Let’s talk lockers. No, not the old metal standbys that store sweaty gym clothes, pizza crusts, overdue homework and who knows what else. I’m referring to lockers that can be installed on your Jeep to assist with traction when needed (so you [hopefully] don’t get stuck, or so you can [hopefully] get yourself un-stuck if need be).
When my husband realized how much I like off-roading in the mud, he said, “You need lockers.” And recently there have been plenty of posts in Facebook groups and other forums about fellow off-roaders wheeling in the snow (“need lockers and a winch!”) or just driving snowy streets with their "lockers on." Since I didn’t know anything about lockers for off-road purposes, I decided to research a bit. If you’re new to the world of lockers, here’s a collection of info that will help. (And, if you’re a seasoned off-roader please provide your input in the Comments section at the bottom!).
Why and when are lockers needed?
Lockers are needed for tough terrain because the differentials installed into most front and rear axles have a characteristic that can turn 4x4 Jeeps into 4x2 Jeeps in tough traction situations: when one wheel loses traction, that wheel will start spinning ineffectively. The bigger problem is that one spinning wheel on an axle causes both wheels to seem like they have very little traction... so even though the wheel on the other non-spinning side may have excellent traction, that non-spinning wheel won't receive enough power to keep you moving. Why? Because the differential screws up and only ‘sends power’ to the wheel that is spinning. (Source)
A locker fixes this problem by LOCKING the left and right wheel together so that one wheel will not spin while the other does nothing – the left and right wheel are locked together so they both spin the same. As far as types of lockers, there are automatic lockers or manual lockers, and you can choose to add lockers to your front axle, or to your rear axle, or both. Sometimes the type of locker you can install on your vehicle will depend on the type of axle you’ve got. Following are links to informative articles about different types of lockers.
General overview of how lockers work (including technical summary), automatic vs. manual lockers
Experts review different kinds of lockers, provide descriptions, pros, cons
Various forum definitions of lockers and opinions of what type to install
Reviews from folks who've installed lockers on various vehicles (11 locker brands reviewed)
Visual diagram of how lockers affect road driving
Armed with some knowledge about lockers and how they work, I’d still request input and advice from a trained professional at a 4x4 shop. Now I have to save up my pennies in case I decide to get lockers for my ride.
Do you have lockers on your ride? What kind? How do they perform for you? Leave feedback in the Comments below!