What To Know: Is A Locking Rear Differential Worth It?

Rear-drive vehicles push power to the wheel that needs it the most. So say you have two tires on the road and only one has traction. Your nonlocking differential will transfer power to the wheel not working as well. So is a locking rear diff worth it? Do I even need one?

For certain situations, this is ideal such as turning, the inside wheel travels a shorter distance, so it turns slower while the outside wheel turns faster. A differential makes this a smooth process. But sometimes you need a locker.

READ MORE: IS A TRUCK LEVELING KIT BETTER THAN A LIFT KIT?

Why Would You Lock Your Rear Differential?

For 4×4 or off-roading you may be stuck without a locking diff. When you lock the diff you are basically disabling it and turning your rear axle into a single driving force. So the rear axle spins both tires at the same speed and power.

Off-roading is ideal because you need power everywhere. When driving on fewer than 4 wheels at times you need power pushed wherever your truck is making contact with the ground.

Say your driving and you heading through a rocky section and you are driving on 3 wheels for certain sections. Well with a non-locking diff the wheel that is up in the air will spin and steal power from the other 3 that are actually doing something for your vehicle. So, is a locking rear diff worth it?

Yes! Without one you can’t powerfully crawl past the rocks, you’re just having a party spinning your flailing wheel in the air.

What Do Lockers Do On A 4×4 Vehicle?

A locking differential, diff-lock, or locker, is part of the standard vehicle drive train. On your 4×4 truck, it stops the function of the differential. A 4×4 drive train is basically like two two-wheel-drive cars put end to end.

There are differentials on each axle, each set of wheels gets power from the motor, and each differential splits the power to the wheel that needs it the most. When you have a locker at either end, it will stop this democratic approach and instead keep both wheels moving in uniform with no prejudice.

If you have a locker at the front and rear axle each engaged the front set moving in unison and the rear set moving in unison. You can also have a center locking diff. On 4×4 vehicles, where the front and back are connected a center diff will connect them both to receive the same power and rotate in unison.

Is It Bad To Drive With Diff Lock On?

Yes! Driving normally on paved roads with a differential lock on can cause serious stress and breaks or permanent damage to your drive train in your car. The driving line of each tire is different in the front, as well as, in the rear. If the differential is locked each tire will have to slip or skid on the road with each turn.

The unlocked differential lets this slippage be part of normal operation. Locking it will just cause you to waste more money. Your choice.

Do Lockers Help In Mud?

Yes, absolutely. Mud driving is a mess. Lockers will help your tires move in unison and give you maximum traction. The right set of mud tires will provide the biggest difference, though, lockers will transfer power from the engine to the tires the most efficiently.

Which Is Better Limited Slip Or Locking Differential?

An automatic locking differential can unlock and allow the inside wheel to rotate freely, but only when power is limited. The limited-slip differential will allow some slipping between the two side gears, this allows both wheels to get equal traction even though one is spinning faster than the other.

Does Locking Rear Differential Help In Snow?

Yes, a rear locking differential will help in the snow but in severe conditions. For snow driving, a limited-slip differential is ideal. You will get an ideal amount of traction while still maintaining more control of your vehicle while turning and maneuvering through the snow, ice, and mud together.

You want to have your wheels spinning in unison to get the most traction and a limited-slip differential will deliver more power to the wheels that have the most traction. When turning the diff will slip so your wheels will not.

Do You Need A Rear Locker?

You will need a rear locker for off-roading. When driving on paved roads a locker is NOT needed and it can even cause vehicle damage.

When Climbing rocks or uneven roads where you may be driving with a wheel lifted off the ground for moments a rear locker will drive power to each wheel so you can get the most traction. That means you won’t get stuck!

If you are driving on the pavement where your wheels are not slipping the car’s differentials are designed to slip instead. Traction everywhere will cause stress to the drive train and may break expensive components.

Can You Add Locking Differentials To Your Vehicle?

Yes of course. Locking differentials are commonly added to vehicles with plans to drive off-road. It requires a decent amount of work as you will be diving under the car and messing with the drive train. It is simpler than some modifications, pricy, and it is reversible.

Depending on your level of off-roading and how often you want to go a locker or two would be a necessity. Having locking diffs will also open up much more off-roading capabilities to you. You will be able to go up steeper hills, rougher terrain, and deeper mud. For the casual weekend family tenter, a locking diff may not be a priority.

Are you thinking of adding a locker to your ride? For some, they are a necessity. For you is a locking rear diff worth it? Depends on you. They are nice to have absolutely. Heading to the Baja 500 or Baja 1000? Every race truck and Prerunner will have them.

Thanks for reading and stay dirty

Written by Mud Flap

Hi Im Ryne Sweeney, or, Mud Flap. I am a dedicated truck enthusiast. I like to argue how Dodges are expensive pieces of metal. One day I will start showering daily inside the house. My nights are long and my days are muddy.

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