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Tool talk : manual vacuum pumps

I am considering a manual vacuum pump - aka MityVac. want to bleed brakes, but also pull vacuum on e.g. expansion tank to test integrity. prices can vary a bit. I noticed some differences between them e.g. plastic, metal. wondering if pumps sold without the added accessories are likely to be higher quality than those with - i.e. are the accessories like fittings and stuff are to “add value” - better to get single fittings as needed? should the vacuum gauge be facing you when in right hand? looked at HarborFreight, Sears, … interested to hear general comments on the manual vacuum pumps.

I have a Snap-On brass vacuum pump that has had a worsening leak down at the check valve since new 20+ years ago and a Mighty-Vac that has worked perfectly about 20 years. The Snap-On does have the advantage of ease of disassembly which allows for cleaning and lubricating the plunger and bore when I let various fluids get into it. Long ago I seem to recall having a Sun Electric vacuum pump but that was ancient history. The model that I have seen at Harbor Freight seems identical to the my 20 year old model.

I have this kit:

I’m sure I picked it up at one of the AP stores, though I can’t recall what I paid. I’ve had it for quite a quite a few years now and have frequently (for a DIY guy) used it for all of those things that you use them for. I’ve always been happy with it.

I can’t say anything about any others as this is the only one I’ve ever owned.

I have a brass one I picked up some 20 yrs ago. It was sold under Actron. I’ve taken it apart only once about 5years ago to clean and lube it up. I think I found mine at Pep Boys. Never had any leaks or troubles with it.

The Harbor Freight Mityvac model is a cheap plastic one. I grabbed one the other day while working on a friend’s car away from my toolbox and the damn thing broke the first time I pumped it. The retainer pin fell out and caused the handle to fall off. I put it back together, 2 pumps later and “snap,” it fell apart again.

All the falling apart made a 10 minute bleed job stretch to 45 minutes. Terrible build quality. I chucked it as soon as I was done with the job. Get the metal version - it’s more expensive (I think $60?) but it also doesn’t fall to pieces all the time.

“Terrible build quality. I chucked it as soon as I was done with the job.”

That’s why people refer to the brand as Harbor Fake Tools

Over the years, I’ve had various colleagues that bought tools there. The tools did not make a good impression, at least not to me.

One guy bought entire combo wrench sets there. I brought over my Snap on combo wrench set to compare, and it was abundantly clear that the Harbor Fake tools were copies of my wrenches. Except they weren’t chrome, didn’t fit well in the palm of the hand, didn’t fit on the bolt head very well, looked and felt like cheap garbage. Other than all that stuff, they were fine . . .

This guy bought so many Harbor Fake tools, we joked he was keeping the Chinese economy afloat.
This predates China being the powerhouse it is now

Another guy had a super expensive Snap on tool box, cost around $8000 at the time. One day, when he was off to lunch, we opened some drawers. Most of the drawers were empty. And the few tools that were in there were all Harbor Fake . . .


Did you know some Snap-On tools are now made in China?



Yes, I’m well aware of this, and it doesn’t bother me

The snap on guy shows up once a week, and I spend thousands on tools every year

However, there is a BIG difference between chinese Snap On tools and chinese Harbor Fake tools

I don’t have a problem with the fact that Harbor Fake tools are chinese

I have a problem with the fact that they’re garbage, and may not even be trustworthy enough to do the job just one single time

I’ll stay a little off topic . . .

Even though I generally prefer USA made tools, the quality does matter more, in my opinion

What about cars?

Is a ford less worthy if it’s built in Mexico?

Is a GMC truck inferior because it’s actually Canadian?

If people are buying domestic brands BECAUSE they think they’re buying 'Made in the USA" . . . they better wake up and smell the coffee. And they better do their homework and find out just where that car they’re looking to buy was actually built

My Kentucky built Camry, if you think about it, is more American than a GMC truck built in Canada.
My car was built in the USA, by Americans. Not so with Canadian and Mexican vehicles.

