Ah, Harbor Freight. It’s like the McDonald’s of tool stores. You know it’s probably not good for you, but when you’re working hard and need a quick fix so you can get on with your project, their easy access and dirt cheap prices are there to lure us in. Sometimes that lack of planning comes back to bite us in the ass, like when one of the most important tools in your arsenal — jack stands — become the subject of an NHTSA safety recall.
The recall affects both 3-ton and 6-ton jack stands. As reported by Road and Track, both “have the potential to disengage their support pawl under shifting weight, causing the stand to drop suddenly.” We don’t have to tell you that this would be very, very bad if you happened to be under the car when it occurred.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the defect stems from old tooling used at the factory that produces the jack stands. Over time, the location of the pawl armature hole became inconsistent as the machines stamped out millions of these things.
The initial NHTSA recall dated March 20, 2020 affected 6-ton jack stands, model number 61197 We doubt many JNCers have a set of these unless you also own a truck, but on May 3, 2020, the NHTSA added 3-ton jack stands with the model number 56371 or 61196.
We know there’s at least a few of you out there who own a set of these 3-tonners, as Harbor Freight sold 1,254,000 of them and 454,000 of the 6-tonners. Even though the NHTSA suspects the defect only applies to recent production batches and 5 percent of the total number sold, it thought it would be safest just to recall them all.
The suspect stands can be identified by the model numbers on the labels, which may have come off due to age. So if you bought your jack stands at Harbor Freight from late 2012 through the end of 2019 (see the links to NHTSA above for specific dates), stop using them right now.
Harbor Freight has already stopped selling the affected stands, and if you bring your old ones into the store they will issue you store credit equal to the price of the stands.
However, we would venture to say that even Harbor Freight stands made beyond this time frame should be considered suspect. In fact, the ones we bought on Amazon could have come from the same factory, even though we paid more than double what Harbor Freight charges. The best insurance is just to slip a wheel under the car.
We know JNCers can be cheap bastards — no judgement, we have shopped at Harbor Freight ourselves — so consider this a public service announcement. Also, we can’t really afford to any of our five readers.