What To Do About a Traction Control Malfunction in Your Car

A traction control malfunction can indicate a faulty traction-control system. Try restarting your car or take it to a mechanic to get fixed.
Written by Payton Ternus
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
If your car experiences a traction control malfunction, there may be an issue with the traction-control system—especially if your tires are slipping and sliding on the road!
It’s important to get this checked out as soon as possible—a problem with your cars traction can be dangerous for both you and other drivers on the road. 
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What is a traction control malfunction?

A traction control malfunction occurs when the traction-control system in your car doesn’t work properly or stops functioning altogether. The traction-control light (TCL) usually comes on when the system is working by maintaining traction on a slippery surface. 
When the traction-system malfunctions, your car won’t be able to maintain traction and the system can become deactivated. When this happens, it is hazardous to be on the road, since your car could slip and slide around.

What does a traction control malfunction look like?

The traction-control light can appear in one of two ways. Watch for these symbols on your dashboard:
  • The illuminated letters “TC”
  • A symbol of a car with lines bending away from its tires
If the traction-control light appears and is accompanied by the red brake-warning light and the anti-lock braking system light, the entire braking system in your car is affected. Your car is not safe to drive, and needs to be towed to a mechanic.

What does a traction control malfunction mean?

The traction-control light usually turns on when the traction-control system is working properly in inclement weather. If you’re driving in rain, snow, or ice and the light is illuminated, the system is functioning as it should. It may flicker on and off, but that is normal.
If the traction-control light comes on in fair weather conditions, there’s a problem with the system. You need to pull over at a safe spot and restart your car to troubleshoot the issue.
If the traction-control light intermittently blinks on and off, the system may be starting to deteriorate. This is usually caused by failing wheel-speed sensors, which sends an alert to your car’s computer when the wheels lose traction. A blinking light can also mean the traction-control system isn’t fully functioning, so be careful driving in poorer weather.
If the traction-control light illuminates and doesn’t blink, the traction-control system has been deactivated. The computer in your car won’t be able to tell when your wheels lose their traction.

How to stop a traction control malfunction

If the traction-control light illuminates while you’re driving in good weather, pull over at a safe location to restart your car. If there was an anomaly that triggered the light, restarting your car should fix it. If the light stays on, you need to take it to a mechanic. 
It’s important to fix traction control malfunctions immediately for the safety of you and those around you. You will need to take your car to a mechanic to get it fixed as soon as you notice any problems. If the entire braking system has been affected like we discussed above, do not drive it to the shop—have it towed for your safety.

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A traction control malfunction means your car’s traction-control system is not working properly or has been deactivated. 
A traction control malfunction could possibly be accompanied by issues with the anti-lock braking system.
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