Cheap tools cost you in the story.....

gregd(6)September 16, 2008

This story is for all of you who come to this forum for advice on power tools. I know it's hard to resist a $99 gas blower or a $149 chainsaw. It looks good there on the shelf at Sears or Home Depot. PLEASE, DON'T DO IT. Walk away. You're throwing your money away if you buy cheap gas powered tools.

How many times have I read "I can't afford a $400 chainsaw" on this forum? Lots. Yet, this person (me) will buy the $200 chainsaw, fight it for a few years and then go buy the $400 one. So, for $600 I got a great $400 chainsaw. Such a deal!

I've thrown away hundreds of dollars with this thinking. I thought I was saving money, but really, I was wasting it and giving my self problems and headaches at the same time.

Yesterday I finally threw away my last gas-powered Craftsman tool. I'm now free from cheap 2 cycle powered yard tools, and it feels great!!!!

It was a 20" chainsaw that my wife bought me as a gift 6 years ago. Even by then I had sworn off cheap tools and I probably should have returned it at the time, but I figured that for my limited wood cutting it would probably work fine.

I was wrong.

For 6 years I've fought this thing. Mainly difficult starting and stalling. My arms would be sore and my hand blistered from pulling the starter cord countless times. Oh, and then there were the carb adjusting screws that vibrated out of adjustment, which would cause stalling. I had to keep a small screwdriver in my pocket and reset the thing every 5 minutes. So handy when trying to clean up after a storm. It used an odd-sized chain as well, which was hard to find and expensive when you did find it. And the automatic oiler would continue to work even when the thing sat in the case, which meant a nice puddle of bar oil would greet you when you went to use it again. Pure garbage.

My other "Craftsman" experience was with their gas blowers........why did it take me so long to learn? I'd get maybe 2 years from one before the carb mounting screws would break off in the engine head. The last one I bought lasted one whole year before it lost compression. But the $99 price sucked me in. Pure garbage. Why Sears continues to sell this crapola is beyond me. I avoid their stuff now like the plague.

I've converted. I've learned that spending a few more bucks on a quality piece of equipment is the only way to go. They last longer and they WORK!

My yard equipment now carries names the likes of Echo, Stihl and John Deere (not the Home Depot version, thank you.) Each one was somewhat painful to pay for, but the rewards continue every time you pull the starter cord or turn the key. The controls are in the right locations, the fuel and oil caps can be removed without vicegrips, they don't vibrate themselves out of adjustment, and did I mention that THEY WORK???????

My last bit of advice is this: Patronize your local power equipment dealer--avoid the big box stores. The advice and expertise of the people who sell and service QUALITY power equipment is really overlooked these days. Today's society is so focused on price that we screw ourselves out of a very important part of buying any expensive product-SERVICE.

Yesterday I went to my local Stihl dealer. (After I threw the Craftsman saw in the trash.) A nice lady greeted me and asked me what I needed.

"I just threw my chainsaw in the garbage. I need a good one," I said.

She smiled, "Ahh. Let me guess....Homelite?"

"No," I replied.

"Poulan?" she asked.

"No, even better-a Craftsman," I told her.

"Yep, we hear that pretty often."

She then took her time to explain (in detail) the differences between the models, and even shared her experiences with her Stihl saw (15 years old and running strong.) When I made my selection, she gassed it up and made sure it ran properly and gave me a few tips for keeping my new purchase running like new.

(Try to even find someone at Home Depot who's even used a chainsaw, then ask them if they'd mind gassing up and testing that Wild Thing before you take it home. Go ahead, try it!!)

Okay, I've ranted long enough.

I'm sure lots of you will go to the box store and buy cheap anyway. Oh well, you'll have to learn like I did. That's life.

If I save a few of you from doing the dumb things I have done, then well this was time well spent.

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Gregd, I mostly agree with you. My father buys all his hand tools (power and non power) from those traveling tool shows. He has gone through 5 or 6 cordless drills, while I still have the same craftsman that I bought 10 years ago.

but when it comes to outdoor power equiptment, I couldnt agree with you more. BUY FROM A DEALER, not HD/Lowes. Sears isn't bad, I bought my husqvarna 142 there, but I wish I had bought it from the dealer.

