If you’ve ever driven a car in slippery conditions, you’ve probably seen the traction control light come on at some point. And most times, it’s perfectly normal, but what does it mean if the traction control light won’t turn off?
Fortunately, we’ve dealt with this problem on many cars before, and we know what usually causes the problem and also how to fix it. So keep reading because in this post you’ll learn everything you need to know when a traction control light won’t turn off.
Let’s get into it!
What Does the Traction Control Light Mean?
The traction control system (TCS) is a safety feature that helps the driver maintain control and stability of the vehicle by preventing loss of traction. The traction control does this by monitoring the speed of each wheel with electronic sensors and works by reducing power to the wheel that is slipping.
Under normal circumstances, the light should be off. But if the light is flashing or blinking, it means the system is working and engaging. However, a solid traction control light that won’t turn off indicates that there is a problem with the system and that it’s not working as it should – or at all.
Here are four potential situations where the traction control light may illuminate:
- When starting the car: When you turn the key to start your vehicle, the dashboard warning lights should illuminate for 2 to 3 seconds and then go off, including the traction control light. It’s called a bulb check and makes sure all systems are safe and ready to go.
- When there’s a loss of traction and the system engages: If your car’s computer senses that one or more of the wheels is spinning faster than the others, the traction control system will engage and illuminate a flashing/blinking traction control light on the dashboard to notify you about this.This is common when you’re driving on slippery surfaces like snow or ice, or when you’re trying to accelerate too quickly.
- When the TCS is manually turned off: On most cars, there’s a button to turn off the traction control manually. When this button is pressed, you’ll notice the traction control light illuminate with a solid light.
- When your car senses a problem in the system: If the traction control light won’t turn off such as when your standing still or carefully driving without any wheels slipping. Chances are that the ECU picks up incorrect readings, most likely because of faulty sensors, and that’s why the light pops up on your dashboard.
Why Your Traction Control Light Won’t Turn Off
A traction control light that won’t turn off either means that the system is deactivated or that there’s a problem with a component not operating within acceptable limits. The most common reasons for this are a faulty steering angle sensor, a faulty wheel speed sensor, wiring issues, or car programming issues.
In simple terms, the traction control light won’t turn off because the system still senses an issue that is not yet fixed. If the light is flashing even though your wheels aren’t losing traction, you have a serious issue and shouldn’t keep driving until it’s fixed.
Possible Causes Why the Traction Control Light Won’t Turn Off
There are a few possible causes of the problem with the traction control light not turning off. Here we’ve listed the most common for you:
1. Your TCS System Is Turned Off
We’ll start with the easiest cause to fix. Almost every vehicles have a button that allows you to deactivate the traction control manually. Most of the time, this button is located on the center console near the gear shift lever.
You may have done so by mistake if you don’t remember turning it off yourself. So try to find the button and give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, it was well worth a try. Go on to the next possible cause.
2. You Have Faulty Wheel Speed Sensors
Wheel speed sensors are located at each of the four wheels and measure how fast the wheels are moving. With the help of these electronic sensors, it provides data and information to the electronic control module (ECM). And if it senses that traction has been lost, the traction control system will engage and help you maintain control of the car.
But if the ECM receives incorrect readings, it will respond by illuminating the lamp, and you won’t be able to turn off the traction control light until the problem is fixed or the wheel speed sensor is replaced.
The average wheel speed sensor replacement cost is around $200 to $250 per wheel.
3. You Have a Faulty Steering Angle Sensor
Another common cause is a faulty steering angle sensor. This sensor is located at your steering wheel and is responsible for providing information to the ESC about the angle of the steering input and how fast the steering wheel is being turned.
With this data, the ESC module can then determine where the driver wants to steer and ensure the steering wheel is accurate and matches the car’s wheels.
When the TCS light doesn’t turn off due to a faulty steering angle sensor sending incorrect readings, it either means it has to be replaced or needs a reset. Hopefully, it only needs a reset, and you may be able to re-calibrate it by following these steps:
- Park your vehicle and turn the ignition on.
- Center the steering wheel.
- Turn the steering wheel two times to the right until it locks.
- Do the same to the left.
- Center the steering wheel.
If it doesn’t work, it might require a diagnostic tool, or the sensor has to be replaced.
A steering angle sensor usually costs between $120 and $250, and the labor costs average at $80 to $250.
5. There’s a Wiring or Electrical Issue
This cause might be less likely than a faulty sensor. But over the years, I’ve worked on a few cars where a broken wire was the culprit.
Because of the harsh environment in the wheel housing, you’ll probably find the damage close to the wheel speed sensor if you’re dealing with faulty wiring. However, troubleshooting broken wires can be one of the more difficult things to do.
6. Faulty ABS module
If both the ABS and Traction Control lights illuminate, it might be due to a failing control module. While they are two different systems, they sometimes share the same control module to process information from the wheel speed sensors.
There could be a problem with the power supply to the module or that the system is malfunctioning because of a software issue.
7. Driving or Weather Conditon
Driving or weather conditions are NOT reasons your traction control light won’t turn off, which some people might tell you.
Sure, if the traction control system is constantly engaging because your wheels are constantly slipping, the light will illuminate with a blinking light. But I am positive your wheels are not slipping every single second of your drive.
Instead, the light should go out immediately or shortly after the wheel stops slipping, and if it doesn’t, then the issue is likely any of the causes we listed above.
Now that you know a little more about the potential reasons why the traction control light won’t turn off, you want to make sure that you diagnose the problem before replacing parts, so you don’t end up wasting time and money. So here are a few troubleshooting tips:
- Make sure the traction control system is NOT turned off.
- Try to recalibrate the steering angle sensor manually.
- Check for trouble codes with an OBDII reader.
If step one or two didn’t do the trick, I recommend you either borrow or buy an OBDII code reader to find the specific trouble codes that are stored in your car’s error memory.
This will tell you what component is not operating within acceptable limits and sometimes even the location of the failing component. But don’t worry; many auto repair shops will offer to diagnose or let you borrow an OBDII reader for free.
But if you wish to buy one, the good news is that OBDII readers are very affordable. And if you’re a DIY mechanic that fixes minor car repairs on your own, you’ll not regret buying one.
How To Turn off Traction Control Light After Fixing the Problem
Once you have fixed the cause of the light, it should go out on its own. However, in some cases, you may need to access your car’s onboard diagnostic system with a code reader and clear error codes that may still be stored. But once that’s done, the light should go out.
What to Do If You Can’t Fix The Problem Yourself
While some of you may be able to fix these issues on your own, others will require the help of a professional, and it’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re having trouble identifying or fixing the problem yourself, make sure to take your car to a mechanic, they should be able to help figure out what’s happening.
Driving with a traction control light on isn’t necessarily dangerous, but since it’s a safety function of your vehicle, it shouldn’t be ignored. In the meantime, if you are driving in slippery weather conditions, you might have to control a potential loss of traction yourself.
The traction control light coming on isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm, but it’s important to understand what it means and how to fix the problem if it comes up. By following these steps, you should be able to get your car back in working order in no time!