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Eaton ELocker Preview
By Mike "TXJEEPER" Cohn
Eaton ELocker
Jenifer gives the dunes all she's got with both ELockers in the locked position.
We visited the 2001 SEMA Show for four fun-filled (work-filled?) days and one of the first things that caught our eyes was a 2002 Nissan Xterra. The Xterras and their line-mate the Frontier are now getting accessories made for them, such as suspension lifts, and what drew us in to this particular truck was its custom graphics and lift.

Always curious to look at new vehicles, I wanted to know what was underneath the Nissan. I crawled under it and noticed "Eaton ELocker Differential " written on the rear axle skid. Known as the G-80 option, Eaton provides over 1.2 million mechanical locking differentials annually to GM for their trucks, however, I was not aware that Eaton was making an electric locker or anything for Nissans, so we made it a point to visit Eaton's booth during our travels.

Our chance finally came on Friday. On the table was an ELocker demonstration setup. We stared at it and played with for a while, pondering and asking questions. After discussing the new locker and watching a video, we were asked if we'd like to head out to the desert and try it out for ourselves. Would we ever!!!

An hour or so later my phone rang and we were told to go and meet the driver, Tom Keefe. We climbed aboard a 2002 Chevy Avalanche for our practical demonstration. The "Avalanche SS" was fitted with a 4" Rancho lift, oversized Pro Comp Mud Terrain tires, and a supercharger. Tom, my wife, Jenifer, and I headed toward the desert.

Eaton ELocker
Tom tries to get up the hill without locking the ELockers, but to no avail. One wheel stays put while the opposing wheel does all the work. Locking the ELockers got him up the hill.

Once we hit the sand, Tom explained the ELocker to us and how it operates. Similar to some other lockers, the ELocker is controlled by a dash-mounted switch. In this case, the switch allows an electrical signal to go by wire through the differential housing and into the locker. In normal circumstances, the ELocker is "open" and is invisible to the driver. The rear end has full differentiation between the left and right wheels. Upon detecting the signal, the ELocker connects the right and left axle shafts and is fully "locked." The rear axles do not differentiate at all. They act as if they were one single shaft.

The Avalanche had both a front and rear locker, so there were two switches on the dash. Tom took us over sand dunes and through crevaces in all four modes; open front and rear, locked front, locked rear, and fully-locked front and rear. Whenever he got stuck, it was obvious. The wheels with no traction would spin like crazy and throw sand rooster tails high into the air. With a quick flick of the switch, the ELockers would silently engage and Tom would continue his forward movement.

Jenfier and I both got our chances to drive the Avalanche in different situations, including steep sand dunes, crevaces and hills. In all cases, the ELocker worked as expected. Having lockers does not always mean you can tackle anything you point your truck at, but it sure is a night and day difference having them. Being able to switch your lockers on and off can prove invaluable on the trails and having the ability to have them off while on the road, well, it just doesn't get any better than that.

ELockers Expected

2002
August:
GM 9.25", 9.5"
September:
Ford 8.8" (front/rear)
GM 8.5/8.6"

2003
Dana 35, 44, 60
Nissan axles
GM 8.25" front

2004
Dana 30, DCX 8.25, DCX 9.25

 

The ELocker is in the final stages of development and will begin appearing in OEM applications in the 2003 model year. In addition, many popular applications will start hitting the store shelves by summer of 2002. See the sidebar chart for upcoming applications. We're told that more popular sizes will be coming soon, so you can bet Eaton will be bringing out the ELocker for Jeeps soon.

Unlike competing switchable lockers that require air, the ELocker won't fail due to air leaks and we're told that it has worked just fine even with the axles completely submerged in water.

If you're in the market for lockers, than we would strongly recommend that you consider the Eaton ELocker. We've tried it and it works. Stay tuned for more on the Eaton ELocker!

To find out more about Eaton ELockers and other Eaton traction devices, click here.

Click here to see photos and descriptions

 

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