Stabilitrak Service Light Explained

Seeing the check engine light come on is one of the most bothersome things that can happen to car owners. What’s even worse is when an unknown warning light comes on while you are in the middle of driving. An example is when the Stabilitrak service light suddenly lights up. What is it, and what does it mean for your car? This article will have the Stabilitrak service light explained.

The service Stabilitrak light turning on can mean one of several things, namely:

  1. Faulty Wheel Speed Sensor
  2. Malfunctioning Traction Control System Controller
  3. Loose Connection
  4. Stuck Brake Pedal Switch
  5. Wrong Tire Size or Underinflated Tires

Those are just some reasons why you get this warning light on your dashboard. Each one of these reasons requires your immediate attention. Like the other warning lights you can get, never ignore the Stabilitrak Service light. Instead, have it assessed and fixed as soon as possible.

Read on to learn more about the Stabilitrak service light and what to do when you see it flash on your instrument panel.

Service Stabilitrak Light Explained

Stabilitrak Service Light

Your car’s Stabilitrak system is quite complex, making it quite sensitive and prone to failure, minor or otherwise. Some of the reasons why this pesky light would turn on include but are not limited to:

1. Faulty Wheel Speed Sensor

Even if only one wheel speed sensor malfunctions, the Stabilitrak can’t tell if all wheels rotate at the same speed. This system constantly monitors the speeds at which all the wheels are spinning.

If one or two seem out of sync, the Stabilitrak will put the brakes on those turning faster than others. This is to stabilize the car.

So, if only one wheel speed sensor is faulty, it will cause the entire system to cease working properly. This can lead to the warning light coming out.

2. Malfunctioning Traction Control System Controller

A faulty powertrain control module can also cause the Stabilitrak Service light. As mentioned earlier, the Stabilitrak light activates when the wheel sensors communicate with the PCM. This often happens if they sense problems with the vehicle’s stability and steering.

If the PCM is faulty, the Stabilitrak system will not have any data to make adjustments.

3. Loose Connection

Damaged or loose communication lines from the sensors can also cause the Stabilitrak light to turn on. GM uses proprietary LAN communication cables to transmit data from the sensors to the Stabilitrak controller.

However, the plastic covering of the cables gets exposed to extreme heat over a long period. This can make them brittle and detach them from the harness. This happens even with them shielded from the heat coming from the transmission.

The cables might also get pushed against the heat shield. This results in the cable jacket melting and exposing the wires.

When the wires get grounded, it disrupts the communication between the sensors and the Stabilitrak system. The same disruption will happen with the other systems that rely on them.

On a high note, this scenario rarely happens, but it is a possibility. It is something you might want to have checked in case the Stabilitrak light goes on in your vehicle.

4. Stuck Brake Pedal Switch

The switch under the brake pedal in modern cars does more than turn the brake lights on. The car’s ECU also uses it to control the cruise control and the Stabilitrak. If the brake switch gets stuck or malfunctions, it might disable the Stabilitrak system altogether.

This problem is usually easy to fix. Just spray the switch with a bit of WD-40 and pump the brake pedal a couple of times. This should loosen the switch enough to return to its original position.

5. Wrong Tire Size or Underinflated Tires

The Stabilitrak service light may also turn on after changing your tires and rims to something bigger than factory ones. This may cause the Stabilitrak system to malfunction.

If this is the case, you will need to take your car to a certified mechanic. This is important in calibrating the ECU and Stabilitrak based on the new tire size.

You also need to do this because bigger tires will cause your speedometer reading to become inaccurate. The result is a slower readout than what your car is going.

There are lots of other reasons why the Stabilitrak might malfunction. It would be best to have your car diagnosed by a professional mechanic. This can help pinpoint the exact reason for the malfunction.

What Does the Stabilitrak Service Light Mean?

stabilitrak service meaning

General Motors’ Proprietary Traction Control System

First, what is the Stabilitrak? Essentially, the Stabilitrak is General Motors’ proprietary traction control system. A set of complex sensors in the vehicle detects if it responds correctly to the road conditions.

The Stabilitrak controller then takes the data gathered by the sensors. After that, it quickly calculates if it needs to control the brakes or the engine speed to compensate.

