How To Make a Rustic Party Ice Chest From Wood Pallets

pallet cooler complete

Yup, it’s getting colder and wetter, and DIY warriors are retreating behind closed doors for the winter. The LAST thing you want to do is curl up on the barcalounger and remain in a vegetative state ’til the thaw. How about a fun garage project to keep you engaged, limber and rewarded with a cool, new addition to the yard for when the sun comes back out?

This actually really is a fun project (well… minus the breaking-down-the pallets part, but it’ll keep you warm) and the effort is well worth the pleasure and admiration you’ll get for your labors. So, without further ado… the Vintage Ice Chest!


Because most of the materials will be coming from (hopefully) salvaged pallets, the expense should be minimal. If you don’t already have one, you should pick up a 48-qt. cooler.



  • 5 reclaimed pallets
  • Wood glue
  • 1 box 2″ wood nails
  • 1 box 1½” wood nails
  • 2 large hinges
  • 1 qt. polyurethane, non-glossy

circular saw



  1. Finding pallets
  2. Pallet breakdown – 45 minutes per pallet
  3. Assembly – 4 hours approx.
  4. Use cooler – Every shindig, ’til sunup

Once you’ve dismantled your pallets, sort your wood: the heavy 2×3 supports, the 30” wood slats (will vary). There are an average 6 boards per pallet side. Choose the pieces you want to use for the front. As you see here, ink-stamped pieces were chosen. Using pieces of various shape is best to give it that rustic look.

pallet cooler - openpallet cooler - closed

OK, you’re ready for the fun part, putting it together! This is where I pass you on to, and “miamitreasure,” who shows us how to assemble our classic pallet ice chest cooler. Also, check out these other pallet wood projects on Instructables!


If you’re missing any tools or supplies for this awesome project, don’t forget to swing by Harbor Freight where you’ll find just what you need at low, low prices!

The $55 DIY Fancy, Functional X Desk

x desk diy

Owning a miter saw brings with it a world of opportunities for DIY home repair, home improvement and building projects that can add so much to your home. Take, for example, a treehouse or playhouse for the rugrats, a new deck for the patio or adding crown molding to the house– all for so much less than if you had someone else doing it. As one becomes comfortable with their miter saw, it soon becomes the most used power tool in their arsenal. 

Chicago Electric has an excellent 12″ miter saw (#61969) with a number of useful features: double-bevel so you don’t have to flip your work over and reset cutting angles; sliding compound so you can cut larger pieces; laser guide for more accurate cuts. And this best-selling unit can often be found on sale at Harbor Freight at a much lower price than you’ll find elsewhere.

miter saw 12 blog

Recently, this X Desk project caught my eye. Here’s a great example of a doable miter saw project, even for relative newbies who want to spread their wings, for a very approachable price: $55 in materials. I found it on Ana White’s site, a source for so many inspiring DIY projects. She re-posts a plan shared by Whitney from Shanty2Chic, but I chose to reference Ana’s site for its graphics. I also like how folks who follow her example post their creations on her site with all kinds of variations and added ideas.

What You Need


5 – 2×4 @ 8 feet long
1 – 1×4 @ 8 feet long
2 – 2×12 @ 6 feet long OR 4 – 2×6 @ 6 feet long
2 ½” wood screws for countersinking
2 ½” PH screws


Before You Start

  • Take the time to read through the whole article before you start mobilizing.
  • You want to make sure you’ve got a good working area, including a clean, level surface.
  • When you pick out the wood, make sure all the boards are straight.
  • Always pre-drill your holes before attaching the screws.
  • Use glue with finish nails for a strong, solid hold. Wipe excess glue off the bare wood so you can stain it.
  • ALWAYS exercise workshop safety!

Here’s a diagram of the X Table with the dimensions. If this looks like a project you might be interested in pursuing, take a look at Ana White’s plan. It’s extremely detailed and easy to follow– and the graphics are awesome!

Check out Ana’s site for other projects as well, and make sure to visit Harbor Freight Tools for all your tool needs!

