FOR THE PAST FEW YEARS, ARB HAS BEEN QUIETLY MOVING FROM A THREE-PIECE AIR LOCKER DESIGN TO A STRONGER TWO-PIECE MODEL WITH SOME HEAVY-HITTING INNOVATIONS INSIDE. FIND OUT WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU WHEN YOU NEXT ATTEMPT THAT IMPOSSIBLE OFF ROAD OBSTACLE.
ARB’s original three-piece Air Locker design has proven credentials. Since the 80s, it has constantly evolved and improved to become the mainstay traction aid for off roaders across the globe. At a flick of a switch, you can climb out of mud holes, get a grip in sucking sand and rock crawl with the best of them. ARB Air Lockers have been the silent partners in winning many off road competitions as well, from the King of the Hammers in the US to the Malaysian Rainforest Challenge.
So why change a winning formula?
Daniel Bongard, head of ARB’s Air Locker division, was hired in 2000 to design and implement improvements to a small number of Air Locker models that, while featuring all of the components that have made Air Lockers so reliable, were found to underperform when compared to the rest of the locker range.
But redesigning these models proved difficult, as Bongard explains. “We found that there was a delicate balance in regard to attaining optimal strength. When we increased the strength in one area of the locker, a different area or component was weakened. After four complete design options had been explored and dismissed, we knew it was time for something radical. So we put aside the existing Air Locker design and started from scratch.”
What followed was six months of computer-generated concepts involving an original two-piece design, new components and a unique ‘timed’ gear set that showed exciting improvements in strength, durability and locking speed.
“We’re not talking about improvements in strength of 3 or 4%, which any engineer would be proud of,” Bongard says. “The lab results indicated a phenomenal 40% improvement in static torque strength compared to the equivalent three-piece design. It was huge.”
A further six months was then spent proving and refining the design. This meant destructive testing both in the lab and with prototypes fitted to vehicles driven through obstacle courses and across all types of terrain. “It was all about trying to break the prototypes and improving the design,” Bongard says. “But the two-piece Air Locker came out on top.”
In fact, the two-piece Air Locker was such a leap forward in strength, durability and locking speed that ARB immediately commenced a program to implement the new design across the Air Locker range.