Do You Need Lockers For Overlanding?

Having a hard time fact-checking whether or not you’ll need a locker for overlanding? Too skeptical about the price tag and its worthiness?

There’s no simplistic “yes” or “no” in this question as not all lockers have the same function, nor do all vehicles require a locker. It all comes down to various aspects held together that make the stand.

What Is a Locker?

A locker is designed to prevent any possible wheel spin on the same axle by providing them with the same amount of force and power, making them rotate at the same rate.

Force always takes the path of least resistance. If all the wheels rotate at the same speed with equalized torque – regardless of the traction, it’s much easier to push forward to freedom. That’s exactly what a locker does.

Preparing the Beast

Before you embark on any such exploratory journeys, one thing you’ll prioritize is the medium of conveyance. This one vehicle will be your all in all for the next few days, months or even years…

Coming straight to the point, differential lockers are the pivotal part of traction aid. No matter which 4-wheeler you’re taking along, these lockers can transmogrify a mediocre vehicle into an ATV!

They’re a sort of insurance. Take it if you expect yourself to need them in the future, else, just save your bucks!

Differential Lockers – A Wise Investment?

The necessity for differential lockers for overlanding lies between a thin line of difference between “you might” and “you will”. And wait… I’ve got my pretext justifications for it too! Here are the reasons why taking a chance on lockers might be a good shot:

  • To prevent damage to your vehicle

Imagine a spinning wheel smashing onto a hard surface. Something’s going to break for sure, right? Differential lockers’ primary function is to prevent your vehicle from such.

When the wheels on the axle rotate at the same speed, they have the same amount of traction and resistance. This way, it can prevent a spinning wheel. Trust me – you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of the Mundaring Powerlines Trail with a broken 4 wheeler.

  • To prevent track damage

The reason why overlanding is such a thrill for many is that it gives one an up-close personal connection and bonding with nature. I’m sure you want all overlanders to experience the same warmth of it.

When your vehicle gets stuck or spins, it damages the track and makes it even worse for the next one. You don’t want to make those scars on the tracks for sure.

# Cryptobiotic soil is a type of soil that forms over many decades. Many such pristine terrains have been known to be damaged by vehicles that spoil its richness. Also, it is either you take care of it or let the government ban it. 

  • Reduces the need for momentum or speed

There are vaguely only two ways to get over obstacles while overlanding. One is with the help of diff lockers. The other is by maintaining the speed and momentum of your 4X4. Momentum doesn’t always guarantee you success, and lockers make it much smoother.

Why Lockers Might Become Just a Money Drainer For You?

Every product comes with its boon and bane. Though, overlanding is a pretty rough odyssey, that doesn’t mean that your vehicle MUST have one.

Of course, it does have its perks but, it might also become a HUGE money drainer without the proper need for it. Here are some reasons which might make you rethink before clicking on the “Add to cart” button.

Expensively Expensive

Take for example any standard, branded locker. Now look at its price tag. The numbers written on it is pretty much enough for some to back off from the whole plan. Preparing the essentials needed for overlanding itself is a big-budget.

Why add on to your bills when your 4-wheeled beast is perfectly capable of handling the same without it?

Complex Installation Process

Most lockers have to bought separately and installed to the vehicle. Now this can be done through a professional’s assistance in no time. But the real problem comes in when you’re out in nowhere and the locker system malfunctions. 

Understanding the parts, fixing the issue without breaking anything and then doing test runs etc. goes a long long way! Save yourself the trouble by comprehending your 4X4’s competency with terrains. (More on this below!)

Possibilities of Explosion

Now don’t freak out because this is not the same case for all lockers. Some automatic lockers are known to have exploded due to too much abuse of the system and incompatibility to handle large tyres.

At times, it can end with just minor jerks, and at others, it may cause severe fails. The chances are never zero.

Inefficient Differential Design Structure

This is to point out that not all lockers work as the advertisements promote it. This occurs mainly due to the fact that it was vaguely designed for optimization or you’re just the unlucky one who got the bad side.

I’ve heard of some lockers disengaging at EVERY SINGLE TURN, so the driver would have to engage repeatedly each time.

The Ultimate Purpose of 4X4s

The whole point of a 4X vehicle is send power and torque to all 4 wheels. Don’t you think that lockers kind of defeat that purpose? Most 4X4 trucks and tractors are built to overcome obstacles similar to the ones you’ll have on an overlanding trip.

Then why are they sold without any lockers? 

That’s because the vehicle is ALREADY capable of combating such, without the need for lockers! Go over the facts to see if yours can do the same too!

Another quick point is that lockers might put one in the comfort zone, but takes away part of his/her driving skills in the long run.

