What is traction control?
Traction control is an active vehicle safety feature designed to help vehicles make effective use of all the traction available on the road when accelerating on low-friction road surfaces. When a vehicle without traction control attempts to accelerate on a slippery surface like ice, snow, or loose gravel, the wheels are liable to slip. The result of wheel slip is that the tires spin quickly on the surface of the road without gaining any actual grip, so the vehicle does not accelerate.
Traction control activates when it senses that the wheels may slip, helping drivers make the most of the traction that is available on the road surface.
When would traction control be useful?
Traction control is used to help drivers accelerate on slippery or low-friction conditions. Examples of when traction control would be beneficial include the following:
1. When accelerating up a hill where the surface is loose and gravelly.
2. Hitting a patch of slushy road that causes the vehicle to slow down as the wheels lose traction.
3. Accelerating at a green light on an icy road with traffic approaching from behind.
How does traction control work?
Traction control works similarly to anti-lock braking systems (ABS), In fact, traction control uses the same components as ABS:
1. Wheel speed sensors that monitor the speed of rotation of the front or all four wheels;
2. A hydraulic modulator that pumps the brakes, and;
3. An electronic control unit (ECU) that receives information from the wheel speed sensors and, when necessary, directs the hydraulic modulator to pump the brakes.
Does traction control have limitations?
Yes, Behaviors like speeding, tailgating, and aggressive driving all work against the benefits of traction control. For example, driving too fast for the road conditions increases crash risk, even if your vehicle has traction control, since traction control is not designed to reduce stopping distance.
The good news is that the benefits of traction control can be accrued as long as drivers continue to use safe driving practices, caution, and good judgment.