ESC Warning Light Meaning

ESC Warning Light Meaning

ESC means ‘Electronic Stability Control’ and is a driver assist system that by use of various sensors located around a vehicle, constantly monitors vehicle stability. If the system detects a loss of stability, ESC can apply braking to individual wheels and for some versions of the system, a reduction in engine power.

The ESC warning light means:

  • The ESC system has malfunctioned
  • The ESC system is operating to stabilize the vehicle

ESC System has Malfunctioned

If your car’s ESC system has malfunctioned, the ESC warning light will remain constantly lit. ESC uses a combination of wheel speed sensors (one on each wheel) steering wheel angle sensor and yaw rate sensor. Some versions of the system use more other sensors such as an accelerometer.

ESC as a whole is comprised of other driver assist systems such as the ABS system, traction control system and a braking system called ‘Electronic Brake Force Distribution’ which allows for the braking of individual wheels. ESC also relies on brake booster vacuum pressure to correctly operate.

All of these individual systems and components make up the ESC system and if there’s a fault in any of these, it can trigger the ESC warning light.

ESC System is Operating to Stabilize the Vehicle

If your car’s ESC warning light is flashing, it means the system is actively attempting to stabilize the vehicle. This is because a loss of traction, understeer or oversteer has been detected.

If the ESC warning light is flashing, it means you’re driving towards the limit of your vehicle’s handling capability and it’s probably a good idea to slow down. ESC doesn’t increase your vehicle’s handling ability, rather it reduces the possibility of a loss of control.

ESC OFF Warning Light

Electronic Stability Control (ESP) is activated each time your car is started, so if you’re seeing the ESP OFF warning light, it means the system has been manually deactivated. ESC can be switched off either by pressing a button, or if your vehicle doesn’t have a ESC OFF button, there should be an option to switch it on and off in the vehicle settings menu.

More about Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
Link What ESC is in Cars
Link How Does ESC Work in Cars
Link ESC Warning Light Meaning
Link Is It Safe to Drive With the ESC Light On?
Link Do You Need Electronic Stability Control?

3 thoughts on “ESC Warning Light Meaning

  1. I have a 2008 Ford Smax diesel 211K KLMS.
    My ESC light comes on occasionally. Safe mode is engaged. I stop switch off and wait a few seconds and it clears. I have had it diagnostically checked and cleared. There is a switch on the dashboard. If I deactivate it do I have to do this each time I start the car? Is there a way to eliminate the wheel speed sensors that are functioning ok? Also is it possible a tyre could be under inflated by small amount will this cause the problem. Appreciate any help as my local garage are just guessing and the Ford dealer dont seem to know either

    1. Hi Tony

      Are you getting an engine warning light on as well as the ESC light? If you have an engine problem and safe mode is active, the ESC system can often be disabled by the system as a safety precaution to prevent it from activating. If this is the case, once you’ve sorted the engine problem, the ESC problem will go away.

      Did you get any fault codes with diagnostics?
      Did the Ford garage do diagnostics? Sometimes a local garage doesn’t always have the equipment that can read all the fault codes.

      ESC is enabled each ignition cycle, so yes, you do need to disable it each time you start the car. ESC is quite an important stability system though, so it’s not an ideal ‘solution’.

      Often a faulty ABS wheel speed sensor can make ESC erratic as the system uses these sensors. Diagnostic equipment that’s capable of checking these sensors is required to determine if there’s a faulty one.

      Tyres that are different sizes to the manufacturer’s recommended can cause issues with ESC / ABS. It’s unlikely that a slightly under inflated tyre will cause issue with ESC, but just to rule it out, it’s best to check pressures and check tyre conditions.

  2. Hi,

    I was getting ESC and warning error. ESC stays on permanent afterwards. I changed the Turbo sensor which was picked up by the Code reader tool. Do I need to have the ESC error code cleared since the error keeps appearing and staying On?

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