Vehicles that use four wheel drive can have various differentials, depending on the owner's desires and needed functions. One type of differential is the locking differential, which can lend a hand in off-road capabilities.
Four-wheel-drive vehicles have both axles powered, whereas a front-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive car or truck can only drive the front axle or rear axle, respectively. A locking differential only affects the given axle it controls, whether front or rear. A vehicle does not have to have four-wheel drive to have a locking differential.
Locking differentials aid the vehicle by forcing the wheels on its axle (either front or rear) to turn at the same rate, regardless of traction. A locking differential is helpful if one wheel on the axle has traction and the other does not, such as when on ice or when climbing out of a ditch.
Keep in mind that a locked differential is usually only necessary for off roading applications. Use on paved roads can make steering and overall handling difficult.
- Photo Credit 4 wheel drive image by Canakris from Fotolia.com
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