RCN Tool Reviews: Pittsburgh 2-Ton Foldable Shop Crane

Posted December 10, 2020

By Dean Larson

When it comes to stocking your toolbox and shop shelves, there are generally two schools of thought, each with their own merits. Some guys turn up their noses at the idea of anything less than Snap-on, Matco, Cornwell and the like, and there’s definitely something to be said about buying quality pieces made here in the U.S.A. Others might shop on price or perceived value alone, frequenting Amazon or Harbor Freight for the cheapest thing they can find that gets the job done. Risking my shred of automotive credibility, I’ll admit that I’m somewhere in the middle. Nearly all of my power tools are from Milwaukee Tools, and all my screwdrivers, sockets, ratchets and so on are from Craftsman or better, but I’ll admit that I occasionally go the cheap route to get a job done, or when I feel like I can’t afford to go big.

Having recently stocked a new shop space with tools, I have plenty of new pieces to choose from and about a year worth of testing them out. For a judging metric, I decided to go with something we can all understand — the check, check-plus, check-minus system. Basically, check-minus means that you should look elsewhere, check-plus means we’d recommend it and check is somewhere in the middle. Take our experiences for what they're worth, but rest assured, this column doesn't have any tool sponsors!

Pittsburgh 2-Ton Foldable Shop Crane — Harbor Freight

I feel like I need to write a disclaimer every time I admit to owning a cheap tool, so please don’t put me on blast for this one. Obviously a faulty engine hoist could do significant damage to pricey engines and bodywork (not to mention your person), and that’s going to quickly exceed any cost savings you’ll get from buying a cheap hoist. But, as per usual, I was in a pinch and needed to move six engines and transmissions out of a storage unit by myself. So off to the local Harbor Freight I went, and the rock-bottom price made it a no-brainer at the time. But you already know it’s cheap, and I’m sure you’re wondering how it’s held up.

You’ll need to part with $240 for this tool if you buy it at full price (I think I paid around $169 for it on sale), but for your money, this hoist isn’t that bad. I chose the two-ton unit, which looks nice and folds up in a fairly compact space when you’re not using it. Fit and finish is adequate, and the boom extends out to nearly 62 inches and will lift things 89 inches up (that’s probably on the half-ton setting). The lift uses a conventional type 8-ton ram, clevis grab hook and six caster wheels.

Those caster wheels are a common source of complaints across the web, and since they’re of cast construction, small debris on the shop floor can affect their performance. In my experience, however, this hasn’t been a big issue. One feature that I’m not totally thrilled on is the hydraulic ram, which doesn’t seem to generate much lift per pump. Furthermore, it sometimes seems like the ram is hardly lifting at all, even without weight on the boom. I’ve even helped the ram up by lifting some on the boom (without any load on it obviously). Maybe there’s a logical explanation there, but either way, it crosses my mind when I use the hoist.

I've probably used this hoist on 10 different occasions in the last year, and I've lifted everything from Chrysler 318s, to Ford Flatheads and Windsor engines, on up to the Mopar 440 V8. So really, that's not a lot of weight compared to what this tool can do. If you look around the web though, you'll find videos of guys lifting up the front ends of their trucks and SUVs, but we'd strongly recommend upgrading at least the hardware before you attempt something that foolish. So far, I haven't needed anything more than what this tool has to offer.

I’m going to give this tool the benefit of the doubt, and if there happens to be something wrong with my ram, I could throw a new one on for around $60. Since it has yet to let me down, I’ll give it a straight check.

Score: ✓

Check out the Pittsburgh 2-Ton Shop Crane here at Harbor Freight.

Pittsburg Hoist2

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