Using sensors, traction control monitors the drive wheels and if wheel-slip (wheelspin) is detected, the affected wheels are braked and slowed until traction is gained. Some cars also reduce engine power to the affected wheels.
For day-to-day driving, traction control will help pulling out of junctions – particularly beneficial where speed is crucial. Think busy junction on wet roads. Traction control also helps to maintain control on corners where wheel-slip of the drive wheels may occur.
For the average driver and for 99 percent of the time, traction control is hugely beneficial and should not be turned off. Even though the system is always on and monitoring (unless manually switched off), traction control will only ever intervene (or interfere depending on your opinion) when a loss of traction on the drive wheels is detected.
However, there are a few exceptions for why you would want to turn traction control off. You might want to consider turning traction control off when the system fails to do its job and no longer maintains traction.
Benefits of Turning Off Traction Control
The benefits of turning off traction control may include:
- Getting stuck in snow or mud
- Driving up an icy slope
- ‘Spirited’ driving
Getting Stuck in Snow or Mud
If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of getting stuck in snow or mud, traction control will do its best, but if there’s no traction to be found, then traction control is useless.
For these situations, using force might be your only option. If you’re having trouble moving off on snow, spinning the wheels will generate heat and will dig down into the snow until they hit something solid such as the road surface. This may generate a little traction, just enough to gain momentum to get you moving. This is only possible with traction control turned off.
If you find yourself stuck in a snow or mud hole, your only way out might be to rock the car back and forth by alternating between reverse and forward gear. Traction control will impede this action so turning it off is essential.
Driving up an Icy Slope
There are many variables here and it’s best to try ascending an icy slope using controlled moderate speed with traction control on. But if that fails, you may wish to switch traction control off and blast your way up the slope by spinning the wheels. Works for some, not so much for others.
If drifting, doing doughnuts and burnouts is your thing, then traction control will kill any chance of doing that. Turning it off is imperative here.