You’ve likely noticed a cruise control button in your car before, but do you know what it does and how to use it? Many drivers don’t use this function because they simply don’t understand it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because you should never use something you’re not familiar with while driving a vehicle. However, cruise control is a useful feature that can make driving long distances a little easier for you. Let’s take a look at what this function is, how it works, and anything else you may need to know about it!
What Is a Cruise Control System?
To correctly understand how cruise control works, it’s important to learn what a cruise control actually is. This feature is also referred to as a speed control system and this is exactly what it does. When activated, this function will maintain the current speed that your car is traveling at. It’s typically used on the highway where you’ll drive at the same speed for a prolonged period.
This allows you to stay at a speed like 60 MPH without needing to keep your foot pressed on the gas pedal. If you’re driving for several hours, this can quickly tire out your foot. Any form of fatigue is incredibly dangerous while driving, so this is why a feature like a cruise control may come in handy at some point.
How Does A Cruise Control System Work?
Now that you know what it is, you’ll likely want to know how it works. There are two main components to this, one to control this function and another one to manage the engine speed. We’ll go over both of them so you can fully understand what’s going on when you use your cruise control.
How to turn on the cruise control on your vehicle will depend on your car’s make and model. Some have a button on the end of your turn signal lever, others have a button to the side, and some have toggle buttons on either side of your steering wheel. If you can’t find the cruise control switch on your car, take a look inside your owner’s manual for more detailed information.
Once you locate your cruise control, how to use it is fairly straightforward. To activate it, you’ll usually need to be driving at a speed of at least 30 MPH. Once you reach this speed, you’ll press the cruise control button to engage the system. This will only activate the system but not make it operational. At this stage, if you lift your foot from the gas pedal, the car will decelerate.
Once you’ve reached the desired speed, press the “set” button to make the system fully operational. Once this is turned on, you can take your foot off the gas pedal and hover it over the brake pedal.
From here, your car will maintain the speed that you set. Say that you’re going 45 MPH, your car will automatically adjust acceleration to maintain this speed regardless of whether you’re going uphill, downhill, or on a flat road.
How the cruise control actually works is by automating the way you use your gas pedal. When you step on the gas, your vehicle’s throttle valve opens. This allows more air to flow through, which will result in acceleration. When activated, the system takes control of the throttle valve using a small electric motor, automatically opening it as needed to maintain your current speed.
What About Acceleration And Deceleration?
Another feature of cruise control systems is the ability to accelerate or decelerate without deactivating it. There are usually buttons right next to the main on button that allow you to increase or decrease speed. You can either tap on these buttons to adjust your speed in 1 mph increments or hold them to rapidly change speed.
This feature is helpful if you have a large stretch of road ahead of you and want to speed up a little bit without deactivating cruise control. Alternatively, you can use it to slightly slow down if you notice yourself catching up to the car in front of you. Just remember that it does not replace your brakes!
How Do You Turn Off The Cruise Control Function?
You should also understand how to deactivate this feature. It can be scary to imagine your car automatically accelerating because you aren’t controlling it. If there is a vehicle or road hazard in front of you, you’ll need to turn it off to avoid an accident.
There are two primary ways to turn this off and both are very easy to do. The first way is by pressing the off button located by the primary cruise control button. This will completely turn the function off and should always be pressed when you’re finished using it.
The other way to turn off this function is by applying the brakes. This is the quickest way to turn the cruise control function off and should be used in case you need to rapidly stop. Either method works, but braking is safer because it means you’re already pressing on the brakes to slow down.
When Should You Use The Cruise Control?
When you want to use cruise control is ultimately up to you. However, it is best served in two scenarios that often overlap. This includes driving at a fixed speed, like on a highway, and long road trips. As you can imagine, long road trips tend to involve driving on the freeway so they certainly coincide.
While you technically can use this function below 60 MPH, you should avoid doing it because of the frequent speed changes on city streets. You’ll inevitably need to stop at traffic lights and stop signs, slow down as other drivers change lanes, and may need to rapidly accelerate to avoid a hazard.
There are simply too many variables on slower roads that make them a poor choice for cruise control use. Stick to the freeway for the safest use. This will give you the flexibility of relaxing your foot and effortlessly maintaining a constant speed.
It’s also important to know that cruise control should never be used while driving on snow or a slippery surface. If the system is activated when driving on ice, the car might suddenly accelerate if the wheels start slipping.
Is Cruise Control Safe to Use?
You might also be wondering if cruise control is safe to use. The answer is yes, so long as you’re smart about it and understand what the function can and cannot do. Don’t rely on this feature to keep you safe. You also shouldn’t use the decelerate function to quickly slow down your car. It’s much safer to use your brakes!
Make a point to avoid using this function on slower roads. It is usable, but it can lull you into a false sense of security and you may not be as focused on the road. You should be constantly alert on slow roads, always looking for bikes and pedestrians, slowing down when needed.
As long as you’re careful, a cruise control system is entirely safe.
Is Cruise Control Worth Using?
One final consideration is whether cruise control is worth using. This ultimately depends on how much you appreciate using it. Some drivers can’t stand the notion of not having control over their vehicles at all times. Alternatively, some feel uncomfortable when their car accelerates without doing it themselves. If this is how you feel, then don’t use it. On the other hand, if you enjoy using it and it gives you relief on a road trip, then go right ahead!
Does Cruise Control Use More Gas
No! As a matter of fact, using this feature will actually increase fuel-efficiency. When you’re manually accelerating and decelerating, you’ll inevitably waste some gas. This is because you’ll speed up and slow down more than necessary. Comparatively, maintaining a constant speed via cruise control uses less gas overall.
A cruise control system is a fantastic feature that enables you to maintain speed without your foot on the gas pedal. It’s activated by pressing a button typically found near your steering wheel. Using it will automate the process of increasing or decreasing your vehicle’s speed. You can turn it off by using the brakes or pressing the off button.
This function is best used on the freeway and long road trips. When used properly, it’s completely safe and gives you a great way to avoid foot fatigue. It will use less gas overall and is a great feature if you enjoy using it! Just remember to never fully rely on it and always be ready to brake!