How To Reset Traction Control Light? Here’s How

So, the traction control light is on in your car and you don’t want it to be? Well, you’ve come to the right place because in this article we’ll teach you not only what the light is for, but what the related system is and how to reset the traction control light.

Furthermore, we will tell you about some of the history of this system and how it functions.

What is Traction Control and What Does It Do?

All modern cars are equipped with a Traction Control System (TCS) or an Electronic Stability Control (ESC), as it is also known. It is an important safety feature that helps prevent traction loss which can send your car slipping, sliding, and skidding while driving. It also helps keep the car under control at high speeds by either applying brake pressure to the wheels or reducing engine power.

The Traction Control System functions by using a wheel rotation speed sensor. If one, a few, or all of the wheels are spinning too fast, the sensor alerts the system that there has been a loss of traction (AKA wheelspin is happening).

Car driving on snow.

Then, the traction control system will kick in, reducing the fuel supply to one or more cylinders, reducing or suspending the spark sequence in one or more of the cylinders, limiting the turbocharger, or closing the throttle, to list a few examples of how it may work.

If a driver does not wish to reduce engine power or to slow their car down for one reason or another, they can switch the TCS off, usually by pressing a button in the cabin.

Note: Driving with your TCS light on is acceptable, but not advisable. It won’t stop your car from driving, but it will hurt its performance, or in the case that the light is turned on because the TCS is switched off, it can be unsafe to drive, especially on wet roads. Please perform the required maintenance on your vehicle and stay safe!

How To Reset Traction Control Light

1.     Give Your Car A Test Drive

Woman driving a car.

Just drive your car for a few minutes. Certain kinds of maintenance can lead your car to turn on the traction control light (replacing the battery, ECU tuning, replacing brakes, suspension replacement).

Don’t panic – this is just the car running self-check tests. Carefully drive around, and do some turns left and right, when the car is done checking itself, the light should turn off on its own.

2.     Try Driving More Carefully

If you normally drive fast or do a lot of sharp turns or are a fan of sliding your car sideways, this can lead to your TCS light turning on. TCS can also turn on if you are driving very quickly downhill. So, try driving more carefully and slower than normal.

TCS is, first and foremost, a safety feature, so if it’s turning on – you may be driving unsafely. In either case, remember to buckle up and take your time. It’s always better to get somewhere late than to crash your car, the saying “better late than never” exists for a reason.

3.     Turn the TCS on

A car dashboard with warning signs.

The TCS light will usually light up and remain on if the TCS is turned off. Take a few minutes when you aren’t driving to find the button that says “TCS”, “ETS”, “DTC”, or “ESC” on it sometimes it will have a picture of a skidding vehicle on it.

Press and hold that button for a few seconds and then check if the light is turned off. You might have accidentally bumped this button or switch while you were driving or getting in or out of the car.

Some cars, like the 2021 Subaru Impreza, have a special light on the dashboard that indicates that TCS is turned off, so look for that on your dashboard as well.

4.     Make Sure That Your Tires and Wheels Are Alright

If your car’s tires are of different sizes or different types, it may lead to them gripping the road differently and making them spin at different speeds, which can set off the traction control system. Make sure that all of your tires are of the correct kind and size for your car, and make sure that they have been rotated at the right time.

Also, check that you have the correct specified air pressure in your tires. Additionally, check that lug nuts (or lug bolts, if you’re a euro car driver) are tightened to specifications of your car. This is an important safety concern.

5.     Check and replace ABS system control module

ABS or anti-lock braking system is another safety feature that modern vehicles have (it also prevents your car from skidding). The ABS and TCS share a lot of the same parts and sensors, so it makes sense that if one is malfunctioning, it could be messing up the other one as well.

To find out if your car is experiencing an ABS malfunction, you need to run an OBD2 system scan, as described in the paragraph above. Often, you will also see your ABS light turn on as well. You can replace your ABS control module on your own by ordering a factory replacement part, which can range pretty drastically in price, depending on your car.

