What-Does-ATC-Light-Mean (2)

Warning ATC Light On Dash: What Does ATC Light Mean? (Guide)

It is easy to get confused when certain warning lights come on. It is even more confusing when the repair does not make any sense at all but works

The letters stand for auto traction control and it is one of the systems that monitors your tires. Not for air pressure, etc., but when they may be slipping as you drive. This light can be confusing as you lose a little power in your engine for only a millisecond.

To learn more about this tire system, just continue to read our article. It has the information you want to know about so you can understand what is going on when you see this warning light come on your dashboard.

What Does ATC Light Mean?


The letters stand for auto traction control. This is a system that detects one of your tires when it is slipping. Once it detects it, the system will slightly engage the brake of the slipping wheel to correct the problem.

When it engages the brake, you may feel a slight change in the engine as the ECM cuts the power for a very brief time. If this system is failing, you may have a lot of trouble going up or down hills as it will engage frequently.

If you want to research this system further, be careful. The auto industry is not the only industry that uses those abbreviations. Those letters obviously stand for air traffic control, but they also stand for aviation ATC light signals.

When you do your searches, place a qualifying term in with those letters so you get the right information at the top of the results page. It seems that the auto or truck ATC is something you are in control of and there should be an on and off button on your dash.

It is recommended that you only turn it on when you are driving through bad weather or on wet roads.

Warning ATC Light On The Dash


Traction control uses wheel speed sensors to monitor your tires and the rate they are spinning. When one is spinning faster than the other, then the ATC light on your dash should illuminate.

Once the spinning wheel is back to normal and gripping the road, the light should go off and the brake is released. What the light means is that this process is taking place when lit.

Or the ATC light may flash letting you know that one tire is spinning and not gripping the road as it should. When turned on, you may see this light flash often depending on driving conditions, road conditions, and so on.

Depending on who made your car or truck, the ECM or ECU unit may cut the power of the engine while the ATC system is at work applying the brake. This only takes a minute amount of time so you may only feel a hiccup in your engine power.

It is the ABS system that applies the brake and it works in conjunction with the traction or stability control systems. The latter keeps you pointed in the direction you want to go.

What this means is that if you have a problem with any one of the three systems, the other two will be affected as well.

Why is ATC Light Flashing?


There seem to be 7 sources for why you see the ATC button flashing as you drive. Here are those 7 possible sources:

1. Bad Wheel Speed Sensors- every part of your vehicle can and will fail on you at some point in time. Each wheel has its own sensor and these devices track the spinning rate of the tire.

If these sensors are not working, then the light should come on.

2. Bad Steering Angle Sensor- there seems to be a sensor for everything in modern cars. This one detects the direction you are turning the wheel and at what rate you are turning it.

If this sensor goes bad, the ATC light comes on.

3. Bad Road Conditions- This will be a normal situation if you live in a region that gets lots of bad weather, including snowy conditions. There is nothing you can do about this situation except to drive to better roads.

Or you can buy winter tires to give you better traction when driving in these rough conditions.

4. Bad Steering Rack- this is part of your steering wheel system. When it does not have the right fluid, or it is going bad on you, then the ATC light should start to flash.

Your ATC depends on the smooth manipulation of the steering wheel to make its determinations about traction.

5. Programming Issues- as with all modern technology, there is a ‘brain’ or computer behind all the features. If it has some bad programming, then the ATC may turn on even though you are not having trouble with traction.

The errors in the programming can come from different sources and only reprogramming the system will help solve this problem.

6. Limp Mode- The ATC light will be one of many dashboard lights that illuminate when your vehicle enters this stage. Limp mode, while inconvenient, is a safety feature designed to protect your drive train.

It is also designed to allow you to get to a mechanic without being stranded somewhere. This mode keeps you from paying high towing charges as well.

7. Manual Override- this is the little button somewhere on your dash that you can push to turn the system off. It gives you more control over your vehicle and it is a good option when you are driving in snow etc.

The thing to be concerned about would be that when you shut your engine off and then turn it back on, the ATC system may turn itself back on as well. You have to remember to keep pushing the button every time you get going after doing an errand outside of your vehicle.

Can I Drive With The Traction Control Light On?


Yes, it is safe to drive with the ATC light on. That illumination is just letting you know that the system is doing its job. All you have to do is drive with caution as you are on roads that can cause driving problems, like sliding and so on.

According to one mechanic, it is only safe to drive with the ATC light on when it is functioning correctly. Any other time may put you at risk of spinning out or sliding.

The light should flicker, and go out when the road conditions are safe and your wheels are gripping the road as they should. This can be a little confusing as the light needs to be on when you are driving through slick roads.

However, if you get back to good roads and the light stays on, then one of the possible sources has kicked in.

How do I Reset My ATC Light?


There seems to be a button that will reset this light for you. The button may be labeled ESC, ESP, or DSC and once you find it, you hold it in after pushing it. Hold for about 3 to 5 seconds. After holding it, let go and the system should be reset.

Another option may be doing a system scan. This scan checks to make sure all the components in this system are working and nothing is wrong. The system scan may only be done by a trained mechanic who has the right tools.

ATC Light And Fuel Filters


This is the fix we mentioned earlier and that doesn’t make sense. We have been reading different RV discussion forums on this topic as we write. It seems that when people have trouble with their ATC light, all they have to do is change their fuel filters and the light goes away.

The process for the 2003 Monaco Windsor 40 seems to be:

Remove the primary filter (the one with the sensor)

Replace the small rubber washer

Fill the new filter with fuel and install

Turn the key on 5-6 times

Start motor

Check for leaks

Repeat for secondary

Once this was done, the ATC light did not come on again. This is not an isolated story. There are many RV and truck owners saying the same thing. The light usually comes on when drivers are accelerating.

This means it is either the fuel filters or the fuel delivery that is the problem that triggers the ATC light.

Some Final Words

Technology can be good and it can be bad. When there is too much technology it can be difficult finding the source of the problem. If you have trouble with the ATC light, check your fuel filters and fuel system first.

It doesn’t make sense but it seems to be the cure when the ATC light triggers for no reason. Or check with a mechanic to make sure it is not one of the 7 sources we listed above.

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