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Air locker vs Electric locker

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  • Air locker vs Electric locker

    There was a Facebook discussion going on this so thought I would do a quick write-up and post it here for future reference.

    Ok, let me first start by saying that this is only my opinion and obviously an air locker is a good and popular choice. Air lockers have always been thought of to be stronger and more dependable. In recent years, that gap has massively closed and the strength difference between an ARB air locker and an Eaton Elocker is now negligible due to the Eaton having the same 4 pinion design as the ARB. Also remember that unless you’re blowing into a straw to engage your “air” locker, it has as many…actually, probably more, electrical components as an “electric” locker.
    With that said, let’s compare the “basic” failure points.

    Switch (both)
    Relays (both)
    Wiring (both)
    Fuses (both)
    Compressor (ARB…and the failures here can cause you to then not have a way to air up your tires)
    Air lines (ARB...melted lines and lines popping off seem to be the most common. Yes, there are trail repair kits but I can tell you now that if your line needs a trail repair because it melted, it’s really hot where you’re going to be working!)
    Air seals (ARB…I know everyone has heard people’s ARB compressors coming on because air was leaking out of the seals or lines (in severe enough cases it will disengage your locker). You don’t hear electric lockers “bleeding down” and disengaging your locker.
    Inner air tubes (ARB…the copper tube occasionally can become problematic)
    Pressure switch (ARB…honestly I’ve never know one to fail but it’s fair to mention that it is a failure point that an e-locker doesn’t have).

    I might be missing stuff but that’s the basics. Also remember, there is a big added cost of going air over electric between the additional parts and the additional labor. It’s also fair to mention that you have to buy one of their overpriced (in my opinion) compressors to run it off of.
    The only advantage that people seem to bring up is having onboard air…but you can mount onboard air on any vehicle with almost any compressor…so to me that is not an advantage.
    And I will agree that there’s more aftermarket air lockers sold than electric…mostly due to the reasons I stated above. However, if air is so good, why are almost all factory supplied locker options on the market for new vehicles electric?

    Thanks for reading and just remember these are just my light hearted opinions J. Also, if any of my “facts” are wrong, please let me know and I will update the original post so that this information is useful to others in the future.

    \'93 YJ

  • #2
    Most of the air bleeding issues were old models of ARB that has been fixed before Eaton corrected their 2 pin design. It was a simple O ring issue usually. I haven't heard of a bleeding locker in years. My main issue with electrical is if something does go wrong it's a harder fix.

    Yes, if you run your airline next to a hot exhaust it can melt. Same can be said for wiring and I would much rather splice an air line than a wire on the trail. Melting the insulation off wires could cause a short that could blow a fuse or heat the wires. Fire or melting surrounding wiring could result. While it's true a compressor also has wires, they are usually protected if installed correctly.

    An electrical locker has exposed wire and connections that are prone to corrosion. We run mostly dry but do cross water sometimes deep enough to bury an axle. Over time that can cause corrosion of the wiring and if it penetrates the wire it will wick and corrode up the wire itself. This can cause intermittent problems that are harder to trace and if you don't carry spare harnesses, hard to repair quickly on trail.

    Electrical lockers have a solenoid in the locker to engage it and that can fail. It isn't common but if it fails the diff needs to be cracked open to repair it. On our fountains we replace solenoids on a weekly basis. We also repair press in airlines but that is a simple fix as opposed to wiring in a new solenoid.

    Any air source of at least 100 psi can be used, not just an over priced ARB compressor. You could fill an air tank and do the same thing.

    Bottom line is that either air or electric can be very reliable. Most of the issues with weakness or failing has been worked out. My reason for preferring air is they are much easy to fix and are left to less exposure long term.
    Last edited by Skirmish; 07-21-2017, 05:13 PM.
    2012 JK


    • #3
      I hear air lockers bleeding on the trail all the time. Two different rigs I ran with in Kingman this year had their compressors turning on constantly. One guy wasn't too knowledgeable unfortunately and thought something was broken and kept stopping and looking under his hood (was kinda funny).
      The harder fix thing is a moot point since both systems have wiring that can go bad. My point of the write-up is that there's MORE things that can go wrong with air lockers. I've never heard or read of an electrical fire starting from an air locker issue or a problem with corrosion. There's tons of wiring under everyone's Jeeps right now from the factory, so again that is a moot point.

      Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-N910A using Tapatalk

      \'93 YJ