What Does the Chevy Traction Control Light Mean?

If your Chevy’s traction control light turns on, it either means that the system is working as it should, or you’ve got a serious problem on your hands.
Written by Natalie Todoroff
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
If your Chevy traction control light briefly flashes while you’re driving in slippery conditions, that means it’s working as it should. But, if you notice that your traction control light won’t turn off, it can signal that there’s a broader underlying issue. 
Seeing a light turn on your dashboard is enough to ruin any driver’s morning—but what if it’s the traction control light? Check out your guide on everything you need to know about the traction control light, and some common reasons it malfunctions. 

Why your Chevy traction control light turns on

Typically, an
illuminated dashboard light
spells trouble—but that’s not necessarily the case with the traction control light. In fact, seeing this light blink on could mean the complete opposite: that everything in your Chevy is working as it should
Here’s the gist of how traction control systems work: they utilize sensors housed in the wheel bearing assemblies to track the speed of each wheel and watch for a loss of traction in dangerous driving conditions (think heavy rain and
When the sensors detect a problem, they send a signal to the traction control module, which then activates the brakes on the wheel in question to help you from skidding off the road. When the brakes are engaged, the
traction control (TCS) light
will briefly flash on your dashboard. In Chevys, this light looks like a car with wavy skid lines coming from the wheels. 
Chevy takes this one step further with their Stabilitrak system. In addition to an electronic stability control (ESC) like the one we described above, Stabilitrak also keeps an eye on the steering wheel position to help keep your Chevy driving in a straight line. Most newer Chevys utilize the Stabilitrak system, along with many Buick and GMC models. 
The traction control and Stabilitrak systems both have a lot of different moving parts. If one of these parts fails, the traction control light will turn on and stay on—different from when it briefly flashes during treacherous conditions. Let’s take a better look at some of the potential causes of a
traction control malfunction
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Temporary loss of traction

Seeing the traction control light blink on is completely normal in bad road conditions. If you’re driving through a monsoon or a blizzard, you can expect the light to blink on any time one of your wheels experiences a loss of traction. 
The real trouble comes when the light turns on and stays on. When this happens, it will typically be accompanied by other illuminated dashboard lights. If that happens, it’s best practice to bring your Chevy in to see a trusted mechanic for an

Traction control system is turned off 

When it comes to car repair, it’s helpful to remember Occam’s razor: that the simplest solution is often the correct one. It’s easy to accidentally
turn off your traction control system
by knocking the button near your lower dashboard or turn signal. So, before you book your mechanic appointment, first check and make sure that system is still on. 

Faulty wheel speed or steering wheel sensors

broken wheel speed sensor
is easily one of the most common reasons why your Chevy’s traction control light is staying on. The wheel sensors are housed on your Chevy’s wheels, and thus they’re exposed to everything your wheels are: every pothole, every bump in the road, and every bit of road debris. As such, they can wear out or break with time. 
Chevy’s Stabilitrak system also monitors the steering wheel. If the steering wheel sensor breaks down, that could also trigger the traction control light to stay on. 
Using an OBD-II scan tool can help you check for
trouble codes
that can identify the problem. If you discover that there’s a problem with your wheel speed sensors, it’s time to bring your Chevy in to see a mechanic.  

Anti-lock braking system (ABS) malfunction

You may not know it, but your Chevy’s
anti-lock brake system
and the traction control system are linked to the same control module. If your brake fluid is low or there’s a problem with your brake sensor, it will trigger the ABS system light in addition to the traction control light. 
If you see both of these lights lit up on your dash, you should bring your Chevy to your
local dealership
or to a repair shop to get it fixed. 

Broken TCS/ABS control module

This goes along with what we were saying earlier about the anti-lock brake system and the traction control system using the same control module. Both of those systems could be working just fine, but if the control module itself is having an issue, you’ll likely see the “service traction control” and check engine lights on your dashboard. 

Low tire pressure

Low tire pressure
is another popular reason why your TCS light won’t turn off. The wheels sensors are very sensitive and can sometimes interpret low tire pressure as a traction issue, which in turn causes the TCS light to turn on. 
If it’s just your TCS light that won’t turn off (meaning, it’s not accompanied by other dashboard lights), you should
check your tire pressure

Can you drive with the traction control light on? 

You can still drive your Chevy if the traction control light stays on, but just be extra careful in bad road conditions. 
To reiterate, it’s completely normal for the traction control light to briefly turn on if you’re driving on an icy or otherwise slippery road. But, if the traction control light turns on and stays on—especially if it’s accompanied by other dashboard lights—then you should take your Chevy to a mechanic as soon as you’re able to. 
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