Today’s cars come with sophisticated systems that enhance the drive, such as StabiliTrak. This electronic stability control system is specifically designed for GM, but similar systems exist for other brands. So, what do you do when the Service StabiliTrak warning comes up on the dashboard?
In this guide, we look closer at the electronic stability control systems and show you what to do when the light comes on. We even discuss how to turn the light off when appropriate.
What is StabiliTrak?
GM patented its own electronic stability control (ESC) system, known as StabiliTrak. This ESC system is designed to stop wheels from slipping during low-traction situations.
However, other auto manufacturers have a similar system with a different name. Even though there won’t be a StabiliTrak warning on a vehicle outside of the GM lineup, many of the same principles exist across the board.
What Does “Service StabiliTrak” Mean?
GM sends an alert to the driver when the StabiliTrak technology isn’t working as intended. This generally occurs when a sensor detects issues with the wheel location or the reaction to steering. If everything is operating as it should, the system will respond to the understeer or oversteer automatically.
When it’s working correctly, safety is improved for occupants, especially when traveling on slippery surfaces. If a sensor fails, you will receive an alert that there’s a fault. While the warning is illuminated, the traction control system is not operating as it should. This isn’t a dangerous situation in most cases, but you still want to have the fault repaired.
Possible Causes of Service StabiliTrak Light
The StabiliTrak system runs through the traction control system, brake components and steering wheel. However, there are aspects beyond these systems that could cause the malfunction. If you see the Service StabiliTrak light on the dashboard, the problem could be related to one of these components.
- Bad throttle position sensor
- Defective ABS sensors
- Malfunctioning steering wheel position sensor
- Old or corroded spark plugs
- Bad fuel pump
- Issues with the Active Fuel Management (AFM) system
- Defective brake switch
- Bad tire pressure monitor sensor
- Malfunctioning body control module
- Use of E85 fuel
These are just a handful of the issues that could lead to the StabiliTrak light coming on. The most common complaints have to do with a bad sensor, where the system can’t receive the information it needs, so it shuts down. A code scanner will be able to tell you what sensor is failing, so you can resolve the issue quickly.
The most unusual problem is the use of E85 fuel, but it’s been noted many times by drivers. When conventional gasoline is added back into the tank, the StabiliTrak light seems to go off by itself, so it’s always something to consider, especially if you just visited the gas pump and there are no obvious trouble codes present.
It’s also possible that a bad fuel pump is causing the issue, even though the StabiliTrak isn’t part of the fuel system. For this reason, it’s important to monitor all of the symptoms that the car is exhibiting to make a proper diagnosis. If there are other things going wrong at the same time, it will be much easier to diagnose.
Reset Service StabiliTrak Light
If the Service StabiliTrak light has come on the dashboard, you should take heed that there’s something wrong with the system. There could be a computer failure or software malfunction turning the system off.
Once the diagnostics are completed and you know how to resolve the problem, you are ready to reset the warning light. Here are some general guidelines to follow:
- Check the StabiliTrak button. If it has been pushed in manually, the light will remain on.
- Consider the weather systems and road conditions. If there’s a reason for the system to be disabled automatically, that could be why the warning light is on.
- Rotate the steering wheel clockwise. If the light turns off, there’s probably nothing wrong with the StabiliTrak system. If the light remains on, continue with the following steps.
- Shut down the vehicle. Walk away and do something else for about 15 minutes. This time gives the system a chance to reset.
- Restart the vehicle. If the message is gone, you don’t need to service the vehicle. Otherwise, it’s time for complete diagnostics.
If the Service StabiliTrak warning persists, there could be several faults with the system. It could be caused by a defective input sensor or a malfunctioning controller. However, it’s also possible that there is simply a bad connection in the system that needs to be re-established.
You could spend, on average, $200 to $550 to repair a Service StabiliTrak warning, depending on what’s causing the fault. If you aren’t sure how to proceed, get the car diagnosed through a mechanic that understands the GM technology.
Can I Keep Driving with the StabiliTrak Light On?
If you’ve chosen to turn StabiliTrak off, then there’s nothing wrong with the system and you are free to drive as needed. Just be aware that having the system disabled means that there will be no traction control, meaning that you could notice the tires spinning and skidding in slippery situations. Drive accordingly to prevent any accidents.
However, if StabiliTrak is turned off because of a fault, you need to have it looked at. Only after the trouble codes are diagnosed should you determine if driving would be safe. In some conditions, you could wait to get the repair as long as you are comfortable driving without traction control.
With that said, some of the causes are going to lead to other problems. If the reason the StabiliTrak is malfunctioning is also causing other concerns, it’s best to have the fault repaired.