Traction Control Malfunction (Here Is What To Do)

traction control malfunction

Traction control and ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) are crucial components of a car’s stability control system. Traction control works in conjunction with ABS to detect tire slip during acceleration and maintain traction, while ABS ensures optimal braking by comparing the vehicle’s trajectory with the driver’s intentions.

However, like any other system in a car, traction control and ABS can experience maintenance issues. In this article, we will explore the most common problems associated with these systems and provide professional solutions to address them effectively.

1. A Sensitive System

Traction control systems are designed to provide benefits, but they can sometimes be overly sensitive, causing inconvenience in certain situations.

For example, when encountering rutted snow while entering or leaving a parking space, some systems may immediately reduce power or apply excessive braking, rendering the vehicle immobile.

Fortunately, most vehicles offer the option to disable the traction control system, allowing drivers to utilize traditional methods like rocking the vehicle back and forth to overcome such obstacles.

2. Dirt, Grime, and Debris

One of the common issues that can trigger a warning light in the traction control system is the accumulation of dirt, grime, or debris on the wheel-speed sensors.

These sensors, along with their associated wires, connectors, and control modules, are located at each wheel, making them vulnerable to damage from potholes, water, snow, dirt, tar, stones, and other debris.

In fact, certain car models, such as some GM vehicles, have experienced problems with debris interfering with the sensors, prompting manufacturers to issue technical service bulletins to address the issue.

3. Faulty Wheel-Speed Sensors

Wheel-speed sensors play a critical role in detecting tire slip and enabling the traction control system to respond accordingly. When one drive wheel spins faster than the others, indicating a loss of traction, the system reduces power and applies the brakes to that specific wheel.

This redistribution of power to wheels with better traction helps maintain control. However, if the wheel-speed sensors become faulty, they may fail to detect wheel slippage accurately, compromising the effectiveness of the traction control system.

In such cases, drivers must manually control tire slippage by lifting off the accelerator.

4. Identifying Common Warning Signs

A problem in the traction control system is often indicated by the consistent illumination of the dashboard warning light associated with traction control.

However, momentary illumination of the warning light is typically not cause for concern, as it is a normal function of the system during startup and when wheel slippage is detected. When the traction control warning light remains on continuously, it indicates that the system is not engaging properly and requires further investigation.

Diagnostic procedures involve using scanning tools to read error codes and pinpoint the specific component or wheel affected.

5. Impact on Vehicle Performance

While traction control is an essential safety feature, its malfunction is not as urgent as disabled ABS or stability control systems.

In most cases, driving without functioning traction control is still possible on clear and dry roads. However, the absence of traction control becomes problematic when driving on wet or slippery surfaces, as preventing slippage during acceleration becomes more challenging.

Therefore, it is advisable to address traction control issues promptly, especially before encountering adverse weather conditions.

6. Servicing Your Traction Control System

If you notice that the traction control light is illuminated, it is crucial to seek professional assistance promptly. At V & F Auto, our expert technicians can diagnose the problem, perform necessary repairs, and implement preventive measures to avoid future issues.

Our auto repair services are backed by a comprehensive 3-year/36,000-mile warranty on both parts and labor, ensuring the quality and durability of our work. Schedule an appointment today by calling (413) 314-2280 or conveniently scheduling online.

7. How Traction Control Works

To understand the potential problems associated with traction control, it is important to comprehend its function within the overall stability control system.

Traction control utilizes the vehicle’s ABS system, wheel-speed sensors, solenoids, an electric pump, and a high-pressure accumulator. The wheel-speed sensors monitor the rotational speed of each wheel, while the solenoids isolate specific brake circuits.

The electric pump and high-pressure accumulator apply brake pressure to the wheels experiencing traction loss. By working in tandem with ABS, traction control enhances a vehicle’s ability to maintain traction and stability during acceleration.

8. The Role of ABS in Traction Control

ABS plays a vital role in traction control by preventing wheel lock-up during braking. When the ABS system detects a wheel locking up, it modulates the brake pressure to that specific wheel, ensuring optimal braking performance and allowing the driver to maintain control.

By integrating ABS with traction control, modern vehicles can effectively manage wheel slippage during both acceleration and braking, providing enhanced safety and stability on various road surfaces.

9. Troubleshooting ABS and Traction Control

In some cases, ABS and traction control systems may present similar symptoms, as they often share the same control module.

The most common indicator of a malfunctioning system is the illumination of the traction control and ABS warning lights on the dashboard. These warning lights may remain on continuously or flash intermittently, indicating potential issues with the sensors, electrical connections, or other components.

To accurately diagnose the problem, specialized scanning tools are used to retrieve error codes and identify the specific areas of concern.

10. Maintaining Optimal Performance

Regular maintenance and inspection of the traction control and ABS systems are essential for optimal performance and safety.

Alongside routine vehicle servicing, it is crucial to address any warning lights or unusual symptoms promptly. By staying proactive and seeking professional assistance at the first sign of trouble, drivers can ensure that their traction control and ABS systems remain in peak condition, providing reliable traction and braking performance in various driving conditions.


Traction control and ABS systems are integral components of a vehicle’s stability control system, enhancing safety and control during acceleration and braking.

While issues may arise with these systems, proactive maintenance and timely repairs can ensure their proper functioning.

By understanding the common problems associated with traction control and ABS, as well as the solutions available, drivers can confidently navigate diverse road conditions while enjoying optimal traction and braking performance.

Steve P.

Steve is an automotive technician, technical writer, and Managing Editor. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in cars like the Buick Riviera. Steve is based in Boise, Idaho.

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