Toyotas are known for being reliable cars – but even the most reliable vehicles can experience problems from time to time. So when you’re driving your Toyota and see the TRAC OFF light appears on your dashboard, you may wonder if it’s a cause for concern. But while it sometimes is, it also doesn’t need to be. In many cases, it’s just due to a simple mistake.
In this article, we’ll explore the meaning of the TRAC OFF light, common causes why it turns on, but also practical steps on how to troubleshoot and fix the issue.
So whether you’re a Toyota owner looking to get to the bottom of this dashboard warning light or just want to learn more about this mysterious light, keep reading to find out more!
What Does the TRAC OFF light Mean?
The TRAC OFF light is a warning light that appears on the dashboard of your Toyota car. If this light comes on, it indicates that the traction control system has been deactivated due to a problem. However, if the TRAC off light is blinking, it means the system is engaging and trying to prevent the loss of traction.
Most modern vehicles are equipped with a traction control system (TCS), which is a safety feature that helps to improve traction and stability on slippery surfaces by applying the brakes to individual wheels and/or reducing engine power.
The TCS typically activates automatically when the vehicle senses that it is losing traction. But it can be deactivated by the driver if needed, such as when your car is stuck in snow or mud and you need to allow the wheels to spin.
However, if the engine control unit or traction control system registers a fault, such as a malfunctioning sensor or a computer issue, the TRAC OFF light comes on as a result of the system deactivating for safety reasons.
When this happens, you need to be aware that you may have reduced control over the car’s traction. In some cases, the TRAC OFF light may also be accompanied by other warning lights on the dashboard, such as the check engine light or the ABS (Anti-lock brake system) light. Which often indicates that there’s a problem with one or more of these systems.
The appearance of the TRAC OFF light can vary depending on the model of your car, and it may be accompanied by the letters “TC” or an image of a vehicle with lines bending opposite of the tires.
What Causes TRAC OFF light to Come on?
The most common reason for a TRAC OFF light is simply due to the button being pressed by mistake. However, if the TRAC OFF light comes on together with a check engine light or other warning lights, such as the VCS OFF light or slip indicator, it indicates there may be a malfunction in the traction control system.
These are just a few of many reasons why the light may come on. So before diving into troubleshooting and fixing the issue, let’s first take a closer look at the most common causes.
1. Poor Road Conditions
Let’s start with the most obvious cause, which is if the wheels of your vehicle are actually slipping. But if this is the case, you should notice the slip indicator or traction control light blinking and only come on temporarily as you occasionally can lose traction if you drive on poor or slippery road conditions, such as snowy or icy roads.
However, if this applies to your situation, it’s perfectly normal. But you might want to be a little more careful on the accelerator.
If the Traction Control System (TRAC) has been manually turned off, whether by intention or by accidentally pressing the button labeled “TCS” or “TRAC,” you may notice the TRAC OFF light illuminating on your dashboard as a warning.
The TRAC OFF indicator light serves as a reminder that the traction control system is not active, which can impact the stability and traction of your vehicle. This light will then continue to illuminate until the traction control system is manually turned back on or the issue causing it to be turned off is resolved.
In many cases, manually turning off the traction control system also deactivates the VSC system and vice versa. This means you may also see a VSC warning symbol on your dashboard, such as a picture of a vehicle sliding on the road with the word “OFF” displayed. However, to turn the system back on, simply press the button again.
3. Wheel Speed Sensor Issues
The wheel speed sensors in your car play a vital role in the proper functioning of your vehicle. These sensors, located at each wheel, are responsible for measuring the rotational speed of each wheel and sending this data to the ECM (engine control unit) and the traction control system. With this data, these systems quickly notice if traction has been lost and will, as a result, engage to maintain the proper level of traction and stability while driving.
But if there is a failure with any of these sensors, the system may receive inaccurate data, which can lead to the traction control system shutting off for safety reasons, triggering the TRAC OFF light.
4. Faulty Steering Angle Sensor
In order for you to maintain traction, controlling the direction of the wheels and, as a result, the direction in which the car travels is imperative. But while many parts in the steering system help you do this with ease, a faulty or misaligned steering angle sensor is the component most known for causing the TRAC OFF or VCS OFF light to come on.
This sensor, found at the steering wheel, determines the intended direction of the vehicle and ensures that the steering wheel and the car’s wheels are properly aligned. If the traction control system registers a fault, it can cause the light to pop up on your dashboard. The good news is that this sensor sometimes just needs to be recalibrated.
5. Faulty ABS Control Module
The ABS control module acts as the brain of the anti-lock brake system, constantly running diagnostic checks and processing information from the wheel-speed sensors and other components.
When the ABS system is functioning properly, it helps to prevent your wheels from locking up during sudden stops or slippery road conditions, allowing you to maintain control of your vehicle and stop safely.
