What does StabiliTrak Mean in Vehicles?

StabiliTrak is a unique safety feature that is included in every GM vehicle. It is GM’s version of electronic stability control (ESC) and helps keep your car safely on the road. Here, we discuss how StabiliTrak works and how to service your vehicle if your system is malfunctioning.

How does StabiliTrak work?

Driving on slippery roads can be extremely dangerous. One wrong move and a driver can quickly lose control of their vehicle. Traction control systems were invented that can prevent a vehicle from swerving and correct the position of the car. StabiliTrak takes the concept further and gives the driver greater control of their vehicle.

Since 1996, GM has been using electronic stability control systems in select vehicles. In 2007, Stabiltrak was made a standard safety feature for all GM vehicles. Electronic Stability Control is now mandatory on all new cars sold in Canada, the United States, and the European Union.

StabiliTrak is a system that can activate in a split second and help you avoid a potential spinout or accident. Always on and monitoring your driving, StabiliTrak keeps you in control and on the road. From slippery roads to winding corners, you’re much safer in a vehicle that has StabiliTrak engaged.

A series of sensors constantly monitor your GM vehicle while driving. If the sensors identify the car is slipping, StabiliTrak will apply brake pressure to correct the trajectory of the vehicle. It can also automatically use engine power to divert the direction of the vehicle. The combination of braking and engine power can help you regain control during spinouts, fishtails, and other dangerous driving situations.  

For example, during a skid, StabiliTrak can sense that a driver is using the steering wheel, but the car doesn’t follow the movements of the wheel. This will activate the StabiliTrak and apply the anti-lock brakes to specified wheels to stop the car from slipping in the wrong direction. Once the vehicle senses the driver has control, the system will deactivate.

StabiliTrak is a vital safety system on your car or truck that is invisible during everyday driving but always ready to activate and keep you safe.

What causes StabiliTrak light to come on?

A malfunctioning StabiliTrak system won’t provide any safety to your vehicle while driving. If the StabiliTrak light is on, your system could be damaged and should be serviced as soon as possible. 

Some of the most common problems with StabiliTrak include faulty sensors, bad wiring, and a faulty powertrain control module.

You should take your vehicle in for maintenance or repairs if the StabiliTrak service light is on in your vehicle.

Noticeable symptoms

If you are having problems with your StabiliTrak system, you may notice your vehicle is hard shifting, has loss of power, or additional warning lights appear.

Some other problems that can occur simultaneously with the StabiliTrak problem include ABS braking issues, engine oil pressure light-activated, and hard shifts. Hard shifting, in particular, can be dangerous for your vehicle and can cause extensive wear and tear on the transmission.

What it means when the service StabiliTrak light comes on?

Driving with the StabiliTrak light on means you won’t have access to this safety feature when you need it. This means you are at greater risk when driving and won’t have assistance during dangerous driving.

If the service StabiliTrak light stays on in your vehicle, you should have the vehicle serviced. The light can indicate a variety of problems that need to be addressed before the traction control system operates correctly.

A faulty input sensor is the most common problem with StabiliTrak systems. The vehicle has a wide range of sensors that include wheel speed, steering angle, and rate of turn sensors. You’ll need to have these sensors replaced at the dealer or a local repair shop if they are malfunctioning.

A malfunctioning powertrain control module (PCM) could also cause the StabiliTrak light to come on. This problem involves the sensors at each wheel and could affect steering performance.

Bad wiring and connections are another cause of StabiliTrak issues. Wiring inside your vehicle can become brittle and damaged over time. These wiring problems can also cause the StabiliTrak service light to activate.

What happens when StabiliTrak is off?

Driving without StabiliTrak activated should be avoided in most situations. The system is active and needs to be on for it to assist while driving. But, StabiliTrak can be turned off, and operating the vehicle without StabiliTrak engaged can help you get out of some situations.

When StabiliTrak is turned off, the sensors won’t activate and won’t force your wheels to lose power. The wheel will be allowed to slip, slide and accelerate regardless of the road condition. This can help you get your car back on the road if you are stuck in the mud, snow, or other debris. It can also make navigating snow-covered roads a little easier as well. 

Once you are safely out of the dangerous situation, you can reactivate StabiliTrak and go on your way.

How to reset the service StabiliTrak light?

The StabiliTrak service light may activate on your vehicle due to a computer glitch or software failure. When this happens, you can easily reset the light without having to visit your local automotive shop:

  • Turn your vehicle on.
  • Turn the steering wheel clockwise.
  • If the light turns off, your vehicle does not need service.
  • If the light stays on, turn off the vehicle.
  • Wait 15 seconds and turn the vehicle on again.
  • If the service StabiliTrak light remains on your vehicle will need service.

What if the light stays on?

If you attempt to reset your StabiliTrak, but the light remains on, your system may be malfunctioning.

From faulty sensors to bad wiring, you’ll need to bring your vehicle in for service to find the cause of the light.

Does StabiliTrak affect transmission?

Vehicles with StabiliTrak can experience hard shifting or a hesitating transmission. You may feel the vehicle jerking between gears or slipping when changing gears. Over time, this can cause serious wear and tear on the transmission and could cost you thousands of dollars to repair. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have questions about the StabiliTrak system in your Gm car or truck? We have answers. Here are some of the most common questions we received about StabiliTrak and traction control systems.

Is it safe to drive with the StabiliTrak light on?

While driving, if the StabiliTrak light activates, it is safe to operate the vehicle. The light will appear when the StabiliTrak is actively operating and attempting to help you control the vehicle. The light should turn off as soon as the vehicle senses you have regained control. 

If the light for the StabiliTrak is constantly on, your system may be malfunctioning and may not operate correctly if your vehicle skids or spins. You should bring your vehicle in for service if the StabiliTrak light remains on permanently.

How much does it cost to fix a StabiliTrak error?

If you receive a StabiliTrak error message, you may be able to solve it by going through a power cycle in your vehicle. Pull over, turn off the car, and wait 15 seconds before starting the car. If the error light turns off, your StabiliTrak system has been initialized, and it is safe to operate the car.

If the light remains on, you’ll need to bring your vehicle in for service as the dealer will need to run diagnostics to determine the cause of the problem.

Your StabiliTrak system has a variety of sensors that may need replacement. This service can cost between $250 and $400, depending on your vehicle.

The traction control system may also be the culprit. A replacement traction control system can range anywhere from $80 and $190 for repairs.

Where is the StabiliTrak button?

While you should always have your StabiliTrak system enabled, every vehicle has a button that will let you turn off the system. You can locate the button on your center console. The icon on the button looks like a car that is skidding.

If you don’t see this button, your vehicle does not have StabiliTrak.

Where is the StabiliTrak sensor located?

StabiliTrak uses a series of sensors that determine wheel speed, braking pressure, steering angle, and rate of turn.

You’ll find these sensors located on each wheel and inside the steering wheel. Each sensor is equally important, and a faulty sensor could cause the system to malfunction.

Where is the StabiliTrak fuse?

The fuse to the StabiliTrak system in your vehicle is located in the fuse box below your steering wheel. Inside your vehicle’s manual, there is a fuse diagram explaining each fuse in the box.

You can check to see if the fuse is blown and replace it if necessary. You should not drive the vehicle without this fuse since it may control other important systems like your anti-lock brakes and stability control systems.

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Author: Dave Johnston

Dave is a hands-on automotive technician with experience in performing service, diagnostics, and repairs on domestic and imported vehicles. He enjoys writing and sharing his knowledge far and wide.

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