What is a Jeep Axle Locker and Which One Should I Use?

There are several different kinds of rear axle locker designs you can use on a Jeep. They all work in a similar way, but there are some slight differences in the how they function and are manufactured. Luckily, at Morris 4×4 Center, we carry a variety of lockers to cover your driving needs.

The reason you may want to use a locker is primarily for better traction. A locker is designed to give your vehicle traction with both tires. On most vehicles (especially 2WD models), when you hit the gas, the power is only actually going to one wheel. (this setup is also known as a “standard” or “open” differential). If you had a locker installed, when you hit the gas (and you’re basically going straight), the locker transfers the power to both drive axles, thus to both wheels. It does exactly what the name implies, it “locks” the axles together. Both wheels receive their power evenly and to the same degree.

Lockers have been around for many decades, and started out for the most part as a race only part. Drag racers liked them because they allowed the high horsepower to go directly to the tires instantly, and really increased the traction and takeoff speeds.

They weren’t very practical for a daily driver though, because when used on a street vehicle, you will still be turning corners, and that can cause issues.

  • With a typical open differential, only one tire is actually receiving the power transfer, the other tire can rotate independently. On a regular car, when making a turn, the outside tire is turning a little faster (and has a larger radius to travel) than the inside tire.
  • With a full locker, you are forcing both tires to rotate together at the same speed. This can sometimes cause a slight shudder, but it most likely will also cause the tire to squeal loudly. It can even cause tires wear unevenly.

Below is what happens with your typical open end (non-locker) differential setup:


Modern lockers take into account that you will probably be driving on and off the street, and won’t need a full locker all the time, so they are more of a hybrid. They can engage or dis-engage while driving, usually automatically so you can handle the corners, but they can also use the full locker feature when racing or off roading.

We carry several kinds of lockers here at the Morris 4X4 Center, so let’s go over some of the styles we carry, and how they would help you get better traction.

Yukon Grizzly Lockers

The Yukon Grizzly Lockers can provide 100% power to both tires, while still allowing for disengagement while negotiating turns. A Yukon Grizzly Locker is a mechanical locking differential. Meaning, it will automatically engage and disengage by itself, with no outside electrical or air influences. The gears stay engaged while driving until a certain amount of force (such as turning a corner) causes the gears to disengage. Once the wheels have passed through the changing road conditions, the gears automatically engage once again locking both axles. Yukon Grizzly Lockers also feature a forged case and 8620 internals for maximum strength. Their patented design reduces common locker failures you often see with cheap no name brands. They are also assembled here in the USA. Click Here for a quick video of how the locker works.


grizzly lockers for jeeps


ARB Air Lockers

The ARB Air Lockers give you 100% traction on demand. They feature a 12 volt air compressor that’s designed to activate (and deactivate) the ARB locking mechanism inside the differential. This allows you literally turn on and turn off the locker ability with the simple flick of a switch. When the locker is off, you can drive normally as you would any other vehicle.

The big advantage of the ARB Air Locker lies in the pneumatically operated locking system inside the differential. When activated, the ARB Air Locker prevents the differential gears from rotating and therefore prevents the axle shafts from turning independently of each other. With both wheels tied directly to the rotation of the ring gear, the vehicle maintains the maximum possible traction at all times. When unlocked, it operates just like a conventional ‘open’ differential. ARB products are made in Australia, and you know if it can take the brutal bush terrain of the land down under, it can handle what you throw at it as well.


arb lockers for jeeps and wranglers


Auburn ECTED Lockers

The Auburn Ected Lockers are an electric locker system. Similar to an air locker, they can be activated on and off externally by using an electrical switch. When turned off, it functions like a LSD (Limited Slip Differential). When switched on, this powers up a round, ring electromagnet coil, which comes in contact with a metal ring, and causes the two to act like a traditional “spool” locker. This gives you 100% traction. It may sound a little weird (doesn’t most high tech?), but these Auburn Ected Lockers have been used in severe off road conditions, as well as drag racing behind engines making hundreds of horsepower. You might break an axle before having a problem with this locker hooking up.


jeep ected locker differentials


OX Lockers

Ox Lockers have the option of using a mechanical cable or air to engage and disengage the locker. The optional air shift system is a pneumatic system. It uses a pneumatic cylinder which is integrated into an optional OX Differential Cover, which mechanically locks the differential. The system requires no adjustment and operates in the 80-120 psi range. Optimum operating pressure is 85 psi. The system uses a pneumatic switch/valve for control and uses no electricity for reliability purposes.


ox air locker for jeeps


The mechanical option uses a special OX Differential Cover, and uses a “shift fork” to operate the lockers inside the housing. The kit includes a Shifter Handle that is installed in your interior, which works the mechanical cable from there to the differential. Allowing you to easily engage or disengage the locker without having to rely on electricity or air availability. OX offers cables from 36″ all the way up to 96″, so the system can be used on almost any vehicle where they offer a locker.

ox cable lockers for jeeps


Which locker is best for you depends on what you do with your vehicle. How much you drive on road and off road. In these examples, you get the opportunity of being able to engage, and disengage, the locker from within your seat. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Don’t think you have to be racing or getting crazy off road to use a locker. Do you tow? A locker can give you better traction, and may even increase your gas mileage. If you tow a boat, you know how frustrating it is having only one wheel catch to pull you up that boat ramp. With a locker, you can get an even sure footing, and get in and out with less hassle, and more safely.

If you drive up north, and you have a 2WD vehicle, you can upgrade to a locker and have better traction in snow and ice conditions. It’s a lot less expensive than buying a new 4WD vehicle, but a great way to add safety and piece of mind.

These are just some of the options we carry. Feel free to email or call us if you have any questions. It can be a difficult choice, but hopefully this information here will help you decide, and get exactly what you need, the first time and every time. After all, that’s what we like to do here at Morris 4×4 Center. Your favorite place for Jeep parts!

See ya on the trails!