What is traction control and how it can help to avoid accidents
What is traction? Traction is your car tyres ability to grip on the road surface. Loss of traction can occur on a wet, icy or muddy road, and in a car without any form of traction control the wheels are more likely to slip and spin wildly which in turn leads to a loss of control of the vehicle. An expert driver can probably cope with this situation by using advanced driving techniques to help control the vehicle.
Most of us are not experts however and need all the help we can get if we get into trouble on the road. In the early sixties some more powerful cars were fitted with a basic form of traction control known as a limited slip rear differential. This basically enables the rear wheel with the most traction to receive the most power, and thus help the driver retain some control on the slippery surface.
How does modern traction control work?
A traction control system will intelligently optimise the grip of your wheels by controlling the amount of power to the drive wheels depending on the condition of the road surface. The level of sophistication will ultimately determine the effectiveness of the system, and also whether the vehicle is either 2 or 4 wheel drive.
Essentially each drive wheel will have a speed sensor which is used by both the ABS (Anti-lock Braking system) and the traction control system to monitor the speeds of each drive wheel independently of each other. When a sensor detects that one wheel is spinning significantly more than another, it will apply the brake using the ABS 'pumping action' to that wheel to slow it down and try to regain some grip. The more sophisticated systems can also reduce the amount of power going to that wheel independently of the others.
Many modern production cars are now fitted with ABS which is probably the most basic form of traction control. Although in it's most basic form it will only work on both wheels simultaneously.
Can traction control help prevent accidents?
Yes. Maintaining control of your car if you suddenly come across an icy or muddy patch on the road can stop you from having an accident, without question. However it is not a panacea for all situations where there is a loss of traction. Remember that the system relies on at least one of the drive wheels having some degree of grip to start with. If you hit a road that is basically covered with a sheet of ice, the car will slide and skid equally on all wheels and the traction control cannot help you.
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