If you own a Toyota car (Camry, Highlander, Corolla, Tacoma, etc.), chances are you have encountered the Trac Off and Check Engine Light at some point. These lights are alarming and confusing for many drivers.
The Trac Off Light in Toyota is a warning light that indicates that the traction control system has been turned off. On the other hand, the Check Engine Light is a warning light that indicates a problem with the engine or emissions system.
This article covers what you should know about the Toyota Trac Off and Check Engine Light indicators on your Toyota’s dashboard. You will also learn the issues that trigger these indicators and how to go about them.
What Does the Trac Off and Check Engine Light Mean?
The Toyota Trac Off Light is a warning light on the dashboard that indicates that the traction control system has been turned off.
The traction control system is designed to prevent the wheels from spinning when accelerating on slippery surfaces, and turning it off may reduce stability in certain driving conditions.
The Trac Off Light is typically activated when the driver manually turns off the traction control system or when there is a problem with the system that needs to be addressed.
For the Check Engine light, it’s a warning light on the dashboard that indicates a problem with the engine or emissions system. It is caused by various issues, ranging from minor malfunctions to serious problems that cause damage to the engine.
The Trac Off Light and Check Engine Light in Toyota vehicles are related because some engine or emissions-related problems can affect the traction control system, triggering the Trac Off Light.
For example, a malfunctioning oxygen sensor causes the Check Engine Light to come on and triggers the Trac Off Light if it affects the traction control system.
What to Do When the Trac Off and Check Engine Light Comes On
When the Trac Off and Check Engine Light comes on, check if the traction control system has been manually turned off. If so, turn the system back on to regain stability on slippery surfaces.
If the Trac Off Light comes on unexpectedly, check for any other warning lights or unusual behavior from the vehicle, as this may indicate a problem with the traction control system or another vehicle component.
However, if you cannot identify the issue, have the vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic to determine the cause of the warning light.
Causes of Trac Off and Check Engine Light on Toyota Vehicles
Besides accidental activation, here are the common issues that may trigger these warning lights:
1. Bad Road Conditions
One of the most common reasons behind the Trac Off and Check Engine light coming on in your Toyota involves slipping wheels on a bad road.
Driving on slippery or poor roads, such as icy or snowy roads, can cause the blinking of the traction control light, especially when you lose traction from time to time.
Moreover, you may drive over potholes or bumps covered in ice or snow. The sudden jolt of your Toyota may damage a few wirings beneath your vehicle’s bodywork. This may also trigger the Trac Off light, illuminating your instrument cluster.
This is perfectly normal if this is the situation you find yourself in. However, you should ease up on your Toyota’s accelerator to minimize the chances of such occurrences.
2. Ignition Coil Failure
The ignition coil is designed to work with spark plugs to generate the electric current that ignites the fuel from your vehicle’s engine.
But when the ignition coil fails, the engine will not start, which could cause the Trac Off light and check engine light to illuminate on your dashboard.
3. Defective ABS Control Module
The ABS control module is practically the ‘brain’ of your Toyota’s anti-lock brake system. It runs diagnostic checks constantly and processes information from the wheel-speed sensors and other vital components.
When your vehicle’s ABS is working properly, it helps prevent your wheels from locking up during slippery road conditions or sudden stops. This gives you the leeway to maintain control of your vehicle to stop safely.
But when the ABS control module has some issues, problems arise which affect the overall functioning of the entire system. Your Toyota’s ABS is also connected to the traction control system.
If the ABS control module becomes defective, the Trac Off light illuminates your dashboard as the traction control system shuts off.
The ABS control module malfunctions when its software no longer functions properly or because of an issue with the power supply to the component.
4. Faulty Steering Angle Sensor
Maintaining traction usually involves controlling the direction in which your Toyota travels, resulting from the direction of the wheels. However, when the steering angle sensor is misaligned or defective, it can cause the Trac Off light to come on.
