Ultimate Guide To Harbor Freight's ICON Series Tools - SlashGear (2024)

Technology

ByCody D. Campbell/

If you've ever wandered the aisles of your local Harbor Freight, you've probably noticed a number of brands there that can't be found in any other brick-and-mortar store. Harbor Freight partners with these exclusive brands to offer tools at a wide variety of price points. This is how it's able to offer cheap entry-level products, mid-tier tools, and high-end specialty equipment. These companies endeavor to match the quality of their products to those offered by brands sold in competing outlets like Lowes and Home Depot and then lower the price in Harbor Freight stores to entice budget-minded buyers. Pittsburgh makes most of the retailer's most affordable options, while ICON is on the opposite end of the spectrum.

ICON makes tools that are a part of Harbor Freight's premium lineup of products, meaning they tend to be a bit more expensive than tools from the other brands on display. You might be a little hesitant to pull the trigger on a tool that can cost two or even three times as much as the other products on the shelves without knowing more about ICON's history and how it stacks up to other brands. Here's everything you need to know about Harbor Freight's ICON series tools.

Where did ICON come from?

The ICON brand is a lot newer than you might think. While many of the tools in Harbor Freight's inventory are made by privately owned brands who enter into exclusivity contracts, ICON Tools is one of the few that Harbor Freight actually conceived. Harbor Freight introduced the ICON brand in 2018 by launching a set of torque wrenches. These were so successful that the company decided to introduce a full line of premium hand tools the following year. Its continued success has allowed ICON to branch out further into new products, expanding the overall scope of the brand.

But while Harbor Freight's headquarters is based in the U.S., it doesn't seem to make any of ICON's products in-house. Take a look at one of its tools, and you will more than likely see the words "Made in Taiwan" embossed across the metal. It seems that a vast majority of ICON's products are manufactured by multiple different companies based in Taiwan. Neither ICON nor Harbor Freight have reported the names of these companies, but it is widely believed that many of the mechanic tools are made by Infar Industrial Co. –the same company responsible for manufacturing the latest hand tools from Milwaukee.

What types of products does ICON make?

ICON may have started out making simple hand tools, but it rapidly expanded into several other areas. It seems that the market it's most interested in at the moment is auto mechanics. The company has recently released several specialized tools, such as a long jaw master puller set, an aluminum bearing and seal driver set, a master brake caliper set, and a master fuel injection service kit. It will also soon be releasing its first diagnostics device: the T8 Intelligent Diagnostic Scanner, which "effortlessly reads and clears trouble codes, performs live data monitoring with graphing, conducts bi-directional system tests, special functions, coding, resets and includes Identifix(R) Code Assist."

Hand tools are still the brand's bread and butter, though. ICON makes drive tools, sockets and extensions, impact sockets and extensions, wrenches, torque wrenches, pliers, hex, nut and screwdrivers, prybars, scrapers, knives, hammers, taps, and extractors—virtually everything you need to fill a basic home toolbox.

In terms of storage, ICON offers two sizes of roll cab, along with severs top chests, overheads, workstations, end cabs, lockers, and various accessories to go with them. It has also started offering basic shop equipment, such as lights, seating, and creepers for sliding under cars. That's a pretty broad umbrella to cast in just five years.

ICON's reputation

Tool companies live and die by their reputation. A manufacturer known for making shoddy products won't last long, regardless of how cheap their prices are compared to those set by other brands. Lucky for ICON, it has developed a reputation for manufacturing quality products that are available at competitive rates. The motto on the ICON Page of Harbor Freight's website reads, "Tool truck quality. Unbeatable prices," and it seems that the company has been very successful in cultivating that image.

There are several forums where users have posted queries about ICON's quality, and the overwhelming majority of the responses have been positive. There are several posts from experienced mechanics giving testimonials claiming that their ICON tools perform just as well as products from more expensive brands. However, it's worth noting that some people found ICON's tools to be a bit hit-or-miss.

One thing Harbor Freight employees probably won't tell you is that their mid-tier products sometimes outperform the high-end ones. The YouTube Channel Donut did extensive testing on all the screwdrivers available from Harbor Freight, and they found that the mid-priced Doyle set did better in most tests than the more expensive ICON set. So, it seems that ICON's quality, while good overall, may suffer from some inconsistencies across its product lines.

ICON's pricing

So, ICON has a reputation for reasonable prices, but how low are those prices compared to similar brands? The answer largely depends on which brands you consider to be similar. ICON is often marketed as an alternative to the premium tool brand Snap-On, which is famously expensive. An ICON56-inch roll cab from ICONis $2,499.00, while Snap-On's 55-inch roll cab is $7,140.00. Likewise, the 8-piece screwdriver set from ICONis currently going for $49.99, while a 6-piece set from Snap-On goes for $175.00. It's also clear from a design standpoint that many of ICON's products are very similar to those Harbor Freight compares them to in terms of materials and appearance. But as Donut pointed out in their video, the $19.99 screwdriver set from Doyle out-performed them both, so it's possible that this similarity doesn't always translate directly to build quality.

Even so, some users have found that ICON's tools are comparable in performance. as well. One mechanic claimed that he made the other mechanics jealous with the deal he got on his ICON toolbox. "Everyone else in the shop has a tool truck box, and they were all in tears when I told them what I paid," he said. "None of us can find any real difference in quality between my [73-inch] box with hutch, and the guy next to be that has an identical [Snap-On]."

ICON gets the Harbor Freight Warranty

One of the biggest selling points for ICON is the Harbor Freight warranty — at least when it comes to hand tools. All Harbor Freight products can be returned for any reason for a full refund within the first 90 days of purchase, though some may incur a 20% restocking fee. That's obviously not all that impressive, but Harbor Freight also offers a lifetime warranty on all hand tools–including those that are part of the ICON line.

"We guarantee our Hand Tools to be free from defects in material and workmanship for the life of the product," the exchange policy states on the Harbor Freight website. "Harbor Freight Tools will replace any hand tool that fails to properly work during the lifetime of the original purchaser. In the event an identical item is not available as a replacement: Harbor Freight Tools reserves the right to substitute a substantially similar item in its place."

Since most of the products made by ICON are hand tools, this could be a very attractive benefit for those who want to make sure they'll never have to buy the same tool twice.

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Ultimate Guide To Harbor Freight's ICON Series Tools - SlashGear (2024)
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