ESC Light Meaning, Causes, Fixes and FAQs

Modern vehicles come with lots of safety upgrades and sensors that usually work quietly in the background. These features don’t need much attention from drivers. The latest vehicle systems also have the ability to help if the vehicle starts to skid or slide. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Traction Control (TSC) are helpful tools that warn drivers about possible dangers. Learn the ESC light meaning, causes, and how to fix it.

ESC Light

Your vehicle dashboard contains an ESC warning light that turns on when there’s a problem with the ESC system or when it’s actively keeping the car stable.

Today we will talk about the ESC light meaning, its causes, and how to reset it.

What Does The ESC Light Mean?

The Electronic Stability Control Light or ESC Light indicates that your Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system is active, or there might be an issue with the system.

ESC Light Meaning

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is an automated system made to help you stay on course if your car starts skidding. It teams up with the car’s traction control to assist the driver in handling the vehicle when the road conditions get risky.

Although traction control and stability control are often talked about together, but they are different systems. Stability control goes beyond traction control, offering extra features that may be useful if your car starts skidding or swerving.

ESC system kicks into action as soon as you start your vehicle. It continues working quietly while the vehicle is running. It pays attention to how you steer and the position of each wheel.

If you ever lose control of your vehicle, the ESC steps in by adjusting the gas and brakes to confidently guide your car back on track. Its purpose is to help prevent accidents and keep you safe.

If the ESC warning light is constantly on, it could indicate an issue with the ESC system, and it’s recommended to have your vehicle inspected by a mechanic to diagnose and address the issue.

Causes Of ESC Light

A bad ABS wheel speed sensor is one of the major reasons of the ESC light illumination. However, it may also come on if you mistakenly turn off the ESC system by turning the ESC button. An issue with the electrical wires or steering angle sensor may also lead to the illumination of the ESC light.

The following are the most common causes of ESC light illumination.

1) System Activation

ESC System

When you start your car as a self-check, your ESC light may start to illuminate for a short period of time. In this case, your light will automatically go away once the system verifies that everything is working efficiently.

2) ESC Is Disabled

Electronic Stability Control

Do you aware that in modern vehicle models, you have the option to switch off the stability control system? Although you should only do this if you’re intentionally trying to reset the system. As you press the button to switch off the ESC system, you’ll notice that the ESC light comes on.

Before you decide to contact a professional, it might be helpful to learn how to activate and deactivate the system yourself. You’d be surprised how often this simple step can resolve the issue and save you from needless hassles.

3) Bad Steering Angle Sensor

Steering Angle Sensor

The steering angle sensor is another important component that plays a role in managing your ESC system. It collaborates with the wheel speed sensor to make sure that each wheel is rotating at the right speed based on your travel direction.

When you steer your vehicle, the wheels on the outer side will naturally rotate faster than those on the inner side. This is a regular process, but if the steering angle sensor doesn’t inform the ECM (Engine Control Module) about the wheel’s motion, it might appear as if one side of the vehicle wheels is losing traction while the other side maintains perfect grip.

4) Bad Wheel Speed Sensor

Bad ABS Wheel Speed Sensor, causes of esc warning light

A bad wheel speed sensor is one of the major causes of ESC light illumination. Your car’s ESC system helps you stay in control while driving by monitoring how fast each wheel is going. If it notices that a wheel is going too fast or too slow, it helps adjust the brakes to keep you safe.

However, if one of the wheel speed sensors is broken or not working right, the ESC system might not work properly. To make sure everything is okay, you can use a scanner to check the performance of each wheel speed sensor. This helps you know if all the sensors are doing their job correctly.

5) Damaged Wiring or other Electrical Problems

Even if your vehicle’s sensors are in good operating condition, a disruption in the electrical wires between the ECM and the sensor may lead to incorrect functioning. However, this issue isn’t very common; it’s a possibility, particularly around the wheel speed sensors.

Dead Battery, reasons of Electronic Stability Control Light

Lastly, don’t forget to examine the battery and the power when inspecting engine sensors. I had an experience where I spent a lot of time figuring out why the ESC light suddenly turned on when I was driving fast. Eventually, I found out that the problem was a weak battery.

While my car was still able to start, it caused issues with the ESC system. Even now, I’m not entirely sure why this happened, so it’s important to always check the battery’s condition carefully.

Read More: Battery Saver Active Message Meaning and Causes

6) Faulty ABS System

ABS System

The ESC and ABS systems of a vehicle are closely connected. An issue with the ABS system, such as a faulty pressure sensor or failed pump, may also activate the ESC light.