The steering angle sensor is often installed at the steering wheel and helps determine the intended direction of a vehicle. In addition, it ensures your Toyota’s wheels, as well as the steering wheel, are aligned properly.
But if your Toyota’s traction system suddenly registers a fault, the Trac Off and check engine lights may pop up on your instrument cluster.
5. Computer Unit Issue
Most modern vehicles (including your Toyota) are managed by computers. A computer handles everything, from the transmission and engine to the traction control and braking systems.
If the computer controlling the TCS malfunctions, the Trac Off light will illuminate your dashboard. This serves as a warning that something is wrong with your Toyota. Other dashboard warning lights may also come on, since the computer is connected to several systems in your vehicle.
6. Broken or Loose Gas Cap
When your gas cap is loose, it results in the buildup of fuel vapor within the tank. This can cause poor performance, misfires, as well as complete engine failure, especially if this issue is not addressed quickly.
Broken gas caps allow the leaking out of fuel vapors from the tank and directly to your Toyota’s engine compartment. The result of this development could be combustion issues.
How to Fix Trac Off and Check Engine Light Issues
To first step to resolving the issue is to find out why these indicators are on your dashboard.
For instance, if a bad ignition coil causes the Trac Off light to light up your dashboard, replace the coil immediately. You should also check some of the wirings beneath your car, especially if you’ve been driving on bad or snowy roads lately. Dislodged or damaged wirings should be fixed as soon as possible.
A bad steering angle sensor can also cause the Trac Off light to come on. Get a professional mechanic to check this steering angle sensor. If it cannot be fixed, replace it immediately with a new unit. The same goes for the wheel-speed sensor.
Here are other ways you should consider fixing the Trac Off light issue:
Ensure the Trac Off Light Wasn’t Switched on by Mistake
This is probably the first thing to do because you may have accidentally turned on the light by pushing the Trac button. Push the button, which, in most Toyota vehicles, is located on the left of the steering wheel. It could also be in the center dashboard.
Restart Your Toyota
Switch off your Toyota’s engine and restart it. This automatically resets the entire system and turns off any light or indicator that only comes on when there’s an issue with the vehicle.
However, this is not guaranteed if the Trac Off light actually goes off for now. Therefore, you need to address the underlying problem to prevent the indicator from lighting up your dashboard again.
You may need the help of a certified mechanic for this step if you’re not a techy or DIY enthusiast.
This step involves checking for trouble codes using a scan tool or diagnostic scanner, also known as an OBD2 reader. The latter is user-friendly, so you should have no issues using the diagnostic scanner.
The scan tool finds specific trouble codes triggering the check engine light or Trac Off light. This tool lets you read every diagnostic trouble code stored within your vehicle’s error memory. This makes it easy to identify the underlying problem quickly.
Preventing the Trac Off and Check Engine Light
While some causes of the Trac Off and Check Engine Lights are unavoidable, there are several preventative measures to minimize the likelihood of these lights coming on.
Below are some tips to prevent the Trac Off and Check Engine Lights from illuminating:
- Regular Maintenance: Following the recommended maintenance schedule for the vehicle, including oil changes, air filter replacements, and tune-ups, keep the engine running smoothly and reduce the likelihood of issues that trigger the lights.
- Gas Cap: Make sure the gas cap is securely tightened after refueling to prevent a loose or damaged gas cap from triggering the Check Engine Light.
- Quality Fuel: Use high-quality fuel to minimize the buildup of debris and sediment in the engine that originates the issues.
- Drive Conservatively: Avoid aggressive driving, such as rapid acceleration and hard braking, which causes strain on the engine and potentially triggers the lights.
- Regular Inspections: Have the vehicle inspected by a professional mechanic regularly to catch any potential issues before they develop into larger problems.
The Trac Off and Check Engine lights are not there for aesthetic purposes but function in relation to issues affecting your vehicle.
Once you see these warning light, have the vehicle inspected and repaired by a professional mechanic to ensure that the root cause of the issue is properly diagnosed and fixed.