What Does a Service ESC Light Mean? (Causes and Fixes)

Auto manufacturers keep improving safety and performance by constantly upgrading the existing and adding new car features. And there are some important safety features in your car that you don’t even know exist.

Some of these life-saving and accident-preventive features work in the background without your notice. And sometimes, they begin to malfunction. And when they do, you should know what measures to take.

One of these life-saving features that work in the background is the electronic stability control (ESC) system. When this system begins to act up, the car computer may project a service ESC light on the dashboard. But what does ESC light mean, anyway?

This article will explain the meaning of the ESC light, why the ESC light stays on, and how to reset ESC light. Grab a seat and a cup of coffee as we progress along.

how to reset esc light

What Does The ESC Light Warning Mean?

The acronym ESC stands for electronic stability control. The ESC works in harmony with the traction control system to help you control your vehicle in slippery terrain. While some forks call traction control in place of electronic stability control – they are not the same.

Electronic stability control has more functions than traction control, including the ones that will help you in oversteer and understeer situations. Every electronic stability control has traction control. But not all vehicles with Traction control have electronic stability.

It’s essential to know how your car system works. This will help you understand when a problem exists in any of the system units. If the service ESC light in Chevy Silverado or your respective car model stays on, it could have more than one meaning.

Generally, the car computer will project the warning light on the dashboard when the system is actively trying to gain or maintain traction. The ESC light stays on only when the car has control issues. Assuming the light stays on, you either have a malfunctioning electronic stability control system or the electronic stability control system has been manually turned off.

You have nothing to worry about if the ESC light is off after flashing for a few seconds. Additionally, if your electronic stability system has an ON button, you should also see OFF underneath the symbol on your dashboard. This will help you differentiate when the system is malfunctioning and when it’s turned off.

If the system detects a malfunction, it’ll turn off and display the warning light on the dashboard until you track and resolve the root cause.

What causes Service Esc Light comes on?

We have seen the service ESC light meaning. Let’s see the probable causes. The most common cause of ESC light is either you have a lousy wheel speed sensor or the system is deactivated. However, these are not the only probable causes. We’ve listed the possible causes you should look into when tracking the root cause of the light.

Defective wheel speed sensors

A faulty wheel speed sensor is the most common cause of service ESC light on Chevy Equinox 2020 and other car models. The electronic stability control system reads the wheel speed sensor signals and adjusts the brakes for seamless driving experiences.

But if any wheel speed sensors are totally off or give extreme readings, it will affect the ESC system.

Faulty steering angle sensor

The steering angle sensor is another potential culprit you should look into. The wheel speed and the steering angle sensor work in tandem to ensure the wheels turn according to the given speed and in the direction you’re going.

Normally, the outside wheel spins faster than the inner wheel. However, the steering angle has to tell the powertrain control module what’s happening. If not, the car computer will think that one side of the wheel is losing traction while the other one is running as predefined by the manufacturers.

The ESC system is deactivated.

In most vehicles, you can deactivate the ESC system. But, in any case, you won’t want to turn off the system unless you want to drift. And the moment you deactivate the ESC system, the stability control light comes on.

Check if the vehicle has the option to switch off and on the ESC system before contacting a service technician to track the culprit. This will save you time and money and also prevent unnecessary frustrations.

Electrical/wiring issues

Sometimes, the sensors work accordingly, but if there are electrical issues between the powertrain control module and the sensors, it will trigger the ESC light. While this is not common, it can be the root cause, especially when there’s a short or an opened wire on the wheel speed sensor.

Lastly, check the battery and power when tracking the cause of service ESC light on Chevy Equinox 2019 and other car models. It will be frustrating and unnerving when you find the culprit is a dead battery cell after spending 5 hours or more checking these sensors.

How do you fix the ESC light?

As reiterated above, several factors can cause the car computer to project service ESC light on Chevy Malibu and other car models. The issue is common in Chevy Malibu. However, this section will explain how to fix the ESC light.

Turn on the ESC system.

Check if the system is off or if your vehicle has the option to turn it off and on it. It could be your kid or someone who has mistakenly pressed the button.

Confirm if there’s any other light.

Examine the dashboard and see if any other light exists. Note any unusual light that accompanies the electronic stability control light. This will help you to easily track the root cause of the light.

Replacing faulty wheel speed sensors

If the ESC warning light appears along with the speed sensor light, you most likely have a lousy speed sensor. In this case, test the wheel speed sensor and replace the defective ones. They are pretty affordable. You can decide to replace them in pairs. After that, drive the vehicle for a mile or two, and the light will disappear.

Adjusting the steering angle

If your truck steering angle is offset, it can trigger the service ESC light on the dashboard. A common sign that you have an offset steering angle is if the tires are not straight when you position the steering wheel in the center. You can fix the problem by adjusting the steering angle.

Check the fuses

While this may sound weird, it may be a lifesaver. We encountered the ESC light on a customer’s Chevy Malibu and tried several things that proved abortive. Then, we resort to checking the fuses. However, all the related fuses were good. But the light disappears after we reinstall them.

Contact a certified mechanic.

If none of these solve the problem, don’t hesitate to contact an auto mechanic to track the culprit and proffer solutions.


Is it safe to drive with the ESC light on?

 Driving with the ESC light is not safe. However, the illumination of an ESC light does not necessarily mean you have a problem. You don’t need to worry if the service electronic control light comes on and off while skidding or driving on slippery terrain. It’s absolutely normal.

If the service ESC light comes on and off or stays lit while driving on solid and straight pavement, you have a problem that needs concern. This is not a safe situation to be driving.

How much does electronic stability control cost?

According to a report by NHTSA, the average installation cost of an ESC system in vehicles that already have ABS is $111. This amount is pretty cheap, considering the importance of the electronic stability control system.

Does ESC affect gas mileage?

The electronic stability control does not affect gas usage. The car will not use more gas whether the ESC system is turned on or off. While the ESC should always be on, it only works when driving in slippery terrain. It is just idle the rest of the time – only monitoring the wheel speed and the steering angle.

Is ESC the same as traction control?

Traction control and electronic stability control are two different safety systems used in cars to help the driver control the wheels in certain situations. The traction control system is used to help the tires hug the roads perfectly under intense acceleration, while electronic stability reduces or prevents loss of control through understeer or oversteer.

Should ESC be on or off?

Typically, the ESC system should always be on. But there are times to turn it off, especially when driving in deep snow or skidding. Regardless, do not turn off the ESC system unless you’re an extremely skilled driver who knows what he or she is doing. In any case, If you decide to turn off the ESC for any reason, you can do it by pressing and holding the ESC button for 5-10 seconds.

Final Words

While modern technologies and features improve driving experiences and reduce accident rates, they can be unnerving and frustrating when things start going south. In any case, do not write off the ESC system no matter the challenges you may face, because they can be life savers when you need them most.

This article has explained what a service ESC light on the dashboard means, the causes, and how to fix the culprit. Follow the above guides religiously if you find yourself in this situation. If any of these probable solutions solves your problem, refer this article to your friends who may need it.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

2 thoughts on “What Does a Service ESC Light Mean? (Causes and Fixes)

  1. In this case, you should have an experienced technician check your alternator to ensure it is charging properly.

    The common way of testing alternators by checking if the alternator is magnetizing when running is not enough here. You need to run a volt test.

  2. i have a Renault Twingo. my ESC light has come on. Does it effect my battery?? my battery has been checked and is good. but i have to keep charging it up. As the engine wont start.

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