Air lockers vs. E-lockers: The Pros And Cons 


Lockers are fairly popular add-ons that are common in the off-roading community. Many different types of lockers exist. There are manual lockers, automatic lockers, and selectable E-lockers. Both air lockers and E-lockers fall under the category of selectable because they can be turned off or on with the flip of a switch or the push of a button. Air lockers and E-lockers will both do a fine job of locking the differential on your vehicle and do everything a locker is supposed to, but there are some differences between them. 

What’s the difference between air lockers and E-lockers? Air lockers use a system driven by compressed air to lock the differential of a car while E-lockers use an electrical system to lock the differential. Air lockers work very quickly and efficiently as do E-lockers with slight differences. E-lockers are often looked at as more reliable options because air lockers do at times tend to leak.  

Having a locker in your car can be a game changer when you are into off-roading. Lockers can add traction to your vehicle and allow you to scale slopes and make it through sections that would have ended up with you being stuck. Choosing what locker is right for your vehicle is going to come down to personal preferences about how the locker functions and what kind of budget you are looking at. With that being said, I will do my best to inform you about air lockers and E-lockers so you can make the best choice. 

Differences Between Air Lockers Vs. E-lockers

There is a debate among car junkies about whether air lockers or E-lockers are better and there are people that have varying opinions for both sides. Both air lockers and E-lockers will work great and help your car gain more traction on very technical or slippery terrain, but some slight differences between the two can make one better preferred than the other. 

E-lockers perform the same function as air lockers do but just use a complete electrical system to lock the differential. E-lockers are widely used commercially because they are often more reliable than air lockers. After all, electrical systems can’t have air leaks. For this reason, you see them more commonly among everyday off-roaders. Newer E-lockers are going to be quicker and only take a second or two to lock the differential. So, if you install a newer E-locker you won’t have much of a disadvantage when compared to air lockers.

E-lockers however do sometimes lock the differential more slowly than an air locker will. E-lockers, especially older ones, can take as much as three or four seconds to fully lock the differential, and driving with a half-locked differential would not be good for your car. Older E-lockers are very similar in price to air lockers and there isn’t much of a discrepancy between the two. New E-lockers are usually more expensive than air lockers.

Pros of Air lockers

There are a few things about air lockers that may cause you to want them more than other types of lockers. For one, air lockers are very convenient in the aspect that they can be activated with the switch of a button. It can be very inconvenient if you have to stop your car when you are cruising through the trails and have to stop and get out of the car so you can lock your differential. It can also kind of kill the vibe. 

The other convenient thing with air lockers is that there is almost no wait time from when push the button to activate the E-lockers and from when they lock out. Most good air lockers can lock the differential in less than a second. 

With most other lockers it may take a couple of seconds or so before the differential locks. This may not seem like a huge advantage but if you are racing or anxious to get back on the road it is a very nice feature to have. Air lockers are looked at as one of the most efficient lockers on the market when it comes to locking the differential of your car. 

Cons To Air Lockers

With pros will always come cons. One of these cons is air leaks. The air locker uses a lot of air pressure to lock out the differential and if the system isn’t well sealed then it can be very easy for air to leak out. If enough air leaks out and it is a big enough break in the seal then the system can become completely useless because there will be no air pressure. Having a seal that leaks could come from a bad installation of the system or it could come from a cracked or broken seal, in which case you would need to replace it. 

Another con of air lockers is that they take up more space than other lockers do. Other lockers are usually very simple and don’t add much to a car but air lockers do have one component that makes them take up a little more space than your average locker. This component is compressed air, seeing that this is what the air lockers run off of, you have to have it but this means that you are going to need an additional canister that holds the compressed air. 

There are a couple of well-known brands that have a reputation for holding up better than other brands and also specific types of air lockers that tend to do better. Repairing a damaged air locker can be a pain and since the seals do have a tendency to break or tear, which means air lockers are looked at as one of the less reliable options. Taking your vehicle into the shop to repair an air locker can be painful and expensive so it will be very worth it to select an air locker that is going to work well and last for a long time. 

Pros To E-lockers

Just as air lockers have pros and cons so do E-lockers. E-lockers are of course convenient in the sense that you only have to push a button to activate them, just as you do with air lockers. E-lockers however are also very nice because they take up very little space in your vehicle. Since everything is mostly electronic and the locker draws power from the 12-volt battery in the car the only thing that takes up space is going to be the actual locking device that will attach to the differential. 

Having little hardware that is added to the vehicle also makes E-lockers very light so they are a great option if you are trying to cut weight on your vehicle. Another big pro with E-lockers is that they are very reliable. E-lockers are looked at as more reliable than air lockers because they have very few parts that can break down. If you are looking for a locker that is going to last a long time and that can make it through some tough stuff then E-lockers are for you. 

Cons To E-lockers

The biggest con when it comes to E-lockers is that they are often a little more expensive than their air locker counterparts. New E-lockers are on average only $100 to $200 more expensive than air lockers so the difference isn’t drastic. The other con that I should mention is that E-lockers can take a few seconds to engage although newer E-lockers are becoming quicker and quicker. 

Which One Is Better To Use?

At the end of the day, I would have to say that E-lockers take the trophy for the best type of locker. E-lockers are more popular than air lockers and I think that there is a good reason for that. Even though I love the idea of air lockers, they lock a differential with just the power of the air, E-lockers are better all around I would say. E-lockers are much more reliable than air lockers and not much more expensive and in the long run, they will probably outlast an air locker so it will be worth it. 

Related Question

Are E-lockers good for mudding? Lockers are great for mudding because they help increase traction and help prevent becoming stuck. Having lockers installed in your vehicle is highly recommended when going through any technical terrain or serious mud. Lockers can allow a vehicle to make it through mud and terrain that it otherwise would not be able to make it through. Click here to view our article that discusses this further.

Are air lockers worth it? Air Lockers are considered to be one of the best lockers on the market. Good air lockers may be more expensive than most other types of lockers but they are often stronger, more durable, and do a much better job of locking the differential than almost any other type of locker. To view the article in full, visit it here.

Do you need lockers for off-roading? Lockers are not needed for off-road. Even though lockers can be very helpful when off-roading, they are not a requirement. They can be very helpful and make a big difference when trying to make it through any type of difficult terrain since adding lockers to any vehicle usually allows the vehicle to have more traction in slippery terrain. Click here to view the article in full.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. His passion for cars is his daily motivator and is constantly working on his projects such as restoring his 1966 Bronco, 1968 Firebird, or modifying his 2022 Bronco.

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