How does cruise control work and do I need it?

By Kijiji Autos
How does cruise control work and do I need it? Kijiji Autos

One of the most common creature comforts in modern vehicles is cruise control. It makes life easier and even made the cut for Kijiji Auto's must-have car accessories. Here, we're going to go in-depth on why that is and how it all works.

How do I use cruise control?

Cruise control uses the car’s electronics to set your desired speed and keep it there. Typically, drivers can set it from either a steering column-mounted lever or buttons on the wheel itself. For the latter, press the button to activate the system, then use the +/- buttons to pick a speed, usually displayed in the instrument panel. For levers, press the button on the end of the stalk to activate cruise control, accelerate to the speed you want and press the stalk down to set it.

Once activated, cruise control will keep the car at a constant speed. This includes hills, meaning it will apply throttle or brakes as needed. Cruise control will remain active until the driver presses any of the pedals, at which point it will be disabled.

What is adaptive cruise control?

Over the years, cruise control has become smarter, with more features. Adaptive cruise control uses a front-facing radar system to determine the distance to the car in front. The driver can select the gap as well as the speed, and the vehicle will vary the throttle and brake inputs to match both.

Depending on the model and its features, a car’s adaptive cruise control can even go down to a full stop and get back up to highway speed without the driver touching the pedals. Always check your car’s user manual to learn about the specific details of its cruise control system.

How does cruise control help me?

The answer: in a variety of ways!

For starters, it makes long-distance road trips much more comfortable. Drivers can use cruise control to give their right foot a break. Remaining comfortable yet alert is important when driving, and even something small like this helps.

Cruise control can also help with speed management. Some of us may find ourselves slowly accelerating on longer stretches of road without realizing it. But that’s not an issue with cruise control active.

In a way, this also saves you gas. Setting cruise control on its own doesn’t—whether it’s the car’s computer brain or your right foot, a steady speed will always use the same amount of fuel—but it does help avoid the unnoticed acceleration that can happen.

However, it’s important to remember that intelligent cruise control will add throttle on uphill sections, increasing fuel consumption.

Things to keep in mind about cruise control

Cruise control can work in conjunction with modern features like lane-stay assist to make driving much easier. They are not self-driving systems, though, and should not be treated as such. Always stay alert behind the wheel.

Remember to disable cruise control in the rain. Inclement weather means less traction on the road, and cruise control trying to maintain a constant speed can actually make the situation more dangerous if you need to react quickly to anything.

Cruise control isn’t just for cars! Motorcycles can come equipped with it, as well. Even if a car didn’t come from the factory with the feature, there are aftermarket options to retrofit it to your car if you want.

Now that you’re filled in, remember that you can select “cruise control” in the “extras” filter when browsing for your next car on Kijiji Autos.

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