Do All Z71 Have a Locking Differential?


When purchasing a truck upgrade such as the Z71 by Chevrolet, it is important to know what features will be included. Because truck upgrades change over time if you purchase a truck with the Z71 package, you may wonder if it will include a locking differential.

Locking differentials are standard on trucks with the Z71 off-roading package. The Z71 off-road package features the Eaton G80 rear locking differential to provide better handling on and off the road. This locking differential system activates automatically rather than manually.

Locking differentials are a necessary upgrade for avid off-roaders. However, there is more that goes into designing the ultimate off-roading vehicle than just the wheel axles. Learn more about the Z71 package and its locking differential system below!

Eaton G80 Locking Differential

The Z71 off-road package, available for Chevrolet Trucks, includes a rear differential locking system. The standard model for this package is the G80 system made by Eaton.

Before we get into the specifics of differential locking systems in the Z71 package, let us first discuss what a locking differential is and why you may want it.

The purpose of a locking differential is to help the wheels maintain traction in situations where traction is limited. This may include driving down an icy road or exploring the terrain past where the roads end.

When activated the locking differentials lock the axles together. If only one wheel is getting traction, the other wheel will continue in the same direction as the one that is getting traction. The wheel that still has traction will receive all available torque.

After speaking with Cole at Kolar Tire & Auto in Helena, MT he was able to give us a simple explanation for using locking differentials.

“It limits the amount of slip between the two rear wheels.”

Cole, Kolar Tire & Auto

If a vehicle does not have a locking differential, it will be equipped with an open differential. Whereas the locking differential keeps the two wheels moving at the same speed, an open differential allows the two wheels to turn at different speeds. In other words, the two wheels turn independently of each other.

This system is not ideal for off-roaders or drivers in low traction situations because the torque is delivered to the wheel with the least amount of traction.

Learn more about open differential from Eaton here!

Now that we know more about the differential systems, we can dive deeper into the Eaton G80 rear differential locking system and how it works in the Z71 off-road package.

The G80 system is an automatic locking system. If one wheel begins to spin independently of the other the differential locks to keep the other spinning with it. This system is especially beneficial for off-roaders who may find themselves in situations where only one tire is receiving traction. With a rear locking differential system like the one in the Z71, the vehicle continues moving forward.

The Eaton G80 locking differential stands out from other systems because it is automatically activated whereas other systems may require manual activation. These systems use a switch that the driver must activate. While this provides the driver with flexibility over their system, in moments where a split-second decision must be made, the driver will likely forget to activate the locking differential.

With the G80 locking differential system if any slip is detected the system initiates. This allows the driver to focus on the actual driving rather than on the torque being provided to the wheels. If no slip is detected, the system acts like an open differential system.

In 2015, the G80 locking differential system became standard for all Chevrolet trucks. Before 2015, the system was only used in custom vehicles. However, all trucks labeled as Z71’s are equipped with the Eaton G80 locking differential system.

Z71 Off-Road Package Detail

Chevrolet has titled the Z71 its signature off-roading package. Although not exclusive to trucks, this package is most common with the Silverado and Colorado. Any vehicle featuring the Z71 package will be perfectly equipped for off-road use.

If you are looking at getting a truck with the Z71 off-road package, it is important to know what type of systems the vehicle will feature. With a price tag of over $2,000, you’ll want to know if it’s worth the price. Although the locking differential is a crucial part of the Z71 package, it is not the only system this upgrade will get you.

“The Z71 package is more than just the locking differential. It’ll also have a differently geared transfer case for better off-road performance as well as shocks.”

Cole, Kolar Tire & Auto

As well as a new transfer case and shocks, the Z71 off-road package includes the visual package, larger wheels, all-terrain tires, hill descent control, recovery hooks, a metal underbody, brushed metal sill plates, and an upgraded air filter.

As you can see, there is so much more to the Z71 package than just the G80 differential system. Let us discuss each of the upgrades included in this package more in detail. Although the visual package does not benefit the vehicle’s off-road performance, it does signal to other drivers the superior systems enclosed. This package includes a special finish on interior trim pieces, a graphic on the instrument cluster, and a badge on the grille as well as the back of the vehicle.

The more important system included in the Z71 off-road package focus on improving more than just the vehicle’s looks. The Z71 off-road package utilizes upgraded Rancho shocks. This new suspension system creates a smoother ride on the bumpiest of roads. Whether you or driving through a city or on the road less traveled you will enjoy the smooth ride.

As well as improving traction with a locking differential, the Z71 package upgrades both the tires and wheels of the truck to improve off-road capabilities. Trucks featuring the Z71 package feature wheels 18 to 20 inches and all-terrain tires.

As Cole from Kolar Tire & Auto mentioned, the Z71 also features a new transfer case. The Autotrac 2-speed transfer case ensures the vehicle is getting the proper amount of power from the transmission. This will give the driver better control in all conditions.

The Hill Descent Control is another incredible feature included in the Z71 off-road package. This system automatically activates the brakes to keep the vehicle from accelerating too rapidly. Learn more about how this system works in the short video below!

Other features included in the Z71 off-road package are a metal underbody shield to prevent bumps and dings while off-roading, recovery hooks, brushed metal sill plates, and an upgraded air filter.

Combine these features with the G80 locking differential and your truck will be perfected for off-road usage!

Will Turner

Will has an absolute passion for 4x4s and loves discovering all of the small details about each model. Will joined the Four Wheel Trends team in early 2021 and has been a valuable contributor ever since!

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