GMC Service StabiliTrak & Traction Control: Symptoms & Diagnosis

Every newer GM vehicle comes with the StabiliTrak system to give you better control of the car in varied terrains, thus preventing accidents. The system works together with sensors in the wheels and steering, which detect any variations to how the vehicle should typically work. It prevents the vehicle from spinning, skidding, or slipping on slippery surfaces, thus keeping you on the right track. If you were about to move out of the road and hit an object, the system would apply breaks and protect you from accidents.

The StabiliTrak system comes with a switch with a light showing the image of a vehicle trailed by a curved tire track. When in operation, the light remains off. The service StabiliTrak GMC light comes on when the system is no longer working as it should. This article discusses the symptoms and diagnosis of problems affecting StabiliTrak on your GMC vehicle. Keep reading!

What Is StabiliTrak?

StabiliTrak is a manufacturer-installed system that helps you keep the vehicle on the road. It monitors and adjusts the steering, applies the brakes, and helps your vehicle maintain traction. A good example is StabiliTrak by General Motors (GM), which uses your vehicle’s braking system to stop the vehicle from slipping and maintain the right trajectory. It can also detect when you have lost control of the vehicle by examining the engine RPM and steering angle.

What’s the Meaning of Service StabiliTrak Light in GMC Vehicles?

The primary purpose of the StabiliTrak light is to show that the traction system has been switched off. When you deliberately switch off the traction system, the light comes on to show that StabiliTrak is no longer working. That means that StabiliTrak is usually on when the light is off.

When the service StabiliTrak message appears on your GMC vehicle, it indicates an error in the StabiliTrak system. However, the StabiliTrak warning light may also indicate possible damage to parts of the vehicle working together with the traction control system. For example, the warning may come due to a wrongly wired sensor, malfunctioning sensor, and a faulty controller.

Service StabiliTrak GMC Symptoms

A malfunctioning StabiliTrak system cannot get you by surprise. That’s because every GMC vehicle has a light that turns on to indicate traction system problems. However, the symptoms of service StabiliTrak light in a GMC vehicle could be much more than the light. If you drive a GMC Acadia, GMC Terrain, GMC Sierra, or GMC Yukon, the following subtle symptoms of service StabiliTrak warning:

service StabiliTrak GMC

1) Service StabiliTrak Warning Light

When the StabiliTrak system is faulty or failing, the typical sign is the appearance of the service StabiliTrak warning light on your vehicle’s dashboard. It shows the presence of a severe problem that requires your attention sooner than later. The light may turn on due while you drive your vehicle to show that StabiliTrak is temporarily disabled. Probably it’s because you are driving at high speed. Once you reduce the speed, the StabiliTrak light turns off, which isn’t a big problem. However, when the StabiliTrak light persists even when you are driving at a slower speed, your vehicle’s StabiliTrak has a problem you need to fix.

2) Difficulty Turning StabiliTrak On/Off

StabiliTrak comes with a switch, which you can use to turn it on or off. For example, when driving along a slippery road or a steep slope, it is necessary to turn on StabiliTrak. However, when your vehicle gets stuck in muddy or snowy conditions, turning off StabiliTrak allows your vehicle to muster all the power it requires to free itself. A faulty StabiliTrak system may prove impossible to turn on or off. Probably, the switch isn’t working correctly and should be replaced.

3) Loss of Cruise Control

The purpose of the StabiliTrak system is to help you keep your vehicle on the road, especially in an emergency. But that’s not always true, especially when StabiliTrak malfunctions. So, if your car appears to lose cruise control in a terrain where it shouldn’t, chances are the StabiliTrak system is faulty and requires repair or replacement.

4) Dysfunctional Traction Control

A vehicle’s traction control system (TCS) uses the same sensors as StabiliTrak. TCS aims to prevent the wheels from unnecessarily spinning while StabiliTrak controls the vehicle’s lateral movement. Therefore, you can know that the StabiliTrak system isn’t working well by checking whether the TCS is working.

