torque-X drivers set I bought from Lowe’s. After one use there was wear on the tips. I replaced them with a set from Craftsman at Sears, and, you guessed it, they also showed wear after the first use.

            I clean and inspect my tools after each use and this premature wear stood out from the days of old.

            And one more thing about the cheapening of modern tools: I had an old Ingersoll-Rand Impact Wrench that lasted me since before 1965. When it eventually died and broke on the inside, I replaced it with a $259 version from Sears.

            That one came apart in my hands at 120psi and set to 150ft-lbs torque. Cracked the front casing at the impact bearing.

            If you’re into tools and intend to actually use them, stick to Snap-On, Matco, and other reputable brands. They may cost more but you may find they last a lot longer.

          • 0 avatar

            ….If you’re into tools and intend to actually use them, stick to Snap-On, Matco, and other reputable brands. They may cost more but you may find they last a lot longer….

            Very true. Snap-On are beautifully made, but wow are they expensive. My indy shop calls them “strap-on” but hey, that’s what he buys. I have taken to buying some used Craftsman online. Sometimes you luck out and get a great buy!

          • 0 avatar

            The thing about Snap-On tools is not so much that they’re more expensive, it’s that they’re ‘outrageously’ more expensive. It’s just hard to understand why there can’t be a brand of tool that’s of decent quality, wide availability, and at a reasonable cost. That’s pretty much where Craftsman used to slot in. But, now, with Craftsman joining all the other bottom-feeders in quality, there’s just nothing.

            And Snap-On has some rather unsavory business practices, as well. A while ago, there was a lawsuit charging that Snap-On would deliberately create territories for a seller that were designed to fail. Someone would make the healthy full-price investment in a Snap-On truck and tools. After a short period of time, they would fail and Snap-On would buy back the truck and tools for a fraction of the original purchase price. Snap-On would then resell the truck and tools at the normal price to someone else, repeating the entire process at a nifty little profit each time.

          • 0 avatar

            When it comes to tools, you pretty much get what you pay for.

            In the case of Craftsman and the other brands who decided to outsource to the cheapest manufacturer, that has changed. They still charge the same but the quality of the modern tools has been cheapened.

            The difference in price usually comes from the amount of steps it takes to make a tool.

            The better tools, like a box-end wrench for instance, are cast, shaped, punched, reheated to align the steel molecules, cooled in oil, polished in a mass polisher, reheated to be tempered, cooled in oil, washed in a degreaser, dipped in a H2SO4 acid bath, washed in water, dipped in the electro-plating zinc-chromium tank, checked for quality and then packaged for retail. All those steps cost extra.

            The strength of any tool comes from the metallurgy used, and the tempering process.

            I’ve got a 1/2″ drive 18″ Breaker Bar that’s older than dirt. A buddy and I managed to bend his late-model Breaker Bar when trying to loosen bolts on his Cat D8 Dozer, with both of us pulling on it.

            We got the bolts loose using my older than dirt breaker bar. It looks like hell but it still works good.

            The difference is in the manufacturing process. If they leave out a step or two then the tool won’t cost as much. Chances are, it won’t last as long as the old ones either.

            We see manufacturers these days trying to cut corners on so many aspect of the manufacturing process. And we see it in our cars. A supplier cuts corners and the OEM car maker has to initiate a recall.

            No different in tools these days. Best thing to do is to find old quality tools or buy high-quality name-brand new ones.

            This is crucial if you make your living with tools.

    • 0 avatar

      Sears does not warranty their torque wrenches. My old one was 20+ years old when the ratchet broke. The replacement was sad, so I tried to rebuild the old one, but couldn’t calibrate it so all I had was a large ratchet. I found a nice Snap-on used and have loved their tools, even if the new price is a bit high.

      • 0 avatar

        Speaking of Torque Wrenches. I have three. One is a modern day standard set-click, the second is a smaller set-click in Nm and I also have a no-name, but solid quality “scale type” 0-120ft lbs torque wrench from before the days of set-click torque wrenches.

        It’s probably older than some of the commenters on this thread. I bought it in 1965, new, before they had set-click torque wrenches that I could afford.

        But it is sooooooo accurate! To test this I set my large set-click torque wrench to 110ft lbs when tightening the lug nuts after rotating the tires on my wife’s Grand Cherokee. Then measured it against the scale-type I used to torque the bolts, and vice versa, and voilà, both were spot on.

        Hey, this torquer is from an era where everything was eyeballed, yet it is remarkably accurate.

      • 0 avatar

        How much longer do you all think Sears will even be in business? They can’t last that much longer with the losses they keep posting.