Paranormal Activity Gear at Harbor Freight

simpsons paranormal

You may be surprised to hear that Harbor Freight Tools is a favorite “haunt” among paranormal investigators. Strange but true, bonafide ghost chasers stalk our shelves to find many of their tools of the trade. What, you say, could a paranormal investigator possibly want at Harbor Freight? Camo blankets? Variable speed jig saw? Glad you asked. As Armando Nunez, co-founder of the Paranormal Research Organization Of Fayetteville (PROOF) said more than once. “HARBOR FREIGHT TOOLS IS YOUR BEST FREIND.” Here are just a few of the items we found among the arsenals of active apparition artisans:

The West Houston Paranormal Society, a dedicated group of otherworldly investigators who hunt and engage the eerily unknown, use the Predator 8750 Watts Max/7000 Watts Rated Portable Generator to power their exploits:

“We are West Houston Paranormal Society and this is our official generator. Running power where we need it in powerless buildings and houses that we investigate. It runs our equipment (cameras, audio, trip sensors, monitors, DVRs, computers, recharging packs, etc) throughout the house, as well as our trailer base command/review center. Fist pull operation, no drain or surges and super quiet…. the last thing we need is a loud generator interfering with our EVPs and video evidence, that is why we chose this one because that was high on our list of NEEDED features.” Caps included.

Why the Predator generator? Could it be it resonates with entities from across the veil? Or, is it the high-quality performance and low prices? Perhaps it’s all of the above… or perhaps it’s something far beyond mere mortal understanding.

The Predator generator isn’t the only Harbor Freight product of choice among paranormal investigators. The Southeastern Paranormal Society, located in Salisbury, NC and Myrtle Beach, SC, and the good folks at, favor the motion-activated Bunker Hill Security 4-Camera Surveillance DVR when looking into poltergeists and sundry presences. A representative at the SPS commented:

 “I bought this package to do surveillance for our paranormal research group. The cameras perform great in near pitch black conditions. Considering buying another system for our group.”

dvr 8 channel

Everyone who’s seen those paranormal movies knows why this is an important contribution to the investigative process. On the other hand, do you really want to know what’s hovering over you while you’re sleeping?

creepy dummy

Among the most popular Harbor Freight products in spook-seeking circles is the Cen-Tech Non-Contact Infrared Thermometer, which is used in the measuring of ambient air around “cold” and “hot” spots. While so-called “professional” ambient air thermometers cost around $130, Harbor Freight’s is under $40. BOOOOoooOOOOO-yaah!!

ir thermometer 61894 blog

Self-proclaimed “paranormal enthusiast,” Jocelyn S. Mackie, also takes a Pittsburgh Non-Contact Pocket Thermometer with her, for “ambient” temperature gauging.

non contact temp gauge customer

Another cool (as in cold spot) tool for the phantom finder, according to Paranormal Adventure Radio , is the Bunker Hill Motion Detector as “good for basic investigations.” As opposed to über-intense investigations, we suppose, like flying cutlery.

 Other paranormal investigators have testified about the value of a wireless inspection camera ” for “tight spaces” and “a very good idea for a room that has noises coming from it with the door closed.” A ghost hunter who recommended the Cen-Tech Digital Inspection Camera was using his to check out a mausoleum he’d been curious about. We’ve been curious if he’s been seen since.

 Research:Paranormal recommends keeping an RF detector on hand to weed out “false” radio frequency hits on the EMF (electro-magnetic field) detector. That way you can know it’s not a spirit from beyond infringing on your comfort zone, probably just your daughter calling, wondering when you’re going to pick her up. One of the Research:Paranormal followers volunteered that they duct-taped their Bunker Hill Wireless RF Detector to their EMF for prime detection.

wireless RF detector

Finally, as Ghost Journeys advises in its Investigation Guidelines:

“Shop smart – save money. Check… Harbor Freight for mini LED flashlights, batteries and hard cases to tote your equipment.”

