It’s common knowledge that traction has always been the limiting factor to increasing a vehicle’s rate of acceleration. After years of manufacturers increasing horsepower while throwing caution to the wind towards any form of traction management, it finally came to a head after modern safety standards began to persuade manufactures to install it on all new vehicles. It is probably for the best though, as modern performance engines have doubled the horsepower figure from the era of High Output 302 cubic-inch engines.
With vehicle manufacturers spending tremendous amounts of money on producing precisely calibrated traction control units, why would anyone desire an aftermarket system? I asked myself the same question after visiting the JMS Chip booth at the 2021 PRI show. However, I quickly remembered the traction control on the 2021 Mustang GT that I drove worked more like a quick-handed father utilizing a backhand upside the head method versus a mother’s controlled temperament when it came to misbehaving. The intrusiveness almost erased the fun of acceleration, but turning Ford’s AdvanceTrac off resulted in a tantrum from the chassis under heavy acceleration with poor grip conditions. This made sense, as the AdvanceTrac is Ford’s electronic stability system designed to assist driving in difficult road conditions, like ice or snow, not bring civility back to reckless driving.
What I was searching for was something that I could use to modulate the amount of intervention I desire based on surface conditions or power applied. Instead of being an on/off switch, I was seeking a rotary-style that would allow me to fine-tune for maximum traction and acceleration potential on any pavement. To set the bar even higher, I want to achieve this without heavily neutering torque in the process. Since the TractionMax offer the ability to diminish or enhance throttle pedal input and what speed the throttle body blade would open, it seems like it could potentially be what I am looking for.
TractionMAX works to enhance the factory traction control and increase your 0-60 performance. The dual-dial allows you to adjust the throttle & traction response to fit your needs, giving you extra control at your fingertips. -Nashona Haldane, JMS Chip marketing and creative director
No matter how much I dislike the AdvanceTrac though, I was still skeptical of what JMS Chip could bring to the table, especially at the price point of only a few hundred dollars. The lure of adjustable wheel speed management overrode any doubts I had, though, and I decided to snag one up for testing purposes. The install process was extremely simple and only required me to disconnect my battery for a brief time and connect the TractionMax to the drive-by-wire pedal assembly. The hardest part of the entire install was fitting my 200-pound frame between the driver’s seat and dash while laying upside down in 105- degree Fahrenheit heat, followed closely by resetting the factory radio’s clock.
Now that I had the TractionMax installed, it was time to go for a test drive. I made the mistake of informing my father that I would be testing traction on his car, which in his mind equated to me doing smokey burnouts on his fresh set of tires. Needless to say, he jumped in the passenger seat to either monitor me or live dangerously, I’m not quite sure. Unfortunately, we had limited time, as I left the wife to watch my four overly tired and cranky children to rampage through my parents’ house of breakable items.
How It Works
So, how does the JMS Chip TractionMax controller work? The PEDAL and TIME dials each control one function of the drive-by-wire throttle assembly. The throttle blade enhancement is controlled by the PEDAL dial and the throttle blade opening rate is controlled via the TIME dial. Simply put, adjust the PEDAL dial for best throttle response and adjust the TIME dial to avoid spinning the tires on launch.
If you were to turn the PEDAL dial into the negative range, you reduce the torque, whereas the positive range enhances it. While the Coyote engine’s power is not dictated by road conditions, your ability to maximize traction is. This is where you can adjust the PEDAL dial to either ease down or increase the power to match tire grip. The TIME dial can only slow the throttle blade opening speed from stock to 100-percent reduced, which will allow you to ramp up the powerband at full throttle without fear of getting full power delivered instantaneously. This will help eliminate that instant hit that can blow your tires’ traction away.
Each setting is locked in for all gears, however, you can bypass it using the Automated Traction Override feature. This feature will allow you to set up your TractionMax for the ultimate launch, but once you reach wide-open throttle it will deactivate the settings for 20 seconds as you shift through the rest of the gears, completing your pass.
Playing With The New Toy
Like most, I enjoy playing with any new product before trying to implement it for road use. The TractionMax was easy enough to use, as its two knobs are clearly marked and the PEDAL dial has a precise click feel. Leaving the car in neutral and free-revving would show just how much I could slow the throttle blade from opening when adjusting the TIME dial. The PEDAL dial allowed me to enhance the reaction of the gas pedal, which was fun at the 100-percent mark. Unbeknownst to my father and I, was the local patrol unit watching from a distance. Somehow the five minutes of revving the Mustang on school property had gone unnoticed or maybe enjoyed. In any case, we were not sticking around to find out.
Deciding to tempt our fate elsewhere, we migrated to the backroads, accelerating and adjusting to match the traction we desired. I found adjusting the TIME dial would decrease the initial hit of power unloaded on the rear wheels. Adjusting the PEDAL dial towards the negative would decrease the torque in the 2,500-4,500 rpm range where the Coyote ramps up torque before plateauing. The combined effort allowed me to ease the power into my tires and constrain the powerband based on surface grip. Since this was all done on 305 series tires and extremely hot Texas roads, it only required minimal adjustment before we stopped spinning and started accelerating quicker.
I’ll be the first to admit, though, that I had way too much fun turning the PEDAL dial to 100-percent and leaving the TIME on the stock setting (0-percent) to have that feel of instant throttle sensation and tire spin, ultimately defeating the purpose of traction control. Meanwhile, the back of my head cringed each time, as it readied itself to relive the OEM traction control metaphor used above, as my dad rode shotgun raising his hand simultaneously with the tachometer.
Secret Level Unlocked: JMS Chip TractionMax Rain Mode
We decided that enough fun was had and it was time to head back to face the music of leaving my wife with all the kids. Cruising back towards the house, we ran into a major unanticipated obstacle that no sports car owner enjoys seeing. Covering the road between my father’s house and the hill country we were in was a massive wet downburst that covered the sky for miles. As most can imagine, the visibility quickly went downhill, and traction followed shortly thereafter. While this was in no way part of my testing itinerary, it became a basis for a completely new added value. Instead of lugging the engine along at low RPM and modulating the gas pedal, I cranked up the TIME dial and kept it under 5,000 rpm.
Normally, under these weather conditions surpassing 60-percent throttle position would have me fishtailing into a ditch. However, with the JMS Chip TractionMax installed, I was able to keep the pedal at WOT without any worries and then shift into the next gear before 5,000 rpm. Since I had the clarity to focus on my thoughts instead of making funeral arrangements, I began to think of how this could be used on a high-horsepower build that has a narrow, but large, powerband window, commonly seen on a twin-screw supercharged Coyote build. Instead of pulling over and waiting for each storm to pass, you could instead simply turn two dials and continue on your way.
It was easy to see just how the JMS Chip TractionMax is a simple method of reducing 60-foot times on almost any surface. Where the true value lies is in its ability to cater to the driver and their wishes for traction – for speed or safety. Instead of eliminating torque to produce it, you can fine tune it based on your vehicle’s build and the pavement without massively overspending. Having the ability to reduce power on the fly is just an added bonus to keep you and your ride safe. Overall the JMS Chip TractionMax was well worth the money, time, and wife’s frustrations to check out.