My free Harbor Freight Multimeter Opinion - Team Camaro Tech
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 17, 02:31 PM Thread Starter
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My free Harbor Freight Multimeter Opinion

Harbor Freight Tools has coupons in every newspaper, magazine in the US.

I cut out a coupon for a free Harbor Freight electrical multimeter and redeemed it for my new toy. I was curious just to see how accurate the meter was compared to my high dollar Fluke 87 V.

The Fluke meter is a great meter. The company has a stellar reputation for making a quality product. They back it up with a lifetime warranty. It is accurate. I get my Fluke meter(s) calibrated once a year. They never need adjustment. The Harbor Freight... maybe it would be easier to cut out another coupon and get another meter.

The test leads on the Fluke have silicon insulation. The insulation is at least a 1000 volts and is resistant to abrasion. The Harbor Freight, well I am afraid to touch 120 volts using their leads. Did I mention the HF meter was free?

The Fluke meter auto ranges and will read the RMS voltage of square waves, triangle waves, and now they claim the new five (V) model can read pulse width modulation (PWM) waves. No other meter that I know of can read a PWM waveform accurately except an analog meter. The Harbor Freight, can read a sine wave and dc ok. I know it will not read the other waveforms accurately. But did I mention I did not pay any money for it?

I connected both meters to the 120 VAC power in my garage. Both read about the same.
[IMG]120 vac by Patrick Smith, on Flickr[/IMG]

I connected both meters to a 12 VDC battery. The Harbor Freight read close to the Fluke meter.
[IMG]12 volts by Patrick Smith, on Flickr[/IMG]

I connected them to a resistor. The Harbor Freight was in the ball park.
[IMG]hf resisitor by Patrick Smith, on Flickr[/IMG]

[IMG]fluke resistor by Patrick Smith, on Flickr[/IMG]

Am I going to sell my Fluke? Not no but hello no. But the HF meter is good enough for most electrical testing on a 1960's era car. It is good enough for "go or no go" testing. If I loose it or break it, I am not going to loose any sleep over my loss.... because it was free
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Last edited by tp_smith; Dec 1st, 17 at 03:01 PM.
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 17, 02:50 PM
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Re: My free Harbor Freight Multimeter Opinion

Correct, and they make nice Xmas gifts.

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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 17, 02:59 PM Thread Starter
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Re: My free Harbor Freight Multimeter Opinion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Everett#2390 View Post
Correct, and they make nice Xmas gifts.
That is interesting. I use the coupons to collect the free little flashlights. I give them out during Halloween to the kids. Some kids like them. Others are more interested in the candy.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 17, 03:51 PM
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Re: My free Harbor Freight Multimeter Opinion

I've used the HB meter for years until a buddy gave me a Fluke for helping him with his Camaro.

A while back the HB stopped working. But hey it was FREE

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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 17, 06:11 PM
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Re: My free Harbor Freight Multimeter Opinion

IMO it's great in a pinch but I would keep the Fluke close by as I Own a Fluke and a Greenlee as well. The Fluke's are one of the best out there.

tp_smith , you mentioned the flashlights and giving them out for Halloween. You could expand your variety with the meters!
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 17, 08:49 PM
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Re: My free Harbor Freight Multimeter Opinion

Starting my career as an HVAC tech I have an old Simpson meter and a newer Fieldpiece. Both of them sit in a cabinet in the garage now and I use my free HB meter for about everything. Ive collected enough of them this year to give each of my kids one for Christmas

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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old Dec 1st, 17, 10:30 PM
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Re: My free Harbor Freight Multimeter Opinion

I've got a 25 yo Greenlee meter that hasn't been out of it's case in probably 10 years. The battery did get changed a couple of years to prevent corrosion. The cheap HF meter has been very handy this week as I have been trouble shooting/replacing my horn relay/buzzer, key buzzer switch, backup light switch, and emergency flasher. Everything is working as designed now. Just waiting on a new key buzzer switch and horn button spring from Rick's to button it up. $9.97 postage and handling for parts that weigh less that 2 grams.

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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old Dec 2nd, 17, 06:28 AM
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Re: My free Harbor Freight Multimeter Opinion

I'd never use a cheap China made meter. It's a good way for the meter to explode and take your face off. I too only use a Fluke meter. You get what you pay for.

