A Limited Slip Differential Explained

Modern vehicles usually have one of three types of differential: limited, open, or locking. Varied in how they accomplish their task, all differentials are designed to transfer engine power to wheels. A limited slip differential, specifically, does its job by limiting the amount of force sent to a wheel if it’s losing traction (it electronically activates the brakes for that wheel). Seen on all types of cars, from Land Rovers to sporty Miatas, LSDs can improve vehicle performance by putting significant force on the ground. Here’s a look at the advantages and disadvantages of a limited slip differential:


Limited slip differentials offer greater off-road traction than other types. However, they also work better than others when on paved roads. Additionally, since limited slip differentials remove power from a struggling wheel, they help prevent excess wear to tires. They are also inexpensive (between $600 and $1200) and work for many models. Finally, cars with limited slip differentials receive less stress on axle shafts.


Although limited slip differentials have many advantages, there are also a few downsides. For example, even though this type takes power away from a wheel losing traction, it can’t remove all of it. This means a wheel with full traction can’t be powered completely (some power still goes other places). Also, it can be difficult to predict traction on certain terrain (sand, mud, rocks), which means wheels with less traction can get power when they don’t need it. When this happens, functional wheels can lose traction and cause the vehicle to pull to one side. This creates obvious issues for drivers that see questionable terrain regularly. Another negative aspect of limited slip differentials, they lack uniformity–they don’t behave the same in every vehicle. In some cases, wheel durability can be controlled, but not always. So if you like how limited slip differentials treat one car, don’t assume you will feel the same if you switch models.


With plenty to think about on both sides, limited slip differentials can offer a suitable option for most drivers. In fact, many carmakers have switched to LSDs to better control their vehicles.To make sure you know what you’re getting, do thorough research on all differentials and take the time to talk to a trusted technician about what might work best for your expectations, lifestyle, and driving habits.

For all your vehicle maintenance and repair needs, call University Auto Repair in Flagstaff at 928-433-0025 today!

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