Have you wondered what the ‘Trail Control’ or ‘Terrain Management’ is on your Ford Ranger, and how it works? This page should give you a better understanding of what it is, and how it works.

Terrain Management:

Advanced technology provides an added measure of control, on or off the road. The Terrain Management System™ (included in the FX4 Off-Road Package) has four selectable drive modes. Choose Normal, Grass, Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, or Sand. The system, shifting on the fly, automatically calibrates engine responsiveness, transmission gearing and vehicle control systems to provide the optimum traction, driveability and performance.

If you’ve ever had the antilock brakes kick in when you start to spin the tires, you know how frustrating that can be. With Terrain Management, the system loosens up the traction control to allow more wheel slip so it doesn’t slow you down.

The Terrain Management is activated by the ‘TM’ button in the center of the 4WD knob. When you push the button, a window will appear in the instrument cluster showing the Terrain Modes. As you push the button, it will scroll through the different Terrain Modes until you find the one you want.

Trail Control:

Trail Control™ (included in the FX4 Off-Road Package) is a driver-activated control system that helps you navigate more easily over rough terrain. It manages throttle and braking at individual wheels while maintaining a constant speed between 1 and 20 mph. So you can focus all your attention on the thrill of steering over the demanding terrain.

So let’s say you’re crawling up a trail with some obstacles, and you want to do it at 4 MPH. You simply push the trail control button (see photo above) and a message will come up on the instrument cluster asking you to set your desired speed.

You set the speed with the button on the steering wheel:

From there you simply take your foot off of the gas and brake, and let the truck continue at the speed you set it at. You can speed up by pressing the gas, but when you let off, the truck will continue at the speed you set the Trail Control at. You can also hit the brake if you need to slow down, or briefly stop. Unlike regular cruise control, this DOES NOT deactivate the Trail Control. Once you release the brake, the truck will continue at the speed you set the Trail Control at. This gives you better control off-road, without having to re-set the Trail Control every time you touch the brake. When you’re done with the Trail Control, simply press the Trail Control button on the console.

Let’s say that you crest the hilltop on this trail, and start descending the other side. The Trail Control will keep the Ranger at the speed you have it set at. This is keeps you from physically riding the brake pedal all the way down the hill, and keeps the vehicle in control.

The Trail Control is something that you ‘experienced’ off-roaders may not feel the need to use. I’ve used it, and I think it can come in handy. Especially if you want to progress at a smooth pace and not lung over obstacles every time you bump the gas with your foot. I would most likely use it to control how fast I was travelling down a difficult hill.

Video – Traction Control & Terrain Management Explained:

Trail Control Engineer Brandon Cameron explains the Trail Control and Terrain Management systems to TheRangerStation.com owner Jim Oaks (driving) and Steve Turner from fordnxt.com (filming).

Rear Locking Differential:

Traveling on tough off-road terrain can be anything but predictable. What starts out as a level patch of dry dirt can instantly become a stretch of rutted mud. That’s where the available electronic-locking rear differential (included in the FX4 Off-Road Package) comes into play. When activated, it locks the rear axle completely to optimize traction at both wheels simultaneously, improving off-road performance when the situation requires it

FX4 Off-Road Package:

Serious off-roaders know what they need to get max fun out of every adventure. And it’s all in the FX4 Off-Road Package: Tuned off-road monotube shocks. All-terrain tires with aggressive tread. Traction-enhancing electronic-locking rear differential. Exposed steel front bash plate. Heavy-duty front skid plate. Skid plates for the electric power-assist steering (EPAS) electric motor, transfer case and fuel tank. And inside, a cluster screen provides feedback on pitch and roll plus steering angle. Included also are the Terrain Management System™ and Trail Control™ providing essential off-road technology.

Video – Off-Road Test Drive & Trail Control:

I recorded this video with my cell phone while test driving the 2019 Ford Ranger off-road on December 14, 2018. The video isn’t the best quality, and there isn’t any audio at the beginning. I just wanted people to get a look at the course I was driving on.

This was not intended to be a hardcore trail, but to allow people to see how the truck performs, and test its Trail Control and Terrain Management. I discuss the Trail Control in the video.

Principle of Operation:

Using the Terrain Management System

The terrain management system optimizes drivability and comfort by maximizing traction when operating on different types of terrain.

Press the TM button on the center console to choose between the following modes:

Note: Make terrain mode selections by toggling through mode icons in the information display.


Normal – For on-road conditions. Select this mode before driving on surfaces which are similar to a hard road surface or once the need for a special mode has passed.

Note: This is the default when you switch on your vehicle and whenever you select 4×2 via the four-wheel drive control.

Grass / Gravel / Snow

Grass/Gravel/Snow – For on-road conditions. Select this mode where loose or slippery material such as packed snow, ice, water, grass, or a thin layer of gravel or sand covers a firm surface. If your vehicle cannot gain traction in deep snow, switching off the traction control system may help.

Note: Make sure you switch traction control back on when you regain traction.

Mud / Ruts

Mud/Ruts – For off-road conditions. Select this mode for muddy, rutted, soft or uneven terrain.


Sand – For off-road conditions. Select this mode in soft dry sand or deep gravel. If crossing wet sand that may be sufficiently deep enough for the wheels to sink into the surface, select Mud/Ruts mode.

Note: The Grass/Gravel/Snow, Sand and Mud/Ruts modes are for off-road use only.

Note: The curve control portion of the AdvanceTrac system is unavailable when you select Sand or Mud/Ruts. If the system becomes inoperable, selecting some modes may not be possible and a message displays. If it becomes inoperable due to a system fault, all of the mode indicators on the control turn off and one of the following messages appears in the information display:

Terrain Management System Fault

Switching the engine on and off may clear the fault. If that does not work, have the system serviced by an authorized dealer.

Mode Change Not Accepted, Retry

This mode change cannot be made at the time of your request. Try the mode change again.

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