limited slip vs. Rear differential lock - 2nd generation Tacoma (2023)

limited slip vs. Rear differential lock - 2nd generation Tacoma (1)

Locking differentials rear vs. block. Which is Best for Your 2nd Gen Tacoma?

When buying a Tacoma, whether new or used, there are many factors that come into play.

One of those factors that many if not most people don't know or consider is the option/difference between the Limited Slip (SR5 if equipped or TRD Sport) and Rear E-Locker (TRD Offroad) options.

Auto-LSD was introduced, as far as I know, in 2009 in Tacomas, which went from mechanical LSD (2005-2008) to electronic. In this article we will discuss this matter as it relates to a 4×4 equipped rig and what would be the best option for you.

Basic differentials

limited slip vs. Rear differential lock - 2nd generation Tacoma (2)

There are three basic types of differential options on the 2nd generation Tacoma:

  1. open differential
  2. Sperrdifferential
  3. Differential lock

1. Open differential

Typically, most vehicles are equipped with open differentials. This means that the differential allows the opposite wheels to rotate at different speeds.

For everyday driving in normal conditions, this is preferable as it allows engine power to be easily distributed to the wheels and takes into account the difference in wheel slip, especially when cornering. This in turn prevents binding. A downside to this system is that if one tire starts to lose traction, the opposite tire will also experience a drop in performance. This isn't ideal if you're looking for maximum off-road traction.

2. Limited slip differential

A limited slip differential is essentially the best of both worlds, a big compromise if you don't roll your truck hard. Most of the time, this setup works like an open differential and only locks the differential when traction is lost.

There are different types of locking differentials. Some use your vehicle's electronics (Auto LSD) and braking system, while others use mechanical parts within the differential itself. This is a great compromise between the two extremes.

3. Differential lock

A limited-slip differential connects opposite wheels, forcing them to rotate at the same speed. Two locked wheels always rotate at the same speed regardless of the situation. This type of differential usually provides the ability to flip a switch and turn on the cabinet when the situation calls for it. Otherwise it works like an open differential.

Interested in climate cabinets? Check out our review of.


limited slip vs. Rear differential lock - 2nd generation Tacoma (3)

The automatic limited slip differential (LSD) is a very different platform than a Tacoma, which has the option of a limited slip differential. Auto LSD was introduced in later model 2nd Gen Tacomas and is very different from the mechanical version seen in earlier models.

To car LSDworks through electronic regulation ofbraking systemon your Tacoma when it detects wheel spin. A mechanical LSD uses a clutch or internal mechanism to temporarily switch your differential to a locked one as long as the system detects a change in wheel spin.

There are many arguments for both types of LSD, but ultimately both achieve a very similar end result.

The LS means it has 2 output shafts rotating at different speeds, but it can limit the difference between the two using its braking system. Earlier 2nd generation Tacoma models came with mechanical LSD and later switched to an electronic version.

This prevents too much power going into one wheel spinning, but it also keeps both wheels spinning in power, ensuring that the traction required is not limited to the spinning of the wheel experiencing the least resistance.

This is a fundamental feature of an open differential, power is always directed to the wheel that is easiest to turn. This is also one of its biggest weaknesses when it comes to trail riding.

To put it in layman's terms:

If you're using Auto LS and you find that a wheel is difficult to turn, LS will allocate that power to the wheel that's easier to turn (better traction) and vice versa until you get out of that situation. As it does not take place in a harsh off-road terrain environment. The Auto LS works in very soft to moderate terrain, but rarely pulls it out of deep ruts or pulls onto high bumps on its own.

If the auto LS can't find traction to pull it out, you may need to switch to 4×4, which will give you the necessary front wheel spin ability (if traction allows) to break free.

Ultimately, four-wheel drive is what you want to overcome or what an LSD can't.

rear locking differential

limited slip vs. Rear differential lock - 2nd generation Tacoma (4)

The rear limited-slip differential option is very different compared to the LS.

It gives you the ability to lock both axles at the same time without one wheel spinning faster than the other. Both wheels spin at the same speed and can be a lot more useful when dealing with more technical off-road terrain.

A potential downside to this system could be that both wheels would spin independently of traction, which could get you stuck even more, which would cause you to engage the 4×4 and hopefully get out of that situation.

Watch this ARB reference video belowLSD vs. traction vs. ARB closet.

Here is another video about itOpen differentials vs. traction control vs. cabinets.

Keep reading and watching the videos and you will learn the differences and how these differentiators work.

Which one is best for you?

limited slip vs. Rear differential lock - 2nd generation Tacoma (5)

There are a few more things to consider when coming to your conclusion as to which would be the best option for you.

As far as I know, with the LS option, Auto LSD is off as soon as 4×4 is on (4-HI or 4-LO), but I swear I've seen it work on 4-HI. As for 4-LO, I can't say for sure.

The rear locking differential can be used in 4WD, but only in the 4-LO configuration. However, the recommended speed for the 4-LO is no more than 5 mph, which is also true for the Tacoma with LS (but the LS would not fire). If you dig, some owners have made modifications to allow the differential to lock no matter the situation.

My experience

With all that said, I hope I've put things as simply as possible so that readers can understand the differences between the two.

Having owned the TRD Sport (my current Tacoma) and the TRD Off-Road (my previous Tacoma), I can safely say that both serve their purpose and are great options. I will say that if the terrain you are exploring is more technical and "tougher", the rear locking differential will probably suit you better, with the option to have both wheels turning in unison, along with the ability to use 4WD.

If the terrain you're exploring and off-roading isn't quite that technical, then the Auto LSD option along with the four-wheel drive will suit you when things get a bit sketchy. I have been to several places that I have used my Auto LS and it has worked really well to get me where I need to be safe.

Also, I've had very few situations where I got stuck and the 4WD couldn't get me out. Throughout the article I have provided some pictures of my truck in somewhat tricky situations. Knowing the terrain and my surroundings well, I was able to successfully pass without a winch or recovery gear.

final thoughts

limited slip vs. Rear differential lock - 2nd generation Tacoma (6)

In the end, deciding what's best for you comes down to your preferences and the terrain you're off-roading on, and that's just my opinion. A pretty polite one, mind you.

Both are great options, and like I said, they serve their respective purposes. The Tacoma is a timeless, proven platform for off-road exploration. In addition to differential upgrades, you can purchase items like tires, gears, elevators, long travel, air locks, and more. All of these things ultimately help make your Tacoma even more powerful and reliable.

I hope you all had fun and enjoyed reading this article. Drive safely and responsibly off-road.

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