        • 0 avatar

          My brother worked for Sears from 2003 to 2011, as the story goes Sears was effectively bankrupt in 2004 and would probably be liquidated. The only valuable assets the company still had were its brands such as Kenmore and Craftsman, a few patents, but oddly for a retailer, a massive amount of real estate as Sears owned most of its stores and the land they were built on (mostly due to their age as a company). Enter Eddie Lampert, Wall Street speculator and general sh*tbag. When K-Mart went bankrupt in 2002 Lampert had acquired most of the company and relaunched it as K-mart Holdings in 2003. He did the same to Sears in 2004/5 but in the case of Sears his target was a significant amount of real estate on the cheap. He used the Sears real estate as collateral for huge loans to his hedge fund in order to continue investing. Depending on how the companies were structured, he might be able to easily split off the assets he borrowed against and liquidate the rest, which might help explain why he doesn’t give a damn about the companies themselves.

          “While the company was in bankruptcy, ESL Investments a hedge fund controlled by Edward Lampert purchased a significant amount of Kmart’s outstanding debt.”

          “Lampert graduated from Yale University in 1984 (B.A., economics, summa cum laude), where he was a member of Skull and Bones[2][7] and Phi Beta Kappa.”

          “In July 1984, Lampert worked as an intern at Goldman Sachs, and then worked in the firm’s risk arbitrage department from March 1985 to February 1988.”

          “Lampert’s investment style can best be described as “strip and sell”, often focusing on selling properties of retail companies and parting them off rather than investing money into them.”

          “Lampert is considered responsible for forming and merging Kmart and Sears into Sears Holdings.”

          “In December 2007, columnist Herb Greenberg of Marketwatch named Lambert the worst CEO of that year.”

          “In a May 2012 Forbes magazine article, contributor Adam Hartung described Lampert as the second worst CEO/Chairman of a large publicly traded American company, saying he “has destroyed Sears” after taking over “once the most critical force in retailing” when “same-store-sales kept declining, and the stock fell out of bed dropping into the $30s in 2009 and again in 2012.” [12]

          In January 2013, it was announced that Lampert would take over as chief executive officer at Sears after Louis D’Ambrosio stepped down due to family health matters, which took effect in May 2013″

          • 0 avatar

            Interesting background. I didn’t know that.

          • 0 avatar

            The funny/sad thing is in our convoluted society complete asshats like this always get away with everything. Proles have a short memory.

          • 0 avatar

            28-Cars-Later, you may have read my comments and sentiments on this, and that is that America is changing.

            I don’t mind change if it makes America a better place. I’m not sure that the changes brought by our convoluted society are actually good for America.

            And as long as the majority rules, America always gets exactly what it deserves because we vote for it.

            For many of us, the idea is to find work-arounds to avert the changes we don’t like.

            By that I mean that in this case Sears is not getting any better any time soon because so many of its former customers have found ways to get around Sears and its merchandise.

            Even as a Craftsman aficionado, I check and double check tools before buying them.

            And sometimes, I even buy inferior tools, chuck them when they break or are no longer useful, and then buy a new tool to replace them.

            I guess that means that I, too, have to some degree joined the planned-obsolescence throw-away society.

          • 0 avatar

            The ironic part is that Sears is getting beat by Amazon and they use the same business model that made Sears so powerful. Shame though because Craftsman was so great.

          • 0 avatar


            I did not coin the term but it sums up the changes: re-feudalization. Society is moving into a pyramid formation where 50% are in abject serfdom and the other 45% or so are in some lesser form until you move into the capstone 5% of high level merchants, religious leaders, doctors, courtiers and royals. Quite a grand design.


            I agree, the irony is thick. Perhaps if Sears hasn’t become so brick and motor they would have pioneered (or partnered with Bezos) the same sort of mail order system again when they were still in a position of great strength in the 80s/early 90s.

          • 0 avatar

            28-Cars-Later, I agree!

            If you were around in the States during LBJ’s Great Society, you can actually see that the LBJ past was prologue to what is happening now.

            Up to now I thought that Jimmy Carter was the worst president in my lifetime, but I was wrong. O*ama is worse in his grand design of reshaping America.

            The capstone of the O*ama administration is the Healthcare reform which is great for about 30 million people who did not have access to healthcare coverage and who are now being enrolled into Medicaid in increasingly larger numbers (at State expense).

            But for the other 300 million of the 330 million who live in America, it’s not all that great.

            At least we have a choice when buying tools, so we can avoid the second-rate stuff. In Healthcare, not so much.

