Which Jeeps Have Locking Differentials? (and How to Use Them)

Jeeps are very well known for their sporty and rugged look as well as their powerful engines and impressive off-roading capabilities. They are popular and powerful vehicles that come equipped with a lot of different features and tools, one among them being reliable locking differentials. However, not all models come with these, so the question is if you want a Jeep with locking differentials, which one should you buy?

Pretty much all of Jeep’s models that come with the option of 4WD will be equipped with locking differentials. Those that do not have 4WD will not likely have the option of locking differentials. These models include Jeep Wranglers, Gladiators, Grand Cherokees, and a couple of others.

There are many other details you ought to know about locking differentials, as well as Jeep models in general, that might be available to you. Below you will find information about which Jeeps have them, what they do, how to use them, and much, much more. Hopefully, knowing this info will help you better understand how to use your Jeep and even decide which model to buy if you need it!

What Do Locking Differentials Do?

First, let’s answer the obvious question of what locking differentials actually do. Not to be confused with open differentials, locking differentials are lockers that essentially tie and bind all the tires together. All Jeeps are equipped with two open differentials, usually one on a wheel in the back and one on a wheel in the front on the opposite side.

These differentials give power to both ends of the car with all the power resting on those two wheels. However, if both wheels with differentials were to leave the road, they would have all the power but no pull at all to use that power. This is where a locker comes in.

Locking differentials use the power provided by those two wheels and open differentials to bind all the wheels together until you have all four wheels using power to propel your car forward. This is what truly sets 4WD cars apart from all others. Differentials make 4WD vehicles not only popular but also very reliable in most scenarios.

Which Jeeps Have Differentials?

As mentioned above, all Jeeps with 4WD tend to have locking differentials. These models include Gladiators, Wranglers, Rubicons, and Grand Cherokees. Make sure you do not confuse 4WD and AWD. The two drivetrains are quite similar, but they are by no means the same. There are some very slight differences in automation.

You will not be able to find any AWD models with locking differentials unless you were to purchase one from the year 2014 or any year since then. Most newer models have started adding locking differentials so anything made within the last six years can probably be depended on. However, it is advisable to stick with a 4WD model since those are most widely used for off-roading anyway.

How to Use Locking Differentials

Jeeps with locking differentials will have a button to the left of the steering wheel labeled axle lock which can be toggled back and forth (or rather up and down). Pushing it upward will turn on the front lock and pushing it down will turn on the rear lock. A light will turn on on the dashboard which will indicate that the locks have been activated.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t use these lockers unless you are in 4WD low and are trying to scale a steep obstacle that might be causing you to slip. Using them too much could cause them to burn out and need replacing and that could very well turn out badly. When you are ready to deactivate the locks, just press the buttons again. You can look to the lights on the dashboard for clarification if you are unsure. The lights will shut off when you have deactivated the differentials.

Locking Differentials: The Pros and Cons

Another commonly asked question among Jeep owners is whether or not locking differentials are actually necessary for the car to function well. If you are unsure whether or not a locking differential is a necessary feature for your Jeep, take a look at these pros and cons. Hopefully, it will help you have a better understanding of what locking differentials do and why they may or may not be right for you.


First of all, it is important to note that locking differentials have been specifically designed for 4WD and off-roading use. When the wheels are locked together, your Jeep will always move at a steady, even pace without jostling you about too much. Locking differentials will also keep you safe when you hit the dirt.

They prevent vehicles from slipping and sliding when trying to scale or descend difficult inclines and obstacles. This means you won’t have to worry about your Jeep sliding backward too quickly or rolling over in the event of lost traction. If nothing else, invest in lockers to give your vehicle an edge while off-roading.

If you are worried about having to get your lockers repaired or replaced, don’t be. Because they were designed with off-roading and rough terrain(s) in mind, locking differentials are extremely sturdy and durable. They won’t need to be repaired often and when they do, it will be after they’ve gotten a fair amount of use.

Locking differentials also ensure a very equal distribution of power. As mentioned above, if your Jeep has only open differentials, you’ll have one in the back and one in the front with no alternative if your “powered” tires leave the road. When you have locking differentials on a 4WD car, you won’t be wasting any power, and all the wheels will work together to get you back on track if and when it becomes necessary.


It doesn’t ever hurt to have locking differentials on your Jeep but there are a couple of potential downsides to consider. The first thing to note is that not all differentials are created equal. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be somewhat difficult to root out a kit that works well for your car. Some lockers have no problems at all and others seem to have all the problems at once. Just make sure you’re doing your research when you invest in locking differentials.

