By on May 20, 2020

If your vehicle spends any time — or will spend any time — suspended on jack stands bought from Harbor Freight, heed this warning: those stands might not suspend anything.

The company has issued recalls on its 3-ton and 6-ton jack stands, sold under the Pittsburgh name, out of fear they could collapse suddenly.

Carrying item numbers 56371, 61196, and 61197, the seen-everywhere jack stands first showed up in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documentation back in March (6-ton) and earlier in May (3-ton). The affected products go back way further, however.

The beefier of the two stands under recall was produced from 2013 to 2019, while the 3-ton model saw production for the past eight years, starting in 2012. The units affected number into the millions.

“For certain units of the Pittsburgh Automotive 3 Ton and 6 Ton Heavy Duty Steel Jack Stands there is a potential, while under load and with a shift in weight, for the pawl to disengage from the extension lifting post, allowing the stand to drop suddenly,” Harbor Freight said in its warning. “This condition could cause serious injury for people near or under a lifted vehicle, and/or damage to property.”

It might be worth taking a trip to the garage and looking at those item numbers. Pass word along to your friends, too. If your jacks prove suspect, Harbor Freight will accept their return at any of its (opened) local stores. You’ll be handed a gift card that’s equivalent to the original purchase price.

[Image: Harbor Freight]

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44 Comments on “PSA: Check Those Jack Stands...”


  • avatar
    tylanner

    This “Adjustable” mechanism is inherently unstable.

    I’m going with threaded or pinned jacks from now on…

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    I only invest in jack stands equipped with Bluetooth, touch controls and forced induction… –hair flip–

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    I’m with Tool Guy. If it ain’t hi-tech, it just ain’t.

  • avatar
    retrocrank

    Yet another gift from China?

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Yeah, a product sold by Harbor Freight under the brand name of some random American city… gee I wonder what the “Made in _____” label says, let’s have a look see, shall we? (Checks label.) Holy moly, knock me over with a feather!!

      I’m sure the Chinese Communist Party, if asked, would certify these as perfectly safe. Hahahaha (sad, tragic laugh)

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      Voluntarily purchased by freedom-loving Americans.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        @Secret Hi5, I’d give you a +1 or a like if we had that in the TTAC comment system. We need only look in the mirror to find who is to blame for low quality stuff… and by the same token I believe the best solution to the problem also starts by looking in the mirror, not by expecting someone else to solve the problem for us.

        (thumbs up emoji goes here)

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Hmmmm..a questionable jackstand from Harbor Freight!

      In other news, water is wet!

      Admittedly, I skipped most of the article, figuring these Comments are gonna be worthy of a guffaw or seven!

      • 0 avatar
        RHD

        You have to assume that anything bought from Harbor Freight will sooner or later not do what it supposedly is intended to do.

        Check out their “150 PSI” air compressor, which sells for less than ten bucks. It couldn’t inflate a soccer ball.

    • 0 avatar
      Old_WRX

      More of a gift from an American company that moved manufacturing off-shore to cut costs. Quality of design and manufacture is entirely the responsibility of Harbor Freight. They were almost certainly manufactured in China to Harbor Freight’s specs.

      • 0 avatar
        pwrwrench

        Old_WRX, Yes. China, or any manufacturing country, will build anything you want. Good functioning products or cheap junk. That’s the choice of who is running the show. In this case, Harbor Freight, that is headquartered in California, USA.

  • avatar
    multicam

    Oh yes, I saw this on the Jeep forums. Lots of people there need theirs replaced.

    The first thing I noticed on the image was the text reading “…WITH THE ITEMS #61196, 69917, or 56371” -That should read “…WITH THE ITEM NUMBERS 61196, 69917, AND 56371.” Steph got this right; the fact that they didn’t does not instill confidence. Just like this whole thing doesn’t instill confidence in the generic jack stands I bought in 2012 (not from harbor freight) that resemble these. For all I know, they were sourced from the same factory in China. Luckily I don’t use them anymore as I have access to a real lift.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’m sure the owners of these jacks are just crushed to hear about this…

    (Seriously, a self-collapsing jack is really, REALLY bad.)

  • avatar
    JMII

    I have some of the HF blue aluminum stands which are similar but no recall on those (yet). As mentioned the pawl system has always seems a bit iffy to me. For brake pad changes I have the stands at their lowest setting so the pawl is out of the equation and I feel much safer. Any time I have to be fully under the car (fluid change, exhaust work, etc) I go with ramps or wheel cribs.

