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Rich, Technician
Category: Car
Satisfied Customers: 708
Experience:  ase certified, mitsubishi certified, kia certified and landrover certified technician
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What Does The TCS Light In A Car Mean?

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What does it mean when the TCS light comes on? What should one do?

Your traction control system has stored a fault and that is what triggered the light to come on.You will have to have the codes read before any diagnosis can be done because you need to know what the computer is seeing to set the fault. Most common are wheel speed sensors but without fault codes it is impossible to say for certain. The vehicle should still drive and run normal with the exception of the traction system being offline.

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Traction Control System (TCS) explained

Many vehicle manufacturers incorporate safety mechanisms to keep you safe while on the road. Traction control systems are standard on newer model vehicles and use a computer to detect whether one or more of the tires has lost traction. TCS uses several sensors to detect when the wheels are not getting traction. At which time, the sensors reduce the speed to the wheels that lost traction and increases power to the wheels with traction. In principal, when applying acceleration on a slick surface, TCS prevents the car from losing control. Tires commonly lose traction in weather conditions such as ice, snow, and rain. The idea is to keep the car safely on the road.

How the TCS works

The TCS sensors detect changes in speed, then sends the information to the Electronic Control Unit (ECU). The ECU computes the information transmitted from the sensors then initiates the brakes of the affected wheels using a sensor wire linked to the Automatic Traction Control (ATC) valve. The TCS is automatically triggered if the sensors detect traction loss from any of the tires.

It is also used to corner more safely. If too much gas is applied when turning a corner, the drive wheels can slide sideways. It happens mostly when a driver understeers a front wheel drive vehicle, or oversteers a vehicle with rear wheel drive. The traction control system is used to compensate for driver error or over correction.

Race car drivers take advantage of the TCS feature during races. They use it to maximum traction in turns so they can keep up maximum speeds without losing control.

Off-road vehicles implore TCS controls in addition to or instead of using the locking differentials or the limited mechanical slip. TCS helps to slow down the spinning tire when the driver applies the brake. This allows the other tires to grip better on mud or rocky terrain.

Turning the TCS off 

Some vehicles are equipped with “On” and ”Off” buttons to activate the traction control system. An orange light indicates the TCS system is off. When the system is off, the tires can spin to create traction.

It may not be wise to turn off the TCS safety feature unless you are in a situation where the tires need to spin freely. Example: the car becomes stuck in mud/snow or the tires are spinning on a patch of ice.

Driving with the TCS light on 

Driving with the TCS off could leave your car vulnerable and increase your risk of losing control. The TCS helps to stabilize the traction of your vehicle; without it the road conditions may dictate how your car handles. It may be advisable to keep the TCS turned on when driving in hazardous weather conditions to give your vehicle added control at all times. 

The traction control system (TCS) is a great safety feature to have in your car. However, if you are having problems with your TCS, keep safe and ask an Expert to help you solve the problem.