A differential lock is a mechanism that allows two wheels on an axle to spin at the same rate.
Differential locks work in a way that if one wheel slips, the other can maintain traction and propel the vehicle.
Differential locks (or locking differentials, whichever you prefer) protect vehicles against traction loss. This explains their popularity on vehicles dedicated to off-road driving.
In this article, we explore popular models with locking differentials. Let’s get started!
1. Toyota Tacoma
Many have criticized the Toyota Tacoma for its cramped cabin and plain design. However, even critics agree that the Toyota Tacoma is a champion on the trail.
Powered by a gusty V-6, the Tacoma has enough power to navigate difficult terrain—be it mud, sand, snow, or rocky ground.
The Tacoma has a high ground clearance, a quality that helps it scale obstacles. Thanks to a rugged body, the truck can trail obstacles without suffering damage.
Tacomas have an electronic locking differential feature that lets you lock both wheels on an axle. This boosts traction and limits your vehicle’s chances of losing stability when off-roading.
As part of its traction-boosting efforts, the Tacoma has four-wheel-drive capability. On its own, the Tacoma’s 4WD system helps drivers maintain maximum control in less-than-stellar driving conditions.
2. Jeep Wrangler
If there’s any vehicle with true off-road credibility, it’s the Jeep Wrangler.
Right from the WW2 era, the Wrangler can handle the most unforgiving terrain.
The Wrangler’s exceptional off-road ability comes from its durable, high tensile-strength body that’s impervious to road damage. Standard four-wheel-drive on Wrangler models also helps find traction in poor road conditions.
Like other vehicles on the list, the Wrangler has locking differentials. This feature locks both wheels of the same axle to move at the same speed with the same amount of force.
If you’ve ever seen Wranglers climbing rocks in adverts, then you’ve seen the differential lock in action. Without the lock, it would be impossible to go rock crawling as there would be uneven traction throughout.
3. GMC Sierra
The GMC Sierra is the corporate cousin to the Chevrolet Silverado, which also makes the list.
A capable workhorse, the GMC Sierra can tow up to 12,200 pounds and has a payload capacity of 2,240 pounds.
GMC offers the Sierra truck with technologies that make off-road driving easier for you. For instance, you get the Eaton G80 locking differential when you buy the vehicle.
Under less-than-ideal driving circumstances, the locking differential locks the left and right wheels on an axle. This ensures both wheels rotate at the same speed, so your vehicle continues moving if one wheel loses grip.
The locking differential is not only the off-road driving feature on the GMC Sierra.
The models have a well-designed 4WD system along with advanced traction-control features—all designed to provide a better off-road driving experience.
4. Chevrolet Colorado
If you want an affordable truck that blends functionality, affordability, and performance, the Colorado is your model.
Starting below $30,000, the Colorado costs less than many rivals, yet offers a similar value.
It boasts first-rate performance sure to satisfy any performance enthusiast.
The V-6 beneath the Colorado’s hood pumps out an enormous 369 pound-feet of torque and 308 horsepower.
While the Colorado is comfortable on the highway, it’s also suited to navigating trails and other off-road paths. This is likely because it has available four-wheel-drive that provides excellent traction in such driving conditions.
If you want more off-road driving ability, you can opt for the optional rear locking differential.
The Colorado’s diff lock makes the wheels move at the same speed. More than anything, this provides wheels with maximum power for forward movement.
Make sure to also read our article about how long Chevrolet Colorados last.
5. Ram 1500
The Ram 1500 is one of the few trucks with a perfect 10/10 rating from Car and Driver. Such excellent ratings from a respected automotive publication only goes to show the quality of this truck.
If you’re an off-road driving enthusiast, then you’d be pleased to know that the Ram 1500 has an electronic locking differential.
The feature is quite useful in low-speed, off-road situations, such as when you’re rock crawling.
It enhances movement, especially when one wheel is not touching the ground. This single-handedly improves traction and maximizes the off-road handling of the Ram 1500 truck.
The Ram 1500 has more to offer than locking differentials and 4WD, however. It has surprisingly good fuel economy for a full-size truck and is incredibly comfortable to drive as well.
6. Ford F-150
The Ford F-150 is the undisputed King of Pickups, evident from its mind-boggling sales figures. This full-size truck offers users the best in utility, performance, reliability, and value.
With various luxury features including heated seats, the F-150 makes for a comfortable people hauler.
A decent fuel economy means you can use it for your highway driving needs without spending excessively on fuel.
However, if you love driving off the beaten path, the F-150 is game. This model has available locking differential that enhances stability and traction in off-road driving situations.
You can also use Ford’s Traction Management available on the F-150 to your advantage on uneven terrain.
Please also read our article about how long Ford hybrids last.
7. Toyota Land Cruiser
The Toyota Land Cruiser is a legendary model famed for its impressive off-road handling. While many buyers may balk at its high price, real off-road enthusiasts know that the Land Cruiser is worth it.
The Land Cruiser features standard four-wheel-drive, which alone is enough for any off-roading journey.
However, it also comes with electronic locking differentials that keep the vehicle moving in extreme off-road situations.
Other features that enhance off-road driving on the Land Cruiser include Active Traction Control and Vehicle Stability Control.
Also read our article about driving the Toyota Land Cruiser in snow and winter.
8. Nissan Frontier
The Nissan Frontier is perfect for unknown frontiers filled with obstacles. It has a pot-pourri of systems specifically designed for combating uneven terrain and keeping you safe.
Among those systems include the electronic locking differential that ensures stable movement when driving in extreme off-road terrain.
With the differential lock, you can successfully navigate difficult road conditions such as ice and rocky surfaces.