Having your ABS control module replaced at a mechanics’ shop will run you on average $1000 to $1200 (again, this can vary widely, depending on what car you have).

6.     TCS Needs To Be Reprogrammed

Auto mechanic testing car’s ECU using a laptop.

There might be an issue with the TCS itself, requiring it to be reprogrammed. The cause for this can be some kind of sensor malfunction or an error in the ECU. Unfortunately, this isn’t a sort of thing that you can really do at home unless you have the equipment that a dealership or mechanics’ shop does.

Taking it to a mechanics’ shop or dealership for reprogramming will run you somewhere in the ballpark of $150 to $250 for diagnostic and labor time.

7.     Conduct a System Scan

If none of the above seems to be the issue you can actually do a proper system scan right at home! You can purchase Bluetooth OBD2 scanners that you can then hook up to your phone and use to scan your car for issues, the scanners also often come with their own app that you’ll have to download on your phone.

Every modern car comes with an OBD2 port, usually located somewhere in the cabin under the steering wheel. Plug your scanner into the port, hook it up to your phone via Bluetooth, and run a scan.

Many OBD2 scanner apps nowadays come with databases that can tell you exactly what any code means. This might give you insight into what the exact issue is and may help you direct the mechanic’s attention to the probable cause of the light being on.

Common Reasons for the Traction Control Light to Illuminate

Though we’ve already mentioned a few reasons why the TCS light might turn on, they have only been passing mentioned. In this section, we’ll take a more in-depth look at why the light might turn on in the first place.

1.     TCS Is Turned Off

If your TCS light is on, it means that something is up with the TCS. It could be just as simple as it was turned off. You may have accidentally bumped the button in the cabin while driving or getting in or out of your vehicle.

Don’t worry, just look for the button and turn it back on. The problem could be worse, though. Perhaps, somewhere in the wiring, the contact that is responsible for turning the TCS on/off is damaged or malfunctioning.

If this is the case, you probably want to take the car to a mechanic. This will cost you somewhere from $100 to $200, for labor and diagnostics. This latter case, however, is pretty unlikely.

2.     Adverse Driving Conditions

The most common issue for TCS to turn on is that the driving conditions are rough. This includes rain, ice, snow, difficult terrain (potholes, bumps, ditches, divots), gravel, dirt, or sand roads. All of these conditions can lead to your car’s wheels losing traction with the road and spinning too quickly, notifying the TCS that it needs to stabilize the car.

This isn’t anything to be worried about, though. In fact, it’s a good sign! It means that the safety systems of the car are doing their job – keeping the car controllable and keeping you safe.

Expert Tip: The best way to prevent this? Try to limit your time driving in adverse weather conditions or on bad roads, if it is beyond your driving ability. Additionally, when driving in such conditions, try to limit pressing on the gas pedal, excessive throttling can lead to wheelspin and loss of traction.

3.     Aggressive Driving

Car driving fast.

If you are a fan of motorsports or aggressive driving – your driving style may make the TCS in your car turn on. Putting the pedal to the metal from a standstill can cause the wheels of your car to slip on the road, leading the TCS to kick in to make sure the car actually accelerates instead of burning rubber in place.

TCS also works when accelerating on wet or slippery roads, forcing the wheels to grip the road better for better, more even acceleration. This acceleration-improving function of TCS has actually been a point of controversy in motorsports, most notably in Formula One and NASCAR racing. So, remember – save the racing for the track, when you’re on public roads, drive carefully and safely.

4.     Fast Cornering

TCS is often used in modern cars to help improve performance when cornering. If too much throttle is applied when turning, this can lead the driven wheels to slip, losing traction with the road. This leads to understeer in front-wheel-drive vehicles and oversteer in rear-wheel-drive vehicles.

TCS is also utilized in performance or sport vehicles – allowing for optimal entry into a turn and acceleration out of a turn by keeping the tires of the car in an optimal slip ratio. In any case, if you are turning too quickly or while pressing the gas pedal too hard, the TCS light may turn on.

