How To

How to use the Land Rover diff lock in snow & ice

I have had a lot of questions recently about the use of the diff lock in snowy conditions.

The simple answer is yes – use it! If you are driving on snow and ice and you think you are likely to loose traction, then engage diff lock.

So here is some tips for using the Land Rover diff lock in snow and ice.

Land Rover Diff Lock Lever

First thing to know is how to operate the diff lock on your Land Rover. The first photo shows what the diff lock lever looks like in a Defender, and the second photo shows what it looks like in a Discovery/Range Rover:

What does the diff lock do?

The diff lock joins the front and rear prop-shafts together so they turn at the same speed. Each axle then gets 50% of the power. If the front wheels loose traction, then the rear wheels will still drive the vehicle forward and vice versa.

However, if all four wheels loose grip, or diagonally opposed wheels loose grip, then you will still come to a halt – so the system is not without its limitations!

Terrain Response: If you have a newer Land Rover like a Discovery 3 or Range Rover Sport, then set the Terrain Response dial to the snow/ice setting. The on-board computer will do the rest!

High, Neutral, Low!

You will also notice that the diff lock lever is marked with “H – N – L”.

In normal driving you will have the lever in the “H” or high ratio set of gears. By moving the lever forward you can engage the low ratio or “L” gears for more control over the vehicle.

When in low ratio, start off in 2nd gear when pulling away. The diff lock can be used in both high and low ratio.

Land Rover Diff Lock Basics

  • To activate diff lock, you push the lever to the left – do this when you are stationary.
  • When diff lock is engaged a warning light will illuminate on the dash
  • To deactivate the diff lock, pull the lever back to the right again.
  • As soon as you are back on firm ground/tarmac, disengage the diff lock
  • After disengaging the diff lock, you may have to reverse a short distance to make the diff lock warning light go out.

Using the Land Rover Diff Lock in snow & ice

  • Always use diff lock when ascending and descending snowy and icy hills.
  • You can use the low ratio set of gears to add more control when driving on ice and snow.
  • Never touch the brakes when descending a snowy or icy hill – use engine braking in either 1st gear high ratio, or 1st/2nd in low ratio.
  • If the Land Rover starts to slide when descending a hill, accelerate using the throttle to bring the wheels up to the speed of the vehicle.

General Land Rover tips for snow and ice

  • When ascending or descending a snowy or icey hill, if there is an opportunity to put one set of wheels (right or left side) onto a grass verge this will increase your grip and help stop the Land Rover from sliding.
  • If there is no grass verge, but just a hedge, stick close to the hedge. Try to keep one set of wheels up close to the bottom of the hedge. If a slide develops then you can use the hedge to slow you down! A few paint scratches is better than bent panels!
  • Driving on fresh snow will give you better grip than driving in somebody else’s tracks, so try to straddle any existing snowy tracks or ruts.
  • Remember this saying ” take it as slow as possible, as fast as necessary!”
  • Remember, even though you can continue driving in worse conditions than 2wd cars, braking still remains the same as a normal car. Brake gently and if you haven’t got ABS, then use cadence braking if you feel the wheels lock up. This basically means lots of short, sharp applications of the brake pedal in rapid sequence

More information: For more information on driving your Land Rover in snow and ice, take a look in the related posts section below.

Land Rover diff lock demo video

Thanks to Richard Hobbs for letting us use his Land Rover diff lock demonstration video.


  1. Thanks for the demo video. It kind of explained things. However I am a complete newbie and have bought a 98 Disco 1 300tdi. I have no light come on when I engage diff lock so not sure if it’s on or not. Also can I ask, for everyday road driving do I leave the diff lever in the neutral position or in the low gear position.
    I’m actually finding it all confusing and worried I’ll do some damage if I get it wrong.



    1. The diff lock light might just be the switch on the gearbox that gets a bit sticky, so the light doesnt illuminate. It could also be that you need to drive a few metres with the diff lock engaged to get the light to come on. For everyday raod driving you need to be in the “high” postion. Low is for off road. :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button