ESC Light ON
Updated Friday Jul 07, 2017
If the ESC light is constantly staying on in your dashboard it means there is a malfuction with the electronic stablity control. In many cases the underlying problem may be with related systems such as ABS module.
ESC stands for electronic stability control. You may be wondering why my ESC light is on or flashing? ESC helps you not lose control of the vehicle on slippery roads or while turning. ESC monitors the rotations of each wheel and the position of the steering wheel via the steering angle sensor. The ESC system tries to keep the vehicle on the intended path by taking over the brake and engine power.
In this article we will learn:
- What is ESC?
- What ESC OFF does?
- Common problems that cause ESC light to come on
- How to turn ESC light off?
- ESC Light Flashing on Dashboard
In most cases when the ESC light stays on in your dashboard, you will notice that your car still runs perfectly fine. You may also notice that your wheels spin easily if the ESC is malfunctioning (ESC OFF light stays on).
Electronic stability control (ESC), may also be referred to as electronic stability program (ESP) or dynamic stability control (DSC)
The ESC which is short for Electronic Stability Control. It is a system whose main purpose if to keep the vehicle stable under extreme driving conditions such as when cornering too fast. If the ESC system detects that the vehicle is not traveling on the direction that the steering wheel is pointing to, it will reduce engine power and apply brakes to individual wheels in order to return the vehicle in the intended path. It depends on and uses the ABS module, brakes and wheel speed sensors to perform this task.
When ESC works properly and you go through a corner too fast you may notice that the vehicle brakes on its own. That's because the ESC system is trying to keep the car stable and avoid skidding. This is normal operation of ESC. The driver should slow down if this is the case.
Think of Electronic Stability Control system as a driving aid. Use precautions for safe driving by slowing down on turns, snowy, or icy roads. Drive slowly and don?t accelerate when you notice the ESC light is blinking. Slow down when the road surface is slippery.
This is a list of common defective parts that can cause the ESC light to go off or malfunction.
- Brake light switch. A defective brake light switch can trigger the ESC light. This is a common problem. Easy to replace and inexpensive.
- Bad wheel speed sensor. Clean or replace the ABS sensor.
- ABS module malfunction. Needs to be properly diagnosed.
- Steering angle sensor. Sensor may require calibration.
How to turn off ESC light
On your dashboard there is an ESC button that may have been pressed accidently. If that's the case you can manually turn the ESC light off.
- Start the car.
- Find the switch that says ESC on the dash and press it for three seconds.
- Look on your instrument cluster to see if the light turned off.
ESC Light and Check Engine Light
Do you have both ESC light and check engine light on at the same time? The Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Engine Control Unit (ECU) which triggers the check engine light are two different systems. If both lights have turned on that means that you have more than one problem on your car.
How to troubleshoot ESC
You will need to have the proper tools in order to diagnose ESC light problems. Most simple OBD-II code readers are not able to communicate with the ABS module. Use a diagnostic scanner such as Autel MD802 or Launch Creader to scan the multiple systems on your car via the OBD-II port.
Steps to troubleshoot ESC system.
- Plug in the scanner on the OBD-II port under the dashboard. See picture of OBD-II port below.
- Turn ignition to ON position. Do not start the car.
- Access the ESC and ABS menus and read fault codes.
If your vehicle is still under warranty, you may want to take your car to your dealer to have the ESC problem properly diagnosed. There shouldn't be a charge to fix ESC problems if vehicle has coverage.
ABS vs ESC
The Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) is activated only when you apply the brakes. ESC monitors the wheel speed of all four wheel and the position of the steering wheel and may engage at any time during driving when it notices that the vehicle is skidding such as during a hard turning.
ABS and ESC light on
You may notice that both ABS and ESC lights have turned on at the same time. That's because the ESC system depends on the ABS module to function properly. Therefore if there is a problem with the ABS module ESC will not function either.
Even if you turn off the ESC, the ABS and brake system will continue to operate normally unless the problem is the ABS system.
ESC Light Flashing
Under normal operation, the ESC light should only be on when you start the car for a couple of seconds and then turn off. If the ESC light is flashing when driving that typically, that means that the system is engaged and it trying to keep the vehicle under control. It doesn't mean that there is something wrong with 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.
Does my car have ESC?
Most cars have ESC installed but it may be called something different on your make. Electronic stability control (ESC), may also be referred to as electronic stability program (ESP) or dynamic stability control (DSC). Here is a partial list of what ESC is called on different makes.
|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|
ESC is meant to avoid accidents but it will not be able to prevent all of them. Don't drive too fast. Follow speed limits and drive according to the road conditions. Excessive speed while turning and abrupt maneuvers can still result in serious accidents.
Changing Tire Size
If you install different tire size 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 that is a different diameter than the rest of the tires on the car.
ESC Light After Battery Replacement
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 righ turns. Once the system does a self check it should reset the ESC light on its own.