Newbie ATRAC and Rear Diff Lock question - Toyota FJ Cruiser Forum
Transmissions / Transfer Cases / Traction Aids This area is for discussion, questions and problems with the FJ Cruiser's gear train, including topics on A-TRAC, VSC, locking diffs, gear ratios, manual vs. AT, etc.

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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-24-2011, 05:25 PM Thread Starter
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Newbie ATRAC and Rear Diff Lock question

Hey guys,

Sorry for the newbie question, but seeing as I searched this forum and all over the internet and am still kind of confused I thought I would post the question for you other more experienced FJ owners out there.

My question: Does the ATRAC and the locking rear differential only help you out if you have traction to at least one wheel? I was up in Tahoe the past weekend and got snowed in about three feet of snow. After multiple hours of digging I got in and put it in 4lo and tried to drive out. Nothing except spinning tires. So I then tried it with the ATRAC and then the Rear Diff Lock on and still nothing. Needless to say it took A LOT more digging to get that thing out of there. Anyway what I kind of noticed with that experience and from reading the info about these features is that it only really helps you prevent a few tires from spinning and then puts the power to the wheel/wheels with the traction. So basically if you are stuck with all four tires spinning are you basically SOL? And there is no point in even trying the ATRAC or the Rear Diff Lock?

This might be an obvious question and I think I answered it first hand this past weekend being stuck for a few hours. But just thought I would throw this out there. Thanks for all your help!

Here is a picture of the driveway that I was stuck in!
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-24-2011, 05:31 PM
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Re: Newbie ATRAC and Rear Diff Lock question

Well if all four tires are spinning and you have no traction, yeah you are pretty much sol. Your frame may have high centered or you lost traction from ice. So digging, winching or jacking it up and putting something under the tires are your way out. Atrac and lockers require some traction to work.

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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-24-2011, 05:57 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Newbie ATRAC and Rear Diff Lock question

Thanks for the response slim. Ya that is what I figured. The main issue was that it was on a slight incline and it was all ice, so basically that equals no traction on the stock bf goodrich rugged trail tires! anyway it sucked because my friend was in a durango behind me and it looked way worse but he pulled right out after I had gotten unstuck. He was talking S*** on the fj but basically it came down to the 4 hours of digging that we spend getting mine unstuck that helped him get out haha
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-24-2011, 06:46 PM
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Re: Newbie ATRAC and Rear Diff Lock question

Could be tires, tires tires, the most important on or off road factor, then, got a make sure the diff lock light is not blinking or else it's not engaged. Go to 4-Low & creep or let tires rotate slowly in your case, once light is on, then go!

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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-24-2011, 07:24 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Newbie ATRAC and Rear Diff Lock question

haha that is true, looking back on it i think the rear diff lock light was blinking... so you have to let the tires rotate slightly for it to lock? Also, I noticed that when I had it in 4lo with the ATRAC or Rear diff lock on and i punched it pretty hard for a solid like ten seconds it would start to beep. Is that a bad beep, or just a "you aint going anywhere and try something else beep" haha
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-24-2011, 07:35 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Newbie ATRAC and Rear Diff Lock question

haha that is true, looking back on it i think the rear diff lock light was blinking... so you have to let the tires rotate slightly for it to lock? Also, I noticed that when I had it in 4lo with the ATRAC or Rear diff lock on and i punched it pretty hard for a solid like ten seconds it would start to beep. Is that a bad beep, or just a "you aint going anywhere and try something else beep" haha
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-24-2011, 07:40 PM
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Re: Newbie ATRAC and Rear Diff Lock question

Here's a couple of tips.
From what I can see, you had quite a dump of snow. I'd guess 2 ft. Here's what I would have done.
First off, clear the snow behind and in front of it. There shouldn't be much under it since it seemed to have fallen straight down. The worst thing to do is spin the tires. It creates ice under the tire and warms up the tire that melts more snow and creates more ice.
So I would put it in 4HI and just try to move it slowly back and forth without spinning. You want 4Hi because it gives you more control of the throttle.
Once you have it moving a couple of feet back and forth and the more you can move the better. You've then created a trail of packed snow which is better grip than ice.
I would then **** it to 4Lo and engage RRdiff lock. If it only blinks, move the truck again again slowly back and forth until it stops blinking. It is then engaged. You have to line up the gears for engagement. Then you continue the process being very gentle on the throttle maybe even testing how far it moves only on idle. In 4Lo it's very easy to spin the tires but they will spin more slowly. Repeat until you can move several feet being careful not to rush it. If you move too much you won't be able to reverse it and will spin. In this situation, A-Trac isn't very good, because a tire has to spin for it to engage. You'll be surprised how much snow you can push this way. If it starts getting too bad you then clear some of the snow and repeat the whole back and forth thing. Once you can get a decent head of steam going you can risk making it all the way to clear ground in one final lunge. RRdiff lock is very usefull because you have to spin at least 3 tires. One in front and both rear. But...be carefull of the snow plow bank. It's packed down and can be much denser and will need a lot more speed and momentum to get through cause if you don't, you'll be high centered and it will be much harder to dig out. Better tires is always better, of course, but trying to prevent any spinning is just as important. Once you spin too much it's pretty much shovelling time.
Hopes this helps.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-24-2011, 09:23 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Newbie ATRAC and Rear Diff Lock question

Thanks csitracadie. That really did help. Looking back on it i took the WRONG approach, I floored it haha . But knowing this, next time (this weekend) I will use the rear diff lock better and try the back and forth motion. I think the main issue was that i was actually stuck in there pretty good on ice because when i parked it there was little snow under my sucky tires. so i think i was screwed from the get go. Would have been fun to see how much of a difference sum nice M/T tires would have made. gotta convince the wife to spend yet more money!
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-25-2011, 08:32 AM
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Re: Newbie ATRAC and Rear Diff Lock question

I suspected it was something like that. If you had it in 4Hi when you floored it, it probably lunged a few feet forward then TRAC engaged and braked your wheels then cut the power for a few seconds then you spun. All that does is insure you really packed the snow underneath, created some nice ice holes making it even more difficult to move again, this made the entire process of digging out that much harder.
Sometimes you have no choice like going downhill. Once you move in the deep stuff you can never back up the hill. Conversely, going uphill you might be able to push a little harder because you're backing up downhill. Don't be afraid of using the brake to make sure in doesn't keep spinning while shifting between D and R. I've seen many occasions where I thought I was really stuck and just started inching back and forth until I could create enought momentum to get out. I even surprised myself. Same thing in mud. If you go in slow you almost always can back out. Go in fast and you either make it or it's winching time. Fast breaks things, slow doesn't. Sure, sometimes you know you won't make it going into a mud hole and you just try to make it as far as you can before you break out the winch, but with a vehicle as good as the FJ, those are very rare unless you're one of those blast through every puddle guys.
I forgot to mention, you can work the steering slightly when doing the back and forth thing to try and beat down a wider track. I'll even do the back and forth thing before there's much snow to have a nice rough snowpacked trail when it will be time to work it out though deep stuff after the storm. The beaten path will have frozen to the ground or ice overnight and the next day it's that much better.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 03-25-2011, 10:27 AM
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Re: Newbie ATRAC and Rear Diff Lock question

I was going to say, the tires were a big factor if there stock. Also the VSC was more than likely the beeping, it comes on when ever you lose traction to one or more wheels.
Excelent advice from csitrasidie.

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