Service StabiliTrak [What Is This Message and How to Fix It?]

If you’re wondering what “Service StabiliTrak” means and what it entails for your vehicle, you’re not alone. 

The Service StabiliTrak message on your dash indicates an error in the StabiliTrak System, a type of traction control in all cars as a standard safety measure. Possible causes of the Service StabiliTrak message include an input sensor, a faulty controller, or a bad connection.

The underlying issues and on-and-off process for the StabiliTrak System vary from vehicle to vehicle and model to model.

Read on to learn more about StabiliTrak and what you can do when the Service StabiliTrak message blinks on your dash.

Service StabiliTrak Overview – What Is StabiliTrak?

Service StabiliTrak

The Service StabiliTrak notification indicates an error with the StabiliTrak System, a type of traction control present in all cars as a standard safety measure. Possible causes include the following:

  • An input sensor
  • A faulty controller
  • A bad connection

These underlying issues and on-and-off processes for the StabiliTrak System may vary between vehicles.

Before we begin to untangle the meaning behind the Service StabiliTrak message, it is important to understand StabiliTrak’s role in driving and overall safety.

StabiliTrak is originally given to General Motors (GM)’s Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system – a type of traction control and a standard safety feature existing in all GM cars.

Since then, StabiliTrak has been colloquially used to refer to traction control systems (TCS) of other vehicles, including Chevrolet, Toyota, Ford, and Volkswagen.

Through a sensor or a series of sensors, the TCS detects whether a car’s wheel is slipping and whether to apply the anti-lock brakes to the slipping slide. Power is then diverted to the non-slipping side, and the driver can continue to ride their car.

It is worth remembering that while all ESC systems are a type of traction control, not all traction control systems are Electronic Stability Control systems. Traction control systems are only limited to preventing the wheels from spinning.

On the other hand, ESC systems can play an active role in changing the vehicle’s steering.

Service StabiliTrak GM

For instance, GM’s StabiliTrak uses the brakes to stop the wheel slip and change the vehicle’s entire trajectory. It can even identify when the driver exactly lost control of the vehicle.

This early detection allows the system to combine engine power with brake pressure in record time to prevent an accident.

Service StabiliTrak Chevy

Meanwhile, Chevrolet operates its StabiliTrak system through a steering wheel position sensor. This sensor compares the wheel’s position to the vehicle’s real steering response.

You can adjust the brake or engine torque depending on what Chevrolet’s StabiliTrak system detects. Through this, the driver maintains control of the vehicle and continues to hit the road. 

StabiliTrak in Action: Why It Matters?

StabiliTrak’s role in keeping drivers safe may be underrated, but it certainly takes the spotlight in unfavorable road conditions, especially in winter. When you drive in ice or snow, the chance to lose traction when turning around the corner is much higher.

Sometimes, the driver attempts to move the vehicle in a particular direction, but the car does not follow through. ESC systems like StabiliTrak come to the rescue. StabiliTrak detects the attempt, applies the brakes to whichever wheels need it, and the car stops slipping. 

In Chevrolet cars, StabiliTrak responds to oversteering by applying the brakes to each wheel individually, if necessary. StabiliTrak then utilizes the outer front brake to bring your car back on track.

In situations where understeering occurs, StabiliTrak engages the inside rear brake. Thus, the car is pointed in the right direction. 

Since StabiliTrak’s detection and response is usually faster than most drivers, the system can literally save lives. This claim is proven by fact. In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that they could save around 1 949 lives due to the vehicles’ ESC systems.

Federal laws require all cars manufactured from 2012 onwards to install a traction control system as a standard safety feature. That way, you can guarantee a safe trip past dead woods and snowy landscapes.

But what if something goes wrong with the StabiliTrak system? How do we know? This is where the Service StabiliTrak message comes in.

Service StabiliTrak Message: Not Just a Simple Error 

Service StabiliTrak message usually indicates the StabiliTrak sensor is malfunctioning. But in some cases, the Service StabiliTrak message may have other causes.

Sometimes the flashing StabiliTrak light might be accompanied by the warning lights for traction control (TRAC) or the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS). When those lights appear, they indicate that the ABS and TRAC systems are also disabled.

Thus, you must make adjustments to your driving style accordingly. 

StabiliTrak Initializing Message vs. Service StabiliTrak Message

However, not all StabiliTrak-related messages bring doom and gloom. These two messages may look similar at first glance – but be careful! The implications are vastly different. 

