Eaton G80 Locking Differential Keeps GM Pickups Moving


Traction is always an important issue for pickup truck buyers and owners, especially when towing, carrying payload or just exploring the roads on the way to your favorite campground. A spinning wheel usually means that's as far as you get, unless you have some kind of smart technology inside your axles or controlling your brakes.

One solution to prevent a progress-killing spinning tire is a traction control system that uses the vehicle's existing brake setup to slow or stop a spinning wheel in order to transfer more of the engine's torque to the wheel with the most traction. The benefit? These systems use high-tech computers to control the input signals and the resulting brake action, leaving the driver to simply control steering and throttle. The downside can be some unnerving vibrations and groans from under the vehicle.

Another less complicated and even more invisible way of dealing with lost traction is to use a limited-slip or locking differential that sits inside the axles. In their simplest form, rear-axle traction devices can sense wheel spin and with a series of plates, clutches or gears, make sure the most amount of traction gets to the tire with the least amount of slip. Because these devices try to sync up right and left axle shaft speeds, it's not a good idea to use one for the front axle on a four-wheel-drive pickup because it will restrict your turning abilities.

Eaton Vehicle Group has been making locking differentials for GM pickups for more than 40 years; they are available on GM's full three-truck lineup as standard or optional on select trim packages. And because this technology is largely unseen, we thought sharing this GM video about how and why locking differentials work would be of interest. It's worth noting the G80 locking differential is designed for extra traction in low-speed situations like driving on ice, getting stuck in the mud or crawling through or over rocks.

The real value of this type of traction-aiding device is how simple the design is and how effectively it works. Another benefit is how relatively inexpensive the option is for the midsize, light-duty and heavy-duty pickups, usually somewhere between $300 and $400 when not included in a package.

To pull up the GM video, click here. photos, Joe Bruzek




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