How and When to Disable Winter Traction Control

Winter driving in modern vehicles can be challenging, especially if they have traction control. You must read your vehicle's owner's manual and be ready for a variety of snowy driving conditions. But why

It's better to be safe than sorry, I suppose. On slippery surfaces, issues are prone to appear suddenly. Therefore, it's crucial to understand how your car will operate and what you can do to increase traction.

Traction control switch in a car. A car's traction control switch

However, this procedure also makes use of the traction control system, which might seem to be contentious.

More specifically, you must disable the traction control when driving in winter weather.

Traction control is a godsend for modern automobiles, but regrettably, it can worsen winter driving conditions. When the traction control engages in certain winter driving conditions, it may cause more problems than it solves.

It is therefore crucial that you understand how to manage and when to deactivate this default safety feature.

What is traction control technology?

Since 2012, all new cars sold in the US must have traction control systems as standard equipment. In other words, unless you drive an older model, this feature will probably be present in your vehicle.

When driving in slick conditions, the traction control keeps the winter tires from losing traction. In adverse weather conditions, they work to maintain traction between the snow tires and the road surface.

This characteristic reduces wheel spin while the tires are moving. As a result, the tire has more contact with the ground, which enables it to regain traction on ice and snow-covered roads.

Let's talk about what traction control is not now.

It differs from a limited-slip differential in some ways. When the tire loses traction due to weather, the limited-slip differential mechanically limits wheel spin. Because it keeps the tires firmly planted, high performance vehicles can take off better and with greater vigor. This replicates the occurrence of tires getting stuck in snow.

Consequently, the traction control doesn't function in the same way. The original standalone electronic versions However, due to their necessity in modern vehicles, they have been integrated with the stability control system.

The first one prevents wheel slip even in turns and not just from a stop, which is how stability control differs from the slip differential. When the stability control systems' sensors detect wheel slip, anti-lock brakes are activated. When this occurs, they do nothing else but reduce the power to the drive wheels.

The Operation of Traction Control

Traction control, it should go without saying, saves lives in slick situations. When performing, it lowers engine power to maximize wheel spin, restoring traction to the winter tires.

But how is that accomplished?

A person driving a car at high speed. A person speeding up their vehicle

An engine control module, which is essentially a computer, is a feature of vehicles with traction control. This control module is able to make calculations about what is happening outside and responds as programmed. In other words, it will cut power to the vehicle's speed control system when it notices the slipping and spinning wheels, bringing the vehicle to a safer and more controllable performance.

This generally functions flawlessly. In order to keep the car moving optimally in winter or on wet roads, the computer reduces power. It reduces engine power to slightly reduce speed, advancing the car out of perilous situations. This feature can once more save lives.

The Traction Control Systems Are Ineffective

So what's the problem with traction control if it's such a useful tool?

Well, sometimes things don't go as planned, especially if you're driving in deep snow, up a steep hill covered in snow, or in other slick conditions where you risk losing control or getting stuck. Due to this, there are two situations in which disabling traction control is preferable:

  • Driving up or down a long, slippery, or steep hill
  • Once the car is stuck

Traction Control Disabled on Steep Hills and Slippery Surfaces

The traction control system may overreact when traveling on back roads, up steep hills, or on icy surfaces. These roads frequently have steeper inclines than highways, which will cause the control system to completely stop the vehicle. Sadly, this is a consequence of its programming.

How then will the system make it so that you lose control of the vehicle in such circumstances?

Well, the control module reduces engine power when wheel slip is detected during a drive. However, because they are long and slippery, hills and inclines repeatedly set off the control module, which causes the car to slow down more and more.

According to science, the car will need more power to defy gravity. The control module gradually reduces the driving speed, so the vehicle won't be able to climb the incline. In the worst case, this will result in the vehicle drifting backward after stopping.

To regain traction on hillsides, turn off the traction control. To navigate such winter roads, you will need high-quality winter tires and occasionally tire chains. Some cars may find them to be too much, especially if they are not plowed, drifted over, or are heavily packed.

When a Car Is Stuck in Snow, Turn Off Traction Control

If your car gets stuck in deep snow, knowing how the control module and traction control operate will spare you the hassle. Winter driving can be risky on its own, and safety features that are overused can only lead to more issues.

When trying to free the car from snow, traction control should be turned off to avoid this. This system will be useful while driving in bad weather on dry pavement, but when the tires and wheels need to spin (to get out of the snowbank), it will only impede the process.

When the wheels have lost traction, activating the traction control has no effect. The traction and stability control systems will not assist the car in climbing out of the snowbank even when only one wheel is the issue.

Car stuck in the snow. Auto stranded in the snow

The computer's response to the wheels spinning is the issue. It will cut back on power and brake, which could result in the tires not turning at all. Unfortunately, the wheels will need to spin in order to gain traction even though spinning causes the tires to lose traction.

You can use the rocking technique to escape the snow by disabling the traction control. The rocking technique calls for the vehicle to advance a little further before lightly applying the brakes, and then applying the brakes in reverse. Your ability to pull free will be aided by the movement back and forth and light braking, which will give the tires the traction they need.

How To Disable The Traction Control System

The most crucial query is: How do I disable the traction control in my new car?

Unfortunately, it differs significantly from one vehicle to another. Nevertheless, it usually turns on automatically when the car starts. You will need to depress and frequently hold a button for a few seconds or select the necessary command from an electronic menu on the instrument panel display to turn it off.

You might need to completely turn off the stability control system. Depending on the vehicle, this feature may be identified by the initials for any of the following terms: Electronic Stability Control, Vehicle Dynamic Control, Vehicle Stability System, Vehicle Control System, or Vehicle Stability Control.

It's wise to regularly review the owner's manual. You can also look for it online, just make sure to plan ahead and be ready for inclement weather.

Advice for Breaking Free

There are a few things you can do to help the situation if you have the unfortunate experience of being in an accident in winter conditions and your car becomes stuck. Most importantly, you must be ready for such circumstances.

You can find general advice on being ready and getting out of a jam in the winter on our separate blog, so there's no need to go to one of the closest gas stations.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Does Disabling Traction Control in Snow Make Sense?

Yes, disabling traction control in snow is preferable. This system prevents wheelspin, which will improve your vehicle's handling during the winter. When a car is stuck in the snow, turning off the traction control is a good idea because otherwise it will just force the tires deeper into the snowbank and cause more problems.

With chains, should I turn off the traction control?

Typically, traction control should be disabled when snow chains are attached to the tires. But it's best to consult your car's owner manual. To ensure a safer winter driving performance, you will need to be cautious when driving and avoid abrupt braking and maneuvering.

What does an anti-lock braking system do?

When a vehicle brakes suddenly or in an emergency, the anti-lock braking system, or ABS, keeps the wheels from locking. This system gives the driver more control over the vehicle, maintaining optimal steering and stability even on slick road surfaces.

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