Losing steering when doing fast acceleration?

I have a 2001 Pontiac Grand Am SE 4 Cyl FWD. I’ve noticed that if I am at a stop and I suddenly press the gas pedal too hard, it feels like the tires are spinning around and I lose steering momentarily. It gets worse when it is raining. I don’t really notice it when I am driving. I think it only happens when I do a sudden acceleration from a stop. Like if I am a traffic light and it turns green and I press the gas pedal a bit too hard, I feel like the car’s tires are spinning around for just a second and I lose steering direction unless I correct it by turning the steering wheel a bit.

Do I need new tires? They have good amount of tread left so I don’t think it is low tread problem. Maybe my tires need balancing or alignment?

The “Trac Off” light comes on and off. It comes on randomly for like 10, 20, or 30 minutes then it goes away. It just comes on and off so I don’t know if I really have a traction control problem? I have a ETS (Enhanced Traction System) switch next to my hazard light switch. I don’t know if the ETS switch is working or not because when I press it, nothing happens. Do I need a new ETS switch? It’s kind of hard to find it online so I probably have to get it from a junkyard.

All tires worn evenly? You do rotate them?

How old are the tires?


I got all 4 tires replaced around the end of 2018. I think around 23,000 miles.

Sounds typical of old or hard tires. Most demanding situation for tires, lots of power being applied and slippery conditions… Six years old- depends where you live. Lots of heat, sun exposure they may be getting hard. Or they could be hard to begin with- do you recall the brand and model tires?


General Altimax RT43.
215/60/R15 94T SL BSW

I replaced all 4 tires in July 2018 so almost 6 years now. But only around 23,000 miles because I do drive it every day but usually short distance from home and work, and sometimes long distance if I want to go somewhere.

I don’t really notice this problem when I am driving. It is usually when I make a sudden, fast acceleration at a traffic stop. And it is very noticeable when it is raining.

But why do I keep getting Trac Off light on and off? It turns on and off randomly so do I have a traction control system problem?

You keep getting the Trac Off light because the tires are losing traction in the rain.

While the miles are low on the tires, the tires do age and “dry out” over time. I think 7 years is generally the recommended age to replace the tires, regardless of the mileage. You’re flirting with that right now. I’d get a new set of tires.

This same thing happened on my car recently. The previous owner apparently put on some Goodyears with good tread, but the tires were actually closer to 10 years old, based on the date stamp. I was having all kinds of traction issues when it rained. Finally I bought a brand new set of tires, and the problem totally disappeared.


I know it’s only rain, but it doesn’t take much from a stop to start those drive wheels spinning. This is especially the case if your front wheels happen to be on a big strip of stop-line paint.

You need to a) stop hammering the pedal, especially in inclement weather; b) get new tires; c) have someone, preferably with a Tech II scanner, check for codes related to the traction system.

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The Trac Off light comes on and off when it is not raining too. But when it rains, this tires spinning problem happens more frequently.

This sounds very simple, if this is something new happening and it is getting a little worse over time, and no codes, then you need new tires… Or you bought new shoes with lead weights in them or similar… lol

You may have bought the tires about 6 years ago, but how old are they really?? check the last 4 of the DOT…


It is hard to believe you get that much wheel spin on dry pavement (and worse when raining) with a 4 cylinder Grand Am. Can you create a cloud of smoke? I doubt it.

The traction control light might flash while you are performing burnouts, but a steady warning light indicates a problem with the ABS/Traction control system, someone needs to road test the vehicle and read the system faults.

All the more reason that someone with an appropriate scanner needs to check it out. Tech II is the GM proprietary stuff (expensive), so it’s likely that you’ll need to pay a shop to check it out.

Right - because rain makes the road slippery. Not nearly as badly as ice or snow, but it’s still a thing. And it sounds like your ETS is not working properly, at least some of the time.

The last 4 digits: 0817.

So my tires were made the 8th week of 2017? They were installed in July, 2018.

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That is how I would interpret the date code, and if we are both correct, that means your tires are 7 years old. Definitely time to replace them–no matter how much tread remains.

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That is the thing here. I still have quite a lot of tread left. Only 23,000 miles on the tires. Is it still safe to drive the car with these tires, any chance of blowout due to age? When looking at age of tires, do you look at when the tires were manufactured or when they were installed on the car? Like if you bought some tires 4 years ago and have them sit around for 2 years before installing them, do you go by 4 years or 2 years?

So now I have to spend money to replace all 4 tires? Should I go to a place like Discount Tire and pay them more money, or do it cheaper way by buying tires from Walmart and have a tire shop mount and balance them? Do I need to do an alignment after replacing all 4 tires?

Yes, that is correct…

You have already revealed that you have traction problems with those tires, so no matter how much tread is left, you should replace them–in the interest of safety. I don’t think that the danger of blowouts is increased, but I can think of few things more important when driving than traction is.

Your brakes–which depend on traction as well as the condition of the brakes themselves–work on all 4 wheels. Thus, you should replace all 4 tires. If you have drastically different braking action on one end of the car, that could easily put you into a spin/skid.

You should go to the TireRack website, enter the info for your car, and see the galaxy of tires that are available for that model. Then, you can compare those tires on the basis of the factors that are most important to you (ride quality, dry traction, wet traction, tread life, handling, price, noise level). Even if you don’t buy from TireRack, their website is a very useful comparison tool.

If your current tires are wearing perfectly-evenly, then probably not. But, having the alignment checked would still be a good idea.


+1 for VDCdriver above…

They are only as safe as the traction they are loosing…

Your tires, as long as no dry rot, should not blow out due to age at this time…

Date code, not when installed, tires have a shelf life, Bridgestone/Firestone can/will not let a tire leave a distribution warehouse over three years old, they are tracked from the time they enter the system until the time they are delivered to a store etc, Firestone (company owned) stores can/will not sell a tire that is 5 years old period… If caught falsifying the DOT number it is a $25,000 fine and you and possible others in that store are fired… Tires that are 10 years old can no longer be repaired for any reason… VERY strict and safety guide lines…

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If a new tire can be up to 3 years old, shouldn’t the installation date be considered for service life of the tire? If not, a tire that has been in a warehouse for 30 months will have a short service life.

Ultraviolet light exposure is the primary cause of tire dry rot.

It is as I wrote it… I didn’t make the rules, above my pay grade, but I have seen full size spare tires that still had the tits on them and tucked up and under the vehicle, or in the trunk, blow out once you put some heat in them… It goes by the date code on the tire… I have had to drill 2" holes in the side walls of very expensive tires because they made it 5 years on the shelf… Better to be safe than sorry… I would give you, yes FREE, a new tire before I would put a full size spare tire that was 10 years old on the vehicle, done it many times for customers that could not afford a tire…
The total service life of a tire is 10 years from the date code, no matter how much of it’s life was spent on the shelf…