          • 0 avatar

            HDC, I think LBJ was the worst. The Great Society was the beginning of the end. It began the process of substituting government for family and private enterprise and you can see the results.

            Government now touches or controls almost everything, and therefore wants to control and displace just about everything. Unfortunately, it is bad at almost everything. Horribly expensive, inefficient, competition-free, and power mad. A true leviathan. History has repeated this sad play over and over, but we never learn. As you have said many times, this is what the people want and so this is what they get.

            I think it is a damn shame, and we are seeing the results. The worse it gets, the more government people demand, and it just gets even worse. So it goes.

            The irony is that the young people who naively vote for these traveling medicine men are the ones who will always be hammered the hardest. Today’s unfortunate college graduates are actually lucky compared to the ones who will come after.

            They are smart as hell, and can argue until dawn, but they are fools because we have let LBJ’s ideological progeny run our schools and produce generation after generation of brainwashed Great Society believers.

          • 0 avatar

            thelaine, you have expressed my sentiments exactly. Great summation to a troubled nation.

            That’s why so many people (who can) have dropped out of the American work force or otherwise find a way not to support the government with their taxes.

            It’s easier for them to kick back and ask what their country can do for them. And they don’t have to break sweat, either.

            This, of course, is not what JFK had in mind. JFK wanted to unite America into a force similar to what drew America together during WWII and resulted in the enormous industrial output and a better life for everyone.

            Not all agreed with that national economic philosophy and JFK was shot dead. That left the door open for the proponents of the Great Society and the resulting hope and change we are enjoying today.

            But as I have said before, America always gets exactly what it deserves, because we vote for it. This is what the majority wanted, and the majority rules!

            Then again, as long as the 63% participating in America’s work force today are happy paying for the lifestyle and upkeep of the non-productive remainder of the 330 million people living in America, legally and illegally, who am I to argue?

            I do my own thing. Make some chump change in cash on the side and get to keep all of it. What’s not to like. Millions of others do the very same. It’s called the underground economy, and it is HUGE.

            LG! Life is Good, as long as there is MCI (money coming in).

          • 0 avatar

            From tools to Sears and now politics. Time for this one to unsubscribe.

          • 0 avatar

            Fools hide their head in the sand. But it is not going to help. Unsubscribe or not you are fooling yourself. You have no idea how bad it is going to end, really bad and those who cannot compete will starve. I know it from my previous experience.

            Regarding Craftsman I did not have any problems with it. I gave up on US made tools because they are non-existent or simply are not affordable. Professional mechanic of course will always pay high price for tools because it is cheaper in the end. At least Craftsman is not so bad.

            The best tools I had were Russian made. They were unbreakable, survived enormous force with no dent and at the same time were affordable. But it was then. Now I guess they only sell the same Chinese crap as in US.

          • 0 avatar

            That’s like the 5th time you’ve said that, fredtal.

          • 0 avatar

            Great summary of what has happened to Sears. It’s a sad shell of what it once was. I recently read that Slimy Eddie basically split the Sears departments into divisions that all have to compete for attention and ad space in the fliers. Sears is basically a real estate company that happens to sell stuff on occasion out of their horribly outdated stores. And the most recent sad news is that he wants to sell off Land’s End and the automotive division. They’re burning cash like crazy and have no turnaround plan and a CEO that’s apparently a giant D-bag. Sounds a lot like GM circa 2008…

          • 0 avatar

            I have to add to my statement about Craftsman tools. I checked today and all my Craftsman tools are made in USA. Apparently when buying them I paid attention where they were made since I had a bad experience with Chinese made tools after just arriving to USA more than decade ago and try to avoid them. But it is not always possible. And I bought many Craftsman tools last 5 years as recently as last year. These are not a tool sets though which become too expensive if made in USA. So apparently Craftsman still makes tools in USA and they cost more than other brands. Husky socket I bought in Home Depot since I needed it right away and Sears did not have the right size, so Husky socket get dented inside after just first use, I was surprised to say the least. Similar Craftsman sockets I used over the years look and work like new. I realize though that Craftsman does not make tools it is just the brand attached to the tools made by someone else. So you still can buy USA made Craftsman tools – just do not buy sets.

          • 0 avatar

            I get great enjoyment from reading the comments of others. You can always tell the ones who care by reading their heartfelt comments; just like you can always identify the BS artists who fail to dazzle us with brilliance and instead baffle us with BS.

            I’m always amazed at how an otherwise mundane topic such as tools in this case can evolve into an exchange of ideas that includes such widely different topics as retailers, like Sears, and politics.

            What I find most interesting is how all these variants on the topic at hand are always connected by the six degrees of freedom.

