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Limited slip differential vs. locking differential

May 22, 2016 | General Repair Info

Locking differentials and limited-slip differentials both serve similar functions, but they also have some differences as well. They both get installed onto the axles of a car in order to give the wheels better traction while enduring rough environments, like dirt roads, which can cause one of the wheels to spin and break traction. If you were to just have an open differential in your vehicle then losing traction would cause the vehicle do what’s called a “peg-leg dance” on the road. This happens because the wheel that spins from breaking traction causes the forward motion of the vehicle to stop, which means the wheel doesn’t move along with the rest. So what locking differentials and limited-slip differentials do is help the wheels maintain traction on the road by making sure they move at all times.

Limited slip differential

Now you have to decide whether you want to use locking differentials or limited-slip differentials in your vehicle. As far as locking differentials are concerned, they have their pros and cons like anything else. The pros are that they’re extremely durable, require no servicing, allows each axle to perform true two-wheel drive, and they enhance traction considerably. However, the bad side to them is they wear your tires out quickly and makes steering more difficult. You will also hear occasional clunking or banging noises from the automatic lockers. If you have to drive on icy or snowy road conditions then it could still be difficult.

The limited slip differentials will also enhance your traction, but even more than the locking differentials. In fact, you will even be able to handle ice and snowy road conditions while still maintaining traction. Also, your tires won’t make chirping sounds and your tires won’t get worn out from increased acceleration. It should simply be a silent operation the entire time you are driving with them. Now as great as this all sounds, limited slip differentials don’t fully lock together both axles. They are also considered to be physically weaker than locking differentials. It really just depends on the design of the differentials. There are certain limited slip differentials that may go back and forth in front of the axle application.

Experts will tell you that the type of differentials you choose for your vehicle really depends on the individual driver’s needs. Both differentials will work fine, but some people may like the benefits of one particular differential versus the other kind.

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