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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old Dec 2nd, 17, 07:10 AM
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Re: My free Harbor Freight Multimeter Opinion

Nice comparison write up. Thanks.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old Dec 3rd, 17, 03:43 AM
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Re: My free Harbor Freight Multimeter Opinion

They're fine for working on the car, getting greasy, getting dropped, ETC....But would I use one on 220+


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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old Dec 5th, 17, 08:51 AM Thread Starter
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Re: My free Harbor Freight Multimeter Opinion

Wow!!! I made this post thinking that I would get zero responses. I make the post thinking most people would take it as a joke. I never thought there were so many people who actually owned one of these little meters. I have come to the conclusion that lot of people love them.

Well, I got bad news. I broke my free meter. The lead wire separated from the test pin. The good news is that I fixed the wire. I soldered it back on the test pin. Yes I took a photo.

[IMG]P1020707 by Patrick Smith, on Flickr[/IMG]

The test wire is not securely fastened to the hard outer shell. I must have spun the outer shell around enough to twist and break the copper wire. I never had a test lead fail like this before.

I started looking at my Harbor Freight and my other test leads. None of my other leads will fit the free meter.

1. The Harbor Freight Black lead is stamped 1000V.
The HF Red lead is not stamped. No UL listing, no CAT rating.

2. My Mueller Test leads are 1000 volt. Both colors are stamped with the same voltage rating. Both have a UL stamp. These leads were made before the CAT ratings existed. I like these leads the best.

3. My Radio Shack leads from 1978 were both stamped 1KV and a part number.

4. My Triplett 630 meter leads are not stamped. Back in the day when Triplett meters were made, they were such high quality they did not need a stamp. Everyone knew this was the best meter made.

5. My Fluke 87 III leads were stamped 1500 volt for the black and 1000 volt for the red lead. The impulse voltage rating is CAT 3, UL listed, double insulated symbol.

6. My new Fluke 87 V leads were both stamped as 1000 volt CAT 3 and 600 volt CAT 4. CE listed, no UL markings, double insulated symbol.

Why does the red wire have a lower voltage rating compared to the black wire?

The Harbor Freight had the shortest leads and the Fluke 87 V had the longest.
[IMG]P1020708 by Patrick Smith, on Flickr[/IMG]

The Harbor Freight meter does not have a UL stamp, no CAT rating, no CE rating.

The CAT rating determines how much of an impulse voltage the meter can withstand without blowing up. If I remember right, CAT 1 and CAT 2 are for residential and light industry (120, 240 VAC typical, 10,000 amps fault current). CAT 3 and CAT 4 are ratings for heavy industrial three phase voltages with high fault currents (240, 460, 575 VAC typical, < 100,000 amps fault current). I could be wrong, I spouting off these numbers from memory.

I think the little HF meter can withstand 12 VDC without blowing up. It did not blow up when I connected it to 120 VAC. If you look closely at the previous photo, I stuck two wires in an extension cord. I was about five feet away from the meter when I plugged the cord in the wall receptacle.

I like this little red meter, partially for the novelty of it being free. I will use it from time to time.

Patrick
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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old Dec 5th, 17, 09:16 AM
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Re: My free Harbor Freight Multimeter Opinion

The CE mark, or formerly EC mark, is a mandatory conformity marking for certain products sold within the European Economic Area (EEA) since 1985.

There is a very similar logo where the CE stands for Chinese Export or China Export this has nothing to do with European conformity.


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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old Dec 5th, 17, 09:43 AM
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Re: My free Harbor Freight Multimeter Opinion

I have used Harbor Freight meter for years. It's so old it actually has a hand on a scale. I think I actually had to pay $5.00 to $8.00 for it. Use it mostly for 12 volt, battery test and continuity but you get what you pay for.

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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old Dec 5th, 17, 10:04 AM
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Re: My free Harbor Freight Multimeter Opinion

Nice comparison on the meters.

I also have both these meters and my conclusion is the same, close enough. I only use the HF meter in the shop working on the car or other projects out there instead of using the "Good" Fluke meter. Used just on lower DC voltages and Ohm readings.

A recent need to trouble shoot resistance between various connections causing poor current flow I found the HF meter was actually better at low ohm readings. Making pinpointing and repairing numerous connection points a faster process after I switched from the Fluke meter.

I also have the older yellow HF meter that has less features but is just as accurate.

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