To stop this from happening, ease up on the gas pedal when you turn, this will not only keep the TCS from turning on, but it will provide for a safer and more pleasant driving experience.

5.     Drift Prevention

Yes, we all know, drifting looks really, really cool. However, it’s also very risky and unsafe for most drivers. That’s why auto manufacturers use TCS to prevent the slipping of rear wheels which sends cars into a drift.

When the TCS detects that the rear wheels of the car are slipping, it kicks in and prevents them from doing so, preventing the car from entering a drift. The TCS light will also turn on in this case. This is an important safety feature for cars.

Drifting should only be done on special courses designed for that kind of driving, please refrain from pulling such dangerous stunts on public roads.

6.     Wheel Speed and/or Steering Angle Sensor Miscalibration

If your car’s wheel speed sensor or steering angle sensors aren’t calibrated correctly, this may lead to the TCS turning on because it thinks that your car’s wheels have lost traction with the road when they have not.

The wheel speed sensor could be at fault or it could also be a faulty steering angle sensor. Replacing a sensor or sensor group can be quite expensive (multiple thousands of dollars for new parts and labor costs), so investigate all alternative causes before trying this.

7.     Faulty Sensor Wiring

Auto electrician repairing car wiring.

More likely than the sensors being at fault is the wiring being faulty. Wheel speed sensor wires are most often exposed to the elements, as they are near the wheels and suspension, so they could be damaged or corroded.

Check to see if those wires are intact because it could just be as simple as replacing a wire or two which is a lot cheaper than buying all-new wheel speed and steering angle sensors.

8.     Too Much Air Pressure in Tires

If your tires have too much air in them, they can lose traction with the road and spin too fast, activating the TCS. This is prevalent, especially on gravel or dirt roads. Additionally, having too much air pressure in a tire can make it more prone to damage from road hazards. So, make sure you have the right amount of air in your tires.

Why Is the Traction Control Light Coming On?

Most likely, the TCS light is on because the system is doing its job. It’s a good thing, too – the traction control system is a vital safety feature of modern vehicles. If your vehicle was manufactured after 2012 – it must have a traction control system, but there have been manufacturers (Buick, Cadillac, Toyota, Mercedes) that have included TCS in their cars since the 1970s and 80s.

If you have a car like that, don’t be surprised by the presence of a TCS light. So, if the light only turns on periodically when driving conditions are rough -don’t worry, the car is doing its job. However, if it is on all the time, or there are problems with the traction control system – don’t ignore them.

The TCS is a very important safety feature of your car. Most of the most probable issues can be fixed on your own, but if you don’t feel comfortable doing your own repairs, if you aren’t car savvy or don’t have experience maintaining and repairing them, then it’s best that you let a professional handle this one, seeing as most of the repairs aren’t that expensive.


As you have probably learned from reading this article – the traction control system is a complex and important feature of modern and even some classic cars. The reasons for the TCS light turning on are many and varied from it just doing its job, to something being wrong so make sure that you check thoroughly to find the reason for it being on.

The traction control system is designed and implemented for your safety and the driver. It is not just an optional feature the failure or defect of which can be taken lightly. However, there are situations where it can be appropriate to turn the TCS off.

For example, if your car is stuck in mud or snow, turning the TCS off and letting one wheel spin, instead of two wheels by applying limited force, can help push the vehicle forward enough to get it unstuck. However, outside of such circumstances, it is a good idea to keep the system turned on at all times.

Here’s a parting fun fact about the history of TCS: The first car manufacturer to put TCS (the system was called MaxTrac) on their cars was Buick, equipping their Riviera, Estate Wagon, Electra 225, Centurion, and LeSabre models with the system as an exclusive option in 1971.

Thank you very much for reading How To Reset Traction Control Light! Stay safe out on the road and safe travels!

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About Brock Rangel

Hi, I am Brock, and I am the lead editor/photographer for TheCarColony. I have been a mechanic for over 14 years now, and I am here to spread my car knowledge across the web!

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