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Challenger Differential Types & How to Upgrade Them

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Depending on how you plan on building your Challenger, you'll come across a variety of differential types that will compliment your build. Drag racers will favor lockers while street/road course racers will favor the LSD (limited slip differential). The rule of thumb is if you want a streetable racing machine, you'll want to reach for an LSD.

Challenger LSDs >>

The ring gear plays a major role in how the Challenger gets off the line. But it’s not the only thing that’s working to provide motion. The carrier is what the ring gear turns and what is turning the axles. Understanding how the carrier works is incredibly important when it comes to trying to maximize traction. This is one of those things where hear-say can really screw your build up. You want to take the time to understand the carrier and its role in the axle before you start upgrading.

Differential Carrier

The differential carrier is what makes the differential work. The design of a differential is to allow the wheels to move at different speeds and the carrier is what makes this possible.

The reason the wheels need to turn at different speeds is for taking turns. During a turn, the inner wheel will need to turn less while the outer wheel needs to turn more to maintain proper traction. Some carriers can be purchased for Challengers to make the wheels spin at the exact same rate but these types of carriers are more appropriate for use on the drag strip.

What Challengers Come With

The factory is going to equip the Challenger with one of two carrier types. You will either walk away with a limited slip or an open differential. The open differential is the weaker of the two in terms of performance but requires less maintenance. The limited slip offers more traction but will have to be serviced more often and more attentively.

Stock Challenger Diffs:

  • Open
  • Limited Slip

Types of Differentials

Before you go investing in a differential carrier you’re going to want to understand its characteristics. These are expensive units and the install is time consuming and can be quite costly. It’s also important to know how the differential in your Challenger works because it will give you a good idea of where to take things. 

Open: Open differentials are what give muscle cars a bad rap when it comes to driving in the snow. Open differentials are simple mechanisms that send power to the tire with the least amount of resistance. They are often referred to as “one legers” as when you try to do a burnout only one tire will spin. If you have an open diff in your car you may want to consider moving up to a limited slip solely because it will greatly increase drivability. 


  • Low maintenance


  • Poor Traction

Limited Slip: These types of differentials use springs and clutches to send power to the wheels with the most amount of resistance and will even begin spinning both tires faster than an open differential will. This type of differential is great for road racing, daily driving, and even drag racing. A limited slip differential is the best choice for all around use. 


  • Moderate Traction
  • Best All Around Differential


  • High Maintenance

Lockers: Locker differentials are open differentials until they are locked up. When they lock up an equal amount of power is sent to both wheels at all times. These diffs are great for those who want to spend time at the drag strip and drive around town a little bit. For turning or poor weather conditions, these diffs are limited. 


  • Maximum Traction for Drag
  • Can be used for daily driving


  • Poor Traction for Street Use

Spools: Spool type differentials are simple devices that lock both axles to turn at the same rate at all times. These units are great for drag racing but not much else. 


  • Maximum Traction for Drag


  • Shouldn’t be Used for Anything but Drag

Why Make the Upgrade

To make an upgrade to your differential you really need to be balanced with what you plan to use it for. If you don’t feel the need to move from a limited slip to a spool or a locker differential you don’t have to. If you plan on drag racing a lot, it’s worth making the upgrade. If you have an open differential it’s worth swapping out whenever due to the fact that limited slips are much more superior.

Worn Parts: While servicing your differential you may find it’s time to replace the carrier. With signs of excessive wear, worn clutches, or broken parts, you should take the opportunity to consider making an upgrade as you will be replacing the carrier anyway.

Differential Maintenance

Maintaining the differential is a must. With any type you want to make sure all of your gaskets, bearings, and seals are in good shape. The fluid should be fresh and free of metal shavings that may have accumulated over time. With an LSD you want to make sure the clutches are in good standing. Once those clutches wear out, you’re pretty much running with an open differential until they are replaced.

Fluid Levels: Having the proper fluid levels are important to keeping your differential alive. In the Challenger, you will want to add up to 3 quarts of gear oil without a limited slip rear. With the limited slip, you will add 2 quarts and one bottle of modifier.

Fitment includes: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, SRT-8, RT, SE, SXT, RallyeRedline, ScatPack, Hellcat, GT, TA, Demon