Think of the StabiliTrak system on your vehicle as a traction control system on steroids. Not only does StabiliTrak help your car maintain traction in slippery conditions, but it also helps your vehicle drive in a straight line. In addition to wheel speed sensors, the system also uses a steering angle sensor to determine which direction you are turning the steering wheel. You might be immediately concerned if you see the “Service StabiliTrak” message on your dashboard. However, the message doesn’t always mean that you have a major problem. Keep reading as we tell you what the warning light usually means, the possible causes, and how to fix StabiliTrak.
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What Does The Service StabiliTrak Message Mean?
So, what does Service StabiliTrak mean when that message appears? The Service StabiliTrak message usually means that the car’s computer has detected a problem with one or more components of the StabiliTrak system. This system is present on vehicles produced by General Motors, such as Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, and other brands. When you see this message, you should get your car to the dealership to have a technician check your system for problems.
More than likely, the message is caused by a faulty sensor somewhere in the system. Since the StabiliTrak system relies on many different systems, a failure of any one of these can cause the warning message to appear. In addition, the system is tied to other critical vehicle systems, like the brake system and steering system. A problem with any of these systems could cause the stability control light to illuminate.
Be aware that your vehicle might not handle properly while this message is displayed. If you do have a problem with the StabiliTrak system, you might experience a loss of traction, steering problems, or braking problems. Be extremely careful while driving the car with the warning message displayed since the system might not be functioning properly.
What Is StabiliTrak And How Does It Work?
If you own a Chevy, you have probably heard of StabiliTrak. But you might not know exactly what that system is or how it works. StabiliTrak is the traction control system (TCS) present on vehicles manufactured by General Motors. However, it’s much more than a simple traction control system. It more closely resembles an electronic stability control system (ESC) with a few more features. A standard traction control system simply monitors the speed of each wheel to determine whether the vehicle has lost traction. StabiliTrak does much more than this. Here is how it works.
StabiliTrak monitors wheel speed, the vehicle’s steering angle, and braking functions. StabiliTrak helps ensure that your car travels in a straight line so that you maintain control of the vehicle at all times. The system can automatically adjust power, steering, and braking to keep the car under control. StabiliTrak is closely integrated with other critical components of your vehicle, like the anti-lock braking system, transmission control module, engine control module, and powertrain control module (PCM).
For example, if the StabiliTrak system senses that the vehicle is beginning to slide to one side, it may adjust the steering and braking to one specific side to avoid a skid. It can even help you maintain control during quick steering maneuvers. The system is an important safety feature and can help prevent you from getting into an accident.
Potential Causes Of The Service StabiliTrak Light
When the car’s computer senses a problem with the StabiliTrak system, you will likely see the Service StabiliTrak warning light appear on your dashboard. So, just what will cause this light to illuminate? There are several potential causes. Some are obvious, while others might not appear to be related to stability control on the surface. Here are the most common reasons for the service traction control message.
— Bad Wheel Speed Sensor
This is one of the obvious causes of the warning light. Wheel speed sensors are critical input sensors to the StabiliTrak system. A problem with one of these sensors means that the system cannot accurately determine the speed of each of your wheels. Without this data, the StabiliTrak control module cannot determine whether your wheels are slipping. If the computer detects a wheel speed sensor problem, you will see the StabiliTrak warning message.
— Faulty ABS Sensor
We have already mentioned that StabiliTrak can control engine power, steering angles, and your anti-lock brake system. Your braking system uses ABS sensors to prevent the wheels from locking up and skidding during a hard braking event. Problems with these sensors affect your braking system but can also cause StabiliTrak issues since these two systems are so closely integrated. If you have a problem with an ABS sensor, you can expect to see your StabiliTrak light on and your ABS light. This is one of the common problems of the Chevy Cruze, so this could be a problem if you own one of these vehicles.
— Faulty StabiliTrak Controller
The StabiliTrak control module is essentially the brain of the StabiliTrak system. This controller receives and processes all the data from the various sensors throughout the system. After processing, the controller will send a signal to the car’s ECU if adjustments are needed to other systems, like steering or braking. This process happens very fast, and it occurs continuously as you drive. A problem with the StabiliTrak controller will cause StabiliTrak issues in your GM vehicle, and you will see the StabiliTrak service light come on.