    One of the best setups I’ve seen are these: http://www.jackpointjackstands.com/

    • 0 avatar
      retrocrank

      I think those things are beautiful. Like SCE, two sets of steel 30+ year old Craftsman stands have done yeoman’s duty over the years, and work well for most purposes. But everytime I have to lift the 911 I swear I’m going to sell a kidney and buy a set of the Jackpoint stands. Just haven’t done it yet…

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Harbor Freight is for tools that you only need to use once and you don’t mind busting your knuckles in that one use because a real version of that tool is really expensive. Not really somewhere I’d buy something like jack stands or an engine hoist. You don’t always have to shell out for Snap On or that level, but if a tool is that much cheaper than everyone else’s, there is probably a reason.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “Harbor Freight is for tools that you only need to use once and you don’t mind busting your knuckles in that one use”

      Nonsense. Yeah they have some cheap stuff that’s less than great, but I’m finding they’ve upped their game big time over the last few years as their new in house brands have come in to replace some of the old “Chicago Electric” stuff. I buy almost exclusively at HF, have not gotten burned yet. I will say I bought a Chicago Electric cordless impact three years ago that ended up having a very weak battery rather quickly, they’ve since come out with much better units.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Your Mileage May Vary. I have way too many busted knuckles without the collapsing jack stands to go back and the house brands at places like Home Depot and Lowe’s while again, not up to Snap on and MAC level are just much nicer.

        Honestly I haven’t used Snap on or MAC in years so they may be expensive crap for all I know, but they used to be nice. I do have a ratchet/socket set that is supposedly made by Snap On that is a few years old (Blue Point) and it is very good quality, but I didn’t buy it so it may be very expensive as well.

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        Harbor Freight has changed more in the past 40 years than many people realize.

        My favorite ‘low tech, low risk’ Harbor Freight tools (old standbys):
        • 1654 Pry Bar Set [all these item numbers are representative]
        • 68339 Pry Bar Set
        • 60819 Breaker Bar (one of these goes in every trunk along with the correct deep-well socket for changing a tire)
        • Also ball-peen hammers, nylon pry bars, step bits and clamps
        • And box-end wrenches you plan to cut off and grind down to fit in a tight spot

        The ‘it works, why pay more’ category:
        • The ‘nice’ tool cabinets they have now
        • Floor jacks
        • 63882 Torque Wrench (neighbor asked about borrowing, I gave him his own)
        • 63807 “Zurich” OBD2 Code Reader

        The ‘wow they have stepped it up’ category (and priced higher):
        • 62332 Professional Flex Head Long Handle Ratchet
        • “Doyle” pliers (ex. 63811)
        • 63958 “Braun” Magnetic Slim Bar Folding LED Work Light
        • 63990 “Braun” Underhood Rechargeable Work Light

        I knew a guy with a Snap-On truck ten years ago – at that time he said ‘If you work with your tools every day and you *don’t* buy Snap-On, you’re dumb, if you *don’t* work with them all the time and you *do* buy Snap-On, you’re dumb.’

        In 2020, you can’t just buy the brand – *everyone* sources from all over. I get a lot of my favorite tools from Amazon these days, but you need to know what you’re looking at. My Mitutoyo calipers are genuine Japanese. My Knipex pliers are genuine German. Some of my favorite stuff comes from Taiwan.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          My personal politics will gladly spend my money on stuff from Taiwan (as well as Germany and Japan), but not mainland China.

        • 0 avatar
          retrocrank

          Eric Jones (older Columbus gearheads will remember one of his shops depending on the dial phone or touch-tone phone era) claimed the advantage of Mac and Snap-on wasn’t that the tools might or might not have been better quality than made-in-USA Craftsman, but he paid for Snap-On because the guy came to his shop when things broke and kept him supplied. He didn’t have to take revenue-time to run down out to Sears to trade in the busted wrench. He had little use for stuff from Harbor Freight or the like, except as projectiles.

          • 0 avatar
            psychoboy

            The trade off is (was), I always know where Sears is, and I don’t have to wait a week for it to come by my shop trying to collect on a tool box payment to get the tool fixed/swapped.

            Of course, with Sears going tits up and Craftsman becoming a Lowe’s brand, I’m not sure the bargain is the same these days.

            Still, I use HF for tools that I know I’m about to use improperly and murder in horrific ways.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          The Snap On stuff was definitely high quality, but among the techs I worked with (admittedly this was way back in the mid 90’s) part of the appeal also was that the Snap On dude would basically let you take out a mortgage for your tools. You could really spread the payments out. That was a long time ago though so who knows now.

          But your Snap On guy’s assessment seems logical and if I am honest with what I’m using them for nowadays HF tools are probably fine, unless of course the jack stands drop the car on me. I do prefer other brands though for the most part though with respect to stuff like ratchets or something like a torque wrench.

      • 0 avatar
        Carrera

        Agree with GTEM. I would say that their tools are not for professional use but they they can be used a good number of times per year (occasional use).

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Are they worth hauling back for a refund? What are they $2.99?

