Does the FJ Cruiser Have a Locking Differential?


The FJ cruiser is not one of Toyota’s most popular models, but it does fill a vital niche for explorers. Despite its curious design, the FJ Cruiser offers some great features to people headed into the wild. But, before you take a car anywhere (especially off-roading), you should know what kind of differential it has.

The FJ Cruiser comes equipped with a rear locking differential that enables the vehicle to power its way out of difficult spots. Combined with the four-wheel-drive system and its other useful off-roading features, it is a great midsize SUV for explorers.

Though it does have these excellent advantages, the FJ Cruiser also comes with some drawbacks. Here are some things you will want to know about Toyota’s FJ Cruiser:

What Is a Differential?

Differentials have been important parts of wheeled vehicles for hundreds—if not thousands—of years. They take advantage of gears and their ratios to keep the wheels spinning at appropriate rates. Modern mechanical differentials were first used on trains in the 19th century to help trains make turns. Vehicles, such as cars or trains, need to keep wheels on opposite sides of a vehicle turning, but with each wheel moving at a different speed.

The reason that cars and trains need to regulate the speeds of different wheels is that when a vehicle makes a turn, the wheels on the outside of the train must move at a faster rate to compensate for the longer distance that they need to travel. If both wheels were locked together on the same axle, the wheels on the inside would be turning much faster than they need to, wasting energy and sometimes causing damage in the process.

Without an effective differential, cars would be a lot less efficient and much more difficult to steer. The differential is just one part of a car’s system that helps it run.

The FJ Cruiser’s Differential

All vehicles need some sort of differential in order to function, but there are a few different types that cars use. The core types of differentials include open systems and locked systems. Each has its own advantages in different situations.

Open differentials are best suited for when a car is making a lot of turns. This type of differential divides the engine’s power between the powered wheels evenly, meaning that if the car is turning, the wheels can react to the different speeds and distances in an appropriate way. However, this type of differential has some drawbacks. In a situation in which only one of the wheels is working to propel the car forward (for example, when a car is stuck with one wheel off of the road) the other wheel only has half of the engine’s power to get it out of the situation.

To solve this problem, some cars (such as the Toyota FJ Cruiser) have a differential that can lock the two wheels together. By locking the two wheels, the wheel that is not stuck can take advantage of all of the engine’s power. In the engine of an FJ Cruiser, this translates to over 270 ft-lbs of torque. With the full power of the engine, the car should be able to pry itself out of wherever it got stuck.

Using the Differential

Before you engage the locking differential function on an FJ Cruiser, you should be sure that you will need it. If your wheels are locked together while you are driving normally, it will cause a lot of wear on the tires. The times in which you will want to engage the locking differential are when you are stuck in place or when you will be driving over very rough terrain. Another example of when you should engage the differential is when one of your wheels is spinning off of the ground and providing no traction.

To engage the locking differential, simply stop the car and press the button marked “RR DIFF LOCK.” With the locking differential engaged, you can drive through whatever rough terrain you are facing. Disengage the locking differential by pressing the button again. You should do this as soon as your car has regained traction to keep your car in the best condition possible.

The FJ Cruiser’s Capabilities

The FJ Cruiser is equipped with this differential to help it traverse all sorts of different terrain. The Cruiser specializes in offroading and exploring. It has its own unique style with a design that you won’t find much place else. It is a midsize SUV, making it just the right size to travel across rocks or the like. Though it was discontinued back in 2018 and is no longer built and sold by Toyota, you could find a used one if you looked hard enough.

One of the reasons that the FJ Cruiser is such a good off-roading option (besides the differential) is that it has large, powerful wheels. These wheels have been made to provide as much traction and grip as possible. You can also get an FJ Cruiser that has a stronger shock absorption system and a built-in compass and inclinometer.

One of the downsides of Toyota’s FJ Cruiser is that the backseat is only accessible through the front doors. This makes it difficult for more than 2 people to get into. Another one of the problems with this car is that the strong engine offers a much lower gas mileage than other cars of the same size. Each of its features was designed with adventurous driving in mind, not really city convenience.

Though it doesn’t have as much to offer while driving on highways, the FJ Cruiser handles the outdoors very well. It is a tough car, able to withstand punishment and wear. All in all, it is the perfect car in the right situation. If you need a vehicle that can take you through the mountains or across a beach, but that offers the space and driveability that other options don’t, this is the car for you. Now you know a little bit more about exactly what this car has to offer.

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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