That said, I have a $69 Ryobi string trimmer that is just wrapping up its 3rd summer and have had ZERO problems with it. Stuff like that can be hit or miss though.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2008 at 7:37AM
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I too refuse to buy from Sears. I bought a Lawn mower from them and the 19.5 Hp B&S threw a rod through the block at the end of the first year (why would briggs make an engine that big without a pressurized oil system? More important, why was I stupid enough buy it?). Service? Yeah, they'll come out and look at it for 50 bucks but told me straight up over the phone that they'll tell me I run it outta oil (I didn't). I asked them if I could bring it in, they said their service shop was too small. I offered to take the engine off and bring it in, again no. In the end, the local store said to call corporate, corporate said to call the local store, and I gave up after a dozen rounds. After the mess, I sent a letter to customer service about how angry I was and how I wouldn't be back to a store except to replace hand tools as they break. Not so much as a response acknowledging the letter. I still have the lawn mower at my FIL's farm in case they get some 11th hour pang of remorse - not likely.

Big box stores don't care about customers past getting them sucked into buying their crap. They think in terms of thousands of customers, not individuals. I quit going there, who cares? You quit going there, who cares? They only listen if we ALL quit going there.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2008 at 8:55AM
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davidandkasie(Z8 MS)

back in '04 we bought 2 acres to build a house on. i had a 6k credit line with Deere and planned on using it to buy a GOOD Garden Tractor. well, the boss lady put her foot down and i had to settle for spending 2900 on a L130 LOW END LAWN TRACTOR. the next year we ended up buying a house 1 street over on 4 acres and selling the original 2 acre lot. fast forward to this summer, i just spent nearly 6000.00 on a X500 GARDEN TRACTOR. now, if she had let me spend wisely before, i would not have paid nearly 3k for somethign that i have almost completely killed.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2008 at 2:50PM
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green_valley(7 TX)

Cheap man pays the most. Usually twice at a minimum.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2008 at 4:48PM
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A disabled neighbor always had me do the spring tune-up on his lawn tractor, a Craftsman. Had a Kohler engine. So, every spring, i'd go get it, bring it home, do the usual things on it, and take it back, charging only for materials, etc.
This spring, aftr his son in law had messed with it, trying to get it started, and getting everything out of adjustment, they called me, i went and got it, got it running, and took it back!
Several weeks later-son-in-law fooled around with it(I think he's a nut case) and it didn't start, so they called Sears to come fix it! After Sears Repair got done with it, they had a large bill to pay! Of course, it had to have a carburetor (not) a new drive belt (not) a new mower belt (not) and a new battery! I don't know how big the bill was, but the neighbors wife was crying to me about how much it cost for repairs! I just shrugged my shoulders, and said:"Ya get whut ya pay for!" This after all i had done over the past years, for next to nothing!
Oh, well, live and learn. It hasn't soured me on helping others, but that family had better marry into Sears family, because they've gotten all they're going to get from me!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2008 at 5:31PM
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Well, I have yet to wear a weedeater out any brand!?! Do you know how much a dealer charges for repairs?? Sorry I'll buy the crappie homelite weedeater for NOW 69 bucks at walmark to do my little yard before I would pay about 70 bucks or more after the add ons for a carb. overhaul (if you can find someone to do it that knows how)(besides the cheap Zama carb. on everything sells new for about 45 bucks retail probably 15 dealer cost). Been there and done that in my early years and it didn't run a week afterwards.

If I can't fix it it goes in the trash and I buy another cheap ##$ one, but wait I've got 6 Cheap ##$ ones hanging in the garage I got out of the trash and fixed for less than 8 bucks. So keep throwing them away so somebody can scronge them up and get another 10 years out of them.

If you can't fix them there ALL expensive!!!!! except when you got a friend like rusty.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2008 at 8:13PM
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The only cheap tool I've had luck with is my remanufactured ryobi 775r trimmer. Its just about rapped up its 7th year. I keep waiting for it to die, but runs like the day I got it. Now the McCollough chain saw I have. Lets see, cleaned the carb, replaced fuel lines, adjusted the carb and now it runs fine, but the oiler leaks. Can't leave any oil in the tank. Not to mention the cork gasket in the cap is bad. I'm glad I didn't pay anything for this saw. I'm gonna run it out of gas, and put it on the self. Don't really need it and every time I go to fire it up, something else is wrong. Thank god my my stihl saw. Starts every time and doesn't leak.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2008 at 8:19AM
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Condeming all cheaper tools is foolish. I have cheap tools that serve me well. If you want to go out and buy commercially rated tools go right ahead. The average homeowner would be a nut to spend that much. If this is just another chance to bash Craftsman I understand.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2008 at 3:10PM
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I my experience, Craftsman 2 stroke tools are excellent for homeowners who rarely use them.

I'm not slamming all cheap tools. I've bought some cheap specialized tools (spring compressor, pittman arm puller, etc.) that served me well for jobs I do rarely.

