Traction control is a system used in automobiles to help limit the amount that tires slip when drivers are accelerating on slippery surfaces. Before traction control existed, drivers needed to either accelerate slowly or depress the gas pedal in increments in order to avoid having their tires spin rapidly on a slippery road. Today, most vehicles use electronic controls to manipulate the speed of tires during acceleration. Here is a breakdown of how traction control works.
History of Traction Control
In the sixties, many cars had powerful rear-drive that employed a basic form of traction control called "limited slip" or Positraction. This type of system helped to mechanically transfer power to the back wheel that had the most traction. This helped to lower the amount of wheel spin but not eliminate it altogether. Limited slip rear axles continue to be used in some cars today but most automobile manufacturers offer more sophisticated traction control in their vehicles.
Electronic Traction Control
In most modern vehicles, drivers will find traction control systems that use wheel-speed sensors. These speed sensors are connected to the anti-lock braking system and can determine if the spinning wheels of the car have lost traction. If the sensors find that one wheel of the car is spinning more quickly than others, it will apply intermittent pressure to the brake of that wheel in order to control the amount it is slipping. Usually, pumping the break of one individual wheel is enough to control traction.
Reducing Engine Power
On some vehicles, traction control systems will also limit the amount of engine power to the slipping wheels. With these cars, drivers will actually feel the sensation of the gas pedal being pumped while the power is being limited and then applied. It's the same action as the way a brake pedal pumps up and down when the anti-lock brake system starts working.
Traction in Snow
Many drivers encounter traction difficulty when driving in snow - especially when starting their cars and attempting to pull out of a snowy spot. Traction control doesn't help with this type of driving. It doesn't increase traction on slippery areas, it simply tries to prevent a car from skidding out when the wheels are on slippery surfaces. This means it will help drivers who are navigating snowy roads by evening out the traction in the wheels but it won't make tires automatically be able to move forward on snowy surfaces.
Advantages of Traction Control
Traction control is an important safety feature on cars. It makes it much safer to drive in inclement weather conditions when a car is more prone to hydroplaning, which can lead to serious accidents. It makes driving more smooth and pleasant for the driver and passengers. Drivers with traction control on their cars can also often receive discounts for this safety feature on their auto insurance and they have also added safety value to insurers. Having a car with up-to-date traction control provides drivers with added peace of mind.