How Traction Control Works

by Neal Litherland

Traction Control

A traction control system, as the name might imply, is built to make certain that the friction between the tires and the road is always optimal. Traction control deals primarily with a vehicle's acceleration, and the system is sort of reverse engineered from anti-lock brakes. When a person brakes too hard, the anti-lock brakes take over and apply a more appropriate braking pressure to stop skidding and maintain safety. Traction control works on acceleration, so that if a person presses the gas pedal too hard and the wheels begin to lose their grip, the traction control system will intervene and re-establish that grip with a better acceleration.


A traction control system is attached to the wheels that accelerate on a vehicle, whether it's front, back or all-wheel drive. There is a sensor attached to the gas pedal, which translates the position it's in to an electrical signal. This signal is sent to another sensor, which is located on the wheels. The sensor on the wheels has the ability to maintain a control over that wheel. The go between for these two sensors is the control unit, which monitors the status of the wheels and the sensors. It's basically the brain of the traction control system, and it tells the sensors and their component parts what to do based on the information it's fed.


All of these parts work together in fractions of a second. Take the above example of someone speeding up too fast from a dead stop and put them on wet pavement. The slick asphalt doesn't have enough traction, and the wheels begin to slip. The sensors on the wheels shoot this information to the control unit. The control unit sees that too much gas is being applied, and it automatically applies a braking force to slow the wheel until it can grip better. In this way, the system helps a car maintain its grip on the road, which helps keep the driver and passengers safer.

About the Author

Neal Litherland is an author, blogger and occasional ghostwriter. His experience includes comics, role playing games and a variety of other projects as well. He holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Indiana University, and resides in Northwest Indiana.

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