How to Disable Traction Control

by Richard Rowe
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In some ways, you have to wonder if the mere existence of traction control is a kind of tacit admission that machines are becoming better drivers than the humans they're stuck with. Then again, jet pilots regularly use computer-controlled fly-by-wire systems, and jets are awesome. But they don't have to deal with foot-deep snow, either, where traction control doesn't help.

"Off" Isn't "Off"

It used to be the case that traction and stability control systems had a simple "On/Off" button -- and some of them still do. The problem is that nowadays, with many systems, "Off" doesn't always mean that the system is completely turned off. More often now, systems allow a degree of selection in terms of how aggressive you want the traction control to be, but extreme tire spinning on ice, snow, mud and dry pavement will suddenly draw the system into play.

Is There an "Off?"

Even on vehicles where the "Off" button is a red herring, there's often a way to completely disable the TC. Different manufacturers use different methods; you can find yours in your owner's manual. But it will be something very deliberate, like holding the TC button down for five seconds, tapping it twice and holding it down for three seconds, turning the ignition key off before touching the button, etc. On many cars, it's as simple as pressing the "TCS" button on the dash, although it may seem backward. On these cars, the dash "TCS" light will come on when you turn the system off. Otherwise, your traction control system might have a separate fuse in the box, which you could pull to disable it. Beware, though -- TC systems tend to be integrated with others, like the stability control and anti-lock brakes.

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