Why air lockers?

Barnbuilt

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is there a performance gain with air lockers?
you would have to add an air system, leaks would be a problem, I’ve even seen rubicon’s with air lockers. Seems to defeat some of the benefit of a rubicon.


electric seems the way to go if I do lockers. just gathering info as Im planning out the build for my jl that I purchased earlier this year.
thanks for any input.
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JasonInDLH

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is there a performance gain with air lockers?
you would have to add an air system, leaks would be a problem, I’ve even seen rubicon’s with air lockers. Seems to defeat some of the benefit of a rubicon.


electric seems the way to go if I do lockers. just gathering info as Im planning out the build for my jl that I purchased earlier this year.
thanks for any input.
I know air lockers will engage instantly as opposed to patiently waiting. And I believe if you’re out on the trail, sand dunes, etc you can engage them up to 45 mph and, again, it will be instant. Been thinking of swapping my Rubicon e-lockers to air, but I also believe there are issues with freezing temperatures and thats whats holding me back.
 

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A well designed air locker that is installed correctly and has the air line routed right will give you many years of trouble free service. ARB has a very good reputation provided they are installed correctly. I've heard mixed reviews on other air actuators in some lockers. Other air lockers I have no information on.

And you have the benefit of having an on board air system so you can air up your tires at the end of the day with no fuss.

However, I was always happy with my Eaton E-Lockers in my old JK I sold. The Auburn ECTED not so much.
 

omnitonic

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I know air lockers will engage instantly as opposed to patiently waiting. And I believe if you’re out on the trail, sand dunes, etc you can engage them up to 45 mph and, again, it will be instant. Been thinking of swapping my Rubicon e-lockers to air, but I also believe there are issues with freezing temperatures and thats whats holding me back.
The $1,000 per axle price tag was what really held me back. That's a lot of scratch.

I hadn't thought about freezing. With my compressor setup, that could very well be a problem. Water in the air is a funny thing. I tried putting a water filter between the compressor and tank, and it never trapped anything, yet the tank definitely collected water. I think the air has to cool before the water comes out of suspension.

The way they fix that on big trucks is a device that spits air every time you stand beside the truck to pee. Plus at other times, I'm sure, at regular intervals. The way they fix that in shops is either with a giant condenser coil setup, or a very expensive piece of kit that's basically an air conditioner. Neither of those options is viable on a Jeep.

You could probably rig an air dryer, ie. spitter à la big truck, but I don think it would actually be that effective. I have one on my shop compressor's tank, and it still spits water occasionally.
 

omnitonic

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You could probably rig an air dryer, ie. spitter à la big truck...
Come to think of it, you could kick it old school. Back before air dryers were standard equipment, every so often you would unhook the supply line going into the network of air tanks, and dump in a bottle of brake line antifreeze. It's probably some kind of methanol-based product. Alcohols like to mix with water, and they lower the freezing point, so even if you do get water in your air brakes, it isn't frozen. That's how America kept trucking up through probably the middle '90s.

If I wanted to use air lockers, and expected to go wheeling in cold temperatures, I'd probably rig some kind of reservoir.

Hmmm....

An air tool oiler is probably a viable, off-the-shelf way to achieve this. The reservoir on one of those things is tiny, but the hoses powering air lockers are tiny. Set it for a drip just fast enough to keep stuff from freezing.

Hmmmmmmmm......

Not sure what that corrosive crap would do to your $999 ARB air locker though. Probably nothing good.

Well damn, this is probably a bad idea. For a minute, I thought I was really onto something.
 

JasonInDLH

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Come to think of it, you could kick it old school. Back before air dryers were standard equipment, every so often you would unhook the supply line going into the network of air tanks, and dump in a bottle of brake line antifreeze. It's probably some kind of methanol-based product. Alcohols like to mix with water, and they lower the freezing point, so even if you do get water in your air brakes, it isn't frozen. That's how America kept trucking up through probably the middle '90s.

If I wanted to use air lockers, and expected to go wheeling in cold temperatures, I'd probably rig some kind of reservoir.

Hmmm....

An air tool oiler is probably a viable, off-the-shelf way to achieve this. The reservoir on one of those things is tiny, but the hoses powering air lockers are tiny. Set it for a drip just fast enough to keep stuff from freezing.

Hmmmmmmmm......

Not sure what that corrosive crap would do to your $999 ARB air locker though. Probably nothing good.

Well damn, this is probably a bad idea. For a minute, I thought I was really onto something.
You really are thinking this one through! 😅. Might be a good start up business! 😉. Coming up with some sort of anti-freeze technology for the likes of ARB might be pretty lucrative. Just send me 3% of the profits for the business suggestion and we’ll be good. 🤣
 

omnitonic

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You really are thinking this one through! 😅. Might be a good start up business! 😉. Coming up with some sort of anti-freeze technology for the likes of ARB might be pretty lucrative. Just send me 3% of the profits for the business suggestion and we’ll be good. 🤣
I like to nerd out on things. It's a blessing and a curse.

So I did some research, and there are plenty of people attesting to air lockers working fine in insane places with -40° temps. I have enough data points to say this is really a non-issue, and there is no market for my amazing new solution to this problem.

Oh well. There goes your 3% of my $15 trillion profit.
 
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Barnbuilt

Barnbuilt

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Thanks for the info!

when I was growing up we had a cj7. I can’t remember for sure if it had lockers, but I seem to remember there being a 3rd lever in the floor. I assume that was a cable locker (similar to what is in my tractor). My Chevy and a couple other vehicles I’ve had over the years, have a g80 locker. But I had never heard of air lockers until recently, wasn't sure why people were going that route over electric.

at the moment I’ve been surprised with just how much traction my dana30 open/dana44 LSD setup has from the factory. Haven’t had to use the winch yet. If I decide to upgrade/build a front 44, i want to have all my info together so that i can build it right, once! Still not sure if I would go air or electric but at least I got a good starting point now to research.
 

