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What Does The ESC Light Mean When It Turns On? (+4 FAQs)

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Does your ESC light stay on? 
If so, what does it indicate about your car?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what the ESC light is and what it signifies. We’ll also cover some important FAQs about the ESC indicator light.

This Article Contains: 

Let’s get started.

What Does The ESC Light Mean?

The Electronic Stability Control Light, or the ESC light, is a warning light that alerts the driver when there’s something wrong with the vehicle’s traction control

The ESC light is a part of your vehicle’s Electronic Stability Control System
It’s designed to aid drivers in the event that they lose steering control, by helping them retain control of the brake and engine power in the car. 

The ESC light may turn on for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it simply indicates that the computer is actively trying to maintain traction control

That being said, it’s important to understand what it means for the ESC operation. 
Let’s take a look.

What Does The ESC Light Indicate?

The Electronic Stability Control system goes by many names, including Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), and others. 

But what can it mean when the ESC light stays on?
Let’s find out.

1. Faulty Wheel Sensor

The wheel speed sensor plays a crucial role in the functioning of the electronic stability control system. It monitors the tires and communicates with the ESC when there’s a loss of traction in the wheel. 

However, when the wheel speed sensor is covered in dust or can’t detect the wheel condition, it loses contact with the electronic stability control system. Hence, the ESC light gets triggered. 

Note: Since the stability control and traction control light relies on the ABS, problems with the brake light or brake pedal can also trigger the ESC light. For example, a defective brake light switch can sometimes also trigger the ESC light. 

2. Issues With The Wiring

Similar to a faulty wheel speed sensor or steering angle sensor, broken or faulty wiring can trigger the ESC light. 

This is because the sensor wiring plays a key role in communicating data from the ABS sensor to the ESC system. If the wiring is defective, it can make the ESC light stay on.

3. A Malfunctioning Steering Angle Sensor

The steering angle sensor is another important gadget that plays a role in ESC operation. 

How?
Located in the steering column, the steering angle sensor determines where the driver wants to steer and matches the steering wheel with the vehicle’s wheels. It also provides information on how fast the steering wheel is being turned. 

If the steering angle sensor stops functioning, the ESC would have no way of telling when there’s some problem with the vehicle stability control. 

Next, let’s understand some more details about the ESC light.

4 ESC Light FAQs

Here are some common questions on the ESC indicator light and its answers:

1. How Does The Electronic Stability Control System Work?

The Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system is a highway safety feature in cars that helps prevent accidents such as wheel spin on slippery roads. 

It uses automatic computer-controlled braking of individual wheels and assists the driver with maintaining cruise control of the tires in critical driving situations. It is activated when the system senses a possible loss of steering control via the ABS sensor. 

Note: The dynamic stability control system is also capable of adjusting for oversteering or understeering. It involves the traction control system and adjusts engine power to reduce speed and apply the brake, preventing a possible rollover.

2. Is It Safe To Drive When ESC Light Is On?

It depends. You can still drive if the ESC light is illuminated on your dashboard, but you should take necessary precautions like slowing down the car, avoiding slippery roads, practicing safe driving habits, etc. 

You should also understand why the ESC light is on — your owner’s manual can tell you more. 

For example, if the ESC system light is on to indicate that your electronic stability control system is engaged because it senses slippery conditions, then drive carefully. However, if it’s lit because there’s a malfunction within the ESC system, it’s best to stop the engine and get hold of a mechanic.

3. Stability Control Vs. Traction Control System: What’s The Difference?

The stability control and traction control system play similar roles in ensuring the individual wheels of your car don’t lose friction and slip. In fact, the electronic stability program is a more advanced version of the traction control system with better tools and more powerful monitoring systems.

So does that mean the traction control light is the same as the ESC warning light?
Yes and no. 

While they perform similar functions, the traction control can only limit the wheel spin. Stability control, on the other hand, can maneuver your vehicle. 

4. How Much Does It Cost To Service The ESC System?

The service costs for the electronic stability control system are fairly cheap, considering how important it is for highway safety. 

For instance, a new wheel speed sensor might cost between $100 – $150
Depending on the vehicle, a new steering wheel angle sensor can range between $100 – $200

Final Thoughts

Your car’s electronic stability control system can come in very handy on slippery roads or adverse weather conditions. It can even potentially prevent dangerous accidents. This is why it’s important to regularly service the ESC system. 

If the ESC warning light comes on and you’re not sure what it means, reach out to a professional for help. 
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