Harbor Freight Review: Air Tools

A four gallon hotdog style air compressor was purchased about ten years ago, primarily for running a Grizzly brad nailer and occasionally inflating tires.  But with more and more car care projects, it would be nice to have some air powered tools.  To have the compressor run less would be an added benefit to upgrading.  So, it seems like the thing to do, but it can be quite expensive to get set up with the gear.  Best to just dip the toes into this.

Project Goal
Install an air system that will take up little floor space, not be too loud and be able to support air tools (for both mechanics and woodworking tools).  Do all this while utilizing the existing 110v 20A circuit.  Lastly, purchase items in such a way that can be upgraded over time.

The “Kit”
To begin with, a new compressor is in order and is at the heart of this system.  I purchased a Harbor Freight air compressor (67847) on sale for about $165.

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A couple notes about this compressor.  First, it should be transported vertically, laying it down will cause the oil to shift inside the compressor pump.  If laying down for an extended period of time, then it must be stood vertically for a few hours to allow the oil to settle.  Failure to do so could seize the pump.  Second, after it has run a few times, change the oil.  The oil inside must be some sort of break-in oil, it’s quite dirty.  As seen in the pictures below, the oil is nearly black (it should be gold in color and translucent).  The oil used is the recommended Harbor Freight compressor oil.

To change the oil, remove the Philips screw that is located under the oil level indication window and remove the fill cap on top.  It will take a few minutes to completely drain out.

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Part of the “kit” purchase was an impact wrench, hose reel, impact socket set, rubber air hose and a few quick connector sets.

Quick connector sets don’t seem to be one hundred percent compatible with one another, and the Harbor Freight variety are no different.  They’re cheap enough, best just to replace them all with the new ones.  That avoids any leaks, the connectors are air tight and work great.

The impact wrench is inexpensive, and for removing lug nuts, it works well enough.  But it’s definitely air hungry, and requires the pressure to be higher than the advertized 90 psi.  It occasionally gets stuck and needs to be manually spun around to get it going.  Not sure of that’s a defect or a air pressure problem.

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Lastly is the hose reel. Heavy gauge steel, very well constructed with airtight fittings.  For the price, it cannot be beat but I do wish I had purchased the automatic retractable type due to limited space.  I would rather pull down from the ceiling as apposed to having it mounted to the wall.

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Final Thoughts
These items are a good way to get started.  Using the impact wrench and a couple angle grinders that I already had on hand are going to push this compressor to it’s limit if used a lot.  Intermittent use will probably be ok.  A 60 gallon 2 stage would be ideal, but space and power are an issue for that.

What would be differently?  The retractable hose reel mounted to the ceiling with a hard line going to the compressor.  Otherwise this is a solid purchase.

UPDATE 24AUG14:  Ok, the impact driver is worthless.  Returning it today.  Working on the Audi, it was incapable of remove the lug-nuts, even with the pressure set to the maximum, 90 PSI.  Turning the air regulator knob (on the impact driver) did not have too much of an effect either.  At times it would not even spinning without first twisting the socket.  Reading reviews about this device are almost uniformly negative… time to return it and get a better unit.



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