            What is priceless are individual people’s experiences that lead to such a wide range of views in the comments.

            fredtal certainly is right from his perspective and interests. And he is free to tune out. I will still read whatever he offers up in comments.

            As for me, I’ll stay tuned to the topics and threads that pique my interest. To me it is better than watching live TV.

            For those who have been personally affected by the cheapening of tools and/or the changing politics in America, I look forward to reading the comments of their life experiences because I always learn something from the experiences of others.

            Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • 0 avatar

      I was never a fan of Sears. Many moons ago I purchased a pair of winter boots at Sears for about $120. Not even a month later sole unglued. Brought it in, they “repaired” it, a week later – same story. I had lost my receipt when I was moving, so I had to put boots in a garbage. After that experience, I no longer shop in Sears.

      I think I’m not alone, since in Greater Toronto Area, Sears is closing down a bunch of stores in all major shopping malls.

      • 0 avatar

        The wife still shops at Sears sometimes because they have some clothes that are decent for her. But beyond that, what’s the point or going there when their competitors have nicer stores, better quality stuff and better customer service? We did buy a Kenmore vacuum for half-price back about 8 years ago and it still works well. Used to go there once in a while to get new bags for it. Then I figured I’d see if bags were available on Amazon. Sure enough, they are! So now I buy bags and HEPA filters for it on Amazon and never have to darken their door and deal with the sad looking vacuum salesman that I felt so bad for whenever I walked past him.

        Sears (US and Canada) probably has another 5 years at the most.

        • 0 avatar

          Oh yes, bought a few Kenmore appliances on scratch-and-dent floor model discount about ten years. All of them are still going strong (having survived use by myself and by some renters during a period in which I lived in a different city).

  • avatar

    This is a favorite topic of mine. For the most part I use the big boy toys; Snap-On, Proto, Mac, Matco, Miller, Lincoln (I am a welder/fabricator on the side…) but I have had lots of luck with some cheap tools as well. Love HFs 80 amp inverter arc welder, have had a basic Pittsburgh metric 3/8 socket set go through hell and high water at my side for 15+ years, and anything from True Value’s Master Mechanic line gets my approval…nostalgia from the old man’s days.

    Best advice Sr. gave me was if the tool in question had few moving parts and was basic over all one could generally get away on the cheap. Examples- screwdrivers, hammers, pliers, etc., As with anything there was a line on how cheap one can go but this rule works for me. I am not going to get a super cheap hammer that can fail at any time, but a reasonably priced one that does what I need. I love my Pittsburgh socket set in addition to my Protos, but I’ll skip HF when it comes to power or measuring tools.

    • 0 avatar

      Take a hardware store screwdriver and compare it to a Klein and you will throw away the cheap drivers. Especially if you are doing a day’s worth of electrical work. Quality design in the grip goes a looong way toward comfort in use. Not to mention they last a long time in constant use.

  • avatar

    I’m a Journeyman Mechanic and I have three rollaways full of tools plus cabinets…

    I have many old Craftsman tools from the 50’s 60’s & 70’s , I once bought a set of mixed Craftsman wrenches and sockets from Sears , it was a plain cardboard box shipped from Miller Tool Co. ~ those were very good sockets & wrenches indeed .

    My rollaways are older , bought from retiring Mechanics .

    All Trade brand Chinese tools are pretty good .

    I have a few Harbor Freight tools , I only buy them for one use , if they outlast that I’m ahead of the game .

    Proto and Stanley is still good stuff , in my daily job I buy tools and I get Proto and Stanney instead of the crappo Chinese junk Grainger trys to push ~ they no longer sell American made scrapers for example . a sad thing indeed .

    My 40 year old Utica – Bonney torque wrench finally died so I just bought a nice Proto from Grainger and expect to have no troubles with it .

    I was lucky in that I grew up at the elbow of WWII Vets working in shops , gas stations , garages and dealers , you can bet when they talked , I listened closely .


  • avatar

    My family owned a store where we sold really good stuff, like Wright and Diamond, and some screwdrivers that looked exactly like the best Craftsman ones that said “Vanadium Tool Company”. Those were great screwdrivers that were the perfect combination of toughness and hardness. I still have a few of them over 40 years later and they still look and work great. We also sold some real junky stuff, like “Enkay”, which we joked meant North Korea. I think that stuff was from Taiwan, but it might have been Hong Kong. The wrenches were so bad we quit carrying them, they were going to break, for sure. The pliers and stuff were ok, but badly finished and if you got a pair of Enkay wire cutters that had the jaws line up perfectly, you hit the lottery! There would be one or two of these in every order, the rest weren’t so good. I still have a pair of pliers that are still usable. The Diamond stuff was like some kind of cult item, it would be gone in a couple of days. They made great stuff, their Crescent type wrenches were the best I’ve ever seen. I have a few Diamond wrenches I bought on Ebay.

