Pros and Cons: Limited Slip Differential vs. Locking Differential

Differentials are components of a vehicle which help transmit power from the internal combustion engine to the wheels. When you’re driving and turning at different speeds, the differentials are what allow the wheels to rotate at these speeds. If you didn’t have differentials, then wheel rotation would not be possible as you accelerate or slow down. Then your car would feel like a kart rather than an automobile.

Basically, differentials split the torque power from the engine to create the proper rotation speed for the wheels. So, when you go to turn your steering wheel, the gear train will have an outer drive wheel which rotates faster than the inner drive wheel. However, the same type of differential is not used in every vehicle. There are multiple types of differentials out there. One particular differential has attributes which separate it from another differential. Overall, these differentials attempt to achieve the same goal and that is to give the wheels and tires more traction on the road as they rotate.

Two of the most common types of differentials are called limited slip differential and locking differential. We will go over the pros and cons of each one now.

Limited Slip Differential: Pros

Limited slip differentials give you better traction than locked differentials. If you’re driving on rough roads which have a lot of wetness on them, it will be easier to make turns on these roads if you have limited slip differentials. This is great in environments where it regularly snows or rains. And since your wheels will be able to accelerate steadily, the treads of your tires will stay in good shape too. This is better than locked differentials, which cause tire treads to wear out faster.

Limited Slip Differential Cons

Limited slip differentials have their faults too. For instance, the wheels don’t lock together on the axle simultaneously. Plus, many limited slip differential models are not so durable physically. As a result, you may need to replace those limited differentials sooner rather than later. Sometimes your vehicle will pull to the right or left too much as well.

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Locking Differential Pros

Locking differentials may be preferable to someone who doesn’t want to do a lot of maintenance. These differentials are more durable than limited differentials, which means they will last longer. Also, locking differentials still give you good traction in environments where the weather isn’t too extreme. The best part is the wheels lock together simultaneously as you go to make turns. It doesn’t even matter the level of traction that each wheel has either. Therefore, when you go to make turns with your steering wheel, it will feel very smooth and simple. There will be no pulling to the right or left side as you may experience with limited differentials.

Locking Differential Cons

The biggest setback to locking differentials is the high level of wear and tear that your tire treads will experience. As the treads continue to get worn out, it will become more difficult to steer because the treads won’t be able to grip the road properly. This diminishes the good traction that you once had. And if you happen to experience a lot of rain, ice, and snow in your area, trying to steer your vehicle will be a nightmare. You’ll slide around all over the place and increase your chances of an accident. There may be loud banging noises heard as well.


Overall, you should consider the environment you normally drive in before you choose your differentials. For most people, they prefer limited differentials because of their ability to maintain traction on tough road conditions. But if you live in a tropical climate with very steady weather, you may find it more economical to choose locking differentials.

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