— Bad Connector
All the sensors in your StabiliTrak system are connected to the control module with wires. Each sensor is attached to a connector, and the controller has multiple connectors that get plugged into it. Even though a sensor might not fail, it is possible that one of these connectors could go bad. Driving in wet or dirty road conditions can cause these connectors to fail. Although not very common, dirt or debris can get inside the connector and cause a bad connection. When this happens, the sensor will lose connectivity to the controller. This loss of connectivity usually triggers the Service Electronic Stability Control message to display in the driver information center (DIC).
— E85 Fuel
This is one of the causes of your StabiliTrak light that might not be so obvious. Although your Silverado, Equinox, or other GM vehicle might be approved to run on E85 fuel, it has been known to cause problems with the StabiliTrak system. E85 fuel sometimes results in the vehicle entering limp mode or reducing engine power. This can also occur due to engine misfires or bad spark plugs as well. When this happens, the StabiliTrak system might not function properly. For this reason, it can trigger the StabiliTrak or traction control light as well as the check engine light.
— Failing Steering Wheel Position Sensor
Steering wheel position sensors are another critical component of the StabiliTrak system. These sensors tell the controller how far the steering wheel has been turned and in which direction. This information is also compared to the yaw rate or the vehicle’s tilt as it turns. A bad steering wheel sensor will cause a lack of data in the StabiliTrak system, and this condition will usually result in the StabiliTrak warning light.
Symptoms Of A Faulty StabiliTrak System
How can you tell when your StabiliTrak system is starting to have problems? The most obvious symptom is the Service StabiliTrak warning light. If you see this message or warning light, you know that you have an issue with the StabiliTrak system. You will want to get to the dealership or other automotive repair shop as soon as possible to diagnose and repair the issue.
Besides the warning light, there are also a few other symptoms you should be aware of. If you notice that your vehicle loses traction under hard acceleration or on slippery road conditions, you likely have a problem. Similarly, you might notice that your car seems to have lost power or runs in limp mode. Hard shifting can also point to a problem with the StabiliTrak system as well as issues with your anti-lock braking system.
Initializing StabiliTrak vs. Service StabiliTrak Messages
There are a couple of different messages you might see in your driver information center about the StabiliTrak system. Some messages are less serious and do not always require immediate attention. Many people get confused about the difference between the “Initializing StabiliTrak” message and the “Service StabiliTrak” message. Here is what you need to know about both of these messages.
If you notice the “Initializing StabiliTrak” message appear, the issue might not be that serious. This message appears when the StabiliTrak system does not fully initialize in a timely manner. The reason for this could be due to road conditions, improper tire size, or improper air pressure in your tires. Once the system is fully initialized, the message will disappear. There is no need for immediate concern upon seeing this message. However, if the message repeatedly appears each time you start the vehicle, you should have the system checked for problems.
On the other hand, the “Service StabiliTrak” message presents a more immediate need. This message means that the car’s computer has detected a problem with the system, and it might not function properly. This message might appear due to a bad sensor, bad controller, or some other reason. Whatever the cause, you should get your car to a mechanic for service as soon as you can.
How To Reset The StabiliTrak Light
Once the StabiliTrak light comes on, you need to know how to reset it so that it goes away. There are a few different ways to reset the light, and the cause of the light will determine what is required to fix it. In some cases, simply restarting the vehicle will cause the light to disappear. This is usually the case when the system has trouble initializing. A vehicle restart is enough to restart the system and fix the problem.
However, if a sensor or other part malfunctions, then the faulty part must be replaced to reset the warning light. Replacing the faulty sensor, connector, or controller will usually clear the light the next time you start up the vehicle. In severe cases, you might need to disconnect the negative battery cable to clear the trouble codes from the computer. A repair shop can also use a scan tool to clear the codes and turn the light off.
If the StabiliTrak light is on along with other lights, like the brake light or check engine light, then a repair is definitely required. You likely have a bad ABS sensor, and the sensor will need to be replaced. If your vehicle is still under warranty, then take it to the dealership to have them fix the problem. Even if you don’t have a warranty, most auto repair shops can complete this repair pretty easily.
