CROSS-axle diff locks are undoubtedly one of the best go-forward accessories you can add to your four-wheel drive. Sure, good rubber and suspension, as well as increased power and driver ability all help, but throwing in a set of lockers takes any 4x4 to a new level of capability – especially on a non-flexing Troopy.
Not that the rear leaf and front coils don’t flex at all, it’s just that they are no match for a super-flexy custom-coiled job. Given this relative lack of articulation, a set of lockers will help not just when suspension flex runs out, but also with grip-free situations like mud, snow, uphill and downhill driving. Even sand driving will see some benefit, albeit generally less than other surfaces.
I’ve opted for a set of Harrop-Eaton ELockers for my long-term project. Eaton is a proven American-based company that has been around for donkey’s years, while Australian-specific models have been developed via Melbourne-based Harrop and sold via Harrop, Opposite Lock and Terrain Tamer outlets.
The ELocker is manufactured with precision-forged gears and four pinions, providing superior strength and durability over standard equipment. There are both front and rear locker offerings available for most Australian-sourced 4x4s.
LET’S get one thing straight about differential locks: You don’t have to be a weekend warrior, rock-hopper or off-road racer to enjoy the advantages lockers offer. No siree – the average tourer, family 4x4 or long-distance adventurer will see just as much bang for their buck thanks to the ‘get out of the muck free’ card that a locker offers. Heck, even trying to haul a boat trailer up a slippery ramp can be made so much easier at the flick of switch – provided you don’t wind the diff up by using it too long on a hard surface.
The more difficult the terrain, the more you’ll enjoy the benefits of a diff lock. However, keep in mind that if you do get stuck with a locker (or two) engaged, it’ll probably be a massive recovery effort given the extra go-forward drive they offer.
FOR starters, an ELocker is simple. Once the locker unit is installed into the diff centre, all you need to do is run a wire to each diff.
The ELocker is electromagnetically activated, being manually switched in-cab by the driver. Once it’s engaged, all the wheels will continuously drive until you’re confident you can revert back to unlocked diffs, which is achieved using the same switches (one for the front and one for the rear locker).
Lockers can also be used to help negotiate and tackle obstacles slowly without damaging your 4x4. Instead of using momentum and crashing over rocks or ruts, you can select a low gear and crawl over (almost) anything without the (possible) resultant damage.
ONE OR TWO?
ONE ELocker is great, but two is better. A great option with the ELocker pair is you can use the rear, the front or both at any time – it’s your choice. However, care must be taken when locking the front diff, as you lose steering ability when you ‘power on’, creating a tendency for the 4x4 to pull straight ahead.
ELockers can be fitted by competent DIYers and most mechanics. I opted for the professional services of Opposite Lock South Sydney to install mine, as I knew they had all the required specialty tools on hand. They ensured all settings were correct within the diff housing, plus they used a Terrain Tamer bearing kit.
Simple electrical lines run from the in-dash switches to each diff, and I’ve fitted the two switches into existing ‘push-outs’ just to the right of the steering wheel.
Despite revelling in the ‘go-anywhere’ ability the ELockers provide, I’m also cautious not to push the limits of gravity with such a tall and narrow 4x4. However, when the Troopy struggles for traction, I’m confident that at the push of a button (or two) I’ll have the necessary traction required to pull and push the albino behemoth over pretty much anything in its path. Plus I’m confident it can just as quickly revert back to unlocked open diff centres for on-road mile-munching – that’s a win-win all ’round.