Lessen Engine Speed When Driving on an Icy Road

For instance, if you are driving on an icy road, it will control the brakes or lessen the engine speed. This helps correct it, especially if the Stabilitrak notices that the car is sliding a bit.

When the Stabilitrak Service light turns on, it means that there is something wrong with the traction control system.

Slow Down and Carefully Drive

When this light comes on while driving, you have to slow down and carefully drive until you get home. Take your car immediately to a service center to figure out what is wrong and have it fixed.

Again, what does it mean when the StabiliTrak Service Light is on? The “service StabiliTrak” is flashing on your dashboard, possibly due to a faulty input sensor or a damaged controller.

Is the Stabilitrak Service Light Bad?

The Stabilitrak Service light turning on for a few seconds should not cause alarm. For instance, all the lights in your instrument cluster will always light up for several seconds before starting the engine.

There are also times when the Stabilitrak service light would flash for a moment while you are driving. However, that should not be a cause of alarm.

You might have just hit a pothole on the road too hard, triggering the warning light to go on. It should turn off after a couple of seconds.

The only time you should be somewhat concerned is when the light turns on without going even after several minutes.

Common Symptoms of Stabilitrak Malfunctions

You will not notice the effects of a malfunctioning Stabilitrak system during normal driving conditions. The main reason is it only kicks in during emergencies. This is especially true during less-than-ideal road and weather conditions.

Here are some of the symptoms of a malfunctioning Stabilitrak that you might encounter:

1. Stabilitrak Service Light

This is the most obvious sign of something potentially wrong with your Stabilitrak system. The reason is that it is a literal signal that flashes in your instrument cluster.

Depending on your car make and model, you could get the words “Stabilitrak Service.” It could also be a red symbol of a car swerving.

2. Unable to Engage Cruise Control

Your car’s ECU will not let you engage the cruise control if safety systems like the Stabilitrak malfunction.

This may not be an issue for you when driving through the city most of the time. However, it will be a problem when the time comes that you need to drive through the interstate.

3. Traction Control Is Not Working

Your car’s traction control system uses the same wheel sensors as the Stabilitrak. If one is malfunctioning, the other one will certainly be, too.

If you live down south where it does not snow, you might not have much use for traction control anyway. However, if you live up north, this will be a problem and a huge one at that.

Can You Still Drive with the Stabilitrak Service Light On?

stabilitrak service light engine power reduced

You can still drive with the StabiliTrak service light on, but only for normal driving conditions. However, that does not mean you should ignore the warning and drive as you usually would.

Although not automatically the case, always assume that there’s a disabled important safety feature of your vehicle. This could put you at risk.

If the Stabilitrak Service warning light goes on, similar to any other light on your dashboard, have it checked immediately. The same goes with other dashboard warnings, such as the check gauge light, check oil light, and others.

How to Fix the Stabilitrak Warning Light

Sometimes the Stabilitrak Warning light would turn on even without a serious issue. In that case, you can try to reset the light. If the light does reset, you can rest assured that the light was just a fluke:

1. Pull Over to the Side of the Road

Suppose the warning light appears while in the middle of driving, slow down. Gradually pull over to the side of the road. Get out at the next exit and park your car if you’re on the highway.

2. Switch Off the Engine

After parking at a safe place, turn off the engine of your car. Wait for 20 to 30 seconds before starting the engine again. This will give the system enough time to refresh and hopefully return to normal.

3. Start the Engine

After waiting 30 seconds, start the engine. Hopefully, the Stabilitrak warning light should not light up this time. If this happens, you can continue driving as normal.

However, if the light reappears, you can continue driving if road conditions are okay. It would still be best to take your car to a professional mechanic to diagnose the actual problem immediately.

Conclusion – Stabilitrak Service Light Explained

Upon seeing the Stabilitrak Service light turn on in your dashboard, it can mean any one of several things, like:

  1. Faulty Wheel Speed Sensor
  2. Malfunctioning Traction Control System Controller
  3. Loose Connection
  4. Stuck Brake Pedal Switch
  5. Wrong Tire Size or Underinflated Tires

Remember that the Stabilitrak is a system to keep you and your passengers safe. If there is something wrong with it, you are putting them at unnecessary risk. You can never tell when you will need a properly functioning Stabilitrak system.

Read next:

Service Stability System [Causes and How to Fix this Warning Light]