Ah, the Harbor Freight Chicago Electric 8K winch. I was able to pick it up pennies and I thought it was a good deal. If figured I would wheel it until it burned out or broke down, then I would get a Warn or Ramsey. That was 2003. Today it is 11/2009 and the thing is still kicking. Still slow spooling but it has never quit on me. I replaced the solenoid box once. That was after 6 years of hard wheeling, up hill pulls, rain, water crossings. So I figured I got my moneys worth of that box. Swapped in a MileMarker (good source for parts/made in same China Factory) solenoid and the thing just won't quit. I am still planning on replacing it someday, but not until it dies out. So the way things are going this might be a while.
Edit - Update - This winch has been going on 7 years strong. 9/21/10. It has been rebuilt once using Milemarker parts that were a direct fit. It keeps going and going, slow as
but still keeps cranking. I have pulled myself out of jams, pulled other Jeeps, Suzukis, full size rigs, I just can't seem to get it to quit.
Edit - Update - As of 5/2011 The winch keeps running. Milemarker solenoid has proved to be more durable than the old CE version. After a recent trip I sunk it and was winching submerged. Still worked great. After the trip I noticed some cable damage so I threw that cable in the metal scrap pile. I'm going to switch to synthetic winch line now. I figure I can move the synthetic line over to a new winch if I ever blow up the motor or the clutch.
Finding parts (even through a milemarker source) has become more difficult. Ebay is your best bet for replacement parts, and they are likely semi-worn out and taken off a different winch.
Harbor Freight no longer stocks the CE 8000# version. They have switched to the "Badlands" winches which look nicer, but have heard mixed reviews on.
This is where buying a Warn winch really shines. Parts are more easily available for rebuilding and repairing. Trying to continually rebuild and repair these throw-away Harbor Freight winches is a loosing battle.
Update 8/1/2011: Winch still running great. Overheated it twice on the last wheeling trip in Wisconsin. Winched several Jeeps out of jams but didn't end up winching myself anywhere. Winched a JKL and a WJ. Am Steel Synthetic line performed great. Winch is still slow but still clicking away. It is almost 10 years old now and has had a hard life. I must have gotten a good one.