I keep hearing stability control is a must-have safety feature. What does it actually do, and how is it different from traction control?
Stability control helps keep the car in control during a skid or slide. It uses sensors to determine when the vehicle starts to veer off its path by looking at the steering input from the driver and the actual path of the vehicle. After sensing a skid, the computer can apply the antilock brakes to one or all of the wheels to keep the car pointed in the direction you want. It may also cut engine power if the computer determines it will keep the vehicle in control.
In contrast, traction control’s purpose is to limit wheelspin during acceleration. It does this by applying the antilock brakes to the drive wheels only when slip is detected. Just like stability control, it can also cut engine power if you get overzealous with the throttle.
Just about every manufacturer has a different name for its stability control system. Some can be rather ambiguous, such as Ford’s AdvanceTrac, but they all pretty much perform the same purpose and include the word “stability” or “control” somewhere in the name. GM’s is “StabiliTrak,” while BMW calls its “Dynamic Stability Control.”
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