How your car's traction control system works?

Article by Christian A., on September 19, 2018

Sometimes, a driver can’t help but drive through slippery roads and grounds. This is a dangerous situation, especially if the road conditions could really result to loss of traction. Nonetheless, a safety element called Traction Control has been very helpful to make a car more stable on slippery surfaces.

Carmakers around the world have managed to create their own recipe of traction control. Each version has been created to suit the character and performance of their different offerings. Nonetheless, every traction control system is designed to reduce the possibility of tire spin while increasing driving stability in poor weather, thereby making the car less likely to slide of spin.

Most, if not all, traction control systems are complex and are computer-operated. But without a doubt, a traction control allows drivers to be more confident even driving on slippery surfaces, like on wet roads.

An early version of traction control was already employed in the 1960s -- a system called a limited-slip rear differential. Usually fitted on powerful cars with rear-wheel drive systems, the limited-slip rear differential is essentially a mechanical device that can mechanically distribute more power to the rear wheel with more traction in a certain situation. This help reduce, but not totally get rid of wheelspin. Interestingly, a number of model performance-focused cars still employ limited-slip differentials.

Eventually, electronic traction control systems have started to become a norm among modern cars. Instead of mechanical workings, electronic traction control makes use of sensors – the same one used by the car’s antilock braking system or ABS. These sensors are designed to monitor the rotational speed of the wheels and can sense if one of more wheels is losing traction. Usually, it is the wheel which spin is faster than others that is losing traction. Once the sensors detects that one wheel is spinning faster than other, traction control would work to reduce that wheel’s rotational speed.

To bring a wheel to the same spinning speed as others, traction control may use the brakes on that wheel to slow down its rotation and reduce slip. There are traction control systems that also boost stability by reducing the amount of power sent from the engine to the slipping wheel. In this case, a number of sensors go to work, like wheel sensors and transmission speed sensors. Differential and gear sensors on rear wheel cars may also be employed.

When your car’s traction control system goes to work, you could feel the gas pedal pulsating or even hear weird sounds from the engine.

Both traction control and the ABS work to make a car more stable, but each has a purpose distinct from each other. For instance, the ABS works when the car is being halted, while traction control engages while the vehicle is being accelerated.

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