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Car Care Advice

6 Vital Reasons Your Traction Control Light Is On (+5 FAQs)

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What does the traction control light mean? 
What causes it to turn on? 

In this article, we’ll cover the 6 key reasons behind an illuminated traction light. We’ll also go over some important queries about the TCS light and its answers

This Article Contains: 

Let’s begin. 

What Does The Traction Control Light Mean?

Depending on the situation, an illuminated traction control light can indicate that your traction control system (TCS) is working to keep your car’s tires in contact with the road. In other words, this could simply mean that your car’s TCS is working properly.

However, it may sometimes blink as soon as your car starts accelerating. This could mean that the surface is not offering much friction. Typically, the TCS light is designed to light up when driving on a snowy, muddy, or icy road.

But are there any other reasons it may flash? 
Let’s find out.

6 Common Reasons Behind An Illuminated Traction Control Light 

Here are some common factors that can trigger the traction warning light:

1. Faulty Wheel Speed Sensor

The wheel speed sensor is responsible for detecting the speed of the wheels and supplying this information to the ABS control unit in the form of an electrical signal. The wheel sensor can also detect the direction of rotation of the wheels in some cases. 

So if you have a faulty wheel speed sensor, you won’t know if there’s a loss of traction in your tires, and the traction light will be triggered.

2. Inoperable Yaw Sensor

Some modern traction control systems have an integrated stability control feature — specialty yaw sensors. These sensors record the exact rotational angle of a vehicle in relation to its vertical axis and send this information to the ECU. 

The ECU then analyses this information to identify impending skids or rollovers. So if one of these sensors stops functioning, you may see your traction light come on.

3. Faulty Steering Angle Sensor

Similar to the yaw sensor, the steering angle sensor plays an important role in the stability control system. The steering angle position sensor also calculates the approximate angle of a vehicle’s steering wheel in relation to the vehicle’s current path of travel.

Since these systems tie directly into the vehicle’s traction control system, you might get an illuminated traction control light if the steering angle sensor fails.

4. The ABS System Is Malfunctioning

The anti lock braking system consists of speed sensors, pumps, valves, and the controller. The speed sensors inform the ABS control module when a wheel is about to lock up, and the controller manages the valves to obtain maximum braking power.

Now, some manufacturers combine traction control and ABS system operation and present their faults under the same malfunction light. In that case, you may see a TCS light illuminated on your dashboard.

Note: Your check engine light may also pop on if the issue is low brake fluid. In that case, get a brake fluid refill and contact your mechanic to resolve both the TCL and the check engine light warning.

5. Wiring Damage

Due to the proximity of the speed sensor wiring to the undercarriage of the vehicle, wiring damage can be pretty common in rough road conditions.

If you have wiring damage in any of the speed sensors’ wiring, it can affect the function of the ABS system. As a result, the traction control light may turn on. 

6. TCS Needs Reprogramming 

In some rare instances, your car may have a faulty traction control module that causes the traction control warning light (or service traction control light) to turn on without any reason. In that case, you’ll have to reprogram or restart your TCS. Your car may also go into limp mode. 

However, a faulty control module is very unlikely. So it’s best to consult your mechanic to understand the real reason behind your traction control system light.

Next, let’s understand some key details about the traction light.

5 Traction Control Light FAQs

Here are some frequently asked queries about the TCS light and their answers:

1. What Does The Traction Control System Do?

The traction control system is a safety feature that detects if a loss of traction or friction occurs among the car’s tires. Upon identifying a tire slip or a wheel slip, this safety feature automatically applies brake pressure to that individual wheel or cuts down the car’s engine power to the slipping wheel.

The traction control system uses the same sensors as the anti lock braking system. So if the ABS sensor detects a wheel spin, the vehicle’s ECU will temporarily cut the engine’s output to allow the tire to slow down and regain traction.

Put simply, it helps your wheels gain traction on a slippery surface.

2. Is It Safe To Drive With The Traction Control Light On?

Yes and no. 
If your traction control system light rapidly turns on while driving, you can continue to drive until you reach your auto repair shop. 

However, the warning light is an indication that the traction control system has been disabled. As such, your vehicle is now more prone to skidding and traction loss, which can be unsafe on any slippery surface or adverse road conditions.

3. How To Fix A Faulty Traction Control Light?

The only way to ‘fix’ the traction control light is to reset it. Try parking your vehicle and restarting the car. If the TCS light had come on by mistake, this should fix it. 

If it doesn’t, you may have other issues that need to be addressed. In this case, identify the main cause of your problem or contact a reputable mechanic for help. You may need to get a sensor replacement.

Note: If your traction warning light is accompanied by the ABS light and the red brake-warning light, your braking system may be affected. Contact a mechanic ASAP.

4. What Is The Cost Of Traction Control Light Repair?

The cost of fixing the traction control warning light depends on the main cause of the warning light.

For example, if your ABS light is also turned on, you may need a wheel speed sensor replacement. This can amount to $200-$400 per sensor. 

On the other hand, something more severe, like a service traction control module replacement, can cost up to $1000 in repairs. 

5. Traction Control Vs Electronic Stability Control: What’s The Difference?

The traction control and electronic stability control systems perform similar functions in your car — to maintain traction and prevent a slipping wheel. You might also think of the stability control system as a more advanced traction control system.

Moreover, if your vehicle has a traction and stability control system, they’re likely labelled as ESC or VSC in your car. 

So how does it work?
Both traction and stability control systems use brake pressure on one side of the car to steer it gently in that direction. For this, these systems get help from the ABS control module sensors.

If the traction control or stability control system is engaged, you’ll see an illuminated ESC light on the dashboard.

Final Thoughts

The traction control system can be very helpful in slippery conditions. It can help regain engine power and control traction to prevent a wheel slip or a wheel spin. That’s why it’s important to ensure that you address any “service traction control system” warnings, and ensure it’s functioning well. 

Why not rely on RepairSmith — a convenient, mobile auto repair and maintenance service with highly skilled technicians?

We offer easy online booking and a 12-month/12,000-mile warranty on all our repairs!
Contact us to get a started and our mechanics will drop by and help you solve your car issues — whether it’s a problematic ABS sensor, wheel speed sensor, or something else!