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Air Lockers have a significant edge on the factory electric lockers.
The largest difference is engagement speed. The factory locker, as with most electric lockers, has about a 6lb engagement. This is why you must be going very slow to engage them. Faster engagement will damage them. An Air Locker can be engaged at any speed as long as wheel speed is similar from side to side. Meaning, as long as you're not spinning (just) one wheel hard you can engage at any speed. The Air Locker clamping engagement is approximately 800lb.
You'll also find disengagement much easier with an Air Locker.
They are also easily serviced. You can get any single part for them. Try that with Eaton or a factory locker. ARB tech has always been a big help.
One issue we had with the Eaton units is cold weather engagement. We had standard gear lube (not synthetic) and on one cold morning (low teens) we couldn't get the locker to engage until we got the lube warmed up. It was not at all convenient as we needed it almost immediately.
 

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I ran ARB lockers on my TJ and would run them again in a heartbeat. The Rubicon lockers engagement is incredibly slow.

When I swap to 60s in my JL I'll definitely be upgrading to ARBs.
 

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I did a lot of research on this and talk to different mechanics. I don't have a Rubicon so I had to had a locker.

Lots of them don't want to deal with the "complexity" of air, and prefer to install electric. It is cheaper and maybe easier of course...

But from what I read online. ARB is substantially better than electric. They're super sturdy and should last a very long time. Their internals are way less likely to break. And then there is engagement. As soon as you turn on that air line, it locks and STAYS locked. The downside of ARB is the air lines. So it needs to be installed right. ARB warranties them for 5 years, which is huge. If they are installed by a certified installer.

E-lockers work differently and not always engage as well as ARB. Specially eaton e-lockers, the way they are designed, if you go backwards it unlocks, and when you press that button you need to rotate your tires a bit for them to engage. So if you turn them on mid rock climb when you need them, they might not engage, and could actually break. I think the Rrubicon e-lockers are different, but I have heard similar complains about the lockers engagement being slow or whatever. Eaton e-lockers have a 1 year warranty and that's it. Rubicon e-lockers come with standard warranty so I would just leave them alone.

And then there are mechanical lockers, like the torq locker. This is what I actually ended putting on my front diff. The design is super simple, very sturdy, and it is mechanical so not much really to fail. Everyone who has a torq locker loves it. lots of people who dont are stuck thinking about the issues with the old lunchbox lockers. Comes with a 4 year warranty. And as long as you are not running gigantic tires, it should be fine. Although their warranty has no tire size limitation. I have heard though that past 37s turning can be a little difficult on the trail. I am very glad I went mechanical, it is one less headache and all the "clicking" and bad on-road manners I was warned about is non-existent. I tried them on 4WD and turning and all that was fine too. It drives a little different but its NOT unpredictable.

I still have my rear d44 open... there is an LSD in it, which works alright. Once it stops working I'd consider rebuilding with the Jeep warranty or getting a locker back there. I won't go mechanical in the rear, so I'd have to reconsider ARB or Eaton. I doubt I'd go back to an LSD, I am sure I would regret it.
 
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ARBs are super popular because they have a bunch of different applications and have proven to be very tough (when sized right for the application). You can also get them with larger spline side gears to swap in larger diameter axle shafts.

They are quick to engage and you can engage them at speed, but you need to make sure both tires are spinning at the same speed, so only engage in a straight line and take you foot off the throttle for a couple seconds to make sure things are equal.

Most Air Locker problems you'll see are caused by poor installation and/or poor maintenance (water/sand/mud in the diff). Get it installed by a reputable shop with Air Locker experience and then keep you diff oil clean and you'll go many years without any issues.

For super cold weather use, you can get small inline desiccate filter that will help keep the system dry. I would also recommend using the ARB air manifold or a separate air tank and occasionally giving it a squirt of WD40 inside the tank (manifold).

The old ARB compressors were easy to deal with, one 13mm bolt held the tank on, pop that off, wipe out any moisture inside, give it a squirt of WD40 and back together a couple times during the cold season and you were good.

FWIW- I ran the ARB Tech & Warranty dept. for 9 years for North, South & Central America.
 

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As stated the performance gain. Is
1. Instant engagement and can be done at speed.
2. No ramp up once locked when switching between forward and reverse (it stays locked) unlike the eaton mechanism.
3. The carrier is typically billet and super strong compared to a factory setup..

The downside.. The seals can leak if contaminated (like when new gears shed metal). The airlines , compressor... are also susceptible to a bad install. Takes more skill overall.

I've had several ARBs.. They can be a PITA but I have had some that just work with 0 problems for several years...Others that have leaded and need seal replacements... which can suck.
 

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I know air lockers will engage instantly as opposed to patiently waiting. And I believe if you’re out on the trail, sand dunes, etc you can engage them up to 45 mph and, again, it will be instant. Been thinking of swapping my Rubicon e-lockers to air, but I also believe there are issues with freezing temperatures and thats whats holding me back.
My ARB broke because I was I wasn’t completely stopped when I engaged it. They also pulled their BS claiming I should have been at a complete stop and that they state there is a risk engaging it when not stopped. I then wanted to replace the plunger that broke and then they told me they sold the last one a few days prior and wouldn’t be making parts for the model I bought anymore. They offered me a new air locker for half off so 900$.
 
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