When Should Traction Control Be Turned Off?

Various features in a vehicle are aimed at assisting the driver in stabilizing the vehicle in different conditions. Among these features is the traction control system (TCS), a federal government requirement since 2012.

The TC system detects the loss in traction on one wheel and immediately limits or cuts power to that wheel. However, the system is not always needed, which is why you can turn it off. But when is a good time to turn it off, and why?

Keep reading to learn when it’s an ideal time to turn off the traction control system and for what reasons.

When Should Traction Control Be Turned Off

When Should Traction Control Be Turned Off?

The traction control should be turned off when stuck in the snow, thick mud, or ice. Under these circumstances, the wheels should spin as per acceleration to successfully push the vehicle. You can turn TCS off by pressing the TCS button on the control panel.

However, faults in the traction control system may also cause it to turn off. In this case, a traction control light may illuminate intermittently to notify you of malfunctions.

To better understand how and when to turn off the traction control system, you should know how it works.

How Does Traction Control System Work?

The TCS is installed on all or the front wheels of a vehicle. This system is installed near the anti-lock brakes, a feature that also helps the car while braking. The TCS includes wheel-speed sensors, connectors, wires, control modules, and other features.

When the sensor detects the loss of traction on a wheel, it signals the electronic control unit(ECU). The ECU also monitors wheel rotation continuously and can detect a loss of traction.

In this case, it signals the ABS to brake the wheel without traction. It can also signal the engine to reduce power to the affected wheel until it regains traction.

Some of the advantages of the traction control system are:

  • They help keep the vehicle stable
  • TCS can help reduce accidents by minimizing slippage
  • Ensures better grip on loose roads
  • They are easy to install
  • They are automatically engaged

How and When to Turn Off the Traction Control?

In most cases, the traction control system should be on 99% of the time. However, in various situations, the system is better when deactivated. Deactivating the system is straightforward by pressing the TCS button on the dashboard.

The button is the one with a picture of a car with slippery lines below it. After pressing the button once or after holding it for a few seconds, the system should turn off. A steady yellow light should illuminate the dash to confirm it’s off.

Some situations when turning off the system is necessary includes;

Thick Mud

Since the system reduces energy to the wheel without tractions, it’s best to turn it off when stuck in the mud. If left on, the vehicle will only push for some time then the system disengages it due to lack of traction.


Snow can also cause loss of traction on the wheels. In this case, the control system should be deactivated when driving on a snowy surface.


You should also turn off the traction control system when driving off the road on a sandy path.

Slippery Icy hill

When driving on icy terrain, leaving the TCS on can cause more problems. Turn it off and consider using tires with a better grip, like snow tires.


If you fancy drifting and those types of sports, the traction control system might be better if deactivated. This is to allow wheels to spin independently as the driver controls.

Problems with Traction Control

As mentioned earlier in the article, the traction control system may turn off due to issues. Any of the parts included in the system can malfunction and cause it to turn off.

Some problems that can cause the traction control systems to disengage include

Unresponsive Sensors

The traction control system sensors are located on the wheel where elements can affect it. With time, the sensors can fail, causing the system to fail.

Loose Electrical Connections

Loose electrical connections can cause the warning lights to illuminate intermittently. The lights should only come on as a warning on the slipping wheel.

Wiring Damage

The wires that connect the system to the computer are also prone to damage, especially near the wheel. Like the sensors, the wire work is also exposed to debris and dirt that can damage them.

Defective ECU

Defective ECU
Defective ECU

Due to electrical short circuits in the wiring, the ECU may become defective. Without the ECU, most systems dependent on it may malfunction or not work.

Resetting the Traction Control System

Sometimes, the TCS warning lights may turn on and stay for days, which means there’s a problem. In this case, you should take the vehicle to be diagnosed or do it yourself. Some of the things to check include

  1. Wires – Check for damaged wires and replace them
  2. Sensors – Replace the sensor if it’s faulty
  3. ECU – Check if the electronic control unit is defective and get it replaced

If the above systems are okay, but the light is still on, you should reset it. Some ways you can reset include

Using a tool

To reset the system, you can use an onboard diagnostic II scanner (OBD2) (Our pick/ BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro OBDII). Plug it into the diagnostic link connector on your vehicle and navigate to erase codes.

Manufacture methods

Some vehicles have ways to reset the lights without using a tool. You can refer to the owner’s manual, which should contain instructions. You may need to long-press the TCS or ABS button for a few minutes to reset it.

In some vehicles, like GM, turn the vehicle to accessory mode and tap the gas pedal three times quickly. If everything fails, don’t hesitate to take the car to a mechanic to reset it.


The following are the frequently asked questions on this topic, along with the answers.

Is it Safe to Drive Without Traction Control?

Yes. It’s safe. But it’s best to keep the traction control system on most of the time when driving, However, turning it off doesn’t make it unsafe to drive the vehicle, but you have to manually manage the loss of traction.

Does Traction Control Affect the Engine?

Traction control can signal the computer to reduce the engine power to a wheel that has reduced traction. However, if the traction control has problems, the car’s computer can reduce the overall engine power to prevent damage

Bottom Line

Various technologies in vehicles aim at improving the overall driving experience. ABS and TCS are among these systems which help keep the vehicle stable in different conditions. While the system is vital, sometimes it must be deactivated for better driving.

When driving on snow, mud, or ice, you should deactivate the TCS for better performance. However, faults in the system, especially on its sensor and wires, may also cause it to turn off. You can take the vehicle to the repair shop to get it repaired and turn off the TCS light.

Similar Posts