What Does Service ESC Mean and How to Reset?

According to the IIHS, Electronic Stability Control can reduce the risk of rollover and single-car accidents. There is a 75% survival rate for drivers who will get into these accidents if their vehicles have ESC. In this article, I’ll answer the question, “what does service ESC mean and how to reset?”

If your dashboard displays the word ‘Service ESC,’ you must have your Electronic Stability Control checked by the dealer or a qualified mechanic. Perhaps the ESC is not working. One of the functions of the ESC of your vehicle is to track the speed at which your wheels are rotating.

Your car’s ESC system also monitors other parameters, like the steering angle. Once you lose traction or steering control, the ESC will engage the brake or reduce engine power so you can regain control of your vehicle. But it could have a problem if its light turns on your dash.

Read on to learn more about the meaning of Service ESC and how to reset this light when it lights on your dashboard.

What Does Service ESC Mean?

what does service esc mean

Allow a Mechanic to Examine the Vehicle’s ESC

When you see ‘Service ESC’ on your dashboard, you need to have the electronic stability control of your vehicle examined by a qualified mechanic or a dealer. It could be malfunctioning. The ESC is a car safety component that tracks the wheel’s rotating speed.

ESC Enables You to Regain Control of Your Car

If you lose traction or steering control, the ESC enables you to regain control of your vehicle. This safety feature of your car works in tandem with Traction Control and Anti-lock Braking System (ABS).

ESC Also Helps Maintain the Car’s Direction

The ESC helps you maintain the direction of your where you want it to go. As such, it helps reduce the risks of collisions and accidents due to under steering or over steering. However, the ESC can also fail as in all devices and machines.

Service ESC Means ESC Is Not Working

Since the function of the ESC is closely related to the ABS and Traction Control, any problem that develops in these two systems will also affect its operation. As a result, the ESC may not even work at all. You will see the ‘Service ESC’ light flashing on your dash.

Identify the Cause Behind Service ESC

You may wonder if it is safe to continue driving with this service light turned on. Generally, it is still safe to drive your car even if this light flashes on your dash.

However, be aware that the ESC is an extension of your vehicle’s TCS and ABS systems. So, check it immediately to know what caused it to turn on.

It’s best to remember that when the Service ESC light turns on, you are essentially losing control of your car. If this light stays solid and wants to stay that way, it could mean it has detected a problem in the system or the system itself has shut off.

When Should You Turn the Traction Control Off?

Overview of the Electronic Stability Control

Safety Feature

Many modern cars have a safety feature called Electronic Stability Control (ESC). The ESC helps to keep your vehicle stable while you are driving. It prevents your vehicle from ‘plowing out’ or ‘spinning out’ because it has lost road traction.

The ESC works silently but quickly. You may not even notice or feel it is working because there is no need for you to correct your steering.

So, it works in the background without you even noticing it. However, you will benefit the most because it will prevent you from having an accident.

Each Wheel Has Speed Sensor

If your car is equipped with ESC, each of the four wheels will have its speed sensor. So, the ESC ensures that you can stop when you need to. Additionally, a typical ESC system comes with a control unit that can track the angle of the steering wheel.

Can Track the Rotation of the Car on Its Vertical Axis

It can also track the rotation of your car on its vertical axis. The ESC gathers the rotation and steering data to track your direction. If the ESC sees that you are about to go in a different direction, it will automatically put the brake on the appropriate wheel of your car.

Not Designed to Improve Car’s Traction

In other words, with an ESC on your car, you are assured of maintaining control of your vehicle. You can prevent plowing out/under steering or spinning out/over steering while driving.

The ESC is not designed to improve your car’s traction, but it will help you keep your vehicle under control even in risky driving maneuvers.

If at all possible, buy a car that comes with an ESC system. Or, if your vehicle doesn’t have this system, perhaps there are aftermarket units that you can have a professional car mechanic install in your vehicle.

ESC Ensures Car’s Stability

The ESC is worth your money. It can keep you from collisions and car accidents because it ensures the stability of your car. With the ESC, you can maintain total control of your vehicle, even in risky driving situations you may not expect.

The ESC will activate the individual brake calipers of your wheels so you won’t under steer or over steer. It can also modulate the output of your engine to enable you to mitigate accidents. The ESC can also take other actions to help you regain your vehicle’s control.

3 Things You Ought to Know About the ESC

what does service esc mean on a car

The main focus of this article is not the ESC but the meaning of the Service ESC light. That’s why I need to discuss the ESC since you need to know what it is so you can better understand the meaning of the ‘Service ESC’ light.

There are three essential things that you need to know about the ESC:

1. ESC Is Must-Have According to the Law

Since Sept. 1, 2011, the law in the country requires that all newly manufactured cars be equipped with ESC. This ruling is still active today.

However, while the ESC is used to prevent rollovers, understeering, and oversteering, it is still the responsibility of the driver to drive safely so they can avoid accidents.

By following road rules and regulations, no matter the weather and road conditions, a driver can limit the risks of plow-outs, spin-outs, and rollovers, which usually lead to collisions and accidents.

2. More Effective with Properly Inflated Tires

The tire’s ability to grip the road is dependent on its inflation. Tires that are overinflated or underinflated are not able to achieve the proper road grip. They will also adversely affect the operation and performance of the ESC.

So, if you want to take full advantage of your car’s ESC, you must ensure that all your tires are properly inflated.

You will find the recommended tire pressure for your particular vehicle’s tires on the sticker attached to the door jamb on the driver’s side. They are also indicated in your owner’s manual.