Hypothetical question . . .

What would a car buyer prefer?

A domestic brand car built in the USA, with pretty good quality and reliability?

A domestic brand car built in Mexico or Canada, with very good quality and reliability?

I know, I know . . . there’s not much difference between pretty and very good

But that’s not the point in this case


My father, who is now retired was a heavy equipment service technician who would go out and fix this heavy equipment on site. In the cold, snow, rain, whatever. It got fixed.

He told me, always get the tool that is most easy to replace. Because when you’re freezing your ass off to fix a snowplow, and a tool breaks, you can’t wait for a tool truck to show up. But you can go to a Sears store and get the tool replaced.

He had a full service truck. But is was packed with Craftsman tools.

Ever heard of RMS?


The best vacuum tool in my opinion is the steel-bodied Stant-Balkamp tool. The plastic ones do not seem to last very long.

As to Chinese tools, Craftsman, Skil, Black and Decker, and many others are having their stuff made in China. Not necessarily for the better.

Sometimes those same tools are tagged with a dozen different labels along with a different paint code and sold by a dozen different retailers.

and I thought the original question would start a brake bleeding discussion!

I think I’m going to try the one AutoZone has. I have some “points” there and I am not convinced of the Craftsman product. it will be interesting to see if it looks to be the same any of the other ones.

follow up comment - it seems to me that buying separate fittings/tubing is better use of money than getting an assortment of fittings/tubing along with the pump.

@db4690 The trick is, you have to know what to buy at Harbor Freight. I knew the Mityvac was gonna be crap when I bought it (although admittedly I figured it would make it through the first pull of the handle without a catastrophic failure), but it was the only tool store close to his house, my house and tools were 2 hours away, the thing was cheap, and my friend was paying for it anyway. :wink:

But I’ve gotten several things there, like my shop crane, and a set of vehicle dollies, and little stuff like a grease gun, etc, that work just fine and cost a lot less than their “superior” counterparts at good stores.

I avoid most of their hand tools (though the breaker bar I bought from them is just fine and has lasted many years) and anything that spins fast and might kill me if it breaks, but for some stuff it’s silly to spend a lot more elsewhere.

Last summer we built a shed and I needed a long level to get the footings even with each other. Normal stores wanted over $100 for it. I got it for something like $19 at HF. Would’a been silly to pay full price for something I’m gonna use maybe 4 times in the next decade.


As to Sears . . .

Many of their tools are just fine, but the ratchets and wrenches tend to fit less well in your hand than more expensive Snap on, Mac or Matco tools

It is sure easy to replace a craftsman tool, but they simply don’t make a lot of the tools I need. In my opinion, they are geared more towards the DIY mechanic, not the pro.

Snap on extensions are knurled, and sometimes it makes it easier to get a grip on them. Craftsman doesn’t have this. Their locking extensions are really junky and cumbersome to use. The ratchets tend to have a fat head and are harder to use. The deadblow hammers have an inferior handle, not very comfortable to hold. Snap on prybars have a vastly superior handle, much easier to hold.

I’m glad to hear that your dad was able to save a few bucks on tools. That said, I’ve sometimes seen guys struggle to do a job, because they were using a junky tool, which didn’t quite fit right.

i’ve seen more than a few junky chrome sockets shatter. That’s not often happened to my sockets

The only craftsman tools I would consider using professionally are the craftsman professional series. But, as I said, they are definitely inferior. A lot of the time, it’s the grip, handle, etc. that is the problem. You pay less, and you get less.

Perhaps somebody will chime in and say I am a fool for buying snap on, I’m overpaying, and I’m throwing away my money. So be it. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion.


I would NEVER get under a vehicle supported by Harbor Fake jack stands

I would NEVER jack a vehicle using a Harbor Fake jack

When I compared the welds on Lincoln jack stands versus Harbor Fake, it was shocking. Show both jackstands to a guy and ask him which ones he’d like to support the vehicle with, if he’s going to be under it . . .


