As I approach the Burnette hill climb on Mern Merna Station, I wonder whether I should put the rear locker on or not. When should you use a locker?
I end up flicking it on about halfway up, when the front of the Isuzu Dmax starts to scrabble and bounce a bit more than I’d like, and like clockwork, the vehicle just walks up the rest of it without any issues at all.
When should you use a locker?
In my mind, there’s 3 times when turning your locker on makes sense. If you’re wondering whether to get a front or rear locker, the results are generally quite clear cut, and you’ll flick the rear one on first (if you have two), and then the front one if you need additional traction.
When your vehicle is likely to struggle without the locker
In time, you become quite familiar with your vehicle. I know what the Dmax will do, and what it will struggle to do, and if you come to an obstacle and think it’s a bit beyond the capabilities of your vehicle (but still safe to do), flick the locker on and crawl up.
When there’s a chance of vehicle damage
One of the primary reasons for getting a locker in the Dmax was that it can easily reduce the chance of vehicle damage. Whether this be through reducing your momentum (which we cover below), or simply stopping huge wheel spins it can be incredibly useful.
On the hill climb at Mern Merna Station, I was keen to see how the Dmax would go under its own steam, knowing that if it struggled, I could engage the locker, or back down a bit as needed. However, when I felt the front wheels starting to bounce, and slip, I figured why push the friendship of the CV’s at the front, when you can engage the rear locker and gain a huge amount of traction?
On the front wheels of an independent vehicle, I hate to see significant amounts of wheel spin. If you haven’t seen videos of 4WD’s getting a wheel in the air that spins considerably, then comes down and lands to an almighty crack (where the CV snaps), jump on YouTube and have a look.
I’ve always tried to treat my 4WD’s with a huge amount of respect and mechanical sympathy, and if you can avoid making the front end flog its guts out, you are mad not to.
When you only get one easy shot
Some tracks give you one solid shot, and after that you are in trouble. That might be if you are towing (and reversing is difficult or impossible), or a mud hole, or something that’s going to fill your tyres up with slop. It’s no good engaging a locker once you are bogged in knee deep mud; it’s too late.
If you get one good opportunity to get through something, put the locker on if you think you need it; better safe than sorry!
When you don’t want to use momentum
Attacking an obstacle in your 4WD with speed can be a great tactic, if you are careful and know when to use it. I’ve seen people hit hill climbs with speed that makes me cringe and seen some pretty nasty results come from it too.
A locker gives you the ability to reduce your momentum to a nice and controlled speed, knowing you have maximum traction available. If there’s a good chance that your vehicle is going to come close to the edge of a big rut, and damage could ensue, giving it the berries and hanging on is a pretty poor choice to make. Instead, use the locker, and attempt it in a controlled way, and if the panels are too close, find another way around.