The Ghost Hunter Outlet took it one step further and provided a link on their site to our Storehouse 18″x6″x13″ Aluminum Case, admitting,

“We don’t sell cases to protect the gear you buy because Harbor Freight has a great case for about $30.”

aluminum case 69138

So, when it comes to quality tools at incredibly low prices… who you gonna call?


Extra Cab Tool Box - customer

There’s always a way to build a better mousetrap. Or, in this case, a better tool storage. If you have a pickup with an extra cab, you’re well on your way to getting there.

Trucks are the perfect vehicle for transporting tools and gear, but the storage alternatives, not so much. You can get a tool box for the back, but by so doing, you rob yourself of bed space– and expose yourself to getting robbed. You could throw them in the extra cab, but the run the risk of them getting mixed up, piled on each other and thrown around with every turn.

If you usually don’t have passengers in the back seat, then you’ve got some prime tool real estate just waiting for an apparatus of organization– in other words, a custom-made tool box behind the front seats. First thing, take out the back seats. This is usually pretty easy to do. Then, get the measurements of the extra cab space, from the floor to the top of the back of the front seat,  back of the cab to top of the seat, and then door-to-door. Using these dimensions, cut out a box from 3/4″ plywood.

If you ever need the extra cab for a group trip or you’re ready to sell the truck, you can easily remove the tool storage box and replace the seats, restoring the vehicle to its original condition.

Watch this video from FineHomebuilding for a detailed breakdown on how to design and secure your custom tool storage box for your extra cab.

You can find all the tools you need to make this simple project happen at Harbor Freight Tools!

Annabel on the Rocks– With a Winch

5000 lb winch customer pic

I was 17 when I bought my first 4-wheeler, a ’73 Land Cruiser FJ40. It only had 56K miles on it– all highway– and I taught myself to drive a shift when I drove that beauty home from the seller’s house (killed it at every light). My buddy and I tooled it all over Utah that summer, ’til I finally rolled it at Arches Natl. Park and had to drive it (with a crushed body and intact engine) to a body shop where it rehabilitated for the next month. I loved that ‘Cruiser, and rue the day I got it in my head to sell it. The other thing I regret was never having gotten a winch. We got stuck a few times, and hadn’t it been for the kindness of strangers, we’d still be there.

land cruiser stuck

Now that I’m older and wiser (mostly from getting my fingers burned), I know that a winch is the first thing you want to get your 4-wheeler– long before any of the other off-road bling you’ve got in mind. For a modest investment, it’ll save your bacon from places where other dogs won’t hunt, and pay for itself over and over again.

The first question to address would be, what weight capacity winch should you get? It’s said the rule of thumb is, you take the gross weight of your vehicle, add in the modded bumpers, suspension, tires, etc., and times that number by 1.5. So, for example, if your total weight comes out to be 5,000 lb., the winch should have a (x 1.5 =) 7,500 lb. capacity. If you try to go lower– ’cause, say, a 3,000 lb. winch is on sale– you run the risk of disaster in a ravine. If you go a lot more, like 12,000 lb., you’ll be OK, but it’s kind of overkill– unless, of course, you want to be able to help heavy metal in distress. In that case, my brother, go for it and there will be blessings in store for you in Off-Road Heaven.

Harbor Freight’s Badland winches are legendary pullers– in the dirt, mud, snow, rocks, etc– and are consistently thrown high praise in four-wheeler forums, magazines and customer reviews. I was getting ready to write this article when I came across the story of Annabel, a late-40’s CJ2A that got stuck in the rocks while trying to back down a steep, rocky dugway. The owner, Carl, had taken Annabel up the hill, but then decided he wanted to get it on video, so he backed her back down. He ran into a rock and dirt wall, the driver’s side rear tire went flat, and he was wedged there– he couldn’t go up or down. As luck would have it, he had a Badlands 5,000 lb. winch:

As Carl later posted:

“I am a firm believer in my 5000 lb winch. It has twice pulled me out of a steep sandy bank by it’s self besides this dugway. That’s three hard pulls with the winch doing the pulling for at least the length of the Jeep each time. None of these were easy pulls but once the winch got the Jeep moving it lightened up on the load.”

