Toyota Tundra Locking Differential and Auburn LSD Aftermarket Options – Just Differentials

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It is a fairly well-known knock on the Toyota Tundra that it doesn’t come with a locking differential option. Many, many owners also knock the stock locking slip differential as being not so great. What can you do about it? We asked Carl Montoya with Just Differentials. Here is what we found out.

Toyota Tundra Locking Differential and LSD Auburn Aftermarket Options

What is the deal with after-market differentials and LSD options for the Toyota Tundra? We asked Just Differentials.

Just Differentials is one of the leading places to buy after-market locking differentials and LSD. He says they get asked so OFTEN about options for the Toyota Tundra, they came up with this standard reply:

As for traction, none of the 07+ Tundras come with an LSD (Posi), The factory “Electronic LSD” is just traction control, and is more “P.O.S.” than “POSI”. All Tundras can benefit from the increased traction that an aftermarket LSD or Locker will provide. Another benefit is strength. The Tundra uses a huge 10.5” diff that is much larger than any other ½ ton pickup produced. The problem is the factory Standard Open (non-posi) carrier is very weak by design, and has already failed in many stock pickups, this is all the more reason to add An Auburn Pro LSD ($545) or an ARB Air Locker ($1075) to the rear.

Editor’s Note: Without disputing Carl’s expertise, I have yet to hear of one single factory differential failure in 6+ years of running TundraHeadquarters.com. I’m not saying that the Tundra’s factory differential never fails (I’m sure it does), but I’d argue that characterizing it as “very weak” is incorrect. Methinks this standard reply is designed to generate sales, not necessarily reflect the pros and cons of the Tundra’s factory rear differential.

One of the big questions that comes up with these after-market systems is how new truck features like the Trailer Sway Controller would work.  Montoya says: “The installation of a real mechanical LSD or Locking differential has no effect on the factory VSC, traction control (aka “Electronic LSD”).  In fact it simply allows for real traction, thus making the interference of these systems much less often.  Basically, there is no downside other than cost. ”

Montoya offered this additional information on differentials and their products.

Why Do You Want a Differential?

OEM differential is a standard “open” differential.  This allows for smooth cornering as the outside tire must spin faster on corners as it travels a larger arc.  The downside to this system is that when traction is lost, all of the power goes to the wheel with the least traction.  This is a really big downside on a pickup truck since there is much less weight on the rear axle.  With “creative” naming of the electronic traction control, the Tundra features what they call “Electronic LSD”.  Utilizing the ABS braking system and wheel speed sensors, the brake is applied to the tire that is spinning faster, thus allowing the other tire to spin.   Sounds great, but real world experience will tell otherwise.

What is the Auburn LSD?

The Auburn LSD is the most popular upgrade for the 2007 & Newer Toyota Tundra as it is inexpensive, very strong, easy to install and provides very good traction with no adverse on road handling characteristics or noises.   Since the Auburn is a Limited Slip Differential, not a  “locking” differential, it is much more suited for the average pickup truck owner.  Traction is increased significantly, however it is not locked 100%, so may not provide adequate traction for heavy offroad use.  LSD units are often referred to as “Positraction”.  These are suitable for daily driving, even if you never leave the pavement.  Also very helpful at boat ramps, snowy, wet, muddy conditions, etc.  On the “Justdifferentials” 2007 Tundra I was unable to pull my boat out in 2wd with the oe “electronic LSD”.  After installing the Auburn Pro LSD 2wd is no problem at the very same ramp.  The Auburn also offers a much needed improvement in strength over the OEM open differential which we’ve seen many failures.

What is the ARB Air Locker?

The ARB Air Locker is a selectable locker that is actuated by compressed air.  In unlocked mode the vehicle functions as it did before with an open differential.  With the flip of the switch the rear differential can be locked 100%.  This means that there will be power to both tires, no matter the situation.  These are especially popular for off roaders, contractors, hunters, etc that drive on the road, but have more demanding off road needs than the average mostly highway driver.  The downside to this system is added cost, as the unit is more expensive, but also that it requires an on board compressor.  That said, they offer unmatched traction and strength.  The ARB Air Lockers have been proven themselves in all conditions worldwide.

Sounds like a good after-market option for those wanting to have more control when driving their truck over different terrains. What do you think? Is an after-market ARB Air Locker or Auburn LSD on your wish list? 

