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How to Get Unstuck: Your 2021 Toyota Tacoma Locking Rear Differential Explained (with Video)

Included video explains how locking rear differential works with traction control in your Toyota Tacoma.


What does that locking rear differential button do anyway?

I think we have all had numerous buttons and controls in our new vehicles that we just cannot figure out.

“What does that button do?”

If you are a truck owner and have had to get yourself out of a muddy, snowy, or slippery situation you probably already know about locking rear differential (also known as locking rear diff).

2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road Barcelona Red profile view

But for others, you might have seen this button in your Toyota Tacoma or 4Runner and just ignored it. You may not have needed it to this point.


How does locking rear differential work?

2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road locking rear differential

Your 2021 Toyota Tacoma and 2021 Toyota 4Runner (and older year models too) have a locking rear differential button. It is located overhead where your sunglass holder and map lights normally go.

When this button is pressed, locking rear differential forces both rear wheels to spin on the same rear axle at the same speed. Your 4Runner keeps sending torque to both wheels equally. They travel at the same speed regardless of traction.

2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road locking rear differential

When your Tacoma or Toyota 4Runner encounters slippery terrain, both wheels will continue to spin even if one wheel has no traction at all. You never know when you may encounter a surprise patch of mud or rain or snow on the trails.

This is helpful even if one of your 2021 Tacoma wheels are off the ground, perhaps due to uneven trail ground. Full power is still given to the wheel on the ground and your Tacoma can continue moving (hopefully) in its intended path.

Toyota Tacoma Locking Rear Differential video

My friend Ali Mohagheghi, who is a Toyota Master Diagnostic Technician in Raleigh, helps me from time to time with Toyota questions. Actually, he has his own “Ask the Expert” feature on his dealership YouTube channel. This is the link if you are interested.

Ali recently gave me a tour of a Toyota hybrid engine and gave insight into how long a Toyota hybrid battery lasts.

We hope this video will give more clarity on how to use locking rear differential and traction control to your benefit.

Thanks again for your help Ali. You are the best Toyota resource I know.

Your thoughts on Toyota Tacoma and Toyota 4Runner

2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road Barcelona Red profile view wheels

Do you own a Toyota 4Runner or a Tacoma and have you had to use locking rear diff in the past? What situation were you in and did it successfully help you?

On a similar but separate note, I am closely following all Toyota news for Tacoma and Tundra and 4Runner. All three are expecting a redesign / next generation within the next several years. What vehicle are you most excited to see updated?

Which one needs a redesign the most – Toyota Tacoma, Toyota Tundra or Toyota 4Runner?

Thanks for reading everyone. I would appreciate if you bookmark my Torque News / Toyota news page so you can follow along with reviews, how-to stories and breaking Toyota news.

See you next story when I try to find a link between Toyota hybrid vehicles and extreme high mileage driving.

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Timothy Aho (not verified)    December 2, 2021 - 11:45AM

When one tire spins , it seems to take so long for it to shift into lock position. I plow snow with mine and get stuck in my own yard quite a bit. Thank you Tim