Traction Control Light Comes on and Car Starts Jerking: Causes & Fix

The traction control light shows when one of your wheels is slipping more than the others. If the light is blinking, the problem is likely temporary. But, if it stays on, it means your traction control and ABS systems are off.

The bigger problem is when the traction control light comes on and the car starts jerking. I’ll explain what causes this and how you can fix it.

car dashboard with a traction control warning light

What is Traction Control in a Car?

Traction control is a vehicle feature that prevents the tires from slipping under hard acceleration. It does this either by reducing the amount of power sent to the wheels or by applying braking to the wheels that are spinning.

Let’s say you’re driving a truck at 45 miles per hour and all of a sudden, your rear tire starts spinning and moving forward at say, 75 miles per hour.

There’s going to be a speed sensor in the tire that realizes that this speed is faster than the actual speed of the truck.

When the sensor realizes this, it’ll apply the brakes to that tire and make sure it matches the 45mph speed. Once there’s a speed match, the brakes will let off and allow you to regain control.

Reasons Why Traction Control Light Comes On And Car Starts Jerking

1. Bad Wheel Sensor

The wheel speed sensor tells your car’s computer how fast the wheels are spinning. It’s usually placed on parts like the steering knuckle and spindle in your suspension.

If the wheel speed sensor fails, the computer won’t be able to determine which wheel is slipping. If it can’t, it turns off the traction control system, displays the traction control warning light, and you feel your car jerking.

You may have some dirt or brake dust accumulation on the wheel speed sensor.

Remove the wheel speed sensor and use a piece of cloth with a mix of soap and water to clean it off. Don’t use a brake cleaner or carburetor cleaner to avoid damaging the sensor.

2. Bad Steering Angle Sensor

The steering angle sensor tells your car about the steering wheel movement. It’s either behind the wheel or sometimes in the steering gear.

On slippery roads, the traction control uses data from this sensor to see how much you’re steering.

If the sensor doesn’t send the correct info, the traction light may turn on and make your car jerk or make you feel like your car keeps jumping while driving.

If cleaning the wheel speed sensor doesn’t fix the problem, have a professional check your car.

Why is My Traction Control Light On?

If you’re wondering what causes your traction control light to come on, you should know that this is as a result of an issue where the traction control system is unable to balance the speed of your individual wheels. The traction control symbol usually shows up as a skid light on car dashboard.

When any of your wheels tries to accelerate more than the others, the t/c light will illuminate. The light comes on as a warning to alert you on an impending danger.

Situations where the traction control light comes on when accelerating can be dangerous. I highly recommend that you stop driving and get it checked out.

How to Fix Traction Control System

If the traction control light stays on, then there’s an issue with the traction control system. to fix this, start by turning off the engine and restarting it. I have noticed that this tends to resolve the problem most times.

However, if the TC light doesn’t disappear, you’ll need to get the car to a professional for a thorough check. Especially if the light is accompanied other lights such as the ABS light and the Check Engine light.

Is It Safe to Drive Your Car While It’s Jerking?

No, it’s not safe to keep driving while the car is jerking. You may think it’s safe to limp your way to a mechanic, but that isn’t always a good idea. If your car starts jerking, you could crash into something or someone in front of you.


If the traction control light is on and the car jerks, this might be due to bad wheel speed or steering angle sensor.

Fixing the wheel speed sensor might be as easy as wiping it with a cloth to remove debris.

For steering angle sensor issues, you should take your car to a professional mechanic to have a look.