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  1. Mickey says:

    I would go with the Auburn LSD. It really doesn’t seem that expensive if you use it constantly. Never had an issue with OEM or it being applied. It only happened twice. Both times were in the same cloverleaf turn when I was doing over 40mph in the turn. If you take your foot off the gas the Electronic LSD would kick in. The first time it did, it scared the crap out of me. The second time I was with my wife and she did the same and asked what the hell was that. I just wanted her to feel and hear it too. I told her that was normal. Of course she didn’t believe me. So I explained and showed her what light was blinking. In the 6 years I had this truck only to have the LSD kick on twice isn’t a worry for me to run out and get an Auburn LSD. Once I’m paid off in July it will be on the wish list. I will do more mods then to make the truck unique then I will add this Auburn LSD which I do believe is a very good product. Cosmetics has to come first like new leather seats. Driver’s seat is worn out on the edge and it’s the priority to fix first.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:

      Mickey,

      I have gotten the electronic LSD to kick in a few times, but it is always because I was goofing around.

      The debate about differentials is interesting. I’ll hear some people dumbstruck as to why Toyota doesn’t put in a locking rear differential, while other owners say they could care less. There is no consensus.

      -Tim

      • LJC says:

        Those who could care less have never been in a situation where more traction matters. But that is their opinion.

  2. MPToy07 says:

    I will say from my years experience in the automotive field, that I have seen the factory differential carrier fail in the 07+ Tundra, but mainly from abuse. The biggest problem is when someone does a “one wheel wonder”, basically trying to do a burnout but only one of the two wheels spins. The differential “spider” gears are held in by a center pin, and when one wheel is spinning faster than the other, the spider gears turn. There is no bearing between the pin and gears, so when they are spinning fast enough, for long enough, they overheat and seize to the pin, causing it to break free from the differential carrier. This causes one of two issues; the pin will stay attached to the spider gears and spin inside the differential carrier, which causes accelerated wear and noise (happened to me…whoops!!!), or the pin breaks free from the carrier AND the spider gears, and tries to slide out of the carrier every rotation it makes. This will make A LOT of noise, cause pinion / ring gear damage; and worst case scenario will cause the rear differential to lock up (never seen this happen, but it is possible). I have pictures of some of this damage if you’d like to see it!!!

    That all being said, the best choice for an aftermarket differential carrier depends on what you use the vehicle for. I chose the Auburn PRO LSD, because I drive my vehicle hard on the streets, but never go offroad. The ARB Air Locker is a nice unit, but would not allow the rear tires to slip when going around a corner, so is not practical for me. For those that like to off-road, but don’t drive harshly on the street, the ARB would be the better choice.

  3. Dez says:

    Boy I’m sure glad we have MPToy07 as our resident Toyota tech over at http://www.TundraGeeks.com

    He has helped out many members with technical issues. I like to refer to him as “The Professor”.

    Nice work Mike!

  4. LJC says:

    Good article, thanks for writing it.
    Glad to see my question about how it integrates with the VSC system is answered.

    The Tundra’s TSC is good in one pariticular situation. I use it to test road conditions. I’ll press the go-go pedal and if the TSC comes on, I know the road is slippery, especially on the highway (black ice, freezing drizzle, and snow falling on a cold road surface, just to name a few). That’s were the benefit ends.

    On the youtube, there are a couple of videos demonstrating the limits of an open diff and traction control. Here are the links:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2wkW05Pc6c
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNFacsKnswM

    What really pisses me off is the Tundra is claimed to have an Automatic Limited Slip Differential. It’s not, period. It’s traction contol. If one compares the A-Trac system of the 4Runner to the Tundra’s Auto LSD, they will see no difference (the point being it is marketed differently). Also, Toyota is well aware that TSC can inhibit one from getting unstuck. It is stated in the owners manual that it needs to be disengaged to get the vehicle rocking (to build momentum). For a truck that is very capable when it comes to towing and durability and is advertised to be overbuilt, I just don’t understand why it’s not an option.

    For a GM one ton truck, it’s an extra $395 for an eLocker. So, the cost cannot be the reason why it’s not an option.

    The next truck I buy will have a locker/LSD from the factory. If the Tundra does not have it as an option, then it’s off the list.

