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Everything You Need To Know About Air Lockers & When To Use Them

Those of us who enjoy taking our four-by-four off-road know that even the most familiar tracks can present us with unexpected conditions. Say you are up a steep ridge, on uneven rocky terrain or a slippery mud-laden track, being able to take advantage of traction is an essential component to keeping you and your vehicle safe. 

Simply put, traction is the resistance between your vehicle’s tyres and the ground which offers you, as the driver, control of the vehicle. No traction = No control. Drive on the other hand is the delivery of torque and power; drive (with an appropriate amount of torque force) is what rotates the wheels and tyres against the track’s resistance.

While your four-wheel drive is designed to receive power (drive) to all four wheels, power can only be delivered to a maximum of two wheels at any one time without the assistance of a differential lock.

ARB offers one of the world’s most famous and proven locking differentials, the ARB Air Locker.
ARB Air Lockers are the strongest locking differential on the market, and the fastest to engage and disengage, taking approximately 1/10th of a second to lock at the flick of a switch, on just about any terrain. 

Read on to learn Everything You Need To Know About Air Lockers and When To Use Them

What Is Differential & How Do They Work?

Your four-wheel-drive has a front and rear differential which is designed to distribute power (drive) to either the left or right wheel on each axle. The delivery of drive to just one side of the vehicle is what allows your left and right wheels to spin at different speeds, crucial for on-road cornering

When you're off the beaten track and one wheel is suspended in the air or is sitting on a very slippery surface, the differential will only delivery drive to the wheel with no traction. This works against 4WD-ers because you'll likely find yourself in a sticky situation, where one wheel on the front axle and one wheel on the rear axle has little to no traction, therefore, no drive.

When To Use Your Lockers?

Every driver will engage their Air Lockers at different times, depending on the vehicle, tyres, driver skill, approach angle, etc. However, a good rule of thumb is to engage your Air Lockers when traversing low traction surfaces, whether they be slippery or overly uneven, causing wheels to lift. Switching the differential to ‘locked’ will send equal drive to both wheels, meaning that both the wheel off the ground and the one firmly planted on the ground will have equal drive, allowing the wheel with the most traction to push you forward and continue on the track.

Already have Air Lockers fitted to your rig? Then you have may have already noticed that they have been wired so that you must turn the rear on before you can turn the front on. This is a safety precaution that has been done so that people don’t accidentally switch their front locker on when it’s not required. A locked front diff will change the way a vehicle steers compared to having it unlocked, giving you a hell of a fright if you didn't expect it! 

If you are just driving on dirt roads or even easy 4WD tracks, the lockers aren't required.
When you're on harder tracks, try to read the terrain before you drive it. If you’re unsure whether you’ll get up an incline or through a muddy bog hole then engage the rear diff lock first. If you are still struggling, back your foot off the accelerator for a second and engage the front Air Locker as well. Do not engage either Air Locker when you are hard on the accelerator and with wheels spinning. This is what we term as ‘crash locking’ and will ultimately cause damage to the Air Locker or other parts of your drivetrain. It’s the equivalent of trying to change gears without the clutch. 

Another common situation when you will make use of a rear Air Locker is going downhill. Steep, rocky, slippery, rutted downhills can be horrible things. The vehicle often has a mind of its own as individual wheels lose grip. Lock the rear Air Locker in at the top of the hill and you’ll be amazed at how well the vehicle descends. When the two back wheels are forced to rotate at the same speed, the vehicle will be held much straighter. 

The best thing you can do is head bush and learn for yourself! You will adopt new techniques in time. 

Do My Tyres Really Matter?

Tyres, their tread pattern and construction are one of the most important factors to the performance of your 4x4.  Your tyres are the final piece of the puzzle in transferring the engine’s energy to the track so that the wagon can move forward.

The fact is, you will never be able to control the traction of the track surface, but there are a couple of things you can do that will hugely improve the likeliness of finding and maintaining traction. 

  • Invest in a good set of all-terrain or mud-terrain tyres and
  • Always adjust your tyre pressure to suit the terrain you are on. 

Reducing tyre pressure (letting air out) increases the surface area that the tyre has in contact with the ground. The benefits of low tyre pressure can also be seen when navigating rocky terrain, where the tyres have an increased ability to shape themselves around objects on the track, in turn, helping us gain more traction.

So, What's The Diff?

Wondering what the real difference is between ARB Airlocker and an E-Locker/Auto Locker?


The main benefit that an Air Locker has over an electronic locker is its instant activation. By comparison to the majority of electronic lockers, an ARB Air Locker engages instantly and at any speed; furthermore, an ARB Air Locker has no operating speed limitations.

Being able to engage your locker ‘on the fly’ means you don’t need to lose your momentum before tackling an obstacle.

What's The Benefits Of Having An Onboard Air Compressor?

Having an onboard Air Compressor has many advantages other than a way to activate Air-Lockers, especially because you don't have to find space to pack it, nor do you need to pull it out and connect it to your battery every time you need to use it.

If you are just wanting to activate you're Air-Locker all you'll need is an Air Locker Activation System. However, by purchasing an onboard Air Compressor you'll not only have the option to activate your Air-Locker but also inflate tyres, clean car components such as door seals and air filters, inflate air beds or for basically anything that needs compressed air. 

Want to speak to the team about Air Lockers?

We're happy to help, please Contact Us Here!


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