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Gear Talk - Do I Really Want To Run A Locker?

Posted in How To on January 1, 2009
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Contributors: Kevin Weibusch

When looking for extreme traction off-road, a locker is the obvious choice for many truck builders. But before you rush off and buy any number of lockers available on the market, you have to ask yourself, "Do I really want to run a locker?" While a locker does provide the highest level of traction available, it is not without its drawbacks. Let's take a look at some of the characteristics and problems associated with a locker:

1. Noise:
Lockers are designed for one thing only: traction. They are not designed to be smooth, street friendly, or quiet. Noise associated with lockers comes from the ratcheting of the internal gears when turning a corner. This causes the unit to bang, clunk, snap, and pop its way through a turn, shaking the vehicle as it goes.

2. Driveline Slop
Inside a locker, there is a space between the mechanical teeth to allow the teeth to engage and disengage. The resulting "slop" between the teeth is transferred to the driveline and is apparent when getting on and off the gas.After a locker is installed, the driveline can rotate up to half a rotation before the teeth of a locker engage and the vehicle begins to move. The resulting "bang" can be unsettling the first few times, causing drivers to think that their locker is defective or that something is wrong when it is normal.

3. Barking Tires Around Turns
Due to its mechanical nature, a locker tries to drive both tires as long you are on the gas. As a result, it does not care if you are traveling in a straight line or going around a turn, it will attempt to lock up. This action will cause the vehicle to jerk around the turn, make noise, and could cause additional tire wear over time. The only way to eliminate this is for the driver to let off the gas and coast around the turn.

4. Increased Turning Radius With Locker In Front
A locker tries to engage when it is under power. In a front application, this translates to increased turning radius. On a tight trail or rock-line, this could become an issue and cause you to have to make a multi-point turn. In addition to an increased turning radius, it should be noted that a locked front end is much harder on axles and U-joints as a result of the axles binding up.

In closing, a locker is definitely the best option for people looking for the highest level of traction possible. The affects listed here are most noticeable in light vehicles, vehicles with short wheel bases, or manual transmissions. For some people, the issues explained earlier may not be a problem at all. Some vehicles are trailered to site, and some drivers simply don't care about the operational affects of the locker. If these issues sound like they might be an issue for you, I suggest you consider an aggressive limited-slip or a selectable locker.

Gear questions?Contact Randy's Ring & Pinion by calling (877) 349-1547.

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