ESP Warning Light: What does it mean, and why is it lit?

ESP warning light
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The ESP warning light can indicate that the ESP (Electronic Stability Program) is active, turned off, or there is a malfunction. If the warning light flashes, the system is active, but the ESP system is probably not working if the warning light is constantly lit.

ESP is an important element in modern car technology, and its failure should not be ignored. This article will briefly examine how the ESP system works and what it means when the ESP warning light is on or flashes.

Spis treści

ESP Function

ESC / ESP / VDC warning light

The Electronic Stability Program (ESP) helps you to manage critical situations, such as when the vehicle could skid. This system monitors wheel speed, steering wheel position, vehicle acceleration, and other parameters to determine whether the vehicle is in the optimal position on the road.

Suppose the ESP detects that the vehicle is out of control. In that case, the control unit automatically adjusts the distribution of braking force between the individual wheels and intervenes in the steering to prevent loss of stability.

This happens not only when braking but also when accelerating and going through sharp corners, which the ESP system keeps the vehicle from skidding. Other electronic systems, such as the ABS and ASR, accompany this system.

ESP Warning Light Flashes

A flashing ESP warning light indicates an active system, which is not a problem. On the contrary, if this dashboard symbol flashes, you probably got into a difficult driving situation, and the ESP system intervened and stabilized the vehicle.

This ESP warning light may flash in certain cases and then stay on. In this case, the system intervenes in the steering to prevent the vehicle from skidding. If the system is working properly, the warning light will go out as soon as the car stabilizes.

ESP Warning Light Is Constantly On

ESP warning light
ESP warning light / © Martin Milo, All rights reserved.

If the ESP warning light is constantly on even during normal conditions, these may be the causes:

  • The ESP system was turned off using a button or via the interface on the dashboard panel

  • There was a malfunction of the ESP system itself

  • There was a sensor malfunction or a malfunction of the electronics

Some cars do not allow the ESP system to be turned off, but if you have such an option, the warning light can signal the deliberate turning off of the electronic stabilization system.

We, therefore, recommend trying to turn off/on the ESP system. If nothing happens with the warning light when turned off or on and still lit, it will be one of the mentioned faults.

However, it is impossible to solve these faults yourself, as in both cases, it is necessary to carry out car diagnostics. So the best thing to do is to take the car to the service center immediately.

Electronic Stability System Markings

Car manufacturers use different abbreviations when labeling the electronic stability system, but the principle of operation of these systems is the same. In the case of this system, you may encounter the following labels:

  • ESC (Electronic Stability Control) - general name for electronic stabilization system, but used by Škoda, Fiat, Hyundai, Tesla, Luxgen, and Proton

  • ESP (Electronic Stability Program) - designation used by Audi, Chrysler, Dodge, Hyundai, Jeep, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Saab, Suzuki, Lamborghini, and Smart

  • ESP (Electronic Stabilization Program) - the designation is used by Volkswagen (the abbreviation is the same as the previous one, the minor difference is only in the full name)

  • VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) - designation used by Subaru, Nissan, and Infiniti

  • DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) - designation used by Aston Martin, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mazda, and Mini

  • VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist) - designation used by Acura and Honda

  • VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) - the designation used by Lexus and Toyota

  • VDIM (Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management) - the designation used by Lexus and Toyota

  • ASC (Active Stability Control) - the designation used by Jaguar and Mitsubishi

  • DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control) - designation used by Volvo

  • PSM (Porsche Stability Management) - the designation, as the name implies, is used by Porsche

  • M-ASTC (Mitsubishi Active Skid and Traction Control) - the designation used by Mitsubishi

  • StabiliTrak - designation used by Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet (most models), GMC, Pontiac, Saturn, Isuzu, and Hummer

  • AdvanceTrac - designation used by Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury

  • Active Handling - designation used by Chevrolet (Corvette)

Some manufacturers use multiple designations, as the designation may not apply to the entire brand but to a specific model.

ESP Warning Light Shapes

As well as the designation of the ESP system, the ESP warning light can have a different shape depending on the manufacturer and the specific model.

In addition to the shape of the warning light in the main image (above), you can also encounter an exclamation mark in a triangle, around which there is an almost complete circle with an arrow.

ESP warning light

Less common is also a warning light with the text ESP in a circle (similar to the ABS warning light). In the vast majority of cases, the warning light is yellow or orange, but rarely there is also a red ESP warning light.

Some models have the identical shape of the ESP and ESC lights. The point is that these systems are identical. The difference is only in the name.

Frequently asked questions about the ESP warning light

Question 1: Is driving with the ESP warning light on possible?

Yes, you can continue driving, but it is important to find out the cause of the light coming on as soon as possible and solve the problem. Driving with the ESP warning light on can mean that the vehicle's handling is worse, which can lead to dangerous situations on the road.

So if the ESP warning light is on, drive carefully, especially on slippery surfaces, and avoid sharp turns or sudden braking.

Question 2: Can the ESP warning light come on even if there is no problem with the ESP system?

Yes, the warning light can come on even if there is no problem with the electronic stability system. The causes can be various, such as a fault in the electrical system or a problem with the sensor. In this case, performing a car diagnosis and eliminating the cause is necessary.


Constantly illuminated ESP warning light should not be ignored, that is, unless you deliberately turn off the electronic stabilization system.

As of 2012, the NHTSA requires all new passenger cars sold in the US to be equipped with an electronic stability program. Conversely, according to the European Commission, all new passenger cars must have an electronic stability program in the EU.

Video comparison with ESP on and off on Audi A3