Know About Diff-lock and How to Use It in 4×4?

4x4 Wheel

What is Diff-lock?

If you’ve got a 4×2 Hilux or a Prado, or one of the other Toyota 4×4 and bakkie range members, you may have heard about the brand’s widely popular diff-locks. But what exactly is a diff-lock? It’s best to answer that question by explaining what a differential is. On each axle are two wheels. When the vehicle drives in a straight line, the wheels turn at the same speed, but when the vehicle goes around a corner, both wheels travel different distances because they turn along different axes. It enables them to grip our surfaces in ways that no regular tire could hope to achieve. And it’s all controlled by this ingenious device called a differential which allows both wheels to spin while ensuring wheels are kept where they’re needed on your chosen terrain much like an inclined plane that moves-up and down based upon how much weight it carries!

You’re driving your car, and suddenly one of your wheels becomes immobilized. You start to realize that the wheel has gone into deep mud and is completely covered with thick gooey mud (which itself weighs a lot!). Without diff locks, you cannot move forward between both tires, and all the engine’s power goes to one useless tire, which will not move. But if you turn the diff lock, your vehicle will move forward.

At the bottom right of the vehicle is an axle with a differential housing in the form of a bulge. But these are a bit unusual because most of the differences are between Excel. So, differentiation solves the cornering problem, but they come with a significant loss for off-road wheel driving.

The Front Wheel Rotation

Some vehicles turn the wheel of a front wheel to go forward. The front wheel will rotate towards the left or the right quickly and make the vehicle go forward. The two wheels on the axle are connected by pulleys with torque in them so that turning one wheel puts a force on the other wheel in that same direction and amount of torque as needed to keep it turning at the same rate.

Differentials solve the problem of cornering. However, they can be more of a hindrance than a help when taking long 30 inch rims drives. While cruising through rocky terrain, you may find your car veering off course because the differential often directs power to the wheel with minor traction. To better illustrate this: You see in this picture that one wheel is moving forward while another is not. Differentials are inherently lazy and consequently direct power to whichever wheel has the easiest time moving forward over rough terrain (instead of both wheels).

A wheel has little contact with the surface it’s on, for example, in the air or mud. It means that it does not provide a lot of resistance to turning, so it is like a small flywheel. It means that its other wheel gets minimal effort from it. Therefore, this “differential” doesn’t move along with the front wheels but instead stays where it is, somewhere back on the axle. The two are usually not aligned, so they bring you nowhere – they call that “the differential problem.”

Alloy wheels have to turn at different rates based on whatever the surface beneath

when we’re driving. If one side of all four tires travels over a patch of ice, that may cause that wheel to stop turning altogether while the other continues spinning as expected. With both wheels moving at different speeds under power – due to the conditions and the vehicle’s design – you could imagine how this might pose a problem if not dealt with properly and effectively. This concept is often called the “differential” because it allows these differing degrees of speed from peripheral wheels not to affect performance even when adverse situations occur.

You would know that the diff-lock is a device that disables the vehicle’s differential, locking it out, so both wheels turn at the same speed. It means there is no differential problem anymore. Still, because it disables the good part about a differential, there’s no turning on corners, so the ability to drive up steep rocky paths effectively either. The best way to use one is to make sure your diff-lock is engaged when necessary and disengaged when it isn’t. So for situations where you will be driving straight on flat roads for long periods or need your power for acceleration and stuff like that, we recommend you keep your diff locked out of the way until you need them, such as climbing steep hills at low speeds in rocky areas.

Types of Diff-Lock

There are two kinds of diff locks used in wheeled industrial equipment: mechanical and hydraulic. Most wheel loaders have manually engaged and disengaged models, but some are automatically engaged by either mechanical or electronic means. Tracks offer more traction than standard tires in off-road environments where the dirt is loose, so this isn’t a pretty big deal when using them; you may notice an increase in overall turning radius.

So far, we have examined a diff lock that works across both wheels on an axle, from cornering to acceleration. We look at it from the other side and examine how it affects the car’s movement when accelerating or braking. We also call this “axle locking differential” because the lock typically only applies between two axles of the four-wheeled vehicle. Remember that there are different types of locking systems, but they all work differently, so they are named differently.

A Toyota 4WD. It has four wheels locked while the central axle is free to swivel. This can be making the black and white image look like a jigsaw piece. This is shown on the dashboard screen by an orange jigsaw icon (with an orange jigsaw icon X inside). The central differential lock is engaged, shown by a red logo of two interlocking gears with an X (the equivalent icon for all-wheel differential locking).

When Should I Use Diff-Locks on 4×4?

As reported by Jeep Wheels manufacturer, sticking to a set routine, you might get into the habit of using your diff-lock every time things start to get tough in your life. It’s also wonderful not to! At some point, you’re bound to find yourself in situations where you don’t need it.

Here are some tips for when that happens:

  • When ascending certain inclines, it is usually a good idea to have your lockers engaged. You can continue moving up the hill or mountain. You should know that these are best considered in poor road conditions and poor traction. The image below displays how easy it can be to spot when they are engaged. Even when just looking at the tires!
  • Going to a rough hill with a car where one wheel is in the air. There is a possibility of losing traction, usually wherever you go. Where you are moving in the first or second low range. You may lose traction on one or more wheels. You don’t have to bend hard, there’s good traction on the other wheels.


The diff-lock or differential lock is a mechanism that engages or disengages some wheels to help turn the vehicle. For example, the Toyota Land Cruiser 70 series model has a low range gearbox and differentials. Having a 2-speed selective and 4-speed manual, with lockers that can engage at anywhere between 0 and 100%. A central diff-lock boosts staying power on slippery terrain by sending varying degrees of torque. It is also known as effort to each drive wheel to improve traction. It is beneficial when traversing areas with significant amounts of snow and ice. Where most power needs to get you moving forward. Rather than slipping sideways onto the snow and spinning your tires.

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