Read More: Bad ABS Module Causes

How to fix the ESC Light?

To turn off or reset the ESC warning light, you need to repair or replace one or more of the following parts:

  • Restart the Car: In some cases, electronic malfunctions may also trigger the ESC light. In such conditions, turn off the engine for a few minutes and then restart it to see if the light turns off.
  • Check Tire Pressure: As discussed above, an issue with the vehicle tires may trigger the ESC light. Therefore, check the condition of your tires and tire pressure. If your tires are underinflated, inflate them up to the desired pressure. If your tires are worn out, replace them.
  • Check ABS System: Your ESC system works along with the system. An issue with the ABS system may trigger the ESC light.
  • Replace the Steering Angle Sensor: If your steering angle sensor is faulty, replace it.
  • Check Wiring and Connections: Check the electrical wires and connections connected to the ESC system. Replace or repair the damaged wires.
  • Replace the Wheel Speed Sensor: Properly examine the performance of the wheel speed sensor by using a scan tool. If the wheel speed sensor is faulty, it is necessary to replace it to turn off the ESC light.
  • Clear the Error Codes: Scan and clear the trouble codes stored in the ECM memory by using an OBD-II scanner. These codes may help to find the main issue.
  • Replace the Battery: As discussed above, the ESC light may also come on due to a weak or faulty battery. If the battery is dead, replace it.

Is It Safe To Drive With an ESC Light?

Driving with the illuminated ESC light is not recommended for safety reasons. However, if the ESC light comes on when you’re driving, it doesn’t certainly indicate an issue.

If this light comes on and goes off during conditions like driving on skidding or slippery roads, it means that your system is functioning properly, and there’s no need to worry.

On the other hand, if the ESC light turns on when it shouldn’t or remains on constantly (without deliberately deactivating the system), this is an unsafe situation for driving. This is because the ESC system restores stability by activating the ABS and applying brakes to specific tires. Consequently, while you’re accelerating, your brakes might engage and release repeatedly, even if you’re traveling at high speeds like 80 mph on the road.

However, it is possible that you won’t encounter problems while driving with an illuminated ESC light; the first time it malfunctions could potentially lead to accidents.

FAQ Section

What does it mean when the ESC light comes on while driving?

ESC is a computerized technology that identifies when there’s less grip on the road and then takes corrective actions automatically to prevent the car from slipping out of control. The ESC light turns on to notify you that the system is in action and the vehicle is getting close to its controlling limit. It may also indicate an issue with the ESC system.

What is Electronic Stability Control?

Electronic stability control (ESC) is an advanced technology controlled by a computer that enhances a car’s stability. It works by identifying and reducing instances of traction loss. When your vehicle starts to veer off its intended path in curves or during quick steering maneuvers, ESC steps in to stabilize it.

Can I drive with the illuminated ESC Light?

Yes, it is possible to drive with the illuminated ESC light, but it’s important to take safety measures. These safety measures include adhering to safe driving practices, avoiding slippery roads, and reducing vehicle speed. To understand why the ESC light is on, refer to your vehicle service manual for more information.
For instance, if your ESC light is on because the system is actively engaged due to detecting sliding situations, exercise caution while driving. On the other hand, if the light is indicating an issue with your ESC system, it’s advisable to turn off the engine and seek assistance from a professional.

What is Traction Control System?

The traction control system (TCS) is a safety feature that senses when the wheels of your car begin to slip and lose traction on the roads. When it detects this, the TCS system instantly takes action, either applying the brakes to the slipping wheel or reducing the engine power to that wheel. 

Can ESC cause a car not to start?

The ESC module is a vital component responsible for controlling the ignition of the engine. If it malfunctions, it may result in the absence of an ignition spark. In such cases, your car might still crank, but it won’t be able to start completely or operate.

Does ESC affect motor speed?

The ESC’s primary function is to serve as an intermediary between the electric motor and the battery. It manages the motor’s rotation by sending precisely timed electric signals, which translate into adjustments in the motor’s speed.

Is ESC important in cars?

Yes, ESC holds a vital role as a safety mechanism that averts the emergence of hazardous vehicle conditions. It also serves as a fundamental requirement for additional safety features like a driver assistance system.

Does ESC reduce power?

ESC gauges the direction of a skid and takes corrective action. It stops certain wheels for a moment to steer the car back in the right direction that you want. Also, it can make the car slow down by either using the brakes or reducing the engine power.

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