If you’re looking to tear up the off-road terrain, your car is going
to need a lot of special equipment that most modern cars you buy off the
dealer lot don’t include. While some SUVs and trucks include a few
of the features that make off-roading possible and enjoyable, there are
a few things that any true off-roader will need in their vehicle in order
to really be ready to conquer the toughest terrain. One of these things
is a locking differential, and on this blog we’ll explain why by
taking a closer look at how they work and what they can do for your car.
What is a Differential?
In order to understand what a locking differential is, first we must understand
what a differential is and how they work. To put it simply, a differential
is a box on one of your axles that’s geared in a way that allows
both wheels on that axle to spin and receive varying amounts of power
independent of each other based on the resistance applied to each wheel.
This reduces tire wear, eliminates chatter, and makes your ride smoother,
especially in corners.
Think of it this way: when you turn your car, the tires on the outside
have to travel further and faster than the ones on the inside because
the outside of a turn has a longer distance than the inside. However,
detaching the wheels that are receiving power from the axle itself would
require two different powertrain drives and a highly-specialized computer
to control power distribution. A differential instead is a mechanical
solution that allows the wheels on your axle to turn at different rates
while still receiving power in order to turn your car without dragging
your outside tires.
Why Lock Your Differential?
As you might imagine, a locking differential is one that can lock up the
gearing in order to force both wheels on an axel to spin at the same rate,
regardless of resistance to both wheels. So if a differential has so many
benefits, why would you want to lock it? Simple: independent resistance
amounts are extremely common in an off-road setting, to the point where
it’s fairly normal for one wheel receiving power to not even be
touching the ground at all. However, his presents a problem: with such
a widely-varied amount of resistance, power will often be distributed
in ways that are not optimal for the conditions, and that will lead to
traction loss and possibly even getting stuck in softer sand or terrain.
A locking differential is the solution you’re looking for. When you
lock up the gearing in a differential, you essentially force both wheels
to turn at exactly the same rate, regardless of resistance and power application.
As a result, this encourages your vehicle to actually have
better traction in these situations than you would with an open differential.
Off-Road Differential Lockers
Anybody who knows anything about off-roading will know that four-wheel
drive vehicles are the way to go, but you can actually get even more out
of your 4WD system with locking differentials. Being able to lock your
front and rear differential can give you unmatched traction levels when
scaling even the toughest obstacles, including even shorter vertical walls,
large boulders, gigantic crags or cracks, and much more.
However, because locking your differentials can place a lot of added stress
on your axle, it’s super important that you only lock your differentials
momentarily, such as when scaling a particularly difficult obstacle. This
is particularly true for your front differential, as you’ll also
be using this axle to steer your vehicle. Turning too sharp with a locked
differential places a tremendous amount of stress on your tires, ball
joints, and the axle itself as your vehicle struggles to turn. Always
make sure that you keep your vehicle’s speed to no more than a crawl
while both your front and rear differentials are locked, and try to avoid
turning your vehicle as much as possible. Once you scale your obstacle,
it’s advised you unlock your front differential, and even unlock
both if traction won’t be an issue. This alleviates any added pressure
or friction in your differential boxes and ensure you won’t strip
any gearing or break an axle.
For more information about upgrading your differential or adding a locking
mechanism to your car,
call the Katy off-road performance shop at HP Motorsports today at 281-231-9950!