Badlands off-road electric winches are rugged, dependable and give some of the biggest bangs for the buck. Check out these models:

5000 lb winch

The Annabel Special! We already know how it does with small jeeps, but this lightweight dynamo’s also got plenty of power to assist in ATV recovery, traversing rough terrain or loading a boat. Customers also like it for pulling small trees when clearing an area. Reliable and safe, it comes with a remote switch with a 12 ft. lead, making it easy to use even when you’re alone! Features include a three-stage planetary gear system for fast line speed, aircraft grade wire rope and a permanent magnet motor that draws less current, making it perfect for ATV use. As one customer shared:
“Works great, have used this winch for almost a year now. Installed it on my Yamaha Rhino and use it to pull trees down and once because I got stuck in a swamp. Now I use it to lift and lower my snow plow….for the money I’d highly recommend (it).”  Fletch – Green Bay, WI

“I have a 6000 on my Samuri and was able to pull a full size ford truck out that was sunk to the doors this has been a great investment has never left me high or dry.”  Lil K – UT

The awesome “go-to” choice for pretty much all off-roaders, rock-crawlers, mud-boggers and sand-suckers. Get over and through the tough terrain with this musclebound electric winch. With a 9000 lb. towing capacity and an automatic load-holding brake for safety, this electric winch is excellent for the 4-wheeling novice and expert alike. A 12-foot lead remote switch makes this winch easy to use even when you’re traveling alone. And the testimonies say it all:

“I honestly believe that my push bars and frame of the truck would rip apart before the winch gave out. LOL. Pulled my 5000-lb truck UP a 40 degree incline, with brakes locked and a bed full of firewood. I say it will do anything I would EVER need it to do… Very happy with my 9000. Now the 12,000-lb winch, and using a double line, is used for what? Bulldozers?”  1997 Silverado 350 Extended Cab – Concord, NC

“Searched a lot of places for a winch before buying this one. I put it on my ’78 Ford F-250 “highboy” with 39-inch boggers. I have pulled out multiple vehicles stuck in the mud, and even a tree from out of the creek that a 3020 John Deere tractor could not. Couldn’t be happier, in fact i just bought a second one.”  TheWiseGuy – Gallipolis, OH

5000 lb winch

When heading out with the buds for an off-road excursion, the wise man will gear up according to the credo, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”  That said, the Badlands 12000-lb. electric winch brings a whole new meaning to, “If ye are prepared, ye need not fear.” This is the Godzilla of the bunch, the one that can take on most any mishap and chore thrown at it. Rescue a vehicle, haul timber or load a boat with this powerful winch. The series-wound motor stays cool while the 3-stage planetary gear system provides fast line speed. Featuring an automatic load-holding brake for safety, this electric winch is a must-have for ANY off-road adventure! Just ask the guys who know:

“Installed the night before an off-road trip, got the Jeep stuck going uphill with the engine not able to run and it pulled the Jeep uphill like it wasn’t even there. Fixed a loose wire on the distributor and the Jeep started like the battery had not bothered at all. Easy to install, I did it in less than an hour. Tough, reliable product. I would definitely recommend to a friend and buy again! No need to spend $1200 on a Warn for a weekend warrior toy with this winch around!”  DocMicro – USA

“This winch is amazing… I pulled a car sideways– not forward or backward– but sideways, without my truck running to juice my battery, and it did it without a hiccup. Strong winch and def worth the money… If you’re looking for a winch, this is the one.”  Toyota Mud Dog – The Plains, OH

For the lighter rigs, they also have 2,500 and 3,500 lb. capacity winches. So when you’re ready to put a winch on your 4x– or replace your old one– check out the rough, tough line of affordable Badlands winches at Harbor Freight. No doubt, they’ll make a believer out of you, too.

HFT’s Your Halloween Costume Gear Headquarters

halloween harbor freight oct-2014

If you’ve haunted the aisles at Harbor Freight, you know they’ve got all kinds of great stuff for the garage. But, just for a minute, imagine how a lot of that can translate to Halloween costume gear, props and decor. Here are a few ideas for you to take with you the next time you swing by one of the stores.

