Eaton ELocker: Licensed to Lock
By: Michael Levine & Tom KeefePosted: 05-30-02 14:00

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James Bond would be an ordinary spy if not for the cool equipment invented by Q and the gadget hounds in the Queen's labs. After all, how would Bond make his great escapes from those sticky situations when a laser is about to slice through the crown jewels or he needs to stop a centrifuge he's trapped in from accelerating beyond 13 g's -and still save the world from certain doom?

Well, you might not have the suave looks and cloak and dagger career Mr. Bond has but that doesn't mean you have to be left out in the cold when it comes to the having the gear. Consider the folks at Eaton's Torque Control Products Division your own personal and real-life Q-Labs, at least when it comes to helping you perform heroic off-road maneuvers in your pickup. You still might not be able to save the world, but you most likely will save yourself the embarrassment of getting towed out.

Eaton's Torque Control Products Division specializes in manufacturing traction modifying differentials for trucks, both for manufacturers as original equipment and the aftermarket as custom add-ons. The latest goodie to come out of their top secret skunk works is the Eaton E-Locker, shorthand for an electronically locking differential.

There's lots of confusion when it comes to differentials, what they are and what they do so here's your briefing before we proceed with the rest of the mission.

A differential's primary reason for living, and the origin of its name, is to transfer engine power and torque from the engine to the wheels while at the same time allowing the wheels to turn at different speeds. The wheels have to be able to rotate at different speeds especially when turning because as you round a corner the inner wheel travels less distance than the outer wheel. If they didn't turn at different rates you would do a lot of damage to your tires and turning the vehicle would be a whole lot harder. Something similar can be felt if you try and turn your steering wheel in a part-time four wheel drive pickup, but this 'scrubbing' is actually caused by locking the front and rear axles together.

There are three different types of differential, each made to help improve traction and driving control.

The simplest and most common differential is an open differential. Using a set of gears to direct torque, an open differential allows a spinning wheel to continue spinning, even when the opposite wheel on an axle won't spin at all. There is a drawback however. An open differential always sends power to the wheel with the least traction. Traction is dependent on many factors including the tires, contact surface and weather conditions. If maximum traction is your goal, consider anything but an open differential.

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