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Locking Axles Together with Tacoma Lockers

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Lockers are for the aggressive, off-road Tacoma driver. They ensure traction everywhere. By locking both axles together, both rear wheels spin together rather than one wheel over the other. In this way, you can ensure no matter what hill or boulder you're crawling, at least one of your tires can push you forward.

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Tacoma traction is everything. Being able to crawl over obstacles on the trail is the whole reason you bought the truck that you did. When you throw your Tacoma into extreme scenarios though, there have been instances where you were left wanting more out of your differential. Moving up to a locked rear is great for off-road traction but is terrible for on-road driving. The option of moving to a locker rear end is a great way to give you traction on demand without destroying sets of tires during your daily commute.

Differential Carriers

The axle housings on both the front and rear of your Tacoma feature differential carriers. The carrier is responsible for sending power to the tires. Some are designed to send power to both tires gradually, others send full power to the tires at all times. Having the right carrier is the difference between crawling effectively and blasting through lose ground without any hope of forward motion.

Tacoma Factory Differentials

In order to make an appropriate choice in carrier selection, you need to look at the factory equipment. Tacoma’s come from the factory with two different carrier types. In the front and rear you can find open differential carriers and limited slip. Both are excellent for on-road performance, but can leave a lot to be desired when it comes to getting from point a to point b on the trail.

Limited Slip: Limited slip differentials are the best all-around differential carrier types you can find. These units are designed to use springs and clutches to send power to the tire with the most amount of resistance. Resistance means traction so whatever tire has the best grip will receive the most amount of power; when the differential reaches a high speed both tires will receive power.

Open Differential: Open differentials aren’t as commonly used in the rear differential housing as they are the front. These units are less desirable as they send the most power to the tire with the least amount of resistance. This means that a tire that is slipping in the mud will receive the most amount of power. At speed, both tires will receive power but not as quickly as a limited slip would provide.

What is a Locker?

A locker differential works to lock both axles together to ensure they receive 100% of the power at all times. This means that even at low speeds both will be spinning at the same rate. This makes lockers perfect for off-roading as at low speeds you will want as much power sent to the ground as possible to help you move along. They are also perfect for mudding and other low traction scenarios when you need to grab onto everything you can.

Why Power at Both Tires isn’t Always a Plus

If traction is good, one may think the differential should be locked at all times rather than on demand. This idea would inspire some to simply weld up the ring gears in the differentials they already have.

The problem is that during turns, tires will spin at different rates of speed, and open and limited slip differentials allow them to do so. Locker differentials will not allow this to happen which will eat up the tires. For off-road only vehicles, full time locked up rear ends work fine, but if you plan on driving around town, opens and limited type diffs are the way to go.

Why Use a Locker?

With the use of a locker rear end, you can lock up the differential with the push of a button. This means that you can run an unlocked differential until the moment you need it. Many off-roaders use the lockers to their advantage during crawl scenarios. 

Traction on Demand: Even off-road trucks don’t always benefit from having the tires spin at the same rate all of the time. There are situations where one would like to switch back and forth between a locked and unlocked differential; just like they might switch between 2 and 4-wheel drive. Having the ability to switch with switches and buttons is a dream come true for many.

Streetability: Retaining the ability to drive your Tacoma on the street with a locker differential is perfect. This means that whenever the driver feels the need to lock up the differential they can. Running the unlocked diff on the street will save tires and is lighter on the drivetrain.

Types of Lockers

Lockers work to lock both axels together but don’t always do so in the same manner. Different operating types affect the way the system is installed but not necessarily performance.

Vacuum Locker: Vacuum lockers operate by using vacuum pressure produced by the engine. These systems are typically used on older models.

E-Locker: From the factory, late model Tacoma’s may come equipped with electronically locking differentials. These units can be purchased from the aftermarket to tap into the vehicle’s electrical system in order to operate correctly. These units are far more common on later model trucks but can be installed on any year.

Fitment includes: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, Pre-Runner, X-Runner, SR, SR-5, TRD-Sport, TRD-Off-Road, Limited, TRD-Pro