5) Loss of ABS Function

The module that regulates the StabiliTrak system and anti-lock braking system (ABS) is the same. Therefore, when your vehicle loses the ABS function, most likely, StabiliTrak is also affected. Since StabiliTrak relies on the braking system to control the vehicle, it won’t perform as expected during an emergency. In that case, the ABS warning light appears on the dashboard and the service StabiliTrak GMC light.

Read Also: Chevy Service StabiliTrak & Traction Control: Symptoms & Diagnosis

Service StabiliTrak GMC Diagnosis

After identifying the symptoms of a StabiliTrak error, you should go ahead to diagnose the underlying causes. Diagnosis involves identifying the causes of the error with the view of resolving them quickly. Due to system complexity, StabiliTrak errors may occur because of several reasons, including the following:

1) Wheel Speed Sensor Issues

Each wheel on your vehicle has a speed sensor, which sends signals to StabiliTrak, helping it detect when some wheels are turning at a higher speed. When one of these speed sensors gets damaged, StabiliTrak cannot work as usual. The sign to look out for is the service StabiliTrak warning on the dashboard. The solution is replacing the faulty speed sensor with a new one.

2) Faulty Brake Pedal Switch

The primary purpose of the brake pedal switch is to turn the brake lights on or off. However, the switch performs more functions than that. Your vehicle’s ECU uses it to run StabiliTrak and related systems. Therefore, failure in the brake pedal switch renders StabiliTrak dysfunctional. The result is the appearance of the service StabiliTrak GMC light on the dashboard.

3) Faulty Powertrain Control Module

Every vehicle has a powertrain control module (PCM), which regulates the engine, transmission, and components such as StabiliTrak and cruise control. After picking signals from the electronic wheel sensors, the PCM activates the StabiliTrak system to get a grip on your vehicle’s steering and stability. Thus, a faulty PCM may render the StabiliTrak dysfunctional. The PCM is most likely to fail in extreme weather conditions.

4) Wrong Tire Sizes

Every GMC vehicle often has a manufacturer-recommended tire size. Violating this requirement can make the StabiliTrak system not work as you would expect. It gets worse if you choose differently sized tires from different manufacturers. Since they can’t hit the ground uniformly, the smaller tires spin faster, triggering the service StabiliTrak warning light.

5) Bad GM-LAN Connection

All GMC vehicles utilize the GM-LAN communication cables to connect various components, including the StabiliTrak system. The wiring harnesses have a plastic jacket shielding them from external damage. The problem is that this plastic may come into contact with the gearbox and melt or become brittle and break. That can expose the GM-LAN communication and make them grounded. Consequently, that can disrupt StabiliTrak and other computer-operated systems.

How to Turn Off Service StabiliTrak Light

Do you want to know how to reset or turn off the service StabiliTrak light? The process of turning off the StabiliTrak warning light is the same across all GMC models, including GMC Acadia, GMC Terrain, GMC Sierra, and GMC Yukon. Here are the simple steps for turning off the Service StabiliTrak light:

  • Step 1: Check your vehicle’s dashboard for the center button with the picture of a car and trailing curved tracks. That’s the StabiliTrak button and looks the same in all GMC vehicle models.
  • Step 2: After pressing the button, hold it down for several seconds until you activate the traction control system (TCS).
  • Step 3: You should see a DIC message on the dashboard of all GMC models. However, the GMC Sierra appears to be ahead of the other models.
  • Step 4: At this step, you have to exercise patience as you wait for the StabiliTrak system to turn on and for the warning light to turn off.
  • Step 5: When your car reaches 56 km/h, the StabiliTrak turns on automatically as the TCS gets deactivated.

How to Reset Service StabiliTrak Light?

When the service StabiliTrak GMC light in your car’s dashboard comes on, it indicates a problem with the StabiliTrak system. Usually, it is a minor computer hardware or software failure problem that