Different Situations, Different Needs

Do You Need Lockers For Overlanding?

Coastal Driving

  • General Sand Paths

Driving on sand can be done so slick and stylishly once you get a hang of it. Sand pathways are already compact as other vehicles have paved the course for you so there’s no need for lockers here!

  • Soft / Beach Sand

Soft sand tends to be naturally sink-prone and requires consistent momentum. Speed at a low range drive is the key here! Just make sure you don’t dig too deep into the sand and damage the path for the next.

  • Lime Stones

Beware to slightly deflate your tires before getting onto limestone as highly pressurized tires can be easily cut through by them. Again..lockers are not a necessity.

  • Sand Dunes

A 3rd gear would be just fine to climb up a sand dune considering it’s not too steep. Hold on to the momentum (by not changing gears) till the top. While reversing downwards, ensure low range reverse gear.

Descents are similar too – except for the gears. One thing here is that for both ascents and descents on very steep dunes, locking differentials are a much safer option.

Clay Based Terrains

Terrains that are muddy and slippery in wet weathers and dusty in hot ones are known as clay tracks. A quick clarification – all clay has some sort of mud, but not all mud is clay based.

  • Dry Tracks

Dry clay tracks are no issue at all. All you’ve got to do is ensure proper path visibility so that you don’t downslide into a rut!

  • Mud Tracks

Everyone loves mud! Who doesn’t? Mud terrain tyres are extremely useful as compared to All Terrains’. MT’s have the self cleaning lugs that AT’s don’t! Slippery mud can easily give you a spinning wheel, especially at turns. Locking differentials, in particular, rear ones can be put to great use here. But, keep in mind that diff lockers tend to involuntarily glide the axle sideways in slippery conditions.

  • Ascent and Descent on Clay Tracks 

The decisive factor here is PSI. Climbing would be alright with a low range 2nd and PSI 20. Reversal might be a scary one here as all you can rely on is your reverse gear. No brakes, no steering. Descents are a little exhaustive because you’ve got only one go with it! The need for differentials in this case all depends upon driving skills and expertise with similar tracks.

Gravel Roads and Dirt Tracks

  • Common Gravel Roads

These are no issue for even an amateur overlander so you wouldn’t have to think about locks in this situation. The only thing you’ll probably need to worry about is your line of sight (during horrendous weathers) and your vehicle’s exposure to dust.

  • Rock Gravel Roads and Corrugated / Washboard Roads

A clever thing to do would be to reduce tire pressures before these terrains. Lockers can come in handy if you’d prefer to roar through it. Else, keeping the PSI from 20-25 would be optimal.

  • Dirt Roads

Dirt tracks are a confusing combo of red dust, corrugations, red mud, gravel and bull dust. No call for diff locks on these! 

Rocky Terrain

Do You Need Lockers For Overlanding?

Note: Some have been already mentioned above, so I won’t be repeating them again (limestone, gravel).

  • Rock Crawling – including ascents and descents

Listen up because this part is where lockers can show their true potential by taking your 4X4 to a whole new level.

Rock crawling simply revolves only two things. Wheel positioning and comprehending articulation – of course, that combined with slow and steady momentum.

Speed on rocks, let it be loose rocks, 20ft boulders, crags or gibber, is going to take you nowhere but to the path of destruction. Low range, rear or centre diff and you’re good to slowly trail through even the toughest rocky terrains.

Riverbed Crossings

  • Casual River Beds

Riverbed crossings can be either shallow or deep – but you can’t tell the actual depth till you enter. So always do a knee check before driving your 4-wheeler into it.

Engaging the rear differentials is a smart move here as you never know how much mud is in the middle (especially in salt lakes)! Snorkel – a MUST have unless you want to corrode your engine or fuel tank with moisture – the biggest foe of metals.

Note: When the air and oil of heated differentials come into contact with cold water, it will liquefy. That pressure will ultimately cause it to suck in water (even at shallow water levels).

Wrapping It Up

Finding that perfect place, managing articulation, the angle, steering direction and finally conquering through the terrain is a feeling like no other. A true sense of achievement and satisfaction!

Some like it this way. Some prefer to go to the modern-day motto of “work smart not hard” and take the advantage of differential lockers. So…which one are you? 

If you’re completely alright with suffering a little here and there to experience the rawness of mother nature, just move on to another page because this confidence and assertiveness can take you through any overlanding expedition!

If you want to make life easier for you AND experience the same tenderness of nature with lesser sweat and more zest, just go for the lockers right away! Now it’s time for you to take a stand and decide for yourself.

I hope you spend the right amount of bucks in the right areas of your 4 wheeler!

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