    Mine were always free at Sears when I bought a floor jack. Or doesn’t anyone go to flea markets anymore? Yeah they’re still closed, but I’ve never paid more that $5 a set.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    HF stuff is like everything from China.
    The quality spans a broad spectrum from excellent to awful.

  • avatar
    gtem

    I learned a long time ago to always slide a wheel under the car whenever I was working with jackstands, and/or leaving the jack (lowered a smidge so it’s not bearing weight). depending on the vehicle and rim width you might still get pinned under the car, but that 6-7 inches should keep you alive until help arrives.

    I need to check, I have smaller and larger jackstands, both of this brand.

    • 0 avatar
      retrocrank

      Early on in my car games, a mechanic friend of mine would sometimes come by to help or laugh, as appropriate. Early on, I had the car up on stands one day trying to solve some thorny problem, and my friend stops by, first time he’s been to my house and needing to crawl under the car. He was large guy, probably 250 pounds. He takes a few steps and solidly body checks the jacked up car. Of course as the novice in the room I worried he’d knock the car off the stands (it didn’t budge). His of course logical and experienced response was that he wouldn’t get under a jacked up car that would not withstand a hard hit. 33 years later I still do that everytime, and it still makes me nervous every time.

      • 0 avatar
        Cactuar

        I’m a DIY-er and this is what I do.
        I give the car a good shove by pushing with the side of my body on the wheels.

        I use pin style jack stands because what I want is simplicity.
        A ratcheting system has the potential of letting go and I’m not gambling my life on that stuff.
        One large pin in a simple hole, good enough.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I too give the vehicle a good push in multiple directions after I put it up.

      A youtube video embedded in this thread shows how poorly made the defective units are.

      https://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/threads/harbor-freight-jack-stand-recall.1190041/page-3

      Hopefully any that could fail would be as obviously defective as that. All my stands – 3-ton and 6-ton sets from both Princess Auto and Canadian Tire – at least appear to be manufactured properly, with fully formed ratchet teeth, and they stay firmly locked in place no matter how I move the cradle.

      I rarely use 3-ton stands. Only if the 6-ton are too tall to work. I also don’t like extending them near the maximum. I bought my buddy two pairs of 12-ton stands after seeing him work under his diesel 2500 pickup held up by fully-extended 6-ton stands.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    “It’s hard to pay a little and get a lot.” – Peter Drucker

  • avatar
    macmcmacmac

    Had to check…..yup, exactly the same as my Princess Auto 3ton stands I bought back in the early aughts. What a bunch of ripoff artists.. /sarc

    So do I assume they are ok? The only jack I had fail was an OEM Volvo unit which gracefully folded over on itself sideways. I could not believe such a shoddily made device came from a company which so vigorously pumped up its safety image

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I’ve got Sears Craftsman ones that look nearly identical.

    It’s probably time I just got rid of those too.

    So the question becomes… what brands are well made in Germany or Japan or USA or Canada etc?

    Will add that I also either double up the jack stands (not quite touching but if one fails it falls on the backup) and also keep the floor jack under the jack point and just barely touching. Again, if stand falls car rests on jack at least long enough to get out from under the car and change my underpants.

    • 0 avatar
      milkman

      USJack are made in the US of US materials ($180 shipped for 6 ton stands). Hein Werner are assembled in the US of global materials, but they are owned by Shinn Fu of Taiwan (100 shipped for 6 ton stands. Can’t vouch for quality of either as I just ordered the USJacks.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Oh, crap .

    I wonder where I got my ratcheting jack stands, I keep them out in the weather so they have little paint left and zero part # decals….

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Polka King

    I was always scared of those kinds of stands.

  • avatar
    Schurkey

    Anyone buying from Hazard Fraught deserves what they get. It’s well-known that they sell bottom-feeder junk. “Tool-Shaped Objects” (i.e., not actual tools, but they look like tools) IS THEIR SPECIALTY. Expecting “not junk” is unreasonable.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      How much wrenching do you do? Have you ever seen or used any of their tools up close?

      • 0 avatar
        Schurkey

        “How much wrenching do you do?”

        Everything from oil changes to engine and trans overhauls. Plus fixing crap around the house. 10 years in the auto-repair industry, 13 years assembling City Buses, primarily in the Engine and the Rear Axle departments. (Now retired.)

        “Have you ever seen or used any of their tools up close?”

        I know a guy that buys their junk. I’ve seen some of it. It’s garbage. I bought an air-ratchet from them thirty years ago. So gutless I could stop the socket from turning with my hand.

        If the tool says “Made In China” on it, that’s all I need to know. Tool-Shaped Objects (Looks like a tool, but isn’t) are epidemic; much like their Made-In-Wuhan virus. Similar results, too: People die.

        Continuing to trade with Communist China is insane. We never should have started. OUR politicians and businesses have built their military and funded their evil.

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