Leather Welding Apron

leather welders apronWhether you’re Leatherface (the original) or a Keeper of the Pit of Despair, this Split Leather Welding Apron is a nice, low-cost touch to your infernal ensemble. At just $9.99, the rugged leather apron is double-stitched, adjustable for comfort, and comes with four pockets to store your devices of death… or Fun Size Snickers! As my yuppie zombie neighbor would say, “It’s a no-brainer!” Incidentally, the Leather Welding Gloves, at $4.99, coordinate fabulously.welding gloves

Industrial Face Masks

dual filter respiratorNothing is as unsettling as being confronted by someone wearing a respirator. Especially when they say stuff like, “I AM the League of Shadows!” or “Are you going to eat your steak fat?” Needless to say, they are cool apparatus to have as part of your nefarious costume. This Gerson Dual-Cartridge Respirator gives off a menacing look that’s sure to push the envelope on your malevolence, and will certainly come in handy if the party hostess burns the bacon-wrapped dates. And at only $15.99, it’s a far cry less expensive than that Groot mask you’ve been eyeing.neoprene dust maskAnother way to go is the Neoprene Dust Mask. Throw on a pair of black tint wraparound Oakleys and a Motley Crue wig with this bad boy and call yourself an interplanetary blue ninja assasin. Or Bane’s cousin… Blaine. Or throw on a half helmet and be an off-road zombie. What I’m trying to say is, this looks badass enough for a number of costume ideas, and for only $24.99, it’s a great accessory to keep in the costume drawer for future incarnations.


welding gogglesVictor Frankenstein would be thunderstruck jealous. These steampunk Welders Goggles come with both permanent  and flip-front darkening lenses, and an elastic band to secure comfortably to your melon. They’d also go great with any of the aforementioned items to add that Tim Burton-esque touch to your getup.  You don’t even have to wait for Halloween to wear them., they’re so swank. And for just $6.29?? I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation.

Blasting Hood

blasting hoodIf the 50’s SciFi Mars Mission motif is what you’re going for– or maybe this year you want to be HazMan– look no further than Harbor Freight’s Abrasive Blasting Hood! This space-odd chapeau offers full head and shoulder coverage with a hard hat inside. It also provides ample air circulation to stay cool, and it has a wide, impact-resistant viewing window for easy navigation of the party or neighborhood. Comes in snazzy red and is priced at a mere $19.99.

Blasting Gloves

rubber blasting glovesOur long Rubber-Coated Blasting Gloves make a great addition to the Steampunk Mad Doctor,  the Misunderstood Texas Butcher, that guy they ditched on Mars (in which case they’d be Blast-OFF Gloves) or maybe the Alien Life Form from Another Planet Whose Sole Intention is “To Serve Man” (props to those who got that reference). It’s industrial strength and is made for easy dexterity of hands and fingers. At $6.99, you might as well get two pair– one for taking over the world and the other for pretending you’re taking over the world while you clean out the septic tank.


swivel headlampAnother nice– and totally monetarily doable– touch for a number of Halloween getups is Harbor Freight’s popular Swivel Headlamp. Buy two and make them robot eyes shining out of a tin foil head. Strap one on your pooch’s noggin and he can be the Bionic Bowzer. Have your toddler wear a toy hard hat with one of the headlamps and– voilà!-– a Minor Miner! The Swivel Headlamp can be adjusted 90 degrees up or down and is lightweight, so it wears comfortably on the head. Only $2.99!

Spooky Ol’ Owl

owl garden scarecrowOriginally created to scare the snot out of birds and other pests from infiltrating the garden, this Great Horned Owl makes a swell prop for Halloween. Hand-painted to resemble a real predatory owl, this fowl creature stands 16″ tall and is built to endure all kinds of weather. Observe the malevolent stare, as if it’s saying, “Look kid, I know you’ve knocked on this door before. Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya… punk?” For only $13.99 it’s the best deal you’re going to find for a Halloween decoration of this quality.