I am not a commercial user. I do have 1.5 acre yard that is heavily treed. When a storm blows a tree down, I do not want to waste time having to retune a chainsaw when the carb adjusting screws vibrate out of adjustment. I don't want to waste time figuring out why a blower with 5 hours of use has lost compression.

When a carb screw breaks off in a blower engine and I'm basically screwed for the day, I get ticked off.

What is your time worth? Some here have plenty of time to monkey around with a broken saw and get it nursed back to health.

I don't. I'd rather pay a little more for a quality tool that won't become garbage if I dare to use it more than once a month.

People buy tons of these "quality" tools. Perhaps they don't mind tossing them in the trash after a few years.......I'm just sick of doing this, that's all.....

    Bookmark   September 17, 2008 at 9:07PM
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Actually if you don't use them that's why they plug up! Now if they are stored properly, most wouldn't have longivity problems. Course once they are plugged up 85% can't get them going and they say few choice words and set them out on the curb when all it takes is a spray can of carb. cleaner and alittle mechanical knowledge in most cases.

Speaking of cheap tools, Harbor Freight?????? has homelite "reconditioned" gas weedwacker for 49 bucks! IT DON"T GET ANY CHEAPER THAN THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2008 at 6:10PM
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dmullen(Southern CA)

I am a Harbor Freight customer for some items. For example, they have stainless steel putty knives at about $5 for 4 of them. They are very good quality and I challenge anyone to try to match that price and value at any of the box stores or elsewhere.

Their dusk filters (rectangular shaped ones) are also a bargain. They are the only dust masks that I have used that do not leak. I paid $2.99 for 50 of them on sale and am extremely happy.

I do not buy their power tools. Never have and probably never will. They may be just fine but I am skeptical about quality power tools at those prices.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2008 at 9:15PM
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bill7(NW MN)

I generally follow this rule:

I buy the best I can afford at the time, taking into consideration what I will be using the tool for.

The times when I have decided to buy cheaper ones, I have generally have been disappointed at some point.

I am not bashing any maker, as I do have a variety. But my heavier duty items that I tend to use more often are Stihl, JD, DeWalt, etc.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 7:30AM
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I have purchased several peices of yard equipment since we move from a three quarter of an acre plot to our present 8 + acres. The Simplicity Conquest, with snow thrower, the DR trimmer/ mower, the Stihl weedwacker/ brushcutter, the Stihl mini tiller were all purchased from a local dealer who spends his time to make sure we have purchased the right piece of equipment for the job and at a reasonable price. And his service has been excellent!

Mowers and the like I will not purchase from Sears. The longevity is questionable. But the vast majority of my carpentry and woodworking tools are Sears Craftsman. My circular saw is 26 years old, going strong and it has been used extensively. My Sears table table it 21 years old, my router is 18 and the list goes on.

The overall message is true, buy quality the first time and you will save yourself in the long run.

Enjoy the journey.
eal51 in western CT

    Bookmark   September 20, 2008 at 10:02PM
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When I was young and dumb and could verily find the on and off switch I too thought price meant quality and it probably did back then, But I didn't know. As I got older I soon found out that regular pre-ventive maintenance was the key to keeping anything running or lasting a long, LONG time. For those that choose not to be mechinically incline or understand what's the limit of something mechinical, then name brands from a dealer is a very wise choice. But the longer you keep them you will eventually have to pay the piper again in pre-ventive maintenance or lack of repair costs.

In this day and age alot of products are outsourced, and stamped with different names coming down the same assembly line, and of course others are made to a higher standard?? we think or made to believe by branding or keen sales pitches..

sears seems to the butt or bashing point, but To my knowledge Sears don't make a thing, they are outsourced products of many brands being made coming down the same assembly line.

In the end IMO it boils down to operator knowledge of his equipment requardless what or who makes it determines how long it will last IMO of course. I do know you can't change the oil enough! the oil changing nerd Rc.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2008 at 10:58PM
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Decades ago, Craftsman stuff was great. I bought just about everything there. Not any more. They disillusioned me pretty thoroughly this last time. I think I'm done with them. See the link below for photos of their "Craftsman" tiller. They have gone over to the dark side.

Here is a link that might be useful: craftsman tillers

    Bookmark   September 22, 2008 at 3:05PM
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I would argue that changing the oil and maintaining a tool that is poorly designed and cheaply made will not make it last as long as a decent quality tool. Certainly many people do not properly care for their tools.

Would you say that the carb screws in my Craftsman chainsaw vibrated out of adjustment every 5 minutes because I didn't maintain it properly? Or that the carb attachment screw in my Craftsman blower broke off in the engine because I didn't properly mix oil in the gasoline?

