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P0500: Vehicle Speed Sensor (VSS) Malfunction

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What is P0500?

Diagnostic trouble code (DTC) P0500 stands for “Vehicle Speed Sensor (VSS) Malfunction”.

This engine code shows up when the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) or Engine Control Module (ECM) finds incorrect speed readings or no signals from the vehicle speed sensor (VSS sensor). 

The vehicle speed sensor is connected to a speedometer cable and is located on the transmission output shaft. It monitors the vehicle’s wheel rotations and sends the pulse signal (which calculates the vehicle speed) to the combination meter. 

Note: The number of the pulse signal generated per rotation depends on the make of the car. 

This information is used by other car components like speedometer, cruise control, etc. For example, the speed signal data is used to control automatic transmission in a car, dim interior lights, or lock cars. 

In some cars, the job of the vehicle speed sensor is handled by the wheel speed sensor. Though they perform a similar function (that is, to measure wheel speed), the wheel sensor is located at the wheels, behind the rotor.  

As such, some vehicles that don’t have a VSS sensor may still show the error code P0500, as speed is calculated from the vehicle speed signal sent by the wheel speed sensor.

Other names of the P0500 code are:

  • Vehicle Speed Sensor “A” Range/Performance
  • Vehicle Speed Sensor “A” Intermittent/Erratic/High
  • Vehicle Speed Sensor “A” Low Input

Common symptoms

A vehicle speed sensor malfunction may make it difficult to shift gears or check your driving speed. Here are some other symptoms of the trouble code P0500:

  • The Check Engine Light turns on
  • A faulty speedometer or odometer
  • Malfunctioning cruise control
  • Erratic shifting as the ECM uses vehicle speed to determine when to shift 
  • The ABS light on the dashboard turns on
  • Anti-braking system (ABS module) or traction control system may not engage properly

Can I still drive?

The severity of DTC P0500 depends on the symptoms you face, but it’s generally considered to be a severe code, especially in an automatic transmission vehicle. Even if your car starts, you may face issues like hard shifting.  

If the speedometer doesn’t work, it’ll be hard to tell if you’re driving within speed limits to ensure safety. A malfunctioning ABS module or traction control system may make driving dangerous in extreme weather conditions. 

To avoid such issues, you should get a mechanic to resolve fault code P0500 before you start driving your car again.

P0500 causes

DTC P0500 can be caused by any issue or disruption in the vehicle speed signal transmission from the VSS sensor to the Engine Control Module. 

Apart from a faulty vehicle speed sensor, here are some common P0500 code causes:

  • Open or shorted wiring harness
  • Damage in the vehicle speed sensor drive gear
  • Poor electrical connection (damaged or frayed wiring)
  • PCM issues (PCM not rightly configured for the vehicle’s actual tire size)

Diagnosis

Code P0500 is a pretty severe code. Here’s how a mechanic will diagnose the problem:

  • First, your mechanic may scan for any other error code using an OBD II scan tool
  • After clearing all codes, they’ll start up your car and recheck the codes and freeze frame data. They’ll test drive your car to reconfirm that the vehicle speed sensor malfunction is present, consistent with the fault code.
  • Your mechanic may visually look for any damage in the vehicle speed sensor, VSS harness circuit, vehicle speed sensor connector, and wiring harness. This will help avoid replacing any parts unnecessarily.
  • They’ll use a scan tool to confirm if your vehicle speed sensor signal is present while driving. This can help determine if the sensor is defective.
  • Finally, your mechanic may check the vehicle speed sensor with a multimeter to see if the current runs through the sensor. If they notice a dead or open vehicle speed sensor circuit, your mechanic may replace the sensor for you.

Possible repairs for P0500 & Costs

Depending on the cause and diagnosis of code P0500, here are some ways your mechanic may fix the issue:

  • If your vehicle speed sensor is malfunctioning or damaged, they may replace the sensor. To replace the vehicle speed sensor, they’ll locate the sensor and remove the electrical connector. Then, unscrew the sensor located on the transmission and replace it with a new one.
  • Replace a malfunctioning vehicle speed sensor drive gear.
  • Repair or replace any open circuit or shorted vehicle speed sensor harness and connector.

If your vehicle speed sensor needs replacement, the cost may vary according to local labor charges. Typically replacement costs may be around $275 to $318. This includes both labor ($116 – $146) and cost of engine parts ($159 – $172).

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