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Icon Tools: Comparable to Snap-On or Better?

Icon sells wrenches and hand tools that compare to Snap-On

Harbor Freight has been a staple among auto repair techs and DIY mechanics for decades. For many years, the tool supplier focused mostly on budget tools and affordable options. In an attempt to compete with tool trucks like Matco, Snap On and Mac Tools they are introducing a new line of “professional” Icon Tools. 


With the release of their “professional tool line”, Icon Tools it seems Harbor Freight has made a serious attempt at fighting back against the high retail prices found on tool trucks like Snap On and Matco. 


Harbor Freight is doing so by offering tools and even tool boxes that bear a striking resemblance to the same sets found on the Snap On truck. Of course, to compete they are selling the Icon brand of tools and storage for much less than anything you will find on the Snap On truck. 


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How do these Icon tools compare to Snap On though? 


Does Harbor Freight’s line of Icon wrenches and other hand tools live up to the “professional”, “tool truck quality” that the big box retailer claims? Can a brick and mortar tool store sell tools that compare to Snap On? If so, why are you still getting on the tool truck– especially for hand tools?  

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Icon wrenches are remarkably similar to Snap On’s much higher priced line.


Surprisingly, I have yet to find (after some research), any evidence that Snap On Tools USA is pursuing litigation against Harbor Freight even though they have done so in the past regarding Daytona branded floor jacks that were sold at Harbor Freight locations all across the country.

Snap On’s argument in that case was that Harbor Freight was selling Daytona floor jacks which in their words “are substantially identical in shape and appearance”. 


With the new line of Icon Tools that I’ve bought and used from Harbor Freight, I’m shocked that the US-based tool distributor Snap On has not used this argument against Harbor Freight again regarding Icon. 


For comparison sake, here’s a picture of Icon wrenches versus Snap On wrenches.
Retailing at nearly $1,000 are Snap On wrenches any better than Icon?


As you can see by looking at Icon versus Snap On’s wrenches, their physical appearance is pretty close. Not enough to warrant legal action though. 


Icon took some measures to prevent legal issues with Snap On. The lettering on the Icon wrench is a little bit bigger and styled a touch different with the use of “italics” in the Icon lettering. The Icon wrenches are also wider than Snap On, but they do use a design very similar to flank drive on the open end. 

At first touch and feel, the Icon Tools version of wrenches from Harbor Freight seem to be beefier, a tad longer and provide more leverage than their Snap On and Matco competition. I primarily use my Tekton wrenches these days but I was satisfied with the Icon wrenches. 

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There’s always an alternative to Snap On 


If you’re reading this it’s either because you want to compare Icon tools to Snap On or you are looking for a tool truck alternative. I talk frequently about the Snap On alternatives and preach consistently to readers that they should be buying more tools on Amazon. 

I was impressed with my Icon wrenches, but I found out later that Amazon sells even better TEKTON Tools wrenches. I have since bought two sets of TEKTON wrenches. The standard and metric sets, both of which are excellent and the standard 60-30 offset angle head wrenches for hydraulic and brake line fittings. The offset wrenches have saved my life when it comes to hydraulic brake lines that are hard to get to and air line fittings on semi-truck air condensers and air brake valves. 

This is the Tekton set of 60-30 wrenches. If you click the photo, you can find the latest prices and reviews.  


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Icon wrenches are larger compared to Snap On, giving you more leverage. 


Looks can be deceiving especially when it comes to finding the best quality tools for automotive repairs. Some of the best looking tools I’ve used have turned out to be either inefficient, poor quality or just plain ineffective for every day auto repairs.

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What about Icon ratchets? Do they compare to Snap On? 


One of the most important tools in an auto techs box is his ratchet. Varying in size from 1/4 to 1 inch and larger, every mechanic will want quality from his or her ratchets. 

So in order to find out if Icon ratchets were close enough to Snap-On to warrant a purchase, I found a good comparison of the Icon ratchet versus Snap On on YouTube. Full disclosure- I have never used an Icon ratchet myself. So, I’m not the best person to give you an Icon versus Snap On ratchet review. 

Icon ratchets look remarkably similar to Snap-On and offer a lot of the same designs. Harbor Freight even sells a 24k gold plated version of its 3/8 Icon ratchet, something Snap-On has done for a long time. The technology Icon uses is a 90 degree tooth count with a 4º arc angle which on paper rivals the best ratchets available on the market. 

TEKTON has actually stepped in as one of my favorite new ratchets and one I can actually vouch for. The partially US-based hand tool company offers a wide variety of 90 tooth count ratchets and the cost alternative to Snap On is huge. I just did a post reviewing the TEKTON folding ratchet (PN SRH35104) and it’s a nicely designed little stubby flex head ratchet. Snap On offers a similar version in the fkf80a, but it costs over $100 more and is less flexible. 

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How Does Icon Compare to Snap On in Every Day Use?

When I started a job at Casella Waste Systems as an apprentice technician, I was required to have at the very least an assortment of hand tools. The shop had most of the pneumatic and cordless tools that the mechanics needed but hand tools were my responsibility to purchase. 

The job I was leaving to take the position at Casella’s did not require and advised against having our own tools because there were issues with techs mixing up their tools amongst each other, or confusing them with the shop tools.

Starting with nothing, I just wanted some good wrenches that were cheap. 

For this reason, I did not have a vast selection of tools to choose from and I did not have thousands of dollars to invest in Snap On tools to get me started. I seriously considered Craftsman, but was not initially impressed with the quality of the new version of the brand. 

