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People help clear snow from around a vehicle that got stuck in deep snow on a slight incline on Merton St. near Mt Pleasant Rd. in Toronto on Jan 17, 2022.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Southern Ontario just had its first winter storm of the 2022 season, and it was one to be remembered. Navigating the streets to and from work yielded hundreds of stuck drivers looking around in bewilderment, trying to figure out how to get themselves unstuck. After my feet were soaked from pushing cars, I began wondering. Why are so many drivers unaware of this key winter driving tactic?

Countless people don’t realize most contemporary vehicles have a traction-control defeat button. It is found in different locations, but most commonly in the centre console or just to left or right of the steering wheel. It is a button with a picture of a car, two squiggly lines under it and the word off. When you push this button, a dashboard message will display confirming disengagement of the traction control. After you shut your car off, it will reset and automatically turn itself back on, so you need not worry. Your vehicle’s traction control is designed to keep you safe and limit your wheel slippage. Sometimes, however, it may also prevent forward motion.

Traction control is part of the Antilock Brake (ABS) system and uses information from the four-wheel speed sensors. By comparing the speed of all the wheels individually and also as a whole, a computer deduces when wheel slippage is occurring and limits engine power. In the simplest of traction-control systems, only engine power reduction occurs, while newer systems also engage the brake of the slipping wheel to stop it from turning.

Let’s assume you have just entered a recently plowed street or parking lot where significant snow depth and lack of sufficient forward momentum fails to carry you through. Naturally, you will put it into reverse and try again, but sometimes to no avail. Why? One reason is the traction-control computer has detected wheel spin and reduces engine power or applies the brakes. Forward motion is limited by the snow and every time you apply throttle, the computer overrides you.

This is the moment to turn off traction control. By doing so you will be able to step on the throttle and actually have the driving wheels turn without interruption by the computer, hopefully propelling you forward. Use caution and be aware of your vehicle’s transmission. As you are now capable of freely spinning the drive wheels, keep in mind that one wheel may be spinning at double the speed of the other, thereby aggressively working the transmission or differential. Excessive spinning may result in an unwanted repair, so use with discretion. Once you are free and moving again, ensure that you re-engage the traction control as it is best to drive with it on.

Your automotive questions, answered

Hi Lou,

I read with interest the letter from the fellow with the Corolla and the Lexus asking about independents versus dealer servicing, and I pretty much agree with your answer. I thought I would share my story with you. I purchased a used Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG, the factory speed limiter had been set to 150 kilometres per hour. I approached three dealer service managers to get the setting changed back to 260 kilometres per hour, and these are the answers I received, 1. The government sets the speed limit, and we can’t change it; 2. It is set at the factory and can’t be changed; 3. We can change it, but we need to order a special tool from Germany. I contacted the Mercedes-Benz area service manager and complained, he said he would ‘train’ the dealer of my choice on how to rest the speed limiter. At this point I had lost all faith in the dealership service departments and contacted an independent in Calgary who said not knowing how it had been changed, they would not guarantee they could reset it but felt pretty confident they would be able to. Which they did. In short, I lost all confidence in the Mercedes-Benz dealer network. If it had been one service department, I would have chocked it up to a poor dealer, but three? I only use independents now. Thanks for the great column.


Greg V

Thanks Greg. All dealers, regardless of brand, are going to hesitate to complete your request. The overwhelming sentiment is going to be, why do you need this software modification when national speed limits are nowhere near either of the pre-programmed limits.

I do understand that some of us like to track our cars and that the 150 kilometre per hour limit might be an issue in those situations. But dealers run away from this sort of request in fear of liability. I’m sure some legal professional can advise if any liability actually exists, but be assured, this was never going to be a simple request. I’m confident that each one of the three dealers has a staff member that could have completed your task, they simply didn’t want to.

Hello Lou,

We have a 2016 Honda Pilot and rust has started forming on the tailgate. It appears that it is actually forming beneath/inside of the light cover above the licence plate. In other words, in a protected area and not from stone chips, wear etc.

To me, 2016 seems like a new vehicle – especially a Honda. Of course, in terms of our Warranty and I am sure the Honda sales team, it is an old car. Honda will not provide a solution to fix the existing rust or provide a solution to prevent more damage.

What is the best way to deal with rust on a new car? We would like to keep the Pilot for at least another 10 years (and we do have a 10-year-old CR-V with no issues).

Thank you,

Jonathan C

Sault Ste. Marie, ON

I too believe that a 2016 Pilot is not old by any measure. Unfortunately, Honda only covers corrosion for five years unless you opted for an extended warranty. This is a common issue for Honda Pilots. It appears to be protected from stone chips, but it is not so simple as moisture gets trapped in this area because of the plastic light cover and then contaminated rusty water leaks down onto the rest of the tailgate.

Light corrosion can be dealt with easily with clean up, scuffing and minor touch-up paint work. Heavier corrosion will require more aggressive tactics like cutting out the affected metal and welding in a patch and repainting. Replacing the entire tailgate may be necessary in extreme situations. A quality body shop can advise of the optimal repair once they see your vehicle. Most body shops can also apply corrosion protection during the repair, but should they not, I believe there are several corrosion centres in the Sault that can help you out.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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