How to Use Cruise Control Features

How to Use Cruise Control Features
A hand pushes the cruise control button on a steering wheel.

The cruise control on your automobile is one of those systems that is simple and at the same time complicated. It’s easy to use because the feature and control buttons are accessed with fingers or thumbs and designed to help the driver focus on the road. At the same time, the system has more capabilities than one might realize. Unless you carefully read the pages in your owner’s manual, you’ll more than likely miss out on some convenient features. This article will walk through the buttons and their functions and can be extremely helpful for those who no longer have the owner’s manual for their car or truck.

Things to Know About Cruise Control

All systems have a minimum speed at which the cruise can be set. Although most will set at 25 mph or above some older vehicles will need to be traveling above 30 miles per hour to engage the system. On manual transmission models the speed can be even higher and might require third gear or above be selected.

The system cannot be activated with the parking brake set. It’s easy to forget to release this before driving begins and unless it’s applied hard the vehicle will still roll down the street. The brake switch is designed to be very sensitive and will disengage the cruise, even with the slightest pedal pressure. Two foot drivers that hover over the brake pedal often find this feature frustrating. If the vehicle is equipped with traction control, or an active stability system when these features activate the cruise will also automatically disengage.

Basic Cruise Control Functions

Before driving begins it’s good to familiarize yourself with the location of all cruise related buttons. Steering wheel mounted controls are becoming more popular as they are extremely convenient, but some switches can still be found on the column mounted turn signal or combination levers. Most basic systems will have four or five buttons in total. No settings can be made until the power button has been turned on. Most cars have an indicator light or dash message verifying the system is ready to go.

The next button that will get the most usage is the set/coast switch. Hit the button at a certain speed, and it will hold there. Hit the button again and it will disengage and the vehicle will naturally begin to slow down as it coasts. This feature is handy when you want to knock a few miles per hour off of the set speed so you stop catching the vehicles in front of you. Many standard systems include a cancel button, which performs the same function as coast.

Advanced Cruise Control Features

The next button that is often used is the resume/accelerate button. This is pressed to make the vehicle accelerate or resume to the previous set speed before the system was disengaged by tapping the brake pedal. Slightly applying the brakes and hitting the resume button can become more frequent when traffic starts to build on the freeway. This can get to the point where you might be better off just abandoning the cruise. Many modern cruise systems will have a plus and minus button, which is extremely convenient. Hitting the plus button one time adds 1 mph to the set speed while hitting the minus subtracts one.

Cruise Control Feature Tips

When coming up on a slower vehicle in a highway situation, you can use the passing feature if it’s safe to do so. The passing feature is simply pushing down on the accelerator pedal to pull out and pass the slower vehicle in front. After the car is cleared the gas pedal can be released and it will coast or slow until the set speed is reached where it will hold. Most cruise systems will maintain their speed on hills. How well it performs will depend upon the speed, load and the steepness of the grade. When traversing a steep incline you may have to step on the accelerator pedal to maintain a constant speed. When going downhill you will most likely have to use the brake or shift lever on a manual transmission to hold the rolling speed down.

How well it performs will depend upon the speed, load and the steepness of the grade. When traversing a steep incline you may have to step on the accelerator pedal to maintain a constant speed. When going downhill you will most likely have to use the brake or shift lever on a manual transmission to hold the rolling speed down.

If people use the cruise control system for the first time on a new vehicle they’re often just concerned about basic operation. Finding and activating the power button, getting up to the desired speed and pressing the set button one time, will allow you to take your foot off the accelerator and hold the current MPH. When you want the system to disengage there are three ways of accomplishing this. You can step lightly on the brake pedal, press the cancel button on the steering wheel or turn the power button to the off position. If it doesn’t operate as per design intent there is an article here on auto repair.answers.com that digs into diagnosis and repair of cruise control systems.

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