Fuel for Thought

Get A Grip

By Greg Huggins
Posted Apr 22nd 2024 6:49AM

Most, if not all, newer trucks have a traction control button or switch on the dash. Do you know why it is there? Do you know why it is there? Do you know when to use it properly?

If you have an ATC (Automatic Traction Control) switch or button on your dash, it is generally in the “OFF” position. Why? Because your ATC is exactly that, Automatic. The switch, although in the “OFF” position is actually always “ON”. Flipping the switch will turn it “OFF”.

A truck equipped with ATC will always be “ON” so that in the event of a loss of traction, the truck will automatically reduce power to the wheel(s) that lose traction (spin) to help the vehicle regain traction. If you have ever seen the “WHEEL SPIN” light illuminate on your dash, this is the Automatic Traction Control (ATC) in action.

So why would they put a switch on the dash to turn off the ATC? If it is correcting the loss of traction automatically, why would you ever need to turn it off?

Have you ever noticed your ATC switch might read “DEEP MUD/SNOW ? As described above, the ATC senses when loss of traction occurs and adjusts the power to the wheel or wheels that spin. This works well when you are driving and hit a slick spot. If you are stuck in a spot (not moving) and just spinning your wheel(s), ATC will reduce power, thus preventing you from getting out of that spot. Turning off the ATC via the dash switch can allow the vehicle to gain traction in many cases. Whether it is mud, snow, ice or even wet organic materials like wet leaves or wet pine straw, turning off the ATC may help. When you turn off ATC in this situation, the vehicle will NOT reduce power to the wheels that are spinning, thus giving you full power to spin down to a solid surface to regain traction, or just to be able to spin your way out of the spot you found yourself in.

Automatic Traction Control is a great tool to aid you when you are already rolling, but there are many instances when turning it off to get rolling from a stopped position can be the difference between getting rolling and getting a wrecker to pull you out. The switch is there on the dash for a reason, use it accordingly. 

The next time you find yourself in a slippery situation, first, don’t panic, use the tools at your disposal. I often hear drivers telling others who are stuck to put some traction material under the wheels, and this may be needed and can work well, but I cannot recall anyone ever asking if they have turned off ATC to gain power for traction.

Hopefully this will bring some attention to this feature that it seems few use or use correctly. It does not always work, but it can in many instances get you rolling forward. 

Like everyone else, I've had moments when I've felt that I've been losing my grip. 

-  Russell Crowe

See you down the road,