Have you ever been in a situation where the traction control light comes on and car starts jerking while you’re driving? Does it make you nervous and worried?
Car problems can cause anxiety when it is sudden and you cannot easily diagnose what the problem is.
So, if you’re wondering – “why is my traction control light on?” You’re not alone. It’s an annoying experience, but don’t worry — we’ll walk you through the problem and how to fix it.
Table of Contents
- What is Traction Control in a Car?
- What Causes Your Car to Jerk when Traction Control Light is on?
- Bad Wheel-Speed Sensor
- Symptoms of a Bad Wheel Speed Sensor
- How to Fix a Bad Wheel Speed Sensor
- Will a Misfire Cause the Traction Control Light to Come on?
- Is It Safe to Drive the Car if the Traction Control Warning is on?
What is Traction Control in a Car?
Traction control is a technology in modern cars that helps prevent the wheels from slipping on a surface, especially during acceleration. When the tires lose grip, such as on a wet or icy road, the vehicle can skid and become unstable, which can be dangerous.
A traction control system helps the car to mitigate these risks by using a traction control sensor to monitor the wheels’ movement and make adjustments to maintain optimal traction.
How Does The Traction Control System Work?
When the car detects that a wheel is spinning faster than the others, the traction control system automatically reduces the engine’s power to that wheel to prevent it from slipping.
The system may also apply brakes to the spinning wheel or transfer power to the opposite wheel, which has better traction. By limiting the power delivered to the wheels, traction control helps keep the vehicle stable and prevents it from sliding or skidding.
In other words, traction control acts as a safeguard to ensure that the driver maintains control over the car even in slippery conditions.
It’s particularly helpful when you’re driving on slick roads, loose gravel, or snow. The traction control system is also designed to work alongside other safety features like anti-lock brakes and stability control to enhance overall vehicle control and stability.
What Causes Your Car to Jerk when Traction Control Light is on?
If you have your traction control light on and car is jerking, it could mean that one of your wheel-speed sensors has gone bad. A wheel-speed sensor is what tells your car’s computer how fast each wheel is turning so that it knows which wheels need power and which ones don’t.
If a sensor fails, the car’s computer cannot determine which tires are spinning and needs help from you to get back in control. If you notice jerking while driving and feel like steering correction isn’t enough, it is better to stop driving and find a way to fix the problem before it causes further damage.
Bad Wheel-Speed Sensor
The wheel-speed sensor is responsible for keeping track of the speed of each of the wheels, so when it fails, it can make your car feel like it’s shaking and jerking.
The sensor itself is located on the hub of one or more of your tires. If this happens to be happening to you, don’t worry! Your vehicle will let you know about any issues with its sensors by displaying an ABS light on its dashboard.
The ABS light will turn on when there is an issue with your wheel-speed sensor, which means that you need to take it to the shop so that they can repair the problem.
If your vehicle’s wheel-speed sensors are not working properly, this could trigger your traction control light on and car won’t accelerate. This can be very dangerous for drivers and passengers alike; if any of these symptoms occur while you’re driving, fix the problem as soon as possible.
Will a Speed Sensor Throw a Code?
Yes, a bad speed sensor can throw a code. The speed sensors are used to detect how fast your car is moving and then adjust the powertrain accordingly. If there is an issue with either one of the sensors or anything else related to them, then you may see a code being thrown on your dash panel.
If this happens, then all you have to do is pull over and use your scan tool (OBDII reader) to read the codes that have been thrown by the vehicle’s computer system.
Symptoms of a Bad Wheel Speed Sensor
1. The Traction Light Will Come on
A bad wheel speed sensor can cause the traction control light to come on, as well as for your car to start jerking. If you decide to take your car to a mechanic for repair, they will check the sensors on each wheel and replace them if needed.
If a sensor has failed, it may require replacing both that particular sensor and its corresponding computer module (that controls the other four sensors).
2. Brake Pedal Pulsates
If you notice that your brake pedal is pulsating, it could be a sign of a number of different problems. It’s important to understand how the system works before you can determine what might be causing the problem.
Brakes work by applying pressure to move the rotor—which is attached to the wheel—and slow down or stop your car. In most cases, this happens when you press down on your brake pedal and engage with one of two mechanisms: hydraulic or vacuum.
When braking, your car uses various sensors (wheel speed sensors) to detect how much pressure has been applied to each part of its braking system so that it knows when it needs more power (or less). If one part of this complex system fails, it can cause your brake pedal to pulsate.
3. Illumination of Warning Lights
If the traction control light is illuminated, the ABS light is illuminated or multiple warning lights are illuminated, the first thing to check is the wheel sensors.
A bad sensor can cause this problem. If you have a scan tool with an ABS test function, you can use it to test your wheel speed sensors and find out if they’re working properly or not.
