- 1. What Is StabiliTrak? What Are Its Uses?
- 2. Introduction to Brake Control Systems: What are ABS, TCS, and ESC?
- 3. What Causes Service StabiliTrak Light To Come On?
- 4. Signs Of Service StabiliTrak Issue
- 5. Can I Drive My Car If It Says Service StabiliTrak?
- 6. Where Can You Find the StabiliTrak Sensors In A Vehicle?
- 7. How Much Does It Cost To Fix StabiliTrak?
- 8. Does StabiliTrak Affect Transmission?
- 9. Turn Off StabiliTrak Permanently (What Happens)
- 10. How To Reset (Turn Off) Service StabiliTrak and Check Engine Light
- 11. FAQs
- 12. Takeaway
If you move from an older car to a newer model, you might be amazed by just how the cars are now sophisticated. Amount this sophistication is the StabiliTrak feature in GM vehicles.
What if you use a car and you notice it has the StabiliTrak light on? What does it mean?
Having the Service StabiliTrak light on means one or many components of the system could be defective: such as the input sensor, power steering sensor, alternator, traction control system, ABS module, or system controller.
It needs your immediate attention to keep the vehicle running smoothly. So, head over to a certified shop to get the vehicle assessed and the correct repairs done.
What Is StabiliTrak? What Are Its Uses?
Research shows that having an Electronic Stability Control (ESC) can help in reducing potential accidents in real-world vehicle use. That is why you see companies coming up with StabiliTrak similar systems.
By now, you understand that StabiliTrak is simply a proprietary ESC system created by General Motors (GM) to help achieve better stability in its vehicles.
Traction control plays an important role in the design and creation of such systems. Take note that all ESC is a type of traction control, but not all traction control systems would be electronically controlled.
StabiliTrak like other ESC systems would have a wide range of sensors that sends it system vital information about which wheel is slipping. The programming would then apply the right power to the spinning wheel so that you can get out of a tricky situation such as mud or trenches.
That is not all as the system can also identify in case someone has lost control of a vehicle. As such, the system automatically applies braking force to avoid an accident.
It is because of such performance that more people are comfortable driving their GM vehicles equipped with StabiliTrak.
So far, the NHTSA estimates that over 2,000 lives have been saved in 2015 because of having their vehicles equipped with a form of Electronic Stability Control Systems.
As such, the next time you see the service StabiliTrak message, have it handled immediately since it is a system that can save your life at some point.
Here is a video on how traction control systems work in a car:
Introduction to Brake Control Systems: What are ABS, TCS, and ESC?
The ABS, TCS, and ESC are three important systems a vehicle can have. It is important to understand how they work so that you know the best way to use them.
ABS means an anti-lock braking system. Its work is to prevent the wheels from locking up so that you have better control of the vehicle. The last thing anyone wants is the wheels locking even before applying the brakes. It can catch you off guard.
The ABS also helps reduce the chances of skidding and getting into a crash. If you look at various statistics on crashes, they show how ABS has often helped people prevent crashes.
Here is a video on how ABS works:
TCS or traction control system is an important safety feature that uses the ABS sensors to reduce or prevent wheelspin on different terrains you are driving on. When the wheel spins, it means there is not enough grip to keep the tire moving.
TCS can be fitted on the front, rear, or all the wheels depending on the model. So, the idea is to deliver more power to the wheel that has more traction. Each time the ABS sensors detect there is a wheel spinning, the computer can momentarily cut the engine power towards the wheel to allow it to slow down and regain traction.
ESC stands for Electronic Stability Control is another critical system that prevents the car from losing control. It comes in handy to avoid skidding especially while cornering hard or braking hard. You can say it is the upgraded version of the traction control system.
The ESC system works by constantly evaluating the data from wheel speed sensors, yaw rate, steering angle sensor, and acceleration sensor to determine the right correction and help keep the vehicle from skidding and maintain stability.
What Causes Service StabiliTrak Light To Come On?
Of course, understanding what causes the Service StabiliTrak light to come on can help in properly handling the problem.
Since the StabiliTrak system revolves around the brake system, traction system, and the vehicle’s steering wheel, we can expect that the problem would be around such systems. However, sometimes it can be more.
Here are potential reasons your Service StabiliTrak light is on:
A failed connection on a battery terminal or any other critical sensor may also make the StabiliTrak light come on. A loose battery terminal simply needs replacing because it can make the car sometimes not start smoothly.
It is also a potential problem for your car’s ECU as it might not get enough power making it turn on different lights on the dashboard thinking there is a problem with the vehicle.
Stability Control Module Is Misbehaving
As part of the StabiliTrak system, there is the stability control module. This module sends critical information to the system so that it knows how to maintain the traction you need while in tricky situations. That being said, what happens when this module is broken or faulty?
We recommend that you always get the right stability control module replaced with it, and it will clear the StabiliTrak light on the dashboard.
The ABS Module Is Defective
The ABS module is responsible for the vehicle’s braking in many ways. That is why when it is faulty, you are going to have the StabiliTrak light come on.
