In contrast to the open differential, A locking differential – also known as a welded differential – connects the wheels so they all rotate at the same speed.. This provides better traction but makes turning a little more difficult. Locking differentials are typically used in off-road vehicles, where they can provide increased traction in slippery or uneven terrain.
There are two main types of locking differentials: manual and automatic. With a manual locking differential, the driver must engage the lock manually, typically using a switch or lever. Automatic locking differentials engage and disengage automatically in response to driving conditions. When locked, both wheels are forced to turn at the exact same speed, regardless of whether one wheel has traction or not.
Locking Differential Pros and Cons
Locking differentials have a number of benefits, especially for off-road driving. They offer improved traction over difficult terrain, helping the vehicle maintain momentum and prevent getting stuck. When one wheel loses traction and starts spinning — such as when driving through mud, snow, or sand — the other wheel provides power to move the vehicle forward. Locking differentials offer improved handling and control, especially when climbing steep inclines or descending slippery slopes.
There are some disadvantages to locking differentials, as well. Repeatedly locking and unlocking the differential can cause wear and tear on the drivetrain components. Drivers will experience reduced fuel economy and increased noise and vibration. While they’re a valuable tool for off-road driving, locking differentials aren’t recommended for use on paved roads or during high-speed driving. In these situations, steering difficulties and tire wear may occur.