3. ESC’s Function Is Directly Related to ABS

The function of the ABS is to prevent the locking up of your wheels so that you can steer it to safety during emergencies. As with any safety system in your car, you have to check and maintain it regularly.

If the ABS of your car develops some problems, your ESC will also be affected. So, if you ask the dealer or a mechanic to fix your ABS, you should also ask them to evaluate your ESC. Doing this will ensure that these two systems will work together as they are designed to do.

Again, what causes service ESC? The Service ESC means there is a problem with the wheel speed sensor. The ESC monitors each wheel and adjusts the brakes for any discrepancies.

What Would Cause the ESC Light to Stay On?

If your car has an ESC system, it will have an indicator light on your dashboard. If this light turns on while you are driving, it could mean one of the following things:

1. Not Functional

If the ESC light stays on and refuses to turn off for some time, it might have issues. It could also be that the system was manually deactivated.

2. Attempts to Achieve Traction Control

This light will switch on if the ESC system maintains traction control or attempts to. If the light stays on, you have no control over your vehicle.

A failing ESC will stop functioning if you don’t fix the problem. If the ESC was deactivated manually, you could push a button to reactivate it. Consult the operator’s manual of your car to ensure that you push the right button. 

You can still drive your car after seeing the ESC light turn on. However, be mindful that the ESC light may turn on because the road you are driving is slippery. You may have to slow down to improve control of your car.

Why Does the ESC Light Turn On

There are several reasons why the ESC light can turn on while driving. The best person to analyze the problem is a car mechanic who can use an OBD 2 scanner to examine the trouble codes related to the ESC.

But it’s good to know the usual reasons why this light will turn on so you can give the mechanic something they can start with. Here are the typical reasons why the ESC light will turn on:

1. Maintains Traction Control

Typically, the ESC light will turn on if the system tries to maintain your car’s traction control. It will stay lighted as long as your vehicle is difficult to control.

But if, after some time and the light still refuses to turn off, more than likely, it has detected a malfunction or someone has deactivated the system.

2. Bad Wheel Sensors

There are sensors on each of the four wheels of your car. They send data to the system if there is a loss of traction. Over time, the sensors will be covered with dirt.

When that happens, they will be unable to detect what is happening to the wheels. This will result in the malfunctioning of the ESC and the ABS systems.

3. Bad Steering Angle Sensor

Anything wrong with the steering angle sensor will affect the proper functioning of the ESC, and its light will turn on. The steering angle sensor may be damaged, misaligned, or went wrong. This will cause the ESC light to turn on continuously.

4. Wiring Problems

The communication between the sensors and the ESC is done through several electrical wirings. If anything wrong happens to these wirings, such as improper connection, disconnection, or a blown fuse, the system will not function properly or not function at all.

5. Deactivated ESC

If someone turns off the system, either by mistake or by intent, the ESC light will turn on. Some people intentionally turn off the ESC of their cars if they want to practice or participate in drifting activities.

But if you are not this type of person and the ESC light on your dash is turned on constantly, study how to turn the system on and off. Once you learn the basics, you may be able to turn off the ESC light by yourself.

How to Reset ESC Light

The ESC light is there to warn you that something is wrong with the ESC system of your car. Your car’s critical safety feature should only be handled by skilled, experienced drivers and qualified mechanics.

If you are not like any of them, you shouldn’t mess with the ESC system of your car. However, if you need to turn off the system, for whatever reason, you need to press and hold the “ESC Off” button or switch for around five seconds.

When you do this, you will see an “ESC Off” alarm that will appear on the odometer on the dashboard. After this, the ESC warning light will turn on.

Cost of Fixing ESC

what does service esc mean on my car

You may be wondering how much it will cost to fix the ESC of your car if it is malfunctioning. Let me give you an example of a Chevy Malibu ESC. On average, the cost of replacing the traction control switch of a Chevrolet Malibu ranges from $66 to $78.

As for labor charges to service ESC on a Chevy Malibu, the cost can run from $44 to $56. These average costs do not include fees and taxes. You still must pay these charges for your particular Chevy year and model.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to the most often asked questions about this topic. If you still have questions in your mind about ESC light, perhaps you will get your answer here:

What Is the Meaning of the Service ESC Light on the Dashboard?

This light is triggered by something in your car’s ESC system. You need to take the necessary steps to fix whatever is triggering that light on your dashboard.

If this light turns on, you are losing control of your car if you have not already lost it. So, bring your vehicle to the dealer or your trusted mechanic so they can examine the ESC of your car and fix the problem.

What Can Cause the ESC to Malfunction?

The ESC is an extension of the ABS. If something goes wrong with the ABS, it will affect the operation of the ESC.

What Are the Causes That Make the ESC Light Turn On?

There are several reasons why the ESC light on your dashboard turns on. They include:

  • The ESC is actively trying to maintain traction control for your car
  • Bad wheel sensors
  • Bad steering angle sensor
  • Wiring problems
  • The ESC is turned off

In Closing: Service ESC – What Does it Mean?

If you see ‘Service ESC’ on your dashboard, you have to bring your car to the dealer or a qualified mechanic so they can check its Electronic Stability Control. If there’s a problem with the ESC, you need to have it fixed.

A fully functioning ESC is important because it helps you maintain control of your car. It also monitors the turning speed of your wheels. The ESC also tracks other parameters, such as the steering angle.

If you lose steering control or traction, the ESC engages the brakes or reduces the engine’s power to help you regain control of your car. So, for your safety, your ESC must be working well.