So I took the around $1,000 I did have saved up that I could spare and I took a trip to Harbor Freight. I knew with $1,000 I could get plenty of hand tools to get me started and accumulate more as time went on.


How do Icon hand tools compare to Snap On when it comes to quality? 


I knew right off that wrenches were going to be a must have in my tool box at Casella or anywhere else that I went. I had sets of mixed Craftsman and other wrenches that I could have used to get by. I really wanted to have a decent set of SAE and Metric wrenches though. 


Also, I’ve never been a fan of Craftsman wrenches. I don’t like the design of them and I find them hard to maneuver in tighter spots. Wrenches were my first order of business


I saw these Icon tools with flashy, expensive looking when I got to the tool and automotive supply store. Almost immediately I came across these Icon Tools sets that were actually beautifully packaged and looked to be just as nicely designed and built.


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Icon tools are cheap in relation to Snap On, but how’s the quality? 

Listed at $99 for the set of Icon metric wrenches (vs $6-700 for Snap On), I was intrigued because the most popular line of tools at Harbor Freight are Pittsburgh branded and their 14-piece set was only listed at $24.99.

So, now I have to make a decision. Do I spend $25 on the Pittsburgh wrench set or do I shell out four times that much. Harbor Freight wanted $100 for the Icon brand that I had never heard of. Harbor Freight touted these as a professional wrench set and targeted at professional auto technicians.

After spending several hours in the store looking at wrenches, pliers, screw drivers, tool storage options and other miscellaneous things needed to work on garbage trucks, I walked out with the two sets of Icon wrenches to give them a shot.


I was impressed by the packaging, the look and feel of the wrenches themselves and also, I liked the design of the open end which seemed to match pretty closely to the Snap On flank drive.


Did I expect it to work 100% as good as Snap On’s flank drive when it comes to not ruining fasteners and providing the best bite? Not for a second. But I did like the odds that Icon would be sufficient and not detrimental to my quality of work.


Icon’s wrenches were a perfect replacement for Snap-On.


After opening the box that the Icon wrenches came in, I was surprised to see that they came in a pretty heavy duty plastic case. The Standard Icon wrenches (1/4 inch-1 inch) came in a red hard plastic tray and the metric version 6-19 mm came in a black hard plastic tray.


Although they are nice, durable trays I disposed of them only because they took up too space in the small (but remarkably durable and sexy) Gearwrench 36” chest I was using at the time. Which, also by the way, I bought at Walmart for $349 with the butcher block top. I’ve been abusing it for well over a year with no problems at all. But that’s just another example of a much cheaper option than buying everything from the tool trucks.


Icon tools should be considered when price is a factor. 


Back to the Icon wrenches though. That is after all what we’re talking about at the moment. Are these Icon wrenches any good and can they even be held in the same category as Snap On or other tool truck versions?


The first thing I noticed when I started using the Icon wrenches was that they seemed to provide more leverage than the Snap On or Blue Point wrenches I’ve used in the past. Assumedly, the extra leverage comes from the added size of these wrenches versus Snap On versions.


Icon wrenches are as strong and durable as Snap On. 


Maybe I’m crazy but they feel bigger and they feel stronger in terms of leverage. Especially when using the closed end, which will always provide more leverage and break away than the open end of a wrench for obvious reasons such as stretching.


But, do Icon wrench open ends stretch when trying to use them on tight fasteners? After a year of consistent use, my answer would be almost never. I say almost because I have noticed on a couple occasions, while really putting them to the test, the spanners would spread a very small amount. Not enough to do any damage if you are proficient with a wrench, but enough to be noticeable in the right circumstances.


How is the finish, physical appearance of Icon wrench sets?


As I said, I’ve been using Icon’s combination wrench sets for over a year now. Eight months of that time was spent working on garbage trucks at Casella Waste Systems. There was no lack of abuse during that time. I live in the North East, as close to Canada as you can get without living there.


The salt, rust and debris are an every day battle and do take a gruesome toll on the tools we use daily. I’m happy to say that aside from a little grease, I have noticed zero cosmetic defects on these Icon wrenches. They literally look as new as they did when I bought them at Harbor Freight.


This is a fair comparison of Snap On and Icon hand tools. 


To wrap this post up, it’s important to state I have no financial interest in Icon Tools. I have no relationship to the company or Harbor Freight and I am not writing this for any financial gain. 


My only reason for taking the time to write this is to save a couple people some money. You can do this by skipping out on those $800 wrench sets off the tool truck. After all, even if you had to buy 8 sets of Icon wrenches, you would still be breaking even.


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Whats the warranty on Icon tools? 

Of course, with the same lifetime warranty as Snap On, you will never have to pay to replace them. Having to warranty a set of Icon wrenches or any other tool is simple. With Harbor Freight locations all over, just stop in and trade the broken tool for a new one. 

Tool truck brands like Snap On and Matco are famous mostly due to the no questions asked warranty process. The problem with warranty at Snap On is you might only see the tool truck once a week. In some rural locations, even less. 

Being able to warranty your Icon tool at 8 PM on a Saturday night is great. It’s a benefit to buying these wrenches that you can’t appreciate fully until you need to utilize it. This is why I also recommended Carlyle tools in a newer post. 

Verdict: Are Icon tools worth the money? 

For $100, if you’re not satisfied on a professional level, I promise they will be the best at home wrenches you can find. Most technicians will have no problem using these wrenches at work though. 

With a similar technology to Snap On’s flank drive, superior quality and an excellent finish Icon tools are well worth the price. If you don’t believe me, stop at your local Harbor Freight and look at them in person. 

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