A faulty ABS module is not something you repair. We recommend replacing it to ensure you get the vehicle working correctly as before just as you wanted.
Faulty System Controller
A faulty system controller is another reason the light might come on the dashboard. This problem is not the hardest to handle, but you might have to take the vehicle to the dealership.
The dealership will reset the fault and fix the StabiliTrak light. However, if you can access a diagnostic toolkit, you can do it yourself at home.
Issues With the Power Steering Switch
The power steering switch also has a part to do with your StabiliTrak system. This is because how you steer can also hold or break the traction.
Look at the power steering sensor to see if it is in good condition or needs replacing. An old power steering switch and sensor can be what you need to clear the error from your dashboard.
Input Sensor Malfunctioning
Sensors for the wheel speed, steering angle, and turn rate would also potentially affect the StabiliTrak system.
So, whenever you see the light come on, you might want to have the vehicle diagnosed to ensure that you understand what could be the problem with the sensors. Once a faulty sensor is identified, you can go ahead to have it replaced.
Trouble With the PowerTrain
Sometimes you might notice hard shifting or hesitation in the changing of gears from your transmission. It could be many things, but you may find that the StabiliTrak light comes on your dashboard.
All these problems mean that you cannot have the right power sent to the wheels to maintain the traction you need in certain conditions.
An alternator failing can be the reason you see the StabiliTrak light come on. When the light comes on, you should have the alternator checked as soon as possible. Continued use of a faulty alternator might damage the car battery.
Those are some of the common reasons you may have the StabiliTrak light come on. It is surprising that some have claimed to experience the same once they top up with E85 fuel. However, the message disappears once they use all the fuel in their tank and fill it with the typical gas again.
Such results show the importance of using the recommended fuel type for your vehicle.
We have also seen that even a defective fuel pump is enough to turn on the Service StabiliTrak light. So, it means you might want to get a proper diagnosis of the problem to know where to start working.
Signs Of Service StabiliTrak Issue
Driving a car with StabiliTrak can give you the confidence that you are actually using a safe vehicle. However, you also need to know when the StabiliTrak system has an issue to take the right steps to repair it.
Some notable symptoms you might experience are:
Warning: “Traction control off/Service Stabilitrak/Engine Power is Reduced”
When you see this warning, it might be time to consider having the StabiliTrak system checked. It is possible for some cars to get into limp mode when there is a traction control issue. Whenever you see this type of warning, it might be time to consider having the vehicle checked for any StabiliTrak problems.
Hard shifting all of a sudden
Hard shifting is mostly because there is a problem with the transmission. When the gears are worn, and it seems hard to change them properly, you may see the Service StabiliTrak come on. It is for this reason you should have the transmission checked to understand what could be the problem.
Scanning the ECU for the problem causes
When the vehicle ECU is scanned, you get several errors such as P0121, P0011, P0521, and C0561 showing up in the diagnostics report. Following up with such errors can help you see that they are related to different modules that can affect the StabiliTrak system. Those error codes mentioned are just a few examples, as you can have others depending on the vehicle.
StabiliTrak won’t turn off
Depending on the car model, you can have the StabiliTrak button, which allows you to turn off the system so that you can drive without it. This does not mean it is broken, but you prefer it that way. What if you try to turn it off, but it seems you cannot do it? Even if it can turn off later, it is a symptom of a failing StabiliTrak control module, which should be addressed as soon as possible.
Losing ABS features
The StabiliTrak system relies a lot on the ABS working properly to know when certain measures have to be taken to give you the best traction. What happens when the ABS is now also failing? This means your safe braking feature is no longer working as expected, and that is when the Service StabiliTrak light comes on.
So, when you see the ABS light come on and the braking is not as good as it used, have the vehicle checked for potential issues with the ABS.
Remember, experiencing these symptoms could also relate to other problems with the vehicle, but if they are combined with the Service StabiliTrak light, now you know why the vehicle has been behaving in a certain way.
Can I Drive My Car If It Says Service StabiliTrak?
It will be possible to drive your vehicle even when it says Service StabiliTrak, but do not do this for too long.
This is because there are several key components of the system including ABS that might not be working correctly. So, having it fixed should give you the confidence of driving a safe vehicle.
Some people have noticed that their vehicles might skid a little bit when this light comes on. Also, the vehicle will no longer correct itself in case you lose traction. This could be dangerous while cornering.
You can see that it is still vital to have the system working properly if you ever want to drive safely.
Remember, this light is more of a warning. There are some people who might ignore it, but it is not recommended. We advise that you keep driving the car but get it serviced as soon as possible.
Also, try to drive more carefully than before. This is because you do not have the StabiliTrak system at your disposal as before. The worst is when you even see the ABS light, together with the Service StabiliTrak light come on. It can mean that you should have the vehicle serviced immediately.
Where Can You Find the StabiliTrak Sensors In A Vehicle?
StabiliTrak sensors are not located in one place. This is because the system is based on several sensors around the car. This includes sensors that determine the steering angle, rate of turn, braking pressure, and wheel speed.
