Traction control has become a standard safety feature in newer vehicles. But most people assume that's referring to cars, not trucks. If you stop to think about it, you might not be sure if your truck has traction control or not. If you've never felt it kick on in bad conditions, it can be easy to miss. So do trucks have traction control or not?
If your truck is a light-duty pickup manufactured since 2012, it has traction control. This is the year that traction control became a mandatory feature, and that includes light-duty trucks. Even if your truck is older than 2012, it may have traction control. If you have antilock brakes, there's a good chance you have traction control, as the features work together.
But specifically, which trucks have a traction control system? And which are the best? And for that matter, what does traction control even do — why do vehicles have to have it? Keep reading to learn more because we'll cover everything you want to know about your truck's traction control.
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Best Traction Control In Trucks
In an extreme traction control test by Pickuptrucks.com, they put the system to work to find out just how effective it was. Ranked from best to worst, the trucks offering traction control include:
- Ford F-150 - all the recent models of the F-150, come with traction control.
- Toyota Tundra - this tied with the F-150 as the top contender. Thanks to their traction control, the Tundra and F-150 were the only trucks to make it off a slippery surface without relying on four-wheel drive.
- Dodge Ram 1500 - this one passed the test but needed four-wheel drive to do so. It also relied on a rear-wheel limited-slip differential.
- Chevy Silverado - the truck made it, but not without a little fishtailing first.
- GMC Sierra - The Sierra performed similarly to the Silverado. It took a bit of slipping around before the rear differentials engaged.
- Nissan Titan - The Titan found this test challenging, with the most difficulty. While it offers traction control, other factors affected its ability to compensate on a slippery road. Primarily, a rear differential that doesn't engage unless the four-wheel drive is active.
Of course, it's worth noting that if you're driving in bad conditions, you'd probably have the four-wheel-drive activated to begin. Since they all performed adequately in 4 wheel drive, any of these trucks offer traction control that should meet the average driver's needs.
Since traction control is now a standard safety feature, other trucks offer it besides the ones tested. These include:
- Ford Ranger
- Toyota Tacoma
- Honda Ridgeline
- Chevrolet Colorado
- GMC Canyon
- Jeep Gladiator
- Ford "Super Duty" trucks (F-250, F-350, F-450)
What Is The Purpose Of Traction Control?
Traction control is an active safety feature designed to prevent accidents. To many people's surprise, traction control doesn't provide any more traction. It simply slows down the spin of the tires, which allows them to keep a better grip on the road.
Sensors in the car can tell when a tire seems to be spinning faster than the others. This, generally, means the tire isn't making enough contact with the road. The rotation of that tire is automatically slowed, which helps keep it on the ground.
The sensors allow each tire to be adjusted as much (or as little) as necessary. If the front tires are driving fine, the traction control system leaves them alone. The system redistributes power from the engine, giving more power to the tires that still have grip.
Can I Use Traction Control In The Rain?
Traction control is a safety feature that's always on unless you turn it off. But it's indispensable on rainy days. The rain can cause your tires to lose traction, especially if puddles cause hydroplaning.
But even without large puddles, rain makes the road slippery. As the road's surface gets wet, it mixes with dirt on the road. This makes it harder for your tires to grip the road. That's exactly what traction control tries to accommodate for.
Can I Use Traction Control In The Snow?
Just like rain, snow can make the road slippery. As a result, it might seem like the obvious answer is to use traction control. While this is usually the best idea, there are sometimes that you might need to turn off traction control.
Traction control is great for keeping your car on the road and moving in a straight line. If you're on a road or highway, making progress, the traction control can prevent surprise skids.
But traction control works by slowing down the rotation of the tires. It also can reduce power from the engine to the tires. This means that sometimes, it does more harm than good.
For example, if you're trying to get up a steep hill in the snow, you may need all the power you can get. Similarly, if you're trying to get out of deep snow, you want the tires spinning fast. Turn off traction control - just for a little while - when you need your car to have that extra muscle.
Should Traction Control Be On Or Off?
Traction control is an important safety feature. For this reason, it should always be left on. If you need to, turn it off for only a short time. For example, it might need to be off to give you enough torque to get unstuck from a snowbank.
But as soon as you're back on your way and in normal driving conditions, turn the traction control back on. In most cars, the traction control comes on automatically every time you start the car - even if you left it off the last time, you drove.
The reason it comes back on every time goes to show how important it is for safe driving. Even on a clear day where you don't expect to need it, leave it on. Sometimes the road can surprise you, and it's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
Does Traction Control Use More Gas?
People who advocate for turning off the traction control usually say that doing so saves gas as a significant reason. It's important to note that this isn't an expert opinion, and there's no evidence to back it up.
Professionals mostly agree that there's no reason traction control would use any more gas. It isn't doing anything until you start to slide. It's not actively working most of the time, so it doesn't use any extra gas. The brief moments that it does kick in shouldn't affect mileage.
People who anecdotally claim that they used less gas after turning off their traction control might be confusing causation and correlation. After all, lots of things can affect your gas mileage. For example, braking frequently, driving fast, and accelerating quickly also use up more gas. These behaviors might naturally decrease in someone driving a bit more cautiously, knowing they've turned off traction control and can longer count on it to prevent an accident.
Light-duty trucks manufactured since 2012 offer traction control, as it became mandatory that year for most vehicles. This means the majority of pickup trucks on the road include this critical active safety feature. Traction control is designed to prevent accidents by recognizing when tires have lost contact with the road. It responds by cutting power to the "lost" tires while moving power to the tires still gripping the surface. It also slows the rotation of the slipping tire, giving it time to find the road again and regain traction.
Because you can never truly expect an accident, traction control should remain on. It doesn't use any extra gas, so don't turn it off without a valid reason. Even in good weather, roads can be unexpectedly slippery, or the surface can be compromised.
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