E-Locker vs Air Locker: What’s Better & Why?

There are two primary components of off-roading – overcoming obstacles on the road and having traction. Most off-road vehicles target to achieve these two tasks with ease.

Does the same concept apply to locking differential, and off-roaders are often locking horns on this debate – which is better, e-locker or air locker? 

Let’s try to decode this e-locker vs air locker debate to pick a winner in this article.

e-locker vs air locker


The importance of traction

The friction between the road and your wheels is the easiest way to define traction. Thus traction differs from one road to the other. It’s essential for your car wheels to always have a grip on the road. 

However, sometimes, like on an off-roading trip, your car may lose traction with the road or become quite low. In such cases, the wheels keep spinning, and you are stuck. An open differential might cause your car to spin more which might be a waste of time.

What is a locking differential? 

The differential is a type of system that allows the wheels and axle to turn at different speeds. Most cars feature open differentials, ideal for conventional driving. However, things will change when you opt for off-roading. 

The engine sends power to the axle through an open differential locking mechanism. The wheels, however, get the least amount of traction and the most amount of power. 

What is a locking differential

This setup works perfectly for all two-wheel drive vehicles until you get in a low-traction situation. When you have one wheel on the ground and one in the air, all your power will be sent to the air-bound wheel. The results – you are stuck. This is where a locking differential comes in handy. 

A locking differential sends equal power to both wheels resulting in better traction and performance. However, while regular driving, a locking differential may prove problematic since both wheels turn simultaneously. 

This problem can be avoided by opting for either an e-locker or an air locker. Both the locking mechanisms allow the driver to change open to locked or vice versa, using air pressure or an electronic switch. 

E-locker vs air locker (Key Differences)

These are both popular manual lockers. Air lockers use pneumatic pressure to push the locking ring forward at the spider gears. This locks the gear against the housing. 

Once the gears are pushed, they don’t rotate; the axle shaft cannot turn independently, turning an open differential into a spool. To use an air locker, you need a few things installed first. These include an air compressor, air lines, wiring, and an air tank. 

Electronic or e-lockers, on the other hand, use electromagnets. The electrically charged locker pulls the roller clams apart and keeps them separated using ball bearings. This causes the heavy pins to be pushed into the differential’s side gear, thereby locking it. 

While air lockers require some level of modification, like a tank or a compressor, e-lockers only need a 12V power source to function, which is most often available with the battery. 

As both has their own advantages and disadvantages, it’s difficult to choose a winner in this e-locker vs air locker comparison.

Pros and cons of e-lockers

E lockers have a simpler design than air lockers and are far easier to install and repair. The installation cost of e-lockers is also lower than that of air lockers. 

E lockers are also reliable as they depend on only a 12V power source supplied by the vehicle battery.

Unlike air lockers, e-lockers are quiet as they generate no compressor noise or vibration

Pros and cons of e-lockers

However, the only downside is that e-lockers take some time to engage and are not as quick as air lockers. 

Pros and cons of air locker

Air lockers have a complex but reliable system.

In some situations during trail riding, drivers need to engage their lockers, which is smoothly possible with an air locker. 

ARB is a household name while discussing air lockers and takes lesser than a second fl engage, eliminating the various risks of high trailing. 

Pros and cons of air locker

The air compressor required to operate the air locker is also quite beneficial. These air compressors can inflate tires and clean the car’s air filters and door seals.

Air lockers are also environment friendly and eliminate the chances of any vehicle damage as cars with air lockers can be driven in a far safer and more controlled manner. 

Though the advantages of air lockers are plenty, they have certain disadvantages. For starters, they are far more difficult to install than e-lockers. Cost wise, air lockers are on the higher side.

While air lockers are cheaper than e-lockers, the additional purchase of an air tank and compressor increases the overall prices. 

If not installed properly, the airlines are prone to leakage, and sometimes the differential lubricant gets into the airlines. Airlines are so prone to freezing in low temperatures. 

Which should you choose?

It’s difficult to determine the best locking system of the two since both have pros and cons.

An electronic locking system is ideal if one has a tow truck and rarely opts for off-roading, especially for the rear wheels. However, if one enjoys wilding out on the trail rides, an air locker is the best option, even though it’s a little high. 

It’s advisable to avoid making budget cuts on your lockers. If you are into adventure riding, don’t put a price on safety.  

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