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A Quick Guide to Traction Control on a Car

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Since 2012, TC has been ‘too common’ an addition to every car in the United States. With stability control being a mandatory requirement in every car, traction control, abbreviated as TC, also began to hold a place on the car dashboards. So, what does TC mean on a car? How does it help in driving, and what does it mean to have the TC light switched on? Read everything about traction control here. ¬†

Traction control system

What does TC on a car mean? 

TC or traction control is a mechanism that assists in limiting wheel spin and preventing the wheels of the vehicle from skidding on wet roads or at deep curves. As a result, the traction control system will automatically adjust the power given to the wheels and apply the brakes if required. 

Consequently, the traction control light on your car’s dashboard will keep you updated on the traction control status. In addition,¬†the TC works in tandem with the anti-lock braking system (abs), ensuring safety. ¬†

Types of Traction Control 

Electronic Traction Control 

Electronic traction control makes use of sensors to keep track of the pace at which the wheels are turning. Therefore, the amount of power delivered is adjusted by the engine accordingly. 

Mechanical Traction Control 

A mechanical TC uses devices like a limited-slip differential. As a result, when the traction control is activated, a limited-slip differential will reroute the engine torque to the wheels with the most traction.  

How does the traction control on a car work? 

The functioning of a traction control system is related to the ABS (antilock braking system) control module, the ABS speed sensors, and the ABS hydraulic control unit.  

A moving car is always checked for its speed with the help of speed sensors. These will ensure that the hydraulic control unit is activated if there is a wheel slip. As a result, the hydraulic control will regulate the brakes on the driving wheels to help maintain traction.  

In addition, the engine control module (ECM) comes into play during the detection of slippage. The ABS module will request an engine output reduction from the ECM. As a result, the ECM will reduce throttle opening, fuel injector pulse, ignition timing, or both.  

Consequently, the ABS module may also request the transmission control module (TCM) to shift gears in order to lower the power transmitted to the drive wheels. 

When is the traction control switched on? 

The traction control system on a car is a system that sends alerts. In other words, the traction control system turns on when it is functioning. Slippery roads and steep curves, ice or snow, can alert the system to function. As a result, the TC system light will flash and remain while it works.  

However, if the TC light on the car dash turns on under normal driving conditions, it indicates a fault with the system. However, since the TC on a car ensures safety, it is important to diagnose the fault and get it repaired. 

What are the reasons for the TC light to turn on? 

When the wheels lose traction 

Wheels can lose traction under extreme weather or poor driving conditions. This will alert the TC system and switch on the light immediately. However, since this can be temporary, the light will switch on only when the traction control system is operating.  

Faulty wheel speed sensors 

The wheel speed sensors in each of the wheels are connected to the ABS module. In other words, these sensors send information about the speed to the ABS. However, if the wheel sensors are damaged or corroded, they will be unable to perform their function, thereby turning the TC warning light on.  

Bad steering angle sensor 

Traction control closely checks the steering wheel angle. This also reports the sensor speed while driving. Sensor failure activates the traction control light. 

Fault in the ABS 

Since ABS is an integral part of the TC system, a malfunction in the components of the ABS will trigger the traction control light.  

TCS computer failure 

Your vehicle’s traction control computer regulates the entire system. A glitch I n this computer due to corroded contacts or water damage might cause the entire system to go down, triggering the TC system warning light.¬†

Is your dashboard as lit as a Christmas tree? Read this to know why?

What are the common problems with the TC on a car? 

The most common problem that occurs with a TC on a car is the constant illumination of the TC light. Since the continuous glowing can be due to an internal issue, that needs to be figured out and fixed immediately. It is your safety that is at risk if the issue is not resolved.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to drive with the traction light turned on? 

The traction control light indicates proper engagement. However, you should not drive with your car’s traction control light on because it indicates that traction control and ABS have been disabled. Driving with the light on threatens your safety, as the tire slippage will not be monitored. ¬†

Can you drive without the traction control? 

Though it depends on your road condition, it is always better to drive the car with the TC system turned on. This will ensure the right acceleration and safety under extreme weather and tough driving conditions.  

When should I not use the traction control? 

You can certainly turn off the traction control if your car is stuck in sand or snow. This is because if the TC is on, it will cause the wheels to spin indefinitely without helping you get out of the situation. However, under heavy rain, drive slowly, and the TC is turned on.  

How much does it cost to fix the TC on a car? 

Fixing a faulty traction control system is not a costly affair. Replacement of the traction control switch is expected to cost between $85 and $95. The cost of parts is approximately $48, while labor is estimated to cost between $37 and $47. 


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