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ETS light is off, dangeruos slipping, 1998 pontiac sunfire

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Jan 23, 2009, 10:13 AM

Post #1 of 5 (13213 views)
ETS light is off, dangeruos slipping, 1998 pontiac sunfire Sign In

I just bought a 1998 pontiac sunfire about a week ago. The " ETS off" light was on when I bought it, ( i was told it was a faulty light) but it eventually turned off, then came back on, then off etc etc. Now, its winter where I live, and when I hit the brakes it feels as if the tires are locking up completely, and the car makes a " jerking " and wierd thunking noises, and its almost impossible to stop because I just keep sliding. It doesn't happen if I just barely, and i mean barely, hit the brakes, I get a nice smooth stop, but it takes wayyyyyyyyyyy to long to stop like that, unsafe.

I tried hitting the brakes firmly on bare dry roads, no problem, no jerking, no noises, nothing just a regular smooth stop. But when I try that on the snowy roads I get a kinda loud thumping noise, and some other noises idk how to explain, along with sliding right through.

I tried looking out my door on an abandon snowy road to see if the tires are locking up, and they didn't appear to be, it only feels as if they are and I just keep sliding, ( i've gone through a red light already because of this, its extremely hard to stop in snow, but absolutely no problem on bare roads.)

I'm only 18 and I spent 2,000 on this car, its alot for me, i've only had it for a week and i would hate to think I bought a car with a huge problem. I appreciate any help with this, thank you!

Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
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Jan 23, 2009, 10:37 AM

Post #2 of 5 (13210 views)
Re: ETS light is off, dangeruos slipping, 1998 pontiac sunfire [In reply to] Sign In

Not sure what light would say ETC? If you have "Traction Control" of any sort you should have a choice to enable or disable it - check the owner's manual for specifics on that. Traction controls are for drive power not for braking or at least I didn't think they were combined.

What you describe sounds more like ABS (Ant-Lock-Braking) system which might just be doing it's thing as designed if that slippery they don't know what the hell to do. Vehicle can only possibly do as well as the traction between tire and road surface no matter what some stupid computer control (my opinion on ABS) tries to rethink for you.

I'm basing this on you saying it's fine on dry road surface. This is tricky if you are not accustomed to ABS brakes. Pumping them will confuse them as they are trying to do that for you and only one can play the game at a timeMad

IMO that system is capable of improving a panic stop on marginal and unequal road surface friction. Glare ice/snow varies greatly on what traction is available and you should be driving accordingly first and aware of proper operation of the system. Have it checked by a shop that it is in fact operating as intended - maybe it's not!

Usually if there is an ABS failure the dash will light an amber ABS light and the system defaults to normal braking action. All this either way still requires the brakes to be in proper condition as well.

As of now - I'm not sure if it's acting properly or needs work. Again - no harm in getting brakes in general checked and a second opinion on if it's normal or not.

Either Traction Control or ABS can cause wild vibrations and sounds like things are broken!

Long retired now

(This post was edited by Tom Greenleaf on Jan 23, 2009, 10:39 AM)


Jan 23, 2009, 10:44 AM

Post #3 of 5 (13207 views)
Re: ETS light is off, dangeruos slipping, 1998 pontiac sunfire [In reply to] Sign In

It actually says ETS off, ( electronic traction system) and just now I was reading my owners manual, and I found a button that can turn it off and on, ( it has been off) i pushed the button and the light went away, so its now turned on as its supposed to be. I took it for a short test drive just now, still get the same noise / jerking effect. But, the book itself says ( you may feel and hear the ETS system working, don't be alarmed.) and it still works fine on dry roads. As of now the ETS system is on, and i still get noises/ jerkings, but according to the book that could all be signs that it is indeed working just fine.

Thanks a ton Tom greenleaf for the help, i'll take your advice adn have it checked out just incase. Thanks for the input!

Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Jan 23, 2009, 11:29 AM

Post #4 of 5 (13200 views)
Re: ETS light is off, dangeruos slipping, 1998 pontiac sunfire [In reply to] Sign In

Cool! Just know that Traction is for drive wheels like when slipping going ahead, up a hill or something. It transfers power from the slipping wheel to the one that isn't and it feel like crap when it does and can frieghten people who don't know what it's trying to do. Personally - I'll drive the car thankyou and let the computer stay at home!

ABS is doing the same tricks but for braking. When one wheel is going slower than another while braking it can release brake pressure to that wheel and feels funky, buzzing in your foot and sometimes a sinking pedal - scary to me as I hate that crap and quick reflexes YOU may not have yet don't adjust car to car with the faulty brain I work withCrazy

ABS is plain funky and not for me but it's popular out there. Read what the manual says - should read like "just apply steady pressure" and let the car take care of it. It really has the ability to gain traction for braking if you are the type who would panic and just slam on the brakes. It is much better at plain wet conditions than ice as icy conditions vary so much. I wish they would make them with ON/OFF feature as it can cause problems in certain conditions - IMO!

If this is deemed normal for that car and brakes are in good shape then if you are a new driver especially or just need to get used to this particular car then find the right closed road or parking lot to SAFELY experiment out of harms way with how it will behave.

Good luck with the new car. It may be fine or it may need something and knowing is half the battle,

Long retired now


Jan 23, 2009, 11:39 AM

Post #5 of 5 (13194 views)
Re: ETS light is off, dangeruos slipping, 1998 pontiac sunfire [In reply to] Sign In

Alright man, thanks a bunch for your time, appreciate the help. I'll be getting them checked just incase and i'll test in a parking lot like you said.

thanks again.

ETS light is off, dangeruos slipping, 1998 pontiac sunfire

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