Toyota RAV4 2011

I just bought this brand new RAV4 4WD,4 cyl 2011,car. Unfortunately, car purchase with our local dealer was not a happy experience! Anyway, my question is, when driving in snow on the freeway (or other conditions that require AWD/4WD), do I have to push the TRAC and/or VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) buttons? When pushed the TRAC button, light indicator saying “locked” came on my dashboard. Or does the car automatically go on 4WD when situations calls for? Totally confused but I am still mad to talk to the dealer at this point.

Thanks for your help!

Try reading the owner’s manual. It will explain how and when to use these different systems.

The dealer may give you the wrong information if you ask. The manual will be correct.

I did, still vague. Thanks anyway.

Ok–as succinctly as possible, here is the info as I understand it:

The Rav’s AWD system normally runs in FWD mode, in order to boost your gas mileage by a slight amount.
If the system senses a loss of traction for the front wheels, it activates the AWD, thus sending power to all 4 wheels–temporarily. The AWD system on this car runs only for brief periods of time, only when the wheel sensors indicate a need for it.

The “Trac” button locks the system into AWD, but even with the Trac button activated, the AWD will shut down at…IIRC…about 20-25 mph, and will then put you back into FWD mode. When you stop the car the next time, you can again activate the “Trac” button, and it will again operate as described above–i.e., only at low speeds.

The VSC button most likely is there to DEACTIVATE the VSC system. Normally the VSC system is active, since you can’t predict when you might go into a skid. However, there are limited circumstances when you might want to shut it off, and for those unique situations (driving on gravel, for instance), you can shut the VSC off.

Even though the car-buying experience was less than great, you did buy a very reliable vehicle, albeit one with an AWD system that is not up to the task of really rough going. Hopefully it will meet your needs. My friend has an essentially similar 2008 RAV, and he has never gotten stuck in the snow, despite the part-time nature of the AWD system.

And–trust me–the car salesman probably knows as much about the car as you do. Car salesmen are notoriously ignorant of the technical details of the cars that they sell, and are know to give out a LOT of bogus information.

Why did you buy a car at a dealership that caused you headaches?
You should remember in the future not to do that, ever again.
That’s just reinforcing bad business practices.

The dealer’s job is to make you want to buy the car FROM THEM!
Their job is to roll out the red carpet, make you think that you are their only customer, and get you to sign on the dotted line. If they treat you in the exact opposite way, you should go the exact opposite way.

Anyway, as to your questions, you don’t need to activate either of those buttons unless you are already stuck. Those buttons are there to help you get out of being stuck, more than they are for making driving easier.

The only exception would be if you are going down a steep driveway that curves in the snow.
In that case, turning on the TRAC Lock button would be helpful.


“That traction control button makes the car heavier” - one regular poster’s experience with a car salesman’s knowledge of cars.

Don’t hit anything. It all works automatically :slight_smile:

If you ever find yourself stuck click the TRAC button.

Very detailed explanation, thank you so much! Happy holidays!

I had a 1997 camry prior to this, that I bought used (3 yrs old). I loved it and it still runs but not as it used to be. I decided to give it to my nephew so he can tinker with it and hopefully learn something. Never bought a brand new car so I have no experience of dealing with dealerships. Never again!!! I appreciate your help…happy holidays!

"do I have to push the TRAC and/or VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) buttons? "

I have to respectfully disagree with some comments.

They are good features to have and worth knowing how and why you have them. The Trac button locks the center differential into even distribution (50%-50%) of torque front and rear which is good for deep snow and mud with slow going. It deactivates at higher speeds because, like a part time system, it makes for poor handling at those speeds and could be dangerous. The VSC button deactivates the throttle by wire response, which is needed in most conditions, but adversely affects deep snow/mud where some wheel slip and more throttle response is actually necessary to maintain traction at slow speeds.

The car is always in AWD where torque distribution, front and rear is done quickly and automatically. Some systems are so good, they add torque before the wheels slip, based upon sensors of car body position…ie. climbing hills and cornering. So it is incorrect to say that they are all FWD until a front wheel slips. Subaru system with “The VDC system using pitch and yaw sensors…” for it’s AWD function making for excellent handling even w/o slippage. RAV does as well as others though their calibration may be different…

IMO, if you don’t learn to use the features correctly, you deprive your self of optimal traction and safety benefits of these systems and stress the drive system in deep snow/mud. It’s a frequently asked but worthwhile question. The owners manual actually makes sense often, AFTER you try to use these features and then re read the directions.
Learning and understanding are multi-modal experiences and reading alone often isn’t enough.

Bscar–That was me!
It was my brother and sister-in-law who questioned a car salesman about “what happens when you push the Traction Control button on the dashboard?”. (They knew how Traction Control works, but they were trying to assess whether this particularly dodgy-acting salesman was one with whom they could work.)

And, as you recall, that dim-bulb salesman replied…“Oh, when you push that button, it makes the car heavier”.

My brother responded by saying that he was really impressed that the manufacturer had figured out how to defy the laws of physics, and both of my relatives suppressed their laughter until they exited the showroom. Then they immediately went in search of intelligent life at another dealership.

I can remember stories, but never many details. Just how I thought one guy at work said something about one of his friends having a work truck in the shop, but it was a guy on here.
From what I recall, their friend had a work truck that they could fix right(engine or something), and they went out and bought a new truck, then made the service department guys stand around after closing time, with flood lights after dark and all, while they transferred all the old truck’s equipment to the new one.
And I believe it was OK4450 that told the tale of the BMW tech who stripped a 7 series to bare frame and rewired the car in about a month only to be told that the guy who bought it had been given a brand new car because it took so long