OPEN DIFFERENTIALS - Most vehicles come from the factory with an “open” differential. The open differential is designed to propel the vehicle while also allowing for one tire to be turning faster than the other. (During cornering, the tire on the outside of the corner travels a longer path than the inside tire) This design provides smooth cornering with no adverse tire wear. In a low traction situation (i.e.: one tire on mud or ice) the open differential will apply power to the tire with least traction, resulting in tire spin and no forward propulsion.
POSI / LIMITED SLIP -A limited slip or positraction differential typically uses some form of clutches that bind up the differential, providing traction to the both tires. The clutches will slip to some extent to allow tires to turn at different speeds on corners. Some limited slip differentials are more aggressive than others, and some can be set up or “pre-loaded” more or less aggressively. Limited slip units require a special gear oil additive and may chatter when turning. Clutch packs may also wear with time and require replacement.
*TRY TO AVOID USING CLUTCH TYPE LIMITED SLIPS FOR OFF-ROAD APPLICATIONS
LOCKERS -Locking differentials come in various forms, all of which provide 100% traction to both wheels. Automatic locking differentials, such as the Detroit Locker or Lockright require no driver input whatsoever. Selectable lockers such as the ARB Air Locker, Eaton ELocker and Auburn ECTED typically perform as an open differential until the driver selects “locked” mode.
SPOOLS - A spool has no moving parts, and basically turns the driver and passenger side axles into a single axle shaft. No provision is made for cornering so tire chirp is unavoidable.
Spools are best suited for racing-only applications.
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