Today traction control systems are available on many vehicles yet few people know what they do. If that includes you, don’t be too concerned, it’s a bit difficult to understand. The first thing to know is that traction control systems do not increase traction. Consider when you are stuck in the snow and one of your wheels is spinning. What you want your car to do is apply power to the stationary wheels so you can move forward. In a situation like this you need a four wheel drive (4WD) vehicle or an all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicle. These vehicles are designed to apply power to the wheels that have traction.
Traction control systems operate completely differently. They aren’t a system that comes into play when you are stuck. They come into play when you are accelerating. They prevent a vehicle that is losing traction during acceleration to gain it again. We know this is all a bit confusing so let’s look closer at how different traction controls work.
The old way
In the old days, cars and trucks had standard differentials and they were easy to get stuck. With these standard differentials, if a rear wheel was spinning, the other wheel would receive no power. It would just sit there while the wheel with no traction just slipped away. These standard differentials were terrible in the snow.
In the sixties, automotive engineers developed a primitive form of traction control called a limited slip differential. Sometimes referred to as Positraction, a limited-slip differential will transfer power to the rear wheel that isn’t spinning. This allows the vehicle to move. According to Chuck Patterson of Chico, a local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer in Chico, CA, many car makers use limited slip differentials in both front- and rear-drive vehicles today.
Automatic Braking Systems (ABS)
Another type of traction control are the ABS systems. ABS systems control wheel traction when you are stopping. The system has sensors on each wheel that sense how fast each wheel is spinning. When the system senses that one wheel is slowing down and the others aren’t, it assumes the decelerating wheel is losing traction and is slipping. It then lets up on the brake to that wheel via a solenoid so the tire can now rotate and gain traction again. This allows the driver to not only slow down by restoring traction to the wheel that is slipping.
Traction Control Systems (TCS)
Today we have another traction technology called Traction Control Systems. These systems control traction by sensing when a wheel is slipping when the car is accelerating. It does this via the same wheel-speed sensors used by the ABS. These sensors determine which tires are receiving power and which are slipping. When it determines that a wheel is slipping, it applies the brakes just a little so that it can gain traction again. Some traction-control systems also reduce engine power to the slipping wheels. On a few of these vehicles, drivers may sense pulsations of the gas pedal when the system is reducing engine power much like a brake pedal pulsates when the antilock braking system is working.