However, if there are issues with the ABS control module, it can cause problems with the overall functioning of the system.
This system is also closely connected to your vehicle’s traction control system. So if there is a malfunction with the ABS control module, you may also see the traction control system shutting off and the TRAC OFF light illuminating.
There could be a problem with the power supply to the module, or the software may not be working properly.
6. Malfunctioning Computer Unit
In today’s modern vehicles, computers are responsible for managing everything from the engine and transmission to the braking and traction control systems.
If there is a malfunction with the computer that controls the TCS, the TRAC OFF light may be illuminated on the dashboard as a warning. However, suppose the TRAC OFF light is on due to computer issues; you will likely notice other symptoms or dashboard lights since the computer is connected to many systems within the vehicle.
So if there are no other warning lights or symptoms, it’s unlikely that this is the cause.
How Do You Fix a TRAC OFF Light?
Now that you know the most common causes of why your Toyota TRAC OFF indicator is on, you’ll want to know how you fix it. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Turn the System Back on
The first and most obvious thing to do is to make sure the TRAC system wasn’t turned off by mistakenly pushing the button marked with “TRAC” or the icon of a car with diagonal lines coming off of it.
Simply push either of the buttons to turn it back on. In many Toyota vehicles, the TRAC button is located to the left of the steering wheel or in the center dashboard console. If this doesn’t work, go on to the next step.
2. Restart Your Vehicle
By simply restarting your vehicle, you may be able to reset the system and turn off the light. However, note that this it’s not a guaranteed solution even if the light turns off for now. It’s therefore important to address the underlying issue to prevent it from coming back.
3. Check for Trouble Codes
If steps one and two didn’t do the trick, I recommend using an OBD2 reader (also called a diagnostic scanner or scan tool) to find the specific trouble code that triggered the warning light to kick on. This great scanning tool will let you read the diagnostic trouble codes stored in your car’s error memory and can help identify the fault.
OBD2 scanners are easy to use, and the good news is most auto repair shops will let you borrow one for free. But if you wish to buy one yourself, they are often sold at affordable prices.
4. Take Your Car to a Mechanic
If you’re unsure how to read the trouble codes or can’t figure out the problem, we recommend taking your vehicle to a professional mechanic. Naturally, this will come with an increased price tag, but the mechanic will be able to diagnose and quickly get the job done, as they work with this kind of repair on a daily basis.
How Much Does It Cost to Fix a TRAC OFF light?
If the warning light is on because of a problem in the traction control system, expect to pay anywhere from $100 up to $1000 or more to fix it. This, of course, depends on the cause since replacing a sensor is usually relatively inexpensive compared to fixing or replacing a malfunctioning control module or computer.
For a wheel speed sensor replacement, you can expect to pay around $200 and $250. A steering angle sensor replacement is around $250 to $350.
While an ABS control module can range from about $300 to over $1000, replacing an engine control module normally ranges to the higher end of $1300 or more.
Note that these are rough estimates and the cost can vary greatly depending on the car model, vehicle age, auto repair shop, and other factors, such as where you live.
Can I Drive My Car If the TRAC OFF Light is On?
Yes, you can drive your car with the TRAC OFF light on. However, driving with a malfunctioning traction control system can increase the risk of a vehicle accident, especially in slippery or unstable driving conditions. Therefore, if your Toyota TRAC OFF light comes on, it is important to address the issue as soon as possible.
In the meantime, you should drive with caution and be prepared for the possibility of reduced traction and stability. It may also be necessary to adjust driving habits, such as reducing speed and avoiding sudden acceleration or braking, until the issue is resolved.
Can Low Tire Pressure Cause Traction Control Light to Come On?
Yes, low tire pressure can occasionally cause the traction control light to come on, even though it’s not very likely. This sometimes happens if the system senses that the wheels are spinning unevenly fast and therefore think they are losing traction. If this is the case, simply inflate the tires to the same pressure to solve the problem.
Is It Safe to Drive With TRAC OFF Light on?
While traction control systems are a common safety feature on modern vehicles to help prevent the loss of traction, not all cars are equipped with them. So to answer if it is safe to drive with the TRAC OFF light on usually comes down to the driving conditions, such as if you’re driving on icy and snowy roads.
The Conclusive Conclusion
If you see the TRAC OFF light on your dashboard while driving your Toyota, don’t panic! It just means that your traction control system, which helps keep your wheels from spinning out on slippery roads, is currently inactive. This can be caused by a number of things, such as pressing the button by mistake, poor road conditions, or problems with your wheel speed sensors or ABS system. Don’t worry, though – there are steps you can take to fix it, or at least to troubleshoot the issue.
And remember, the traction control system is a safety feature, so it’s important to only turn off the traction control system when you absolutely need to, as it’s there to improve your control over the car’s traction.