You’ve Heard Of Them – But Do You Know If You Need Lockers?


In the world of off-roading, there are plenty of useful modifications you can make to improve your truck’s 4WD performance and others that just take your money without giving you much in return.

One important mod on the improvement side is a set of lockers, which are beneficial for improving your 4-wheel power and greatly improving your traction.

Before you go out and buy a set, learn what they are and what they do so you’ll see how effective lockers can be and feel good about shelling out that cash!

What Are Lockers?

Lockers, also known as differential lockers, lock a pair of axles together so that both wheels in the pair get equal amounts of power from the transmission at all times.

While this is the main function of any 4WD transmission, most have one downfall that makes standard 4WD less suitable for off-roading: uneven power distribution when losing traction.

Standard 4WD increases power only to the wheel that’s losing traction, reducing power to the wheel with good traction in an effort to even out the power being delivered to both, which is great for street driving on a slick road in 4WD but does little to improve traction off-road.

By using lockers to force the axles to work simultaneously, you can eliminate the issue of your traction tire slowing while your free tire is spinning faster and gain full traction over different surfaces.

How Do Lockers Work?

Because the unlocked differentials in most standard 4WD and AWD transmissions send the most drive-train power to whichever tire has the least traction, this is a definite downside when going off-road if one tire comes off the ground.

Differential lockers correct this, making the 4WD more powerful by locking the axles so they rotate together rather than independently, regardless of whether they have traction or not.

This gives equal power to both wheels even if one tire comes off the ground momentarily, so the tire on the ground continues to turn.

It’s ideal for off-road driving, where it’s common for one wheel to come off the ground while you’re rock crawling or driving uneven trails yet the other wheel maintains forward momentum to achieve the most traction.

With both wheels constantly turning, the vehicle has equal continuous traction and is rolling forward whenever the tire comes in contact with a surface, no need for either tire to come back up to speed again.

Limited Slip or Selectable Locking Differentials

There are two ways you can benefit from locking differentials on your truck: automatic limited slip differentials and selectable fully-locking ones:

  • Limited Slip Differentials – This is somewhat of a combination between an open differential and an automated locked one, great on snow, sand, and other slippery surfaces. They are automatically controlled by the vehicle and will lock as needed, then unlock again for standard 4WD.
  • Selectable Differentials – This involves fully-locking differentials that you must manually activate and deactivate as needed.

While limited slip differentials are better for going off-road than a completely open differential, a locking differential that you can totally control is still the ideal choice for general off-roading.

Some vehicles even include built-in limited-slip differentials; however, adding a set of lockers to your front and rear differentials will yield the highest degree of control over powering your wheels and the degree of traction you can expect from your truck.

Lock Up Your Differential and Power On!

If you’re looking for a traction modification that will really improve your truck’s performance, start with the basics of bigger wheels and meatier tires and then consider a set of differential lockers.

Lockers harness all that power your drive train can deliver in a way that keeps your truck climbing with all four wheels.

Locked axles give you the power needed to climb and conquer while avoiding those spinning wheels that get you nowhere!

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