    Recently, I went to some hardware store that was going out of business and most of the high end stuff had been picked through, but they had a Channel Lock tool set that was about $70 on Ebay and at Costco (These were smallers sets with the same tools) for $30. It’s actually pretty decent stuff. A friend bought the same set and the only thing that’s trashed itself is one of the phillips screwdriver bits. The set is like this one, but it has a 1/2″ drive ratchet and sockets too. He’s used the hell out of them and they have done very well, especially considering the price:

  • avatar

    Harbor Freight Strut Spring Compressor… junk…..didn’t even work the first time without damage. Then I had to figure how to get the spring out. Went to O’Reilly’s and got the old school free rental tool. Worked like a charm.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve found the online reviews on Harbor Freight’s website invaluable. I’ve had very good luck with HF products that have solid good reviews. I’ve also gotten burned every time when I tried my luck with a tool that had bad reviews. The Single Action Strut Spring Compressor gets pretty bad reviews.

      • 0 avatar

        Strut spring compressor… I’d be extra extra careful shopping for one of those, only because of how badly you can get bit with springs and stored energy gone wrong (valve spring compressor too- I almost lost my front teeth monkeying around with a homemade rig for doing this).

        Sorry to hear your purchase didn’t work out; glad to hear there wasn’t any injury.

    • 0 avatar

      I do like buying Harbor Freight screwdrivers for work (I work in IT, including desktop hw support) because invariably stuff gets lost or “borrowed”. Harbor Freight is cheap enough not to miss.

  • avatar

    “Likewise, Sears has subtly altered their ‘unlimited’ warranty. In some cases (ratchets, mostly), you no longer get a brand-new tool to replace a broken one, but, instead, get a refurbished/rebuilt tool. In fact, they might even now require a receipt (it’s definitely a requirement for the Evolv tool ‘unlimited’ warranty).”

    Last time I ever visited a Sears (a few years ago) was to return a broken tool that I hardly had even used. The counter guy looked at it and said “sorry, nothing we can do.” I said, really? Over the door it says “satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.” He said, oh, “that’s just a slogan, we really don’t do that.” I looked at my wife and said, “hmmm, I think the Attorney General’s office would find that interesting.” The guy sighed, opened the cash register, and gave me my money back.


  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I don’t know if you get those cheap Indian spanners (wrenches). I buy them for work away from my controlled ‘zone’. That’s out back doing the more mundane simple work.
    We have a chain in Australia called SuperCheap Auto that sells them.

    They actually were very cheap, if I remember $15 for both metric and imperial from quarter inch to one and half inch.

    Couldn’t break one. They are very thin like a Snap On as well.

    India actually has relatively good metallurgy, they look a little unfinished, actually a lot not a wow look at me product. But great tools for the price.

  • avatar

    To answer the op’s original questions… For #1 I can’t really think of anything specifici but I do remember when car batteries were so damned cheap that we’d throw them away or dump them behind the barn. Now that pile would be worth a couple thousand dollars.

    For number two it’s a little melancholy because growing up my dad always used decent quality tools for working on he cars, trucks and farm equipment. He believed in buying the best he could afford and using then for a long time.
    Nothing exotic but he definitely took advantage of the tool replacement at Sears….side note he drove around all day as a patrol cop so hardly a day went buy without brining something home he had picked up out of the street.

    Unfortunately by the time I was about twenty he had started buying the cheap Chinese junk… And often giving them to me as gifts. This was the stuff from the early 90’s with crappy metallurgy, even worse tolerances, some cast pliers and flashing on everything. I know he likes a bargain but it was just such a rejection of the buy-once-cry-once philosophy I grew with his espousing that it was kinda depressing.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back in 1978 I bought a Husky brand set of sockets with ratchet. I have used them on the 1970 Mustang that I bought then and every car I have owned since. Made in the US, they still hold up to this day. Back in the 80’s when I needed a metric set since the cars I owned used both SAE and Metric I bought an additional set that has also held up well. It pays to buy quality tools.

  • avatar

    Our Canadian Tire had Black Thursday sale. I picked up two 5L jugs of their house brand (Formula 1) synthetic oil for $18/ea. ($42 reg.), – cheapest that I can remember and got a 9-piece wobble extension set for $10 (down from $40).

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