Turning Off The StabiliTrak Traction Control System
There might be occasions when you wish to turn off the StabiliTrak system. There are a few different reasons that people decide to turn off the system. First, some people prefer to have total control of the vehicle without any interference from the car’s computer. They do not want the computer to apply the brakes or attempt to change the steering angle.
At other times, some people turn off the system to get maximum performance from their cars. This is especially true on high-performance vehicles. The StabiliTrak system will reduce power to the wheels in some situations, and you might find that you want as much power as possible to reach the wheels when in certain situations.
Before turning StabiliTrak off, you should remember the reason for the system. The system is designed to help you maintain vehicle control, especially in slippery road conditions. When the system is off, you must be extremely careful when driving and maintain proper control of the car. If you still decide to turn StabiliTrak off, here is what you need to do.
Turning off the system is quite easy. Find the StabiliTrak button on your dashboard or around your console controls. The button should have an image of a car with curvy lines underneath it. This signifies a car that appears to be sliding on the road. Press the button, and you should see the “StabiliTrak Off” message appear in your driver information center. The system is now off and will not operate. Pressing the button again will turn the system back on, and you will see the “StabiliTrak On” message displayed.
Cost To Repair Your Chevy StabiliTrak System
If you head to a service center to have your StabiliTrak system repaired, you are probably wondering how much the StabiliTrak repair cost will be. Luckily, repairing the StabiliTrak system is generally not a very expensive repair. On average, you can expect to spend between $200 to $500 to repair the system. The final amount will depend on the specific problem that you encounter.
A common repair to the system is replacing a wheel speed sensor or ABS sensor. Neither of those repairs is overly expensive, and you can expect to pay $200 – $300 in most cases for that repair. Replacing the StabiliTrak controller will usually cost you a little more, and you can expect to pay $300 to $500 to have a new controller installed.
Another repair that you might encounter is the replacement of the steering angle sensor. This repair is usually a little more expensive than replacing wheel speed sensors, and it will cost you anywhere from $250 to $550, depending on the make and model of your vehicle.
The Bottom Line
General Motors’ StabiliTrak system is a comprehensive traction control system and electronic stability control system. StabiliTrak monitors wheel speed, engine power, braking, and steering angles to automatically adjust the power, steering, or braking to avoid slipping or skidding. The system helps the driver maintain control of the vehicle in slippery road conditions, under hard braking conditions, during sudden steering events, or in other potentially hazardous conditions. The Service StabiliTrak message usually means that a StabiliTrak sensor needs to be replaced, but there are other things that can cause the message as well. Thankfully, the repair is usually not very expensive and can be performed by most repair shops.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the “Service StabiliTrak” message serious?
Yes, the “Service StabiliTrak” message should be taken seriously. Thankfully, the message does not usually signal an emergency situation. You can still drive the vehicle with this message displayed, although you should be aware that the StabiliTrak system might not be functioning. For this reason, you should drive very carefully until your vehicle is repaired and the warning message goes away.
Can I drive with the “Service StabiliTrak” message on?
Yes, you can still drive with the “Service StabiliTrak” message on. Most of the time, this message signals a bad sensor or other parts of the system. You should, however, be aware that the system may not be functioning properly while this message is on. You should be extremely careful when driving, especially in slippery road conditions. Since the system will not engage to help maintain control of the vehicle, you could lose control and get into an accident.
How long does it take to fix the service StabiliTrak light?
It should typically take no longer than two to three hours to fix the StabiliTrak light. First, the technician will need to determine the cause of the problem. Usually, the trouble codes will point to the cause of the issue right away. If a sensor needs to be replaced, this repair can usually be completed in about an hour. In rare cases, it might take longer to diagnose the root cause of the problem. When that happens, it could take a few hours to properly diagnose the problem and make the repair.
What happens if your StabiliTrak goes out?
If your StabiliTrak system goes out, do not panic. This simply means that you are in total control of the vehicle, and the car’s computer will not automatically adjust things to help you maintain control of the car. People have driven cars for many years without this type of system on vehicles, and you can drive without it, also. Just be careful and avoid hard steering or aggressive acceleration. As long as you drive carefully, you will be fine if the StabiliTrak system goes out.