For the wheel speed, you will find them inside each wheel, and for the steering angle, it will be part of the steering wheel assembly.
Whenever you have trouble with the StabiliTrak system, it means you have to check through different sensors to understand what could be the problem and have it resolved.
How Much Does It Cost To Fix StabiliTrak?
Being a sophisticated system sometimes can get people wondering if it will be too expensive.
Repairing StabiliTrak can often be affordable. It mostly depends on what is broken and the availability of parts.
A typical StabiliTrak repair can cost from $80 to $200. Considering how the system can be complex, affordability is also an option. Sometimes, you would not know what to repair until you have the vehicle checked by a professional mechanic.
The mechanic can opt to run a diagnostics check on other parts of the car that may trigger the problem. That is why even engine misfires may trigger the light. It is only once you have the broken parts identified that you would know the exact repair amount.
Does StabiliTrak Affect Transmission?
As explained before, vehicles with StabiliTrak problems might experience hard shifting and sometimes hesitating transmission.
Some owners have claimed to feel like the car jerks a lot between gears or it can slip while changing the gears.
You cannot drive a vehicle with a slipping transmission. If you let the transmission continue to slip, it can cause unnecessary wear and it will be a costly repair in the end.
Considering that StabiliTrak can affect power distribution, it needs transmission too for power delivery. It might not be as direct as other systems such as the brakes, but we can understand how the transmission would trigger the light.
Turn Off StabiliTrak Permanently (What Happens)
It is possible to turn off the StabiliTrak system. When you do this, there will be no software interfering with how you drive. However, take note that in case of an issue that needs the StabiliTrak system to intervene, that would not happen.
It will not be unsafe to drive the car with StabiliTrak off, but you have to be more careful about how you drive also in certain conditions where StabiliTrak would have helped.
How To Reset (Turn Off) Service StabiliTrak and Check Engine Light
If you have a vehicle with a Service StabiliTrak light, then you may sometimes reset it and it goes off and will not come back on.
Normally, when you turn on the car, the StabiliTrak is turned on automatically and remains on until you decide to turn it off.
How to Reset StabiliTrak in Different Vehicles
1. Service Stabilitrak GMC Acadia
GM recommends that you shut off the vehicle for about 15 minutes. Give the car enough time to reboot and then turn it on. If the light is still on, you might want to take it to be serviced.
2. Service Stabilitrak GMC Terrain
Start by turning off the car and letting it stay off for about 15 minutes. Go ahead to switch the key to the ON position but not start the vehicle. Go ahead to start it after 30 seconds to see if the light is still ON. You can retry this process until the light goes out. If it is persistent, it is time to have the StabiliTrak serviced.
3. Service Stabilitrak GMC Sierra
Resetting the StabiliTrak system in a GMC sierra is like any other GM vehicle. We recommend turning off the vehicle for around 10 to 15 minutes, then starting it again to see if the light is still ON or not.
The other option is to turn off the vehicle and let it sit for 15 minutes, then put the key in the ON position. Pump the gas pedal five times, holding it down for at least 15 seconds. If it is a manual car, use the clutch. Turn on the vehicle and see if the light goes out.
Based on research, it seems like all the GM vehicles with the StabiliTrak will have the same procedure to reset the Service StabiliTrak light. This includes;
- Chevy Malibu
- Chevy Cruze
- Chevy Equinox
- Chevy Silverado
- Chevy Impala
- Chevy Traverse
- Chevy Camaro
- Buick Enclave
Here is a video with more details on diagnosing and fixing the Service StabiliTrak light
How do you identify the StabiliTrak button?
Every vehicle will have a button that allows you to turn off the StabiliTrak system. Well, it is not something we recommend, but you can do it still. The button will be somewhere on your center console with an icon of a car skidding.
Where can you find the StabiliTrak sensors in a vehicle?
StabiliTrak features several sensor types mounted at different parts of the vehicle. They are used to determine the braking pressure, rate of turn, wheel speed, steering angle, and more. So, you are likely to find such sensors in the wheels or steering wheel assembly.
When one or more sensors are faulty, then the StabiliTrak light comes on.
Does StabiliTrak have a fuse?
StabiliTrak will have a fuse like other important systems in the vehicle. The fuse is in the fuse box below the vehicle’s steering box. Using a fuse diagram from the vehicle manual can help you understand which one works for the StabiliTrak system.
Should you drive the vehicle with StabiliTrak off?
As much as it is possible to do so, just make sure you do not make it a habit. This is because the vehicle becomes less stable with StabiliTrak off.
The result is that now you have a hard time controlling the car in some conditions such as a very icy road. Rather than turning it off, we recommend you keep it on and avoid potentially causing an accident.
StabiliTrak is an important piece of safety in your vehicle. It is then vital to take care of it if you want to maintain the safety of your vehicle while driving.
As much as sometimes it can be fun while driving without traction, most of the time it is risky. That is why when you see the Service StabiliTrak light, make sure to take care of it immediately.