Lockers vs. Winch: Navigating Off-Road Challenges on Your Big Adventure

By: AOT Staff Writer

In the 4WD and Touring scene, the same questions seem to circulate often, be it around social media or  a flickering campfire. What’s best; Diesel vs Petrol, Manual vs Auto, Winch vs Lockers, Charred-black vs Soft-melt marshmallows over the campfire. All very important life-transforming questions. On this occasion we decided to stick with the less arduous subject of Winch vs Lockers. When hitting the road for that big lap or two what would work best for most occasions, the traction gain of Lockers turning the wheels or the Winch to drag them out when all is lost? 

It’s an often posed question because there may be a number of reasons beside budget limitations why you might only want one or the other. 

Of course it would be nice if we could just be like the little girl in the Mexican Nachos TV advert and with a shrug of the shoulders say “Who not have both?” But sometimes it’s just not possible.

Embarking on that epic cross-country or international road trip, commonly referred to as “the big lap,” is an exhilarating experience. It’s an opportunity to explore the uncharted, discover hidden gems, and test your vehicle’s capabilities in rugged terrain. But when it comes to equipping your adventure vehicle for the unexpected, one question often arises: Should you prioritize traction gain with lockers or rely on a winch to pull you out when you’re stuck in a bind? Let’s delve into this debate to help you make an informed choice.

Winch Switch

The Battle of Traction: Lockers


  1. Improved Traction: Lockers, or differential lockers, are devices that, when engaged, ensure that both wheels on an axle rotate at the same speed, providing maximum traction. This is invaluable when navigating challenging off-road terrain, such as mud, snow, or rocky trails.
  2. Enhanced Off-Roading Capability: Lockers can significantly increase your vehicle’s off-road capabilities. With power distributed equally to both wheels, you’re less likely to get stuck in uneven or slippery terrain.
  3. Better Control: Lockers allow for greater control over your vehicle in challenging conditions, helping you navigate obstacles and maintain stability.


  1. Limited Use: Lockers are most effective in scenarios where you have one wheel off the ground or on extremely slippery surfaces. They may not be necessary for all off-road situations.
  2. Cost and Installation: Lockers can be expensive to purchase and install. Additionally, they may require some mechanical expertise to set up correctly.

The Lifeline: Winch


  1. Versatility: A winch is a versatile tool that can be used not only for self-recovery but also to assist other vehicles in your group. It’s a valuable asset in group off-road adventures.
  2. Self-Recovery: When you’re truly stuck, a winch can be a lifesaver. It allows you to pull yourself out of challenging situations, even if you have limited traction.
  3. Safety Net: A winch can act as a safety net, giving you the confidence to tackle more demanding trails, knowing that you have a reliable means of recovery.


  1. Dependent on Anchors: A winch’s effectiveness depends on having suitable anchor points nearby. In remote or desolate areas, finding a secure anchor can be a challenge.
  2. Installation and Maintenance: Winches require proper installation, maintenance, and care to function reliably. Neglecting maintenance can lead to winch failure when you need it most.

Making the Choice: Lockers or Winch?

The choice between lockers and a winch ultimately depends on your off-road preferences, the type of terrain you plan to encounter, and your budget. In an ideal world, having both lockers and a winch would be optimal, as they complement each other brilliantly. However, if you have to prioritize one over the other, consider the following:

  • Choose Lockers When: You frequently encounter challenging terrains where traction is a constant issue, and you want to enhance your vehicle’s off-road capabilities. Lockers are particularly valuable in scenarios where you often find yourself with one wheel spinning in the air.
  • Choose a Winch When: You explore a variety of terrains and anticipate situations where you might get stuck. A winch provides an added layer of security and self-recovery capability, making it a valuable investment for remote adventures.

Ultimately, the choice between lockers and a winch comes down to your unique off-road needs and preferences. Many experienced off-roaders opt for both, ensuring they have the tools needed to conquer any challenge the trail throws their way. Whichever you choose, always prioritize safety, proper equipment maintenance, and responsible off-road practices as you hit the road for that big lap of adventure.

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