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What Is Traction Control?

Traction control helps keep vehicles from slipping in snow.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 July 2014
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Traction control is a safety system which is commonly installed on high performance vehicles and is increasingly popular in more standard vehicles. This system is one of several which is designed to prevent a vehicle from slipping when adverse conditions such as gravel, rain, and snow are encountered. A traction control system will not necessarily prevent a crash or other traffic incident, but it can increase driving safety when a car is operated in a generally safe manner.

This safety system may also be known as an ASR system, which stands for either anti slip regulation or acceleration slip regulation. A traction control system compares the speed at which the drive wheels are spinning with the speed of the car. When it detects that the drive wheels are spinning too quickly, suggesting that they have lost traction, the system takes steps to slow the wheels and restore traction.

Several measures to control the drive wheels are available to a traction control system. The system can selectively brake the wheels to slow them down, it can control the throttle, or it can control the power being supplied to the wheels. In all cases, the goal is to slow the wheels so that they can grip the road again, restoring traction. People can lose traction even when driving safely, especially in a high powered vehicle, and these systems can help manage low-level loss of traction.

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It is common to see antilock brake systems installed along with traction control. These systems are designed to prevent the brakes from locking up in emergencies. Likewise, stability control systems which prevent horizontal sliding may also be included as a safety system. These systems are all interrelated and they work together to help drivers maintain control of their cars. They also work with other safety systems to keep the driving experience as safe as possible, although these systems function under the assumption that drivers will not operate a car in a manner which could be considered dangerous.

An indicator may flash when a traction control system activates. This indicator serves to alert the driver to the fact that the car's responsiveness may be impaired due to the loss of traction, and as a warning that the driver may be going too fast. When the system disengages, the indicator will turn off. If it remains on, there may be an error in the system, and the car should be taken to the dealer for inspection to determine what is causing the light to stay on or to flash.

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