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What Are the Differences Between Limited Slip & Nonlimited Slip Axles?

by Kerri Lanae Gaither

Both standard and limited slip differentials are ideal for day to day travel. However, when a vehicle performs a turn or when road conditions are less than ideal, the differences between these traction systems become truly apparent.

Non-Limited Slip

Standard differential, also referred to as "open carrier" is the type of system that comes standard with most vehicles. Standard differential wheels are designed to send power to one wheel at a time. Therefore, when one wheel loses traction, the standard differential has a tendency to revert the majority of the power to the wheel that is under the least resistance. The wheel that has lost traction spins more freely while the wheel that is more stably grounded experiences a decrease in power.

Limited Slip

Limited slip, also referred to as "positraction" by General Motors was designed primarily for 4-by-4 vehicles and emergency vehicles that are more often faced with situations that may lead to traction problems. The Limited Slip system is designed to allot equal power and torque to all wheels, particularly when the vehicle has lost or limited traction. The system automatically decreases the spin on a wheel that has lost traction and reverts additional power to the wheel with traction to reduce the amount of slip.

Improved Safety = Increased Price

While positraction provides increased safety for vehicle turns and unsafe road conditions, limited slip differential systems are priced at about $600 in 2010.

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