Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

How Cruise Control Works

cruise controls

The flashing red and blue lights are behind you. All the traffic passing by you slows slightly and stares just a bit longer than usual. The officer walks up to your window, tears the page from his pad and hands it through the window. With an admonishment to drive slower, he tells you to have a nice day and leaves you staring at your speeding ticket. If only you had set your cruise control.

Benefits of cruise control

Although cruise control’s main purpose is to maintain a set speed, it does offer additional benefits that aren’t often considered. Cruise control:

  • Reduces fuel consumption, saving you extra fuel costs
  • Maintains a smooth, constant speed that helps eliminate motion sickness
  • Allows you to focus on the road more as checking your speed isn’t required as frequently
  • Avoids speeding tickets when the cruise is set to maintain the speed limit

How does cruise control function?

Several systems come into play for cruise control to function. The system is made up of the steering wheel controls, an input from a speed signal, an output to hold the speed steady, and an output to shut the system off.

The steering wheel controls on newer vehicles are mounted directly to the front of the steering wheel, while some older models had one of the column stalks with the cruise control buttons mounted on it, like the turn signal lever. The main buttons are set, coast, accelerate, cancel, on, and off, and some new cars have maximum and minimum speed buttons as well.

  • Set: At speeds of 30 miles per hour or higher, pressing Set will maintain the current speed, allowing you to take your foot off the accelerator.

  • Coast: Tapping the Coast button will reduce your speed one mile per hour at a time, while pressing and holding it will cause your car to decelerate until you release the button.

  • Accelerate: Tapping Accelerate will bump your speed up a half-mile or mile per hour for each tap, while pressing and holding will cause your car to accelerate until the button is released. It also functions to resume the last cruise control speed you had set on the same ignition cycle.

  • Cancel: Pressing Cancel will turn off the current set speed and return the speed control to manual operation.

  • Off: This button turns the system off so the cruise control cannot be set. It’s best to turn cruise control off in situations that it may not be safe to use, such as icy road conditions.

  • On: The On button enables cruise control to be used.

How to cancel cruise control

Cruise control can be cancelled three ways so you can decelerate or control the speed yourself. You can press the cancel button to resume manual operation. You can press the off button to turn the system off. You can also press the brake pedal. Pressing the brake pedal sends a signal to the cruise control system that is the same as pressing the cancel button.

Common cruise control failures

Surprisingly, the most common "failure" is the system being turned off. If the cruise control is not operating for you, check that you haven’t turned it off.

A burnt out brake light can cause the cruise control to not set. Since a signal from the brake pedal can cancel the cruise control, it would not be feasible for the cruise to be able to set if the brake light couldn’t signal cruise control to turn off.

If the cruise control can’t detect a speed signal, the cruise control will not set. In many cases, the speedometer will not function correctly due to the same fault. If you notice any kind of issue with your cruise control, contact a mechanic before you head out on your next long drive.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

Insurance Requirements for Car Registration in Kentucky
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet requires that all drivers in Kentucky carry liability automotive insurance, or “financial responsibility” in order to operate a vehicle legally and maintain vehicle...
The Traveler’s Guide to Driving in Malaysia
CraigBurrows / Shutterstock.com Malaysia is a popular destination for many tourists today. The country has amazing sights and attractions that you will want to explore....
Veteran and Military Driver Laws and Benefits in Idaho
The state of Idaho offers a number of benefits and perks for those Americans who have either served in an Armed Forces branch in the...


Related questions

Q: My steering wheel vibrates

The vibration or bumping you are getting is due to one or more items that are binding. The upper strut bearing, lower ball joint or the tie rod end is binding from wear or lack of lubrication. A proper inspection...

Q: What does the adaptive cruise control indicator mean?

The adaptive cruise control indicator is located on the instrument panel. When the light illuminates gray, the adaptive cruise control system is currently turned on. When the light illuminates green, the adaptive cruise control system is currently in use. ...

Q: LED adaptive headlights do not coordinate with steering angle

Not all vehicles will be equipped with the same options. The owner's manual is designed to cover all 2016 Lincoln MKS trim levels. This means there will be information in the manual that may not apply to your vehicle. If...