High-Tech Vehicle Safety Systems

Traction Control Systems

Traction control systems prevent wheel spin in slippery conditions when the vehicle needs to be accelerated.

How do they work?

Anti-lock braking systems use wheel speed sensors to identify when a rotating wheel is about to lock up so that the brake pressure can be reduced in order to keep the wheel rotating. Traction control systems use these same same wheel sensors to monitor wheel speed during acceleration but now monitor when a drive wheel starts to spin.

Various strategies can be employed to prevent wheel spin and provide traction. The system can brake a drive wheel that is starting to spin and transfer torque to the opposite drive wheel that still has traction. Some traction control systems will reduce the throttle opening, shift the transmission to a higher gear, retard the ignition timing, or deactivate one or more the fuel injectors to reduce engine power. The control system prevents the drive wheels from spinning and provides the vehicle with maximum traction.

Because of the use of common sensing and control systems vehicles equipped with traction control may also feature anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC).

Are there any risks?

The laws of physics still apply and directional control can be lost on slick roadway surfaces. The traction control system may allow the vehicle to reach a higher speed than is desirable for the specific roadway conditions. Consequently, drivers of vehicles equipped with traction control should maintain a degree of caution when the system is operating in order to avoid the possibility of a crash at such a speed.

Useful links

Quick Facts

  • Traction control systems prevent wheel spin
  • They may apply the brakes and/or reduce engine power
  • Traction control provides the ability to accelerate where needed
  • Caution should be used, and speed limited, where road conditions warrant

Associated systems:

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