What is traction control, why would you want to turn it off and how to turn off traction control?








First off, what exactly is traction control?

It’s a safety feature. Abbreviated as TC, TCS, or TRAC.

Traction control systems are designed to assist the vehicle from losing traction. In other words, to stop the wheels from skidding/slipping/spinning. There are various methods in which traction controls systems do this. They either apply engine braking to reduce power to the wheels or apply the brakes on each wheel that is spinning. How does the vehicle know a wheel is slipping? There are various sensors on the vehicle that can detect a difference in each wheel speed and the speed the vehicle is actually moving at.

For example, say the vehicle is traveling at 30mph, however, one wheel starts to spin. That one wheel might now be doing 50mph. The sensors detect this and traction control will kick in to reduce the speed of that particular wheel.

When the system is actively applying the traction control system, the light will flash on your driver information display.


Flashing traction control light

Traction control light


So why on earth would you want to turn off a system that is designed to keep you safer?


Why would you turn off traction control?

When traveling up a steep icy hill, or when trying to get unstuck from snow/mud. When attempting to travel through deep snow or mud, reduced power may end up in the vehicle getting stuck. Reducing power or applying brakes to a spinning wheel(s) in these circumstances is counterintuitive.

These situations may require more momentum, so reducing the power is not good.

traction control off

When you might need traction control off in deep snow. Photo: L Baures

How to turn off traction control (TC) (TCS) (TRAC)

This may vary by the manufacturer of your vehicle.  If equipped, there should be a switch/button showing a picture of a car with wavy lines underneath.

Press this button to turn off traction control.


This should then display the light on the dash as a steady yellow light indicating the TC is now turned off.

On a Ford, depending on the year/model, either press and hold the traction control button or scroll through the menu using steering wheel controls on the instrument cluster. On the left-hand side of the steering wheel, press the back arrow (facing left), then scroll down (using down arrow) to get to ‘settings’. Select ‘ok’, then select ‘Driver Assist but pressing ‘ok’ again.’Traction Control’ will then appear, select ‘ok’ on the steering wheel again

For Volkswagen’s, turn the car onto accessory mode (ignition on but not engine). Push the button to turn on the hazard warning lights (triangle button), followed by pressing the gas pedal 5 times. After the vehicle moves 5ft, TC will automatically turn back on. This may not be possible on all VW’s.

Note, that sometimes this may also deactivate other safety features such as trailer sway control (if equipped).


This may turn off the traction control/stability control partially.


When the traction control button is pushed, this partially disengages the traction control, but stability control will still be active (which can also reduce power, apply braking).

Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, the traction control system may also be linked to other active safety systems such as ESC (Electronic Stability Control). Variations of these systems have different names depending on the manufacturers. various names include; VSC (Vehicle Stability Control), ASC (Active Stability Control) DSC (Dynamic Stability Control), ESP (Electronic Stability Program).


To turn off traction control and stability control systems fully

Note: “ESC “Full Off” mode is intended for off-highway or off-road use only. Major safety systems are not available when turned off. Not being in control of the vehicle may lead to death or serious injury. Some systems may automatically turn back on when a certain speed is reached (depending on the vehicle year make and model). 


Ford, Lincoln

Ford Traction control

Source: 2018 Ford F-150 Owners Manual



Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge Jeep, and RAM

Engine running and vehicle at a stop. Push and hold the ESC button for 5 seconds until you hear a chime. “ESC OFF” will be displayed on the instrument cluster.


Push and hold the VSC button for three seconds to turn off both TRAC and VSC. The TRAC OFF and VSC OFF indicators will appear.


To turn off both TCS and StabiliTrak, press and hold the button (car with wiggly lines) in the center stack until the TC and Traction Control lights illuminate in the instrument cluster and the appropriate DIC message displays. As per 2018 GMC Sierra owners manual. StabiliTrak/ESC will automatically turn on if the vehicle exceeds
56 km/h (35 mph). Traction control will remain off.


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