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Harbor Fright 20 ton hyd press -- any good?

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wittsend View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wittsend Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/28/2020 at 10:45pm
My HF 20 ton press is 20+ years old. I bought it off my neighbor back in 2000 ($100) and I have no idea how long he had it. I'm not sure if they made them better back then or they are still the same today (maybe Taiwan rather than China?). The basic metal structure is good. But, every HF bottle jack I've had eventually leaks. I put a pie pan under the jack to contain the eventual leaking.

They are great to have and absolutely necessary at times. But in the past 15 years (after I had a primary need) I've used it three times. Once to slightly bend an exhaust for better fitment, once my neighbor pressed on a few bearings and more recently I pressed off a steel Corvair cylinder barrel that was for lack of a better description was "welded" with rat urine to the aluminum head.

 As someone else mentioned the spread is rather narrow. I had to clamp two metal plates under the press catching "nubs" on the cylinder barrel. To deal with the combustion chamber step I filled a baggy with dry Pourstone, trimmed the corners off a wooden 4x4 and with much trepidation (those nubs holding the cylinder are pretty small) liberated the cylinder and head.

So, there are "workarounds" but you need a lot of scrap "stuff" and a bit of ingenuity at times.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote CamJam Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/28/2020 at 11:19pm
I've been very tempted to buy that same press several times now.  Finding a place to put it in my tiny garage it is my problem. 

I do think in general HF stuff is getting better, or maybe just everyone else is selling cheap Chinese crap too so I'm getting used to it. I bought a tool cabinet there recently that is as nice as others selling for twice as much, and their Black Widow paint spray gun is a bargain at under $200. 

Generally though, they're my go to place for tools that you might use only once a year, so you don't want to tie up a lot of money in them, but when you need 'em, you need 'em.  My HF transmission jack is a perfect example, though I've found it to be very handy for removing gas tanks, etc. too.

Buyer beware is still the best strategy though.


Edited by CamJam - Apr/29/2020 at 10:21pm
'72 Baja Bronze Javelin SST
'69 Big Bad Orange AMX (2018 Teague Heritage Award winner) SOLD
'70 Opel GT
'07 BMW 335i
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wittsend View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote wittsend Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/29/2020 at 4:36pm
"... in general HF stuff is getting better, or maybe just everyone else is selling cheap Chinese crap too so I'm getting used to it."

I feel similar. I think manufacturers of decent tools compete in the high end where money is little or no object. Or..., they compete with Harbor Freight on the low end. Across the middle there probably isn't much quality difference for the money.  I tend to pick tools up at swap meets etc.. I'm finding that 70's-90's Taiwanese tools (True Craft, Crew Line) NOW seem rather decent. Honestly I can't tell a difference between them and my Craftsman.

And, yes, when you will use a tool once, maybe twice in a lifetime you get much better return on the investment with the HF version. I've had the good fortune of living within 10 miles of the Harbor Freight main warehouse (it has since, unfortunately, been moved to the Inland Empire). Parking Lot sales have provided 60 gallon 3HP compressors for $80, $100 Lathes, $50 drain cleaners to mention just a few items. So, I'm a bit bias that I REALLY have gotten a return for investment on my money at HF. Still some of the HF stuff is crap. And as you say, Buyer Beware.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tomj Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/29/2020 at 9:42pm
I'm probably gonna go look at it, likely buy it. ANother tactic for this sort of tool is overkill. Get one bigger than claimed need, assuming that if it meets the alleged spec, its probably just barely. My "1200 lb" trailer is probably safe for 800 or 1000. Rather than a 10 ton press occasionally over-stressed which we know ain't good.

I dont' think limited stroke will hurt me. AMC rear axles is one limit size-wise, then a bunch of small things like de-dinging bumpers, lug studs, that sort of stuff, bending metal, is all short workign stroke. If the axle will clear the floor I'm fine there.

Then I get new things like dimpling holes, punching holes, etc. 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mopar_guy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Apr/29/2020 at 9:51pm
I just used mine again on Sunday pressing new bearings on my mowers spindles. I even straightened a slightly bent blade too. Big smile

"Hemilina" My 1973, 5.7 Hemi powered Javelin
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Japjack53 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul/29/2020 at 10:09pm
I have one in my shop and it works just as good as any other press. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hemirambler Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul/29/2020 at 11:52pm
We had a POS press at work. One night I was there late pressing a steel hub into an aluminum housing.  I ended up FOLDING the pins!  The GAP between the columns and the bed was SO LARGE there was enough room to simply fold the pins!  I wasn't cranking real hard or anything - nothing really tippe dme off other than I had given it a few pumps where the sleeve did NOT appear to go any further into the aluminum. Seemed strange so I took a mental step back and then saw the folded over pins. The GAP BTW was HUGE.   Point of the story is simply that those pins are intended to be in SHEAR not BENDING. A Poorly manufactured press that ignores this fact isn't worth dragging home.  Most everything else is either longevity or ease of use and only YOU can determine what matters and if so how much it matters.   Good Luck.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tomj Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul/30/2020 at 12:04am
Originally posted by Hemirambler Hemirambler wrote:

...  Point of the story is simply that those pins are intended to be in SHEAR not BENDING.

I think I got it... You're absolutely right, "shear" means zero leverage, yeah, no (close) gap! Ill watch. Haven't bought the !@$#@#$ thing yet... but haven't forgotten either. The projects for it are still stacked up.

1961 roadster american, 195.6 OHV, T5
1968 american, 199ci, T14
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Steve_P Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul/31/2020 at 11:26am
The problem with HF is that the people that run it don't know anything about tools, or at least using tools. For an extra $5 they could make this press 2" deeper and compete with the $600+ presses. And for an extra $1 they could make their hydraulic jacks last. With respect to the jacks, I'm sure they know this and it's planned obsolescence- the customer will buy a new one every 5-10 years when it leaks.

If you want a new 20T press and don't want to spend $600+ then the HF is the only choice.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mac VP Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug/03/2020 at 6:21pm
I bought the 20 ton version from local HF store about 12-13 years ago. The jack lasted about a year and a half. I bought the same jack from them at the same time and it’s been working perfectly ever since. Don’t be tempted to buy the 10 ton press.....it’s nearly the same size and close to the same price. You might need the extra capacity once in awhile and curse your cheapness for not spending the little extra for double the pressing power. Over time you’ll accumulate an interesting collection of random bits of steel and aluminum blocks, short pieces of round stock, and old bearing races for pressing on parts. A 5 gallon plastic pail is the dedicated operator station. You’ll wonder how you ever did without one.
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