Trick or Treating Lights

flashlights - two LED blogIf trick-or-treating is part of the plan this Oct. 31, then it behooves you to keep a couple of these on hand (or claw…depending on the getup). These Mini LED Flashlights are small, they’re bright, and they’ve got easy on-off buttons– perfect for the little monsters. And did I mention cheap? A pair of these lifesavers (and believe me, they will be) can be yours for a paltry $2.99. You’re welcome.

Find these and other drop-dead deals Halloween ideas at Harbor Freight Tools— If you miss out on these savings, it’ll haunt you for the rest of your life!

How Tough is the Storm Cat 900/700 Watt Generator?

What’s the best way to test a product you’re considering to buy? Why, throw it in the deep end, of course (that’s how Dad taught me). Throw everything at it, challenge the HECK out of it– which is exactly what redneckcomputergeak did to the Storm Cat 900 Peak/700 Running Watts, 2-HP (63cc) 2-Cycle Gas Generator (EPA/CARB) from Harbor Freight in a strenuous 16-minute video review. The Storm Cat may be the runt of the Harbor Freight generator litter, but this little dynamo (38 lb.) delivers the robust, reliable power you need when you need it.

900 watt generator testing

Referred to as a “recreational” generator, the Storm Cat is the perfect companion for camping, hunting, tailgating, family reunions, ice fishing, treehouse building, emergency preparedness and countless remote activities where there’s no power’s around. To further illustrate its abilities, though, redneckcomputergeak took it to task “at the job site” with a grinder, impact driver, chop saw (with a 60 hz motor), cement mixer and welder. Now, I’m not going to spoil it for you, but I will say if you’re in the market for a small portable generator, and you’re reading this now, it’ll be well worth your while to spend a few minutes more and watch the video.

Chances are, seeing what the Storm Cat is capable of– not to mention the low price!– gives you a few ideas on what you could use it for. And if you’re looking for more wattage to power, say, an RV, appliances or multiple large power tools, check out Harbor Freight’s selection of other gas-powered portable generators, all with great quality and prices.

5-Drawer Tool Cart Review

As a Harbor Freight blogger, one of the more entertaining things I get to do is look at customer reviews. For one, they can be very colorful. And let’s be honest: most of the time, someone thinking about getting a tool is gonna be a lot more interested in what another customer has to say than me.

5 drawer tool cart

Among the more popular products that get reviewed is the U.S. General 30″ 5-Drawer Glossy Red Tool Cart. One reason is simply because it’s a darn good tool box at a great, low price. Another (and this is just me philosophizing here) is ’cause it just integrates so well to whatever your special interest is, be it automotive, woodworking, electronics, garden-variety DIY, what have you. It follows you around the garage or shop easily, and you can personalize it in a way you just can’t other garage fixtures, such as with stickers, additions and accessories like bottle openers.

5 drawer tool cart - bottle opener

Yep, there’s a lot of great tool cart eye candy out there to give you ideas. Just go to Google Images, type “harbor freight 5-drawer tool cart” and let ‘er fly.

5 drawer tool cart - wrench mods

For the benefit of shoppers like, you though, the best reviews are the ones that answer all the pertinent questions. In regards to this tool cart, I wanted to share this customer YouTube video review, provided by ChuckE2009. In his 10-minute presentation, Chuck unboxes, assembles, tests, stocks and wheels around his 5-drawer tool cart, all the while offering commentary on the box’s quality, features and capabilities. In the world of customer reviews, I give this one an “A+.”

Check out the U.S. General 5-Drawer Tool Cart for yourself. Make sure you skim the customer reviews on the product page and, if convenient, go to your local Harbor Freight Tools and investigate it yourself. I think you’re going to find it’s a pretty cool box and a great deal.