Another problem with locking differentials is that they wear car tires out like nobody’s business. The tires on your Jeep will all be moving at the same pace and with the same amount of vigor. Unfortunately, this also means that they will be subject to the same amount of wear and tear.

When you use locking differentials, your tires will be employed at full power, so to speak. This means they are going to wear out and need replacing twice as often. Just keep that in mind when you’re ready to head out into the wilderness. It might cost you dearly one day if you aren’t careful.

Additionally, locking differentials are loud! This may not matter to some people, especially if they are not in the habit of using theirs very often, but when you’re driving on the road and adjusting your lockers, you’ll be able to hear everything. Again, if this doesn’t bother you then great, but you may find yourself being bothered before long after you’ve listened to it for a good little while.

Locking Differentials vs. Locking Hubs: The Differences

Locking hubs are commonly confused with and mistaken for locking differentials but they are not the same thing. Locking differentials are mechanisms that are placed inside the the axle near the middle. These lock both axles from both ends of the vehicle together so they can function as one unit.

Locking hubs, on the other hand, are fixed outside the drive shaft on either side of the axle. They lock the front wheels and front driveshaft together rather than locking the front and rear axles together. In fewer words, locking hubs lock the mechanisms of the front of the car together while locking differentials lock both ends of the car together.

The main purpose of locking hubs is simply to allow the wheels to spin while rotating only the necessary or relevant drive shaft rather than all of them at once. Locking hubs are generally used to disconnect the wheels from the drivetrain when you’re not using 4WD and driving on the streets rather than off the road.

Which Jeeps Have Locking Hubs?

As to which Jeeps have locking hubs, the answer is fairly similar to which Jeeps have locking differentials. You will most commonly find locking hubs on 4×4 models, though nowadays, it’s usually only on older Jeep models. If you so desired, you could probably get locking hubs installed on your Jeep, but it might have to be done separately.

Pros and Cons of Owning a Jeep

Now that we’ve discussed what exactly it means to have locking differentials on your Jeep, it might be good to know what the pros and cons of owning a Jeep are. Jeep is a great brand, but its cars are not without their faults. Here are a few basic pros and cons of owning a Jeep. Hopefully, knowing these will help you to decide whether locking differentials are, in fact, worth your while.


Number one on the list is the ability that most (if not all) Jeeps have to handle the off-road with ease and agility. Wranglers, Rubicons, and Gladiators are the most popular and capable off-roading vehicles. Jeeps were designed for the harshest of terrains and equipped with all the tools necessary to greet the road that comes up to meet them.

If you are a lover of risks and adventures and rough riding, then buy a Jeep. Jeeps are durable and reliable and they can be used in pretty much any kind of weather thanks to their off-roading packages and 4WD/AWD drivetrain. Rain or shine, snow or ice, your Jeep will likely serve you very well.

If nothing else, you could also purchase a Jeep for its looks. Rubicons and Wranglers in particular are popular for their rugged, smart designs that matches their abilities almost perfectly. Jeeps are sporty and stylish and you’ll definitely be the envy of your street if you have one parked in your driveway.

Jeep are also fairly versatile and customizable. Once you have decided on a model, you’ll have the privilege of choosing what kind of features you want and which trim package will best serve your needs. If you choose to purchase a Jeep, you’ll get to decide exactly what kind of Jeep you want. This includes deciding whether you want diff locks or not!


Unfortunately, there are also some downsides that ought to be taken into account. A Jeep by itself will cost several tens of thousands which is not abnormal. However, when you pile on the costs of lifts and trim packages, that cost is going to multiply and be far more than you probably originally thought. Just remember that before making any final decisions.

Plus, although they are great off-roaders, the cargo space in a Jeep can be severely limited. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is an SUV and a family car so it has a little bit of trunk space. However, the off-roaders are not quite as spacious. This can be irritating and very inconvenient at time. You’d best not be taking your Jeep on any especially long trips.

While many Jeeps have sacrificed space for comfort, they have also sacrificed comfort for efficiency. Jeeps handle remarkably well, but sometimes that handling comes at the price of the comfort of the passengers. This is, of course, somewhat dependent on the vehicle and the trim you have chosen, but sometimes off-roading means you have a very rough ride in store for.


Whether a Jeep with locking differentials are worth it will largely depend on your circumstances and personal preferences. However, it is a widely donned opinion that lockers are a not only a worthwhile but a wise investment. If nothing else, they will make your off-roading experience a lot easier and a lot safer and help you to keep…The Wilderness on YOUR Side!

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