A center differential lock is a mechanism that shares power equally between the front and rear axles of a vehicle. It does this by regulating engine power and dividing it between the two axles.
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If you have a vehicle, then one thing you might not have thought about is the differential and the entire system that helps it run.
For example, have you ever thought about how easily some vehicles can navigate uneven and rocky terrain? If you haven't already, let's look at a segment of your vehicle that contributes to your vehicle's overall drivability.
If you've never heard of the differential and its primary function, you're in luck because we're going to delve into that in this article and more.
- 1 What is a differentiator?
- 2 What is a center differential lock?
- 3 The working principle of Diff Lock?
- 4 When to use a center differential lock? (off road or wide asphalt) and why?
- 4.1 Center differential lock for highway driving
- 4.2 Center differential lock for off-road driving
- 5 Which car models work best with center differential locks?
- 5.1 Ford F-150
- 5.2 Toyota Land Cruiser
- 5.3 Jeep Wrangler
- 6 How fast can you drive with center differential locks?
- 7. Conclusion
What is a differential?
Before we delve into what center differential locks do and how they work, it's important to take a brief look at what the differential does.
A differential is an automotive component that allows the distribution of power to the different wheels of a vehicle. In order for vehicles to turn, a vehicle's wheels must turn at different speeds.
The differential is the key component in ensuring that the power diverted to the different wheels of a vehicle allows the vehicle's wheels to turn at different speeds.
The differential is formed by a set of gears and the number of gears tends to vary from one type of differential to another. These gears are responsible for transferring the power from the engine to the wheels in the correct proportion.
The differential also works when the car is driving on somewhat off-road terrain. There, a force distribution is necessary to allow the vehicle to maneuver, due to the loss of traction that the difficult terrain entails. Due to different terrains and driving needs, there are different types of differentials available on the market.
Depending on the vehicle you own and what you require from the vehicle, you can select the perfect differential for you.
What is a center differential lock?
A center differential lock is a differential that has the same outputs as a normal differential, the only difference being the location and how it produces the distribution of power in a vehicle when driving and, more importantly, cornering.
If you have oneAWDor a 4WD will likely have a center differential system. The center differential lock system divides torque and rotational speed between the front and rear wheels. You can read more about 4WD vs AWD through myprevious guide.
(This means you may not see a center differential lock on 2WD vehicles.)
That's why it's usually located in the center of the drive train to ensure it maintains a balance between the power needs at both ends of the vehicle.
There are many mechanical components and principles in the center differential lock system.
The operating principle of Diff Lock?
When driving, a car needs all the traction it can get. All wheels on the vehicle must receive adequate power with different power metrics depending on whether the steering is straight or cornering.
The center differential lock helps control power output to the wheels. The working mechanism of the center differential lock involves reading the throttle inputs and steering angles before taking action.
At minimum steering angle, i.e. when the car is going in a straight line, the center differential locks to ensure that power is properly distributed to the front and rear of the vehicle with equal distribution.
As the driver approaches a turn, the steering angle changes, as does the throttle input. These readings result in the center differential opening.
This allows the car's wheels to rotate at different speeds and essentially allows the car to turn. Without this, the vehicle will not be able to turn.
Once the turn is made and the steering angle is minimized, the center differential starts to lock up again.
When to use a center differential lock? (off road or wide asphalt) and why?
We have highlighted the working principle of the center differential lock and, as complex and effective as it is, you are probably wondering when is the best time to use a vehicle equipped with a differential system.
Well, let's take a look at the various advantages that come with using the system on both off-road and asphalt adventures to see how effective it is in any and where the system is best suited.
Center differential lock for highway driving
One thing about center differential locks is that they increase the vehicle's traction. This means that the vehicle's drive wheels get much more power if it is equipped with a locking center differential compared to a normal differential system.
When it comes to highway driving, chances are you don't need the extra traction. Motorway driving gives your vehicle good condition, even if it is not equipped with a center differential lock.
If you plan on doing a lot of highway driving, it is not necessary to use a center differential lock system.
However, there are some cases where a center differential lock will be absolutely necessary, even if you drive normally on the highway.
Conditions such as snow and ice make it very essential to put a center differential lock system into use.
Ice and snow make normal driving quite difficult, and having the extra traction will make the experience a little more bearable.
With more torque at the wheels and power in the areas where it's needed most, this means you can easily maneuver in the snow, based on the principle of different rotational speeds, for different wheels and different torques.