These things are signs of corner-cutting, PERIOD.

I for one am done having my work interrupted by things like these.

If you like nursing garbage tools back to running condition every few days, weeks, or months, I say enjoy your time on the workbench.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 12:08PM
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Well, I will argue (cusz I like too) that the walbro carb. is the same make on most of your quality saws. As for the oil changing nerd most everybody knows I'm a stickler about changing oil, that point IMO is NOT stressed enough on this site with all the pre-ventive maintenance postings.

As for nursing I don't have to, I pull them out of the garage get the running right and use them.

I will amit you 20" chainsaw was a bad choice, too thin a bar and not enough power. But knowing it's limitations don't make it useless. Put a 16" bar on it and then you will be able to do something with it providing you can adjust the carb.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 8:30PM
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I have a few older craftsman chainsaws from the 70's ,that run better than the new echo's!! I say this because my cousin just bought a brand new echo(I put it together,after taking out of the box) and I was dissapointed,it wasn't as powerful as my older sears (Made by Poulan)..........All 3 sears chainsaw's are still running strong after 30 yrs.That spells quality to me with a capital Q !!! I had to replace the fuel lines on all of them,and some are on their second or third chain;but they really made 'em good back then!! .........I agree to what was said about spending top dollar for a saw(or whatever) for occasional use,it's stupid,and I have also learned that maintainance plays a much bigger part on longevety, than a name does..............

    Bookmark   September 26, 2008 at 10:55PM
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Been athere done that. Bought a Craftsman, worked 2 hours then siezed. Replaced with a larger Craftsman, it seized in less than 1/2 hour. Said the heck with it and went to the local hardware store and laid down $120 more than the Craftsman. Bought a Husqvarna 142e and it starts everytime without seizing now for 3 years. Only problem is I have managed to use 4, yes four, mufflers in that time. Need to find a guard to protect the muffler I guess.

Here is a link that might be useful: vtcycle motorcycles

    Bookmark   May 28, 2011 at 10:52PM
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gregd has similiar beliefs in Quality that I share. Also I agree 100% with RC within proper maintenance. I have and still do own a cheap Weed-eater Brand grass trimmer actually a few . They are tempermental and yes do require tuning very frequently , but have still lasted over 25 yrs . I guess since I have always enjoyed repairing small engine units , a little bench time does not phase me . But for those who are busy and not experienced within mechanics , yes cheap pricing and extensive downtime due to repairs can be quite frustrating . Having a good relationship with a respected Dealer can be good thing . I usually buy Better Quality Products which are more often to see more hours use Eg: Chainsaws , Gen Sets , Lawnmowers etc . Saving a little on initial pricing and paying the price later on downtime is counter productive at the very least . More or less "You can Pay me Now or Pay me Later " Right ?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 9:54AM
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arceeguy(z6 NJ)

I know this is an old thread, but I just wanted to chime in here.

I don't think there is anything wrong with buying inexpensive power equipment as long as you aren't asking the equipment to perform above and beyond what it was designed for.

For example, I own a weedeater leaf blower ($99) a Poulan "Wood Shark" chainsaw ($99), and a homelite string trimmer ($79). All of this equipment is over 10 years old and with the exception of the leaf blower, needed no repairs. I did have to rebuild the engine on the leaf blower a few years ago. IIRC it cost less than $35 for the piston, rings and jug. I guess they aren't "disposable" if the manufacturer stocks engine components after several years!

My point is that I don't use these tools commercially, and I take care of them. The chainsaw starts every time I need it because I always empty the fuel tank and run it dry after every use. My other equipment gets drained and run dry at the end of the season. They always start right up in the spring.

I routinely pick up relatively new blowers, trimmers and mowers out of the trash and most of them only need fresh gas, air filters and possible a carb cleaning to get them running. Some of them are Echo's, Tanaka's and Stihl's.

It was the neglect of the homeowner that caused the tool to fail to operate. I wonder if any of their original owners end up buying them back when I have a garage sale.

Too many folks just run them until they stop. Oil changes? What are those? Heck, they don't even check the oil! I just picked up a Poulan Pro snow blower with a blown 8 HP engine. Owner let it run low on oil and with all the snow we got this past winter, the engine let loose when trying to move 12+ inches of heavy, wet snow. I am going to re-power it with a Harbor Freight engine and sell it. It looks brand new - what a shame. Once again, even if it were an Ariens that was twice the price, the same result would have happened from the neglect. My "cheap" Craftsman snow blower is 16 years old, runs great, starts every time. It's all in the care and feeding.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 9:39PM
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