TCL For a Car: 6 Facts You Should Know

With the advent of modern vehicles came the introduction of the traction control system. A system that controls your vehicle’s wheels. The traction control light (TCL) or dash light as it is popularly called reveals that your vehicle’s traction control system functions properly. Traction control plays a role in ensuring your vehicle doesn’t slip when you are driving especially in a rainy or snowy condition. So, today we will explore all about traction control in vehicles.

What is a Traction Control System?

The traction control system in a vehicle is a driver’s support for maintaining the steadiness of the vehicle as it navigates the road. A traction control system (TCS) can instantly recognize when either of the car wheels is losing its grip on the road or whirling faster than the rest.

When this happens, the speed of the faulty wheel is decreased by the triggered anti-lock braking system (ABS) of the vehicle. Following the correction of the faulting wheel, stability to the vehicle is returned.

The traction control light or dash light comes on as soon as a problem with the car wheel is noticed by the system. This indicator should not be ignored. When the light is on, slow down your driving speed even as the traffic control system takes care of the problem.

However, you must know that depending on the position of the faulting wheel you may experience some difficulty steering the wheel.

Why Does Traction Control Light Come On?

1. A brief loss in the tires grip to the road 

When it rains or snows the friction between a car’s tire and the road is reduced, this triggers the activation of the traction control light. The turned-on TCS light indicates that the system is working on the vehicle to restore stability to the tires. Sometimes the light stays only for a moment, other times it lasts longer.

 If restoring traction to the tires is taking longer than usual, the TCS light also stays on longer. During these moments it is best to stop driving by if the rain or snow is very heavy or carefully move your vehicle to a safer road as the weather allows. However, the TCS light shows that the system is working well.

Also, you can prepare your car for the winter seasons by having winter tires installed on it for better road traction during the season. You can also gain knowledge on the mode of operation of your vehicle TCS by reading its manual. 

2. A problem with the speed sensor on each wheel

There are speed sensors in the traction control system of the vehicle as well as on its anti-lock brake system. These sensors are the spinning prowess of wheels. They can tell if the wheels are whirling properly, if one is faster than the rest or if the tires are merely sliding.

 When the wheel speed sensor detects a deviation from the norm, it provokes the traction control system to minimize how quickly the faulty wheel rolls for traction to recommence. This act causes the TCS light to come on only for a period.

However, with a faulty speed sensor, the action of the TCS on the car’s wheel is marred. The implication of this is that the TCS may not be able to properly bring back traction to the faulty wheel. Thus leaving the TCS light on till the problem is solved. This disruption may also cause the dashboard light to show that TCS is not working.

If this happens, a proficient mechanic should have your car checked. Also, you are at risk when you drive a vehicle whose wheel speed sensor is bad. This is because the TCS of the vehicle is underworking and any problem with the wheels may not be detected or corrected.

3. A faulty TCS computer

The traction control system has a unit to oversee its functions. This is the TCS computer. If the TCS computer gets faulty it can cause the traction control system to shut down. When this happens the TCS light stays on till the fault is rectified.

4. Activation of the car safety feature

Your vehicle’s traction control system light may come on when the vehicle goes on safety mode also known as the limp mode. Limp mode is activated when the computer notices an issue with the car brakes, its clutches, engine sensor or any imbalance somewhere. When a vehicle is in limp mode, several light indicators in the vehicle are triggered one of which is the traction control light.

How Safe Is It To Drive With The TCL On?

If the traction control light gets lit only for a moment because a wheel is losing hold on the road then it is relatively safe to drive. This is because the turned-on TCS light implies that the traction control system is working on the fault and resolving the issue.

However, if the light is on because of a faulty wheel speed sensor or an inactive traction control system then it is not safe. Chances are you are not in control of your wheels, it could abnormally rotate or slip through the road.

The traction control system helps you to drive safely by ensuring traction is maintained between the road and your wheels. Now, when there is a manual override, a programming fault or issues with the computer causing the traction system not to work properly then the safety of the vehicle has been compromised. You should contact your mechanic quickly, identify the problem and get it fixed. 

Cost of Fixing the Traction Control System Light

Usually, before a quote is given your mechanic inspects the vehicle to find out the reason for the malfunction. Having done this a price is then allocated based on the brand of the car and the identified fault and the cost of labor. Repair prices may range from 120dollar to 160dollars including labor. The traction control system parts costs between 45dollars to 90dollars. Also, you can get a quote around and go for the most suitable option for you.

What to do When the Traction Control Light Remains On

If the road slides, find a place to park your car and stop moving. Then turn on the system and firmly press down the accelerator for about three seconds. You should see the revolution per minute increasing. If the fault is a slippery wheel the rising RPMs will stop when the wheel slips and it will decrease.

A repeat of this process may also be done with the system off. You will see the RPMs rising and your car moving to the side. When the road is suitable enough you may continue your ride. 

What Are The Signs of a Failing Traction Control Module

Some signs of a failing traction control module include TCS warning Indicator light. when the traction control system won’t turn on or off even with a manual override. Also, the traction control system features fail to activate and when the anti-brake system loses its features.


The traction control system is a vital part of modern vehicles. It provides stability to the vehicle when on the road. The traction control system light on for a brief moment is good because it shows the system is working. However, when it stays on for a long period it may indicate a major fault somewhere in the vehicle.