How to Use Traction Control on a Toyota RAV4

Traction control is a key safety feature that has surely prevented countless accidents over the years, but how do you use it effectively?

In this article, we’ll teach you what you need to know to become a traction control expert.

We’ll cover how it works, how to turn it on or off, and when you should be using it.

2021 rav4 traction control switch

What It Does

Traction control was first introduced on the Toyota RAV4 for the 2004 model year. That means nearly 20 years of technological development have been put into Toyota’s current traction control system.

Although Toyota’s traction control technology has evolved over the last two decades, the essential function of traction control remains the same.

Toyota’s traction control system helps you maximize traction and grip by adjusting power to the wheels when a slip is detected. Traction control is most useful when driving in rain, snow, mud, and gravel.

Over the years, Toyota’s traction control has evolved to become smarter when detecting slips and applying power. However, since the beginning, traction control has been a very effective safety feature that has prevented many accidents and improved the driver’s control over the vehicle.

Let’s talk about how to toggle traction control on or off depending on your RAV4’s model year.

How to Turn It On and Off

I’ll start by clarifying one point: traction control is turned on by default! You don’t need to enable it. Each time your vehicle is turned on, the traction control is turned on as well (except when you have a check engine light).

However, there are some scenarios when you may want to disable traction control.

Traction control works great when you’re driving, but sometimes disabling it when you are stuck can help you get unstuck.

For example, let’s imagine you’re stuck in some sand.

If traction control is ON, your wheels will immediately start cutting power to the wheels because a slip will be detected. This means you may not have enough power to get out of the sand.

By turning traction control off, you will be able to apply as much power as needed to get unstuck from the mud.

If you’re ready to turn off traction control, you’ll need to use the traction control toggle switch.

I’ve dug through the RAV4 owner’s manuals to figure out the placement of this switch in all model years. Click on the model year below to view instructions for toggling traction control on your Toyota RAV4:

2019-2024 Toyota RAV4

In a 2019-2023 Toyota RAV4, the traction control toggle switch is located in the center console area in front of the gear shifter.

2019-2022 Toyota RAV4 traction control toggle switch

Push the button quickly to toggle traction control on or off.

Press and hold the button to turn off vehicle stability control (VSC) and traction control.

Warning indicator lights will appear in the instrument cluster to indicate that traction control and/or VSC are off.

2017-2018 Toyota RAV4

In a 2017-2018 Toyota RAV4, the traction control toggle switch is located on the top of the dashboard, towards the center.

2017-2018 Toyota RAV4 traction control toggle switch

Push the button quickly to toggle traction control on or off.

Press and hold the button to turn off vehicle stability control (VSC) and traction control.

Warning indicator lights will appear in the instrument cluster to indicate that traction control and/or VSC are off.

2013-2016 Toyota RAV4

In a 2013-2016 Toyota RAV4, the traction control toggle switch is located on the lower section of the dashboard to the left of the steering wheel.

2013-2016Toyota RAV4 traction control toggle switch

Push the button quickly to toggle traction control on or off.

Press and hold the button to turn off vehicle stability control (VSC) and traction control.

Warning indicator lights will appear in the instrument cluster to indicate that traction control and/or VSC are off.

2009-2012 Toyota RAV4

In a 2009-2012 Toyota RAV4, the traction control toggle switch is located in the center console area in front of the gear shifter.

2009-2012 Toyota RAV4 traction control toggle switch

Push the button quickly to toggle traction control on or off.

Press and hold the button to turn off vehicle stability control (VSC) and traction control.

Warning indicator lights will appear in the instrument cluster to indicate that traction control and/or VSC are off.

2004-2008 Toyota RAV4

In a 2004-2008 Toyota RAV4, the traction control toggle switch is located on the lower section of the dashboard to the left of the steering wheel.

2004-2008 Toyota RAV4 traction control toggle switch

Push the button to toggle traction control on or off.

Warning indicator lights will appear in the instrument cluster to indicate that traction control is off.

When to Turn It Off

Most of the time, you’ll want to leave traction control enabled. This is the default configuration of traction control and makes sense for most driving situations.

However, there are some situations in which it would be useful to turn it off.

It may be helpful to turn your RAV4’s traction control off when stuck in snow, ice, or mud. Traction control stops the wheels from spinning when it detects a slip. This means it will limit the power you need to get out of situations where the car is stuck.

Indicator Light

There are a few different scenarios where your traction control light will be on. This will either be in the form of a “TRAC OFF” indicator or traction control icon (see below).

traction control off icon toyota rav4

There are several reasons why the traction control light may be on:

  1. You’ve disabled traction control
  2. There is an engine error (your check engine light will be on too)
  3. Traction control is not working properly

NOTE: If the traction control icon is flashing, you are slipping and the traction control system is kicking in.

Recap

Your RAV4’s traction control system is a great safety feature that helps you maximize traction in slippery conditions.

It’s easy to turn on and off with the push of a button, so it is always easily accessible to the driver.

However, you’ll want to leave the traction control on in most situations. It does a great job of keeping you safe, but you may need to disable it if you are stuck in snow, ice, or mud.

Remember, traction control is on by default. You’ll know that it has been turned off if there is an indicator light on the dashboard.

Let us know if you’ve found traction control useful. Leave a comment below!

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One Comment

  1. Larry Weiss says:

    Very good explanation. Thanks!