If one of them isn’t working properly, replace it as soon as possible so you don’t cause more damage to your vehicle and increase repair costs in the future.
4. The Speedometer Stops Working
The speedometer can stop working if the sensor is bad. The sensor measures how fast you’re driving and sends that information to your dashboard display so you can see what your speed is at any given moment. You can test this by disconnecting or removing the sensor and reattaching it again; if this fixes things, then you know that’s the problem.
You’d want to replace or repair any faulty parts as soon as possible because even though there isn’t a danger of crashing while the speedometer doesn’t work, it will make it difficult for someone who isn’t familiar with the car’s operation to drive safely enough in order not endanger themselves or others on the road with them.
5. Broken Anti Lock Brakes
If the anti-lock brakes are not working, it can cause the car to jerk. It will feel like your car is skidding or sliding on ice. This will be accompanied by the traction control light coming on and/or the ABS light flashing.
The ABS prevents wheels from locking up during hard braking or skidding conditions which could cause loss of vehicle control and potential accidents.
Traction control is designed to prevent wheel slip when cornering by reducing engine power and applying individual brakes if necessary in order to maintain traction between all four wheels of your vehicle at all times.
If you have ABS/TC and it lights up, then you should immediately slow down as much as possible. If the brakes are not working and your car is still moving, pull over to the side of the road (if possible) and call for help.
6. Cripple in Traction Control and Stability Control Systems
Traction control and stability control systems are designed to help you drive on slippery roads. If the traction control light is on, it means that the system is disabled. The system can be turned off by pressing the button on your steering wheel. It’s also important to note that in some situations, the traction control light won’t turn off.
The traction control and stability control system work together to keep you safe on slippery roads. If you have a bad wheel speed sensor, your car’s traction control system will not work as it should and this can be quite dangerous.
How to Fix a Bad Wheel Speed Sensor
It’s a good idea to prepare your work area before you lift the vehicle. Position the vehicle on a level, safe surface and set the parking brake. Then use a ½-inch drive breaker bar and lug nut socket to loosen all of the lug nuts before you raise the vehicle onto jack stands. Put wheels off to the side, away from your work area.
To replace a wheel speed sensor, you will need to remove the brake pads and rotors if they are in the way of your view. The bolt that holds the wheel speed sensor in place goes through the hub/knuckle.
After removing the bolt and any clips or hold-downs securing the wiring harness, unplug it and remove the old wheel speed sensor. Clean off any rust in the areas where the new sensor will be going with an emery cloth or sandpaper before installing it onto your vehicle.
To finish the job, install the wheel speed sensor and brake parts. First plug in the new connector, then route the harness back so it’s secured to the body/chassis. Insert it into the hub/knuckle. Work in reverse order of how you removed everything.
Jack the car up, remove the jack stands, and put it on the ground. Then tighten all of the lugs on the wheels with a ½ inch torque wrench. Most cars require 80 ft-lbs to 100 ft-lbs of torque, but SUVs and trucks usually require 90 ft-lbs to 120 ft-lbs.
If you replace your wheel speed sensor, the ABS and traction control lights should go out. If they don’t go out, take it to a certified mechanic to have them reset the vehicle’s computer. To test drive, go down a safe road where you can speed up and hit your brakes hard to try and engage your ABS.
Will a Misfire Cause the Traction Control Light to Come on?
If the traction control light comes on while you’re driving, it could mean that your car has a misfire. A misfire happens when one or more of the engine’s cylinders don’t get enough fuel or air. It can cause jerking or shaking when accelerating and often makes loud noises.
But if you have a misfire, these symptoms won’t occur every time you start up your vehicle—the acceleration may be fine some days but not others, depending on how much carbon builds up in the cylinders over time.
If this happens to you today (or if the TC light has been coming on for a while), take your car into an auto shop to find out what’s going on with it so that they can help fix it before anything more serious happens under the hood.
Is It Safe to Drive the Car if the Traction Control Warning is on?
No, it’s not safe to drive the car. You may think it’s safe to limp your way to a mechanic, but that isn’t always the case. If your car starts jerking and jumping at high speeds, you could crash into something or someone in front of you.
The longer you drive with the traction control light on, the more likely it is that something will go wrong and cause an accident.
If your traction control light comes on, pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so. Then, check to fix the problem as soon as possible.
Read: B58 Engine Reliability
The traction control warning light is a serious warning that should be taken seriously. If you see it come on, your car may not be safe to drive.
This is because the wheel sensor is bad and is the reason why the anti-brake lock is broken, the traction and stability control system is crippled, the speedometer stops working, the illumination of warning lights, and the brake pedal pulsates. The best thing to do is take it in for inspection and fix the problem right away.