What's the mystery ECT/Snow button?
January 3, 2008 1:45 PM   Subscribe

ToyotaFilter: What does my "ECT / Snow" button actually do?

All I can find -- both in the owner's manual and online -- is that it's for use when driving in snow. That much I assumed.

I drive a 2003 Toyota Highlander, and live in New Hampshire, so yes, there's plenty of snow to use it in. Trying it on the semi-snowy roads, I really didn't notice any difference.

What, specifically, does enabling this mode do, and how does it accomplish whatever it does? What should I know about using it? (I've heard it said that you shouldn't use it over 30 MPH, for example, but this is never mentioned anywhere in the manual.)
posted by fogster to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
Is is not 'ETC'? Being 'Electronic Traction Control', which, IIRC, will slow down a skidding wheel to allow it to regain traction. Here's the HowStuffWorks explanation, which is likely to be far better than mine.

(or maybe it is 'ECT' and I'm talking out of my arse....)

So turn it on, and try a handbrake turn and see if you notice it.
posted by pompomtom at 1:49 PM on January 3, 2008

I have a similar button in my VW Jetta. After lots of searching, I finally asked on a very busy VW forums website and found the answer. Good thing I did, too, because it turns out when you push the button, you're actually turning the traction control off, not on, like you would assume intuitively. I had been driving with it off for quite some time.

I believe that buttons like this use some simple algorithm to apply the breaks to wheels that are spinning. The theory being that if your wheel is spinning when the others aren't, that wheel does not have traction and should be slowed down to try and re-attain the static friction coefficient.

Of course, we have different cars and I'm not a physicist, but that's what I discovered through my research for my magic button.
posted by yellowbkpk at 1:50 PM on January 3, 2008

Here's the first Google result for 'toyota ect highlander.'
posted by box at 1:52 PM on January 3, 2008

I believe you'd just press the button to get moving on ice/snow, since (if disabled) the tires would just spin for a second then stop.

Once you're moving you can turn traction control back on to ensure you have traction once you're on the road.
posted by ijoyner at 1:56 PM on January 3, 2008

This forum claims it just makes an automatic transmission start in second gear instead of first. Or something. There are a zillion kinds of "traction control" out there which range from the crappy and gimmicky to the excellent individual wheel braking control referenced earlier. It's my understanding that the individual wheel braking technology isn't just for snow, it's for all-the-time use, and so it's probably not what your "snow" button does.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 3:15 PM on January 3, 2008

I drive a Toyota Kluger (Kluger is apparently Australian for Highlander) and the user manual states that ECT is an oil heater and should only be used in snowy/icey conditions. I think that it heats the oil and the transmission fluid, but I'm not 100% sure as I live in the subtropics.
posted by dantodd at 3:39 PM on January 3, 2008

In this Lexus forum they say they called the dealer and were told it starts the car in second gear for traction. I believe Toyota makes Lexus.
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:57 PM on January 3, 2008

I'm pretty sure ECT is not related to traction control. It has to do with the transmission (I believe it's electronically controlled transmission or something). I looked this up a while back, and if I remember correctly, it basically changes how the computer decides to switch gears based on the current torque requirement. I played around with the ECT button in my dad's Camry, and the difference was that it pushed harder (e.g. stayed in the lower gears a bit longer to get into the torque band rather than the efficiency band) when it was activated.
posted by spiderskull at 2:32 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

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