How To Create An Organized Stackable Parts Storage Cabinet

If you’re like me, you’ve got a kind of “Winchester House-like” system for keeping all of your screws, bolts, nuts, washers, hooks, nails, brads, tacks and parts in a place where you can get at them… usually thrown all harum-scarum in the smaller upper workbench drawers and coffee cans. I’d hate to actually audit the time I’ve spent looking for everything whilst in the middle of projects.

stackable organizer complete 2

So, what would you think of having your hardware– every single cotter pin, rivet, fuse, lock nut– sequestered in its own bin, in labeled cases stacked 12-high in a portable cart? Well, that’s exactly what Dave Wirth did with his huge inventory of parts and fasteners, employing the Storehouse 20-Bin Portable Parts Storage Case from Harbor Freight.

20 bin storage case

Made of rugged ABS plastic, each case houses 20 removable bins and has a clear lid so you can see what you got inside without opening it up. It also comes with a handle for easy toting.

sorting the bins

Dave actually got a kick out of going through his stuff, dumping everything out, sorting them into their own trays, and then deciding which trays should be grouped together in the same case.  In the process, he found things he never knew he had.  Also, it was a treat knowing he’d never have to spend all that excess time looking for just the right sized bolt.

building the cart

So, how did Dave Wirth tackle this extremely cool modern marvel? Check out his detailed “how-to” video here:

And while you’re at it, visit his Blog for a quick pictorial of how it’s done. It really is a neat project and a work of art.

As for the table saw, miter saw, wood glue, clamps, nail gun, compressor, belt sander and casters— whatever you don’t already have in your arsenal– you can find at Harbor Freight at great prices.

How To Save On Car Repairs With an OBD II Scanner

Do Your Own Diagnostics BEFORE You Take The Vehicle In

Five Ways to Save Serious Money on Car Repairs

There’s a growing popularity these days for DIY OBD-II (On-Board Diagnostics, the diagnostic and reporting tech used in most vehicles 1996 and newer) scanners you can use to diagnose your own car issues. When the “Check Engine” light comes on– or your car starts beeping and/or flashing like the dickens– more often than not there’s an OBD code associated with it. The OBD-II scanners read those codes and beeps, and convert them into plain language so you can understand what’s wrong with the car. Many of them let you do your own health checks on your car, and others will even record data while you drive and help you figure out if there’s a problem before it becomes a serious issue. So, with the effort of a short learning curve, you can be diagnosing your cars for problems early and save mucho dinero.

Something to keep in mind is that there are two types of OBD II diagnostic trouble codes: generic “P0” codes and enhanced “P1” codes. All 1996+ vehicles use the same basic definitions for the generic codes, but the enhanced codes are vehicle-specific and could very well change from one model year to another. So it’ll likely be out of date by the next model year and have to be updated or replaced. What’s more, some types of faults will set a P1 code but not set a P0 code. That’s why you need a tool that can read both types of codes, not just the generic ones.


There are several OBD-II scanners available at Harbor Freight Tools which provide varying features, including multilingual language (English, Spanish, French). One of the more popular , the Cen-Tech OBD II & CAN Scan Tool with ABS, can also read the special diagnostics software for antilock brake systems (on most post-’96 vehicles), as well as the generic and model-specific codes– and other troubleshooting features– making this a great addition to the garage. This one can diagnose most of the issues you’ll experience.


For those who want to cover all contingencies, the Autel MaxiDAS® DS708 is the Swiss army knife of home automotive diagnostic tools. Developed by a team of the best engineers and technicians in the industry, the DS708 is a state-of-art vehicle diagnostic system that delivers a more accurate, stable, comprehensive, easier and faster diagnosis and provides incredibly high performance for the DIYer. This tool offers home workshops and auto technicians an OE-level diagnostic solution rarely seen outside a high-tech professional shop. Not only does it read all 5 OBD-II protocols and all 10 test modes, it can be used wirelessly with connectivity throughout your shop. But, like I said, it IS a Swiss army knife, so it’s worth checking around automotive websites and see if this is the ticket or overkill.

OBD selection

There are a number of other OBD-II scanner models at Harbor Freight, all at great prices for the features they offer. Take the time to review each one, including reviews and even Google other sites for what they have to say about them. HFT is sure to have the right scanner for you.