Why Is My Traction Control Light On?

Since the 2012 model year, all new vehicles have been required to employ traction control systems (TCS) to maintain the car’s grip under acceleration, as well as an anti-lock brake system which does the same under braking. 

While these systems usually go unnoticed, as they’re made to, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t issues that can arise in your vehicle’s stability control. 

How Does Traction Control Work?

TCS uses a system of sensors and computers to monitor the speed of each wheel in relation to the speed the vehicle is traveling. If the system detects a wheel spinning at a faster rate than the car is moving, the traction control system will engage, slowing the rotation of the wheel that lost traction to help prevent skidding and loss of control.

Why Is My Traction Control Light On?

Before getting into potential problems, we should note that the traction control light will come on when TCS is actively attempting to restore traction (i.e. appearing when accelerating on a snowy road). This is not a cause for concern, as the system is doing what it’s supposed to do. Depending on your vehicle, the light can flash or come on solid when your car has lost traction. 

When the TCS light blinks or comes on when the roads are dry, it can indicate an issue. Here are some common failures that can cause it to light up.

Nearly all issues related to traction control involve a miscommunication between the system and what the car is actually doing. 

Loss of Traction

If you are driving or accelerating hard, even on dry roads, it’s possible for the vehicle to break traction and for TCS to come on. Accelerating in a controlled way, particularly if you drive a front-wheel or rear-wheel drive vehicle, can stop this from happening. 

TSC is Turned Off

By default, traction control is enabled. You won’t see any indication when it’s on, but most vehicles have a button to turn it off, which will cause the light to illuminate on the dash. The TSC button often looks similar to the light. One of the first things to check is whether the button was pressed by mistake or without you realizing it. 

Bad Wheel Speed Sensor

One of the most important sensors for the TCS system is the wheel speed sensor, which does exactly what its name implies. As with any electric system in a vehicle, there’s always a chance a sensor may encounter damage or wear that renders it faulty.

Without a proper reading of the wheel’s speed, the TCS system will not be able to make the necessary adjustments to correct traction, so it will illuminate the TCS light to alert you of the issue.

The same issue may also occur if one of the speed sensors becomes caked in dirt or grime from the road and disrupts the proper reading. 

Damaged Wiring

As some of the sensors that the TCS relies on are located on the undercarriage of the car, specifically the wheel speed sensor, the wires that run to the sensors can be exposed to rocks, dirt, and other road debris that wears down the wire’s coating and can cause them to short. 

Faulty Yaw Sensor

Another crucial sensor to the TCS, the yaw sensor, is responsible for detecting the horizontal rotation of the vehicle. If it detects an impending rollover or loss of traction, it will have the TCS adjust for it and return the car to stability. 

When this sensor has failed for whatever reason, the TCS light may come on to warn you of the problem. 

Failed TCS Computer

Another potential failure point is the TCS computer. Anything from a software problem to corrosion or physical damage could result in a failed TCS computer. Oftentimes, the TCS and Antilock Braking System (ABS) share the same computer, so both systems may experience issues. 

Steering Problems

There are a host of potential steering-related issues that can cause problems with traction control. Many components in the steering system, like the steering rack and angle sensors, can cause the traction control light to come on if they run into problems. 

Mercedes Benz steering wheel

Mismatched Tires

If your car has mismatched tire sizes, the TCS can be engaged. Different sized tires rotate at different speeds, which will be interpreted as a loss of traction. 

Audi tire and wheel

Alignment Problems

While less common, if your car is severely misaligned, the TCS light can come on. Generally speaking, you will notice the alignment problem right away, as the steering wheel may be very off-center, or the car will pull very hard left or right. 

Traction Control Service at Orion Automotive

If your vehicle is experiencing issues with its traction control system, have it inspected and repaired by the trusted name for premium auto services in Ann Arbor! The ASE Certified technicians at Orion Automotive have the expertise and equipment to properly take care of your vehicle! Give us a call or schedule online today!

Book with our certified technicians today!


Book with our certified technicians today!