My dad started using Snap-On tools in his service truck because he thought they would last. But he found that Snap-On failed just as much as Craftsman tools. I remember the ammo boxes full of failed Snap-On tools he would hand over for warranty replacement.

The last straw came when the Snap-On rep in the truck said he wasn’t going to warranty the tools be cause he said they were being abused. He told the guy, fine! Keep your crappy Snap-On tools. I’ll get my tools from Sears. At least when a Craftsman tool breaks, I can go to a Sears store and get it replaced right on the spot with no argument. After that, his service truck was filled with Craftsman tools.

And since he was a heavy equipment service tech, we’re talking about 3/4"/1" drive tools.


My snap on guy never refused to warranty a hand tool

He’s actually warranted a few electronic items, and taken a loss, because he knew I’d spend lots more money on the truck, which I did.

He appreciates that I always pay cash, and keep a very small balance, always well under $100. I always stop by the ATM the night before, so I can pay the man on the day he shows up. When I bought my scanner and toolbox, I told him ahead of time I’d be buying it outfight. He told me to bring a check for such and such amount.

Some other guys hand the guy a card and say “Can you wait until such and such day to charge it?”

Some other guys hand the guy 3 cars and say “Can you put $50 on this, $20 on this, and $60 on this one?” And they also tell him on which day to charge which card . . .

Another guy always asks how much something costs, but he almost never buys anything, because he’s a miserable cheapskate. The snap on guy has been telling him, “If you just want to talk, can you wait until I’m done with these paying customers?”


I would NEVER get under a vehicle supported by Harbor Fake jack stands

I would NEVER jack a vehicle using a Harbor Fake jack

Neither would I, although I’ll add a caveat that one of their floor jacks looks suspiciously like my Arcan. It’s probably the same jack, but I’ll never know. Things that can kill me get bought elsewhere, and I buy a lot bigger than I need. I do not need 4-ton jack stands to support an MR2 or a TL. But I have 'em.

The vehicle dollies are just for pushing my car around the garage - I never get under it while it’s on them, so if one did break, I’d just jack the car off of it, and go fuss at the HF guy.

The shop crane is a different story, because it was in use for 5 years before I got hold of it, did dozens of engine swaps, and never had an issue. It’s a good crane, and I know it’s safe. I’ve inspected the welds carefully and they’re just fine. I also don’t tend to roll around under swinging engines no matter who made the crane, so it’s not a life or death thing to use it. :wink:

I’m with shadow on the HF Tool debate. HF tool isn’t targeting the commercial market, and their product can’t be expected to stand up to hard daily use. It also costs much less than commercial stuff. But for 99% of the needs of the average backyard mechanic I think it’s great. There is some junk there, such as the vacuum pumps (I too looked at them… but didn’t buy) but I just don’t buy the junk. I personally have bought quite a few things fro HF and have never been disappointed.

And, frankly, I bought a “brand name” serp belt tensioner wrench elsewhere and it broke the first time I tried it. The weld that holds the 3/8" drive to the bar broke. I thought it might be easier than a breaker bar due to better clearance, but I ended up using the breaker bar anyway. And yes, I did gently back the tensioner off, just in case you’re wondering…

Tools are pretty much a case by case basis. I’ve got some Taiwan or HF tools that are outstanding and some Snap-On and MAC stuff that was garbage from the start.

As to ratchets, Snap-On can’t be beat. Some of mine are 30+ years old and have never exhibited any problems whatsoever. Some have very little chrome left as that was worn off years ago.

SO has been farming a lot of tool manufacturing out to the Asians for decades. Here’s another example. Fifty bucks to SO or 6 bucks to HF for the same tool…

Product Specifications 	

Stock # TBS200A
Name Bender, Tubing, Multi-purpose
Price** $52.05
Brand Blue Point
Country Of Origin Taiwan