The “ESC OFF” warning light is one of the Rolodex of warning and indicator lights that can pop up on the dashboard of most modern vehicles. We’re going to take a quick look at what the ESC OFF warning light is all about, but first, let’s take a refresher of what the ESC is.
ESC, What Is It?
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is an improvement on the anti-lock braking systems (ABS) we’ve known for a long time. As you probably already know, ABS only kicks in when you step on the brake pedal, but what about the rest of the time? That’s where the Electronic Stability Control comes in.
Like ABS, ECS (also known as Electronic Stability Control Program) monitors the rotational speed of the wheels and other parameters such as the steering angle. In instances of a loss of steering or traction control, the system is designed to automatically reduce engine power and/or engage the brakes in order to maintain stability.
What Does the ECS Do?
The Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is designed to counteract understeering and oversteering which usually happens when a driver accelerates excessively when making a turn. For example, understeering causes the car to keep moving forward when a driver turns too sharply while oversteering causes the tires to lose traction and try to push in the opposite direction to the turn, kicking the back end of the car out.
When various sensors detect such dangerous behavior, the computer immediately calculates the information from the sensors and automatically suppresses the engine output.
Plus, the system can also employ countermeasures such as apply brakes to specific tires, help counteract the inclination of the car body, help maintain a stable posture, and enhance the driving force of the other wheels. Electronic Stability Controls (ESC) goes by many names but their functions are the same. Every car make comes with an instruction manual for how ESC works on the specific vehicle.
What Does the ESC OFF Light Mean?
The “ESC OFF” light on the dashboard can have multiple implications, so the key is to understand the ESC system of your specific car. Generally, the light should illuminate when your vehicle’s computer is actively trying to maintain the vehicle’s stability. The light will stay on only while the vehicle is experiencing a loss of control. If the light stays on constantly, a malfunction has likely been detected or the system was manually shut off.
Most vehicles that have a button to activate stability control should also have “off” written under the ESC icon, making it easy for the driver to tell if there is a malfunction or if the system was manually turned off. If a malfunction is detected, the system will be temporarily disabled until the issue is resolved. A certified automobile technician can scan the car’s computer for trouble codes to help identify the problem.
Is It Safe to Turn Off the ESC Light?
Electronic Stability Control assists the driver to maintain control of the vehicle, but it can’t do everything for the driver. It’s advisable not to turn off the ESC light as much as possible. If you are driving in slippery conditions and the light comes on, slow down the car for better control.
Problems that interfere with the operation of stability control should be resolved as soon as possible. You may need to turn off stability control, but in most cases, it’s better to leave it on. If the vehicle’s stability control system is not working properly, a certified technician can help diagnose and fix the problem.