Locking Differential Vs. 4 Wheel Drive


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.

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  • Photo Credit 4 wheel drive image by Canakris from Fotolia.com
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