Is it Safe to Drive With the Traction Control (TCS) Light On?

The traction control system (TCS) helps a driver maintain control and stability of the vehicle if it loses grip and starts to skid or slide. The TCS automatically senses when a wheel loses traction at any time and can be triggered automatically as soon as this is detected. Loss of traction most commonly occurs in ice or snow, so the TCS shifts power from the wheel that is slipping to the wheels that are still gripping the pavement well.

Your traction control system lets you know it’s working and not working when the TCS light turns on. If the light comes on when it’s supposed to, it means it’s safe to drive with the TCS light on; if it doesn't, it means it’s not safe. Determine whether its safe to drive by understanding these 3 reasons your TCS light may come on:

1. Temporary Loss of Traction

Some TCS lights come on when there is rainy or snowy weather and then disappear. When this happens, it means the system is activated due to low-traction road conditions (ice, snow, or rain) and is assisting the vehicle with maintaining traction. It may even flash briefly if you momentarily pass over a slick spot on the road. TCS intervention can be so subtle you might barely notice it. It is a good idea to read the owner’s manual that came with your car to ensure you know how your TCS works and to know what to expect in these conditions.

Is it safe in this situation? Yes. The most important thing to remember here is that the TCS light coming on, and often flickering on and off while it's activated, means the system is functioning properly. You should still drive with caution on wet or slippery roads, but seeing the light in these circumstances indicates your traction control system is working.

2. Faulty Wheel Speed Sensor

A set of wheel speed sensors at each wheel control the TCS and ABS (anti-lock brake system) to let your traction control computer know whether or not each wheel is rolling correctly or slipping in any way. Should the sensor detect slippage, it activates the TCS to reduce power to the affected wheel to let it regain traction, causing the light will engage for a short time.

A failing wheel speed sensor, or damages in its wiring, disrupts the connection between the wheel and TCS computer. This prevents the TCS working on that wheel, so the light will illuminate and stay lit until addressed. It may even turn on a “TCS off” light to indicate the system is not functioning.

Is it safe in this situation? No. If the light comes on, and you obviously have traction, it is safe enough to drive yourself to place to get an inspection of the light. However, a mechanic should check the TCS as soon as possible. A lingering or flickering light tends to mean the TCS is not working. Should you encounter adverse road conditions, the system will not engage and you face potential damage to the vehicle and yourself.

Note: some cars allow you to manually turn traction control off, in which case the "TCS Off" light will also illuminate. Only experienced drivers should do this at their own risk.

3. Failure of TCS Computer

Controlling the actual system, the TCS computer has a vital role in proper traction control function. The whole system can go offline should corroded contacts, water damage, or malfunctions occur. This will activate the TCS light, and potentially the ABS light as well.

Is it Safe in this Situation? No. Like having a faulty wheel speed sensor, a failing TCS computer disallows the information about wheel traction to be acted upon. The system will not engage when it needs to. Again, drive carefully to a location where service can be requested and performed.

Is it Safe to Drive with the TCS Light On?

It is only safe to drive with the TCS light on if it appears when you are losing traction: it means the system is engaging. Driving without traction control can make your vehicle susceptible to spinning out and sliding around on the road. It is best to keep your TCS in working condition and enabled in case hazardous weather pops up. This allows you to maintain control of your vehicle at all times.

Driving with your TCS Light on can be dangerous. You increase the potential of losing control of your vehicle. The TCS helps control the stability and traction of your vehicle, so without it, the vehicle may not handle slick roadways as it should. If your TCS Light remains on, your safest course of action is to have a certified mechanic perform a system inspection and TCS module replacement if necessary.


Next Step

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Recent Traction Control Light is on Inspection reviews

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Gustavo

17 years of experience
400 reviews
Gustavo
17 years of experience
Pontiac Grand Prix V8-5.3L - Traction Control Light is on Inspection - New Braunfels, Texas
Outstanding!!!! He made phone contact with me twice before the appointment which is a triple plus in my book. If COVID was not going around, I would've given him the biggest hug! He made my day and I was there was more than saying it and thanking him to show my deepest appreciation for him.
Dodge Grand Caravan - Traction Control Light is on Inspection - New Braunfels, Texas
Very pleased with service. All issues were addressed and resolved. Gustavo was friendly, knowledgeable, on-time and efficient. Would definitely recommend this service and would use again.

John

27 years of experience
1019 reviews
John
27 years of experience
Lexus LS460 V8-4.6L - Traction Control Light is on - Houston, Texas
Had the best experience with John. He was very professional and had lots of knowledge concerning my vehicle. He was also very honest and straightforward.

Dameron

17 years of experience
171 reviews
Dameron
17 years of experience
Chevrolet HHR L4-2.4L - Traction Control Light is on Inspection - Indianapolis, Indiana
Very kind and patient. Answered all if my questions and showed me where the problem laid and how to fix it.

Michael

36 years of experience
69 reviews
Michael
36 years of experience
Toyota 4Runner V6-3.4L - Traction Control Light is on - San Antonio, Texas
I can't even begin to express our gratitude toward Mr. Michael Smith. He is one of a kind human being, super knowledgeable about cars. He takes his time and explains in plain English want is happening to the car and tells you exactly want is needed. Nowadays it's hard to find someone whom you can trust, but Michael is a person whom makes you feel you can trust him by answering all your questions. My son and I were very very impressed by him and will definitely use him again and we will refer him to all our friends and family. Thank you for hiring Mr. Michael Smith! He is Grade A Choice!

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