Cruise Control 101
Cruise control is the system that automatically controls the speed of a motor vehicle. The system takes over the throttle of the car to maintain a steady speed, which is set by the driver.
This system controls the speed of your car the same way you do: by adjusting the throttle position. But, instead of pressing the gas pedal, cruise control operates the throttle valve using a cable connected to an actuator. The throttle valve, in turn, controls the power and speed of the engine by limiting how much air the engine takes in. Here are a few other things you’ll need to know:
1) Don’t use cruise control in hazardous weather conditions.
This is probably the most important thing to remember about cruise control. It’s not designed to be used in bad weather, including rain and snow. Use good judgment when deciding to apply your vehicle’s cruise control, and be sure to check for any dangers or oncoming obstacles in the road before engaging the system.
2) Building your speed is important.
Interstate speed limits are generally between 55 and 70 miles per hour, which is an ideal range for cruise control. You shouldn’t attempt to use this system at speeds above that limit. This is dangerous and bound to get you a ticket sooner or later.
3) Your reaction time will be slower.
It’s important to note that you have to deactivate the cruise control system before you slow down or stop by tapping the break or pressing the “cancel” button. Watch the road carefully, as your reaction times to obstacles and other sudden changes will be slower.
4) Your gas pedal will move up and down.
When the cruise control is engaged, the actuator also moves the cable connected to the pivot, which adjusts the throttle; it also pulls on the cable that is connected to the gas pedal. This is why your pedal moves up and down when the control is applied.
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This article was originally published in 2017 and has been updated to reflect evolving best practices.