    I’ve decided that I’ll save for an ARB. I like the idea of a selectable locker. However, if Eaton has their eLocker for the Tundra ready by then, I’ll consider it.
    And yes, Eaton has stated they will be developing one. I know because I asked.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:

      LJC,

      Good videos – thanks for the links. The debate over differentials is interesting and you are part of the reason, I wrote the article. I also spoke with a service manager who stated he has gotten zero requests for differentials from customers. He also said he has a friend who drives a Rock Warrior on an Arizona ranch. This friend uses the truck in all sorts of situations and hasn’t once complained about being stuck or needing more traction.

      Now, there are obviously lots of owners who have contacted Just Differentials about the ARB and locker options. I say this because, why would they have an automatic response if this didn’t happen.

      My two cents is this. Toyota should offer it as an option on the Rock Warrior package at the very least. Or heck, they could just put an option in their accessory guide and then have the dealership install it. Having a dealer install it makes some sense to me. This way regional demographics and geography could allow for some customization.

      Frankly, not even offering it or talking about the need for it bothers me. I mean, the accessory/upgrade guides and options have all sorts of smart/dumb things you can add, why not a differential. Toyota should sign an agreement with say Eaton to be the “official differential supplier” for Toyota trucks. Then, put a picture of their product as an option for dealers to install. That would be a start.

      -Tim

      • LJC says:

        You’re very welcome :)

        Again, thanks for writing the article.
        I just hope Toyota is reading it, along with the comments.

        The friend should drive his Tundra in snowy conditions. Not the slushy stuff but when the snow is packed and worse when it’s wet and packed. Then he will have a different experience.

        I totally agree that Toyota should make an eLocker/LSD an option. As for the manufacturer, I’m not picky. Perhaps Auburn will come forward since they have the Auburn Pro available now. I hear they’re working on a eLocker type of diff, very similar to Eaton’s. A second reason why I suggest Auburn is Eaton may have an exclusive with GM. I believe the Raptor uses Torsen. So, the two differences here could be due to exclusivity.

        Having it be a dealer installed option is great idea. That way, the product that is developed could be installed on existing Tundras. This would allow a quicker return on investment.

        To support the effort, I’ll volunteer my time and Tundra for testing. I live in Maine so I’m exposed to all driving conditions (offroad, mud, sand, snow, and black ice). I drive on the highway, city, and some back roads to ski mountains. You name, I’m driving in it. Also, I have access to a dump trailer that can be loaded up with plenty of weight and access to a pit that is sandy and has hard pack dirt when dry and wicked muddy when it rains.

        I’ll make videos, fill our reports, etc., whatever is required to make it a success.

        I’ll even pay for the labor to have it installed at a Toyota dealership.

        When Ford, GM, Dodge/RAM/Fiat and Kia offer an LSD or eLocker, it really is perplexing why Toyota doesn’t.

        Toyota has excelled with durability, reliability, and build quality, Also, the only truck that is J2807 compliant. It’s on the one yard line right now and this one simple option would put it in the end zone, in my opinion.

        • Tim Esterdahl says:

          LJC,

          We just might take you up on that offer. Right now, we are checking with some of our supplier friends to see if we can get an LSD system. If we hear anything concrete, we will let you know ASAP. Cross your fingers.

          -Tim

  5. LJC says:

    I’ll keep’em crossed :)

    One more note:
    An eLocker, from what I understand, has a lower maintenance cost than a mechanical LSD. For example, the Auburn Pro LSD requires a friction modifier fluid and may have an oil change interval shorter than that of the Tundra’s open diff. TundraHQ readers: if I’m wrong, please correct me.

    Just one more thing to consider.

    Here’s to hoping :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

  6. LJC says:

    Hmm, Black Stone Laboratories provides analysis on differential fluid too, that could handy :)

  7. Anonymous says:

    There sure are a lot more types of differentials available now.

    I have only had one 4WD with the old braking differential setup. Not sure what was actually inside it. A 1963 international scout. It worked well for it’s day and the job it had to do.

    All my others have just had regular open differentials and they have always gotten the job done. Looking at new trucks, it seems limited slip devices are always bundled with some crap I don’t want. After market might but a better option.

    Since I have never needed anything other then the stock differentials, and the costs are so high, I wonder if the same money would be better spent on a good winch for that one time when a truck gets stuck?

    Just got home from a few days of floating the Big Horn River in MT. Talk about high priced truck land. The take out must have had 100 big 4 door 4WD trucks. Only a hand full of Tundras up there. Must have been 5 million worth of fancy trucks towing 300 pound drift boats.

    My 20 year old truck was out of place for sure.

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