Unless you are planning to drive on a very snowy or icy road, you will not need a center differential lock system if you are driving on the highway.
There are cheaper differential mechanisms better suited for highway use that we will talk about in this series.
Center differential lock for off-road driving
Now, that's what the center differential lock lives for. The center differential lock system is designed for off-road driving. We already made it clear in the article that a center differential lock allows engine power to be evenly distributed to the front and rear axles.
This means that no matter where your vehicle is positioned, you will have one wheel moving at the front and one wheel moving at the rear.
This allows for easier vehicle handling and allows you to move easily over steep terrain. When traversing the dirt and steep terrain, you need to drive from other ends of your vehicle.
This will allow your vehicle to drive with more power and allow you to easily drive it with relative ease.
Slippery and muddy surfaces are also perfect conditions for the center differential lock system.
The center differential lock system allows power to be split between the front and rear axles.
We have already pointed out that this gives your vehicle more momentum and certainly better handling.
The best cases, where a center differential lock system is not only the best fit, but also essential, is when you are driving off-road.
This also happens when you drive on muddy and gravel roads. If you plan on hitting the road, a center differential lock system should let you enjoy the amazing off-road adventure.
Before moving on to the next part of this guide, if you are interested in learning the difference between hub locks and differential locks, check out my previous guide onhub locks vs differential locks.
What car models work best with center differential locks?
Today, most AWD or 4WD trucks and SUVs come with a center differential lock system. The reason for this is that most of these vehicles are built and designed to maneuver and drive in off-road terrain.
As a result, it is necessary to ensure that these vehicles come pre-installed with a center differential lock system. Here are some of the best vehicles you can buy that come with a locking center differential system.
If you know you have a dealer for off-road adventures, consider getting a vehicle that makes this list.
I will f-150
Now, unsurprisingly, first on our list is the Ford F-150. The Ford F-150 is impressive and, for those who don't know, it comes fully equipped with a center differential lock system.
The F-150 is the undisputed king of the off-road. The vehicle has everything you want in a truck and the center diff lock system is pretty much a bonus.
If you plan on taking off-road trips, the F-150 is a game changer. This means that one thing you won't have to worry about is terrain or even getting stuck in mud or snow. This beast of a vehicle will easily maneuver out of snow, ice or mud. All thanks to the central differential lock system and the powerful engine.
Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota is one of the biggest names when it comes to off-road adventures and especially the Land Cruiser series.
The latest offering in this impeccable series comes with a differential lock system that is modern yet just as efficient and powerful as the traditional center differential lock system.
The vehicle already comes with4x4 completeIn essence, the center differential lock system is just a little bit, the icing on this amazing cake.
The Toyota Land Cruiser differential system is electronic and works with Active Traction Control and Vehicle Stability Control.
All these features make the off-road experience not only bearable, but also exciting. If there's a vehicle that can give you an amazing off-road experience with a touch of luxury, it's without a doubt the Toyota Land Cruiser.
However, the downside of this vehicle may be the high price, but in our opinion, for the service it provides, it is definitely worth every penny you will spend on it.
It can't be an SUV list if we don't include a Jeep Wrangler. There are countless ads featuring a Jeep Wrangler effortlessly climbing rocks.
Herock tracking capabilitiesof the Jeep Wrangler can be attributed to the vehicle's center differential lock system.
The Jeep Wrangler comes standard with 4-wheel drive and, thanks to the central differential lock system, power can be divided equally between the axles.
This means there will be no loss of traction and rock tracking will be smoother than ever. If we had to pick the perfect vehicle with a center differential lock system, we'd pick the Jeep Wrangler.
How fast can you drive with center differential locks?
The center differential locks will make it easier to get out of muddy, icy or snowy situations. One thing they won't give you is speed.
If you have activated the differential lock system, then you should avoid not only high speeds, but also quite moderate speeds.
The recommended speed if you have the center differential locks engaged is 25 mph. You can go beyond this speed, but it's not recommended.
Your vehicle may have difficulty turning and this can lead to some terrible accidents. If you want to increase your speed, it's a good idea to disengage the center differential lock first.
Having a center differential lock improves your off-road experience and essentially turns your truck or SUV into a super off-roader.
However, one important thing to understand is that although you will get more traction and moretorqueWith a center differential lock, it's not a license to speed.
In fact, anything above 25 mph with a center differential lock on is dangerous.
Enjoy your off-road experience and stay safe!