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Electronic Stability Control (ESC) | Symptoms Problems

In this guide, we explore possible problems that may trigger the stability control warning on the dashboard.

Traction control light may be labeled as ESC / ESP / DSC depending on your car manufacturer.

This guide applies to cars equipped with any of the following systems:

  • ESC - Electronic Stability Control
  • ESP - Electronic Stability Program 
  • DSC - Dynamic Stability Control 

Common Problems

If the stability control light is on, one of the following components could be the culprit. 

  • Brake light switch - A defective brake light switch can trigger the ESC light. This is a common problem. Easy to replace and inexpensive. 
  • ABS wheel speed sensor - Clean or replace the ABS sensor. 
  • ABS, ESP, ESC, DSC module malfunction - Needs to be properly diagnosed. 
  • Steering angle sensor - The sensor may require calibration.
  • Low battery 

What does it mean when the Stability Control System comes on?

The stability control system, in most cases, comes on because of a faulty ABS wheel speed sensor. Other problems can trigger the stability control light to come on. If the stability control light is constantly on, the system is disabled or not functioning properly. 

Below are a few simple things to check if your stability control light is on. 

Check Stability Control Button

esp light stays on dashbaord

On your dashboard, there is an ESC button that may have been pressed accidentally. If that's the case, you can manually turn the ESC light off.  
Start the car.  Find the switch that says ESC, ESP, or DSC on the dash and press it for three seconds. Look at your instrument cluster to see if the light turned off. 

Diagnose the stability system

The fastest way to determine why your stability control light is on is to use a diagnostic scanner to read codes from the stability and ABS modules. You will need to have the ABS scanner to diagnose ESC and ABS problems. Basic OBD-II code readers are not able to communicate with the ABS module. Use a diagnostic scanner such as Launch Creader to scan your car's multiple systems via the OBD-II port.

If your vehicle is still under warranty, take your car to the dealer to properly diagnose the ESC problem.

There shouldn't be a charge to fix stability problems if the vehicle has an existing warranty. 

how to scan esc off light codes


Step 1: Plug in the scanner on the OBD-II port under the dashboard. 
Step 2: Turn ignition to ON position. Do not start the car. 
Step 3: Access the ESC and ABS menus and read fault codes. 

What causes the stability control light to come on?

abs wheel speed sensor triggers stability control light to come on

8 out of 10 times, the stability control light comes on due to a faulty wheel speed sensor or an ABS sensor. These sensors can fail over time, get dirty, the wires or connectors can get damaged. It is a widespread problem and relatively easy to fix.

The second most common problem that triggers the stability control light is a faulty steering angle sensor. 

what casues stability control light to come on

You may notice that both ABS and stability lights have turned on at the same time. That's because the stability system depends on the ABS module to function properly. Therefore if there is a problem with the ABS module, the stability system will not function either. 

Why is my stability control light flashing? 

hyundai kia esp light warning problem

Under normal operation, the ESC light should only be on when you start the car for a couple of seconds and then turn it off.

If the ESC light is flashing when driving, that means that the system is engaged and trying to keep the vehicle under control.

It doesn't mean that there is something wrong with the ESC system. It means that you may be going too fast and should slow down.

ESC will flash if you are going through a corner too fast. The light turns off under normal driving conditions.

How do I know if my car has stability control? 

what does esp off mean

Most cars have stability control installed, but it may be called a different name. 

Electronic stability control (ESC) may also be referred to as an electronic stability program (ESP) or dynamic stability control (DSC).

Here is a list of what ESC is called on different makes.

Acronym Make 
ESC Hyundai, Kia, Chevrolet, Dodge, Chrysler, Audi, Saturn
ESP Mercedes-Benz, VW, Sprinter, Suzuki, BMW, Renault, Jeep
DSC Mazda, BMW, Jaguar 
StabiliTrak General Motors, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Holden, Opel, Vauxhall, GM

My stability light came on after changing the battery.

stability control light on after changing the battery

If the ESC light stays on after you replace the battery, don't panic. All you need to do is drive the car for a few minutes and make sure to make several left and right turn.

Once the system does a self-check, it should reset the stability light on its own. 

Do different tires turn on stability traction light? 

If you install different tire sizes on the front vs. the back, you may cause the ESC to malfunction.

ESC may also come on when you are using a spare tire with a different diameter than the rest of the tires on the car.