What is a limited-slip differential (LSD)?

  • How does a limited-slip differential work?
  • Do I need an LSD on my vehicle?
  • Parkers explains the ins and outs

A limited-slip differential (regularly abbreviated to LSD) allows faster cornering by shuffling torque between the driven wheels. This lets the car use its engine’s output in the most efficient way possible by preventing wheelspin and maximising traction.

How does a limited-slip differential work?

Normal differentials allow a vehicle’s engine output to escape through the inside wheel under hard cornering, meaning the inside wheel spins while the outside wheel receives little torque. 

A limited-slip diff restricts the difference in the wheels’ rotational speeds, thus feeding the inside wheel less and the outside wheel more. This in turn improves traction on the way out of the bend, meaning you can drive the car faster.

Do I need a limited-slip differential?

Unless you’ve got a high-performance sports car and enjoy scything down a country road, a standard differential will be adequate. It’s rarely available as an option though, so the car you’re buying will dictate whether you need it or not.

It’s also worth noting that on some cars (such as the Peugeot 308 GTi and Vauxhall Corsa VXR), adding an LSD makes the car more difficult and less rewarding to drive at normal speeds. They’re far better on the race track, but at the expense of low-speed manners.

Found on

Sports cars such as the Mazda MX-5, Toyota GT86 and the BMW M3

Similar to

Electronic torque vectoring

Looking for more jargon-busting motoring meanings? Head over to our Parkers Car Glossary page and take a look at our other definitions