StabiliTrak Initializing Message

For starters, the StabiliTrak Initializing message is actually a regular occurrence. This is often because your vehicle’s StabiliTrak system was not currently able to initialize. Reasons may vary, ranging from improper tire size to road conditions.

If you have this Service StabiliTrak message pop up on your dash, you shouldn’t probably sweat it. Your vehicle is fine. Persistent StabiliTrak Initializing messages, however, may be a symptom of an underlying issue.

In this case, it is best to take your vehicle to the nearest service center or auto dealer in the area.

Service StabiliTrak Message

However, a Service StabiliTrak message means there is something wrong with your car. A simple power cycle may sometimes do the trick. If you own a Chevrolet, you can pull over and turn your engine. Sit and wait for about fifteen (15) seconds. Turn the car back on.

If the message has disappeared, feel free to cruise and ride. Otherwise, you should probably seek your local service center.

The Service StabiliTrak message, however, has no one definite underlying cause. The next section features some of the most common reasons behind the Service StabiliTrak message on your dash.

Common Reasons Behind the Service StabiliTrak Message 

1. Input Sensor

This is one of the most common reasons why the Service StabiliTrak message appears on your dash. These faulty sensors could either be for wheel speed, steering angle, or rotational speed.

A quick replacement of the affected sensor to your vehicle model in the nearest service center should do the trick. 

2. Faulty Controller

In this case, a broken powertrain control module (PCM) may be to blame. The StabiliTrak system works when every wheel’s electronic sensors communicate with the PCM regarding stability and steering performance. This is especially important in rough weather conditions. 

3. Bad Connection

Sometimes, the Service StabiliTrak connection may be due to a broken GM-LAN communication line. GM cars are manufactured with a GM-LAN communication line, a plastic cover-protected bundle of wire that runs all the way towards the transmission.

A heat shield is bolted to the transmission to protect the wiring and sensitive transmission components.

However, age and prolonged exposure to heat can cause the plastic cover to be brittle and break away. This leaves the GM-LAN communication line unprotected. A portion of the GM-LAN line may also be pressed against the heat shield, partially melting the plastic cover over the wire.

The GM-LAN wire grounding can disrupt Body Control computer communication, including the StabiliTrak System.

While the Service StabiliTrak message can appear for various reasons, another possible cause could be wiring and grounding issues.

How to Fix Faulty StabiliTrak?

How to fix StabiliTrak?

The Service StabiliTrak message means that there is a malfunction. Sometimes you can fix a StabiliTrak with a basic power cycle of your car’s engine:

  • Pullover, and turn your car off;
  • Let it sit for a minimum of 20 seconds;
  • The message should be gone when you start the car back up; and
  • If not, then you should seek service.

Watch the below video by Kickin’ it with Lalo to learn another way to fix the Service StabiliTrak message. His method works on GM 07-13 vehicles. Lalo demonstrates how he managed to do a quick and affordable fix using a 24-inch Duralast DW424B Switch to the Starter Battery cable:

Sometimes, StabiliTrak Is Better Turned Off

While StabiliTrak or traction controls operate as safety measures, they reduce power. Reduced power may not be ideal when you find yourself and your vehicle in a particularly sticky situation.

For instance, no one wants to be stuck in the middle of a snowstorm or a muddy hill. Sometimes, the best way to get out of freezing and murky hell is an extra boost. There are several ways to disable the StabiliTrak depending on the car and model.

Next, let’s look at how to disable StabiliTrak.

How to Turn It Off in Different Vehicles?

See below for how to turn off StabiliTrak for different vehicles:

1. Toyota

Thanks to the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) button, it is much easier to turn off StabiliTrak in Toyota vehicles. All you have to do is to press and hold the button for a few seconds.

This will immediately disable the VSC along with traction control (TRAC). When the process is complete, the dash will flash a “VSC OFF” message along with “TRAC OFF” indicators.

2. Ford

Generally, this process works for Ford or other identical vehicles. The methods may vary depending on the model. For some models, you must first press the traction control button and turn off the StabiliTrak.

Afterward, release the button immediately. Then, hold down the control button for a moment to turn off the traction control.

However, other models require you to find the StabiliTrak sensor location:

  • To find the StabiliTrak sensor location, go to the car’s menu, and take note of the steering wheel controls under the instrument panel;
  • Look for the black arrow at the left side of the steering wheel;
  • Press the black arrow;
  • Afterward, scroll down using the down arrow again to control the setting;
  • When you reach the settings, choose to accept;
  • More options will automatically pop up once you select this;
  • Next, select DRIVER ASSIST from the options, and press the OK button again;
  • Once done, the DRIVE CONTROL option should flash on the dash. When it does, this means the process has ended;
  • All that’s left for you to do is to check the steering wheel and press OK. 

