Under normal operating conditions, the ESC light should only be on when the car is started for a couple of seconds and then goes out. If the ESC light flashes when you drive normally, that means that the system is engaged, and is trying to keep the vehicle under control. In some cases, the ESC light comes on if your car is actively trying to maintain traction control. If the ESC light stays on, it means your vehicle is not under control.
And if the ESC light stays on for an extended period of time, your ESC may be malfunctioning, or the system has been manually disabled. The most common cause of an ESC light is that the system is switched off or that the wheel speed sensors are faulty. But while these are the most common causes of an ESC light, they are not the only things to look for. Below we've highlighted the four most common reasons why your vehicle's ESC light might be on.
While electronic stability control can help you avoid loss of vehicle control, it can't do everything for you. Try to keep the light off as much as possible. If you are driving in slippery conditions and the light is still on, reduce speed to make the car easier to control. Any problems that prevent the stability control from working should also be resolved as soon as possible.
There are times when it is necessary to turn off the stability control, but you can leave it on in most cases. The ESC warning light is designed to help drivers in the event of a loss of steering control, while maintaining control of the car's brakes and engine power. ESC helps prevent the car from "spinning" or "jackknifing" due to loss of traction on the road. If the light comes on and stays on, it indicates that the ESP system has a fault or has been switched off, so you will need to have the system checked at a workshop or have it switched back on.
The ESC light is there to alert you when there is a problem in the electronic stability control circuit or that your stability control system is currently in use. Since electronic stability control is essentially an extension of ABS and TCS, it is normally safe to drive a vehicle that has an ESC malfunction. You can search by vehicle year and make, to see a list of models that have ESC as a standard or optional feature, plus which models do not have ESC as an option at all. It is important to understand how your particular control system works because the ESC light on the dashboard could have multiple meanings.
In short, ESC is supposed to help keep the vehicle moving in the same direction the driver wants to go. So, while you probably won't encounter any problems while driving if you have the ESC light on, the first time it acts up it could end up causing a serious accident. This mechanic once spent half a day troubleshooting an ESC system that would come on incorrectly at high speeds, only to discover that the problem was a battery with a dead cell. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) works in tandem with the traction control system, comparing data from the wheel speed sensor along with the steering wheel angle sensor and yaw sensor.
Ultimately, ESC is a useful technology, but safe driving must always be prioritised, regardless of road or weather conditions. If the light stays on constantly, it is likely that a fault has been detected or the system has been manually switched off.