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Traction Control Light Came On – What Could Be Wrong?

Feeling anxious or worried is normal when an unexpected light flashes on your car's dashboard. So what does it mean if the traction control light (TCL) comes on? We researched what could be wrong, and here is what we discovered.

Typically the TCL will come on the moment you lose traction. However, the system has a problem if your TCL activates when you are driving in good conditions. This can be because:

  • The anti-lock braking system (ABS) is not working correctly.
  • Your wheel speed sensors are broken. 
  • The TCL system is deactivated.
  • Your yaw sensor is inoperable.
  • You have a malfunctioning steering angle sensor.
  • There is damage to the wiring.

Keep reading as we elaborate on how these issues trigger your TCL to come on. We'll also discuss what you should do when the traction control light of your car stays on. So stay tuned!

A modern luxury car with female woman driving inside, Traction Control Light Came On - What Could Be Wrong?

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Why Does The TCL Light Come On When There Is Malfunction On The ABS?

The internal self-diagnostics system and control module for traction control and ABS are frequently shared. This means that the traction control light may occasionally turn on due to a problem with the ABS. However, both the traction control and ABS lights would come on in this scenario.

You will know that there is something wrong with your ABS when you observe these signs

  • The wheels keep locking
  • ABS warning light is on
  • It's harder to push the brake pedal
  • Brake pedal not functioning
  • Abnormal speedometer reading

The Wheels Keep Locking

The ABS control module prevents the wheels from locking up when traction is lost. However, the information required to prevent the wheels from locking is inaccurate because this component fails.

If your ABS module is acting strangely, your brakes may lock up even during routine braking. The brakes may even exhibit strange behavior, such as erratic clicking noises. These can potentially be a sign of a broken ABS module.

Otherwise, if only one wheel keeps locking up, it could be a jammed brake caliper.

The ABS Warning Light Is On

ABS light car dashboard

All recent vehicles are equipped with an ABS dashboard light to alert you of any issues. One cause for the light to come on is a malfunctioning ABS control module.

The ABS symbol lights up in amber on more recent models. Early models, however, might instead have a Check Engine Light.

When the ABS light comes on, the system may completely stop working. Even though the design of the ABS is a necessary safety function to safeguard you, you shouldn't drive without it.

Try restarting your vehicle by turning the ignition key on and off if the ABS light is still on. Restarting the car may help resolve any temporary issues confusing the ABS control module.

It's probably time to call your repair shop if restarting doesn't make the ABS light go away.

It's Harder To Push The Brake Pedal 

Accelerator and breaking pedal in a ca

A brake pedal requires little effort to slow a car down when the braking system is working correctly. There can be an issue with the ABS control module if you observe that it takes more pedal pressure to produce the same level of braking force.

Problems with the brake pedal, such as requiring extra foot pressure, can indicate other problems, such as worn brake pads or a failed brake booster. Be sure to have your mechanic examine everything.

Brake Pedal Not Functioning

Over time, your brake pedal could gradually stop working. To begin with, you'll need to depress the pedal a few times to feel any braking action. You'll eventually need to press down repeatedly for it to function.

This can be a symptom of an ABS module that is failing.

Abnormal Speedometer Reading

Modern car speedometer

There are a few uncommon instances where an ABS control module failure impacts the speedometer. It will display the incorrect speed, or the needle will stop at 0 mph.

The ABS Light or Check Engine Light will then probably come on. Even if those indicators don't illuminate, a malfunctioning speedometer is a valid reason to let an expert inspect your car.

How Does Having Broken Wheel Speed Sensors Affect The Car's Traction Light?

Wheel speed sensors, which can determine how fast each wheel moves, are also commonly seen in cars. The traction control system may decide that a change in power is necessary to equalize wheel speed when the wheels are moving at different speeds or if it notices some other irregularity.

An inaccurate reading could also occasionally result from the sensors getting dusty or damaged. The sensors must function correctly for your traction control module to accurately detect wheel speed and determine when to activate the traction control system.

What To Do When The TCL System Is Deactivated?

Drivers have the option to disable traction control in many modern cars. Making sure your traction control is not turned off could solve the problem if your car's traction control light is on.

It usually has a switch near the steering wheel on an instrument panel, and you can turn it back on using the same switch. Only when you're trapped in conditions like snow or mud should you feel the need to deactivate the traction control.

Button to disable traction control in the car

What Happens When The Yaw Sensor Is Malfunctioning?

Specialized yaw sensors are used in modern traction control systems with integrated stability control. These sensors capture the precise rotational angle of a moving object to its vertical axis.

The operating software of a vehicle then examines this data to spot approaching skids or rollovers. However, with time, these sensors may malfunction, resulting in the lighting of a traction control light.

How Does A Damaged Steering Angle Sensor Trigger The TCL To Light Up?

Modern luxury car with female woman driving inside making reverse maneuver

In today's stability control systems, steering angle sensors are standard equipment.

Additionally, if a steering angle sensor fails, these systems directly connect to a vehicle's traction control system, resulting in the illumination of a traction control light.

A steering angle position sensor approximates the steering wheel's angle concerning the present course of travel.

How Do Damaged Wires Make TCL Come On?

A traction control light may also appear if there is damage to one or more of the vehicle's speed sensor cables.

Broken car sensor cable jack

This kind of damage happens much more frequently than most people would anticipate because of how close these cables are to a car's bottom. When wiring damage occurs, you must often replace the relevant speed sensor.

Is It Advisable To Still Use Your Car If The TCL Is On?

Car interior gauge cluster ESP light

The traction control light on a car won't usually stop you from driving, even if it abruptly comes on. However, the display of a traction control light should also be seen as a warning that the traction control system has been turned off.

As a result, your vehicle will be more prone to skidding and traction loss compared to when traction control was engaged.

However, if either one or both of the ABS and TCS lights come on, you should never ignore the warning.

Driving is hazardous if both indicator lights are on and the red brake warning light is also on, as this denotes a significant issue with your braking system.

What To Do When The TCL Light Comes On?

Hand-brake-show-from-the-sensor​-on-car-dashboard

There's no reason to freak out if your TCL turns on while the weather is nice. Locate a secure location to stop, then restart your car. Once you've started your vehicle, the light should go off if an abnormality caused it.

After restarting your car, if the light is still on, it's necessary to take it to a reputable mechanic who can read the car's computer and find any problems that need fixing. Drive cautiously to your mechanic, avoiding sudden acceleration that could cause your tires to skid.

In Closing

Regardless of the symptoms you are encountering, as soon as the traction control light comes on your dashboard, you ought to have it checked by a qualified mechanic.

Some of the most crucial parts of your car's operation, as well as the safety of you and everyone else on the road, depend on the vehicle's traction control system.

If you are wondering whether your vehicle's traction control should always stay on, then you can check out this article to learn more: Should Traction Control Always Be On?

And if you want to know if your truck has a traction control system, you can read this article: Does My Truck Have Traction Control?