Done? Great. Now you’re good to go.

3. Volkswagen

Cars manufactured by Volkswagen have a different process compared to the previous two:

  • First, you must convert the vehicle to accessory mode while the ignition is still kept in position;
  • Remember, do not start the engine;
  • Next, go through the lights and press a triangle button. This button activates the warning lights;
  • Once the warning lights are turned on, press the accelerator pedals five times. Do this slowly; and
  • Pressing the accelerator pedal causes the car to lurch forward and for the Traction Control (TC) to come back on. This process is automatic.

Turning off the StabiliTrak does disable some safety features in most Volkswagen vehicles. It’s highly advised to reactivate the StabiliTrak system once you’ve left the mud or the cold. 

4. RAM, FIAT, Dodge Jeep, and Chrysler

The process for these vehicle types is much easier. However, It is important to perform this method with the vehicle stopped but with the ignition still turned on.

First, press the ESC button. Hold it for around six seconds. Afterward, you will hear a buzzer. The “ESC OFF” should pop up in the instrument group.

5. Chevrolet and GMC

For Chevrolet and GMC vehicles, look for a button that has a car with squiggly lines:

  • The button is in the center stack. Once you find it, press and hold the button for a few seconds, this will light up the traction control;
  • Next, check the instrument lister; and
  • You will find a Driver Information Center (DIC) message popped up. This is more prominent in some vehicle models, such as the GMC Sierra 2018.

That’s it. Just remember that turning off the StabiliTrak also turns off traction control.

Should you wish to turn on the StabiliTrak system again, you don’t have to worry. You don’t actually have to do anything! Unlike other vehicle types, Chevrolet and GMC vehicles do this automatically once your vehicle exceeds 56 km/h or 34.79 mi/hr.

Other Concerns Regarding the Service StabiliTrak Message 

Is it Safe to Drive When the Service StabiliTrak Message Appears?

Yes! You are not in immediate danger when these messages pop up your dash. StabiliTrak is meant to help detect and control the vehicle in a sliding situation.

Since the StabiliTrak is turned off, you will have to adjust your driving whenever you encounter sliding or other similar conditions on the road.

However, the best option for your long-term safety is to visit the nearest auto dealer and have a technician or mechanic look at your system. A quick vehicle scan may reveal diagnostic troubleshooting codes.

Should you wish to have it fixed or repair the vehicle by yourself at home, it’s important to assess and understand the underlying issues behind the message. 

How Much Does It Cost to Fix the StabiliTrak?

Should you wish to replace your vehicle’s traction control or StabiliTrak, the average cost ranges from $80 to $90. This includes labor costs, which may be around $30 to $50, depending on your location and car dealer. Parts, on the other hand, may range from $20-$40.

For some vehicles that have Service Stabilitrak message problems and require sensor replacements instead, the cost can run from $250-$400 apiece.

Since the Service StabiliTrak message has no definite cause, it’s best to run through the possible reasons behind it before ultimately deciding on the next course of action. When none of those work, it’s probably best to bring your vehicle to the nearest auto shop.

In Closing

The Service StabiliTrak message is a reliable indicator of an error within the vehicle’s StabiliTrak System. As a standard safety measure, the StabiliTrak System protects drivers from sliding wheels and prevents accidents in rough road conditions.

Common causes for the Service StabiliTrak message are input sensors, faulty controllers, and bad connections.

Sometimes, it is beneficial to turn off the StabiliTrak System to increase power output in emergency cases. Depending on the vehicle and model, disconnecting the StabiliTrak System may vary.

While it is relatively safe to drive with the Service StabiliTrak message on the dash, it is best to consult a mechanic and turn in your car to the nearest service center.

To find the Stabilitrak sensor location:

  • Go to the car’s menu, and check the steering wheel controls under the instrument panel;
  • Look for the black arrow on the left side of the steering wheel. Press this black arrow;
  • Afterward, scroll down using the down arrow to control the setting. When you reach the settings, choose accept.

How to fix StabiliTrak?

A quick fix for the Service StabiliTrak message is to pull your car over and turn it off. Then, let it sit for about 15 to 20 seconds. The “Service StabiliTrak” message should be gone when you start the car back up. If the message isn’t gone, then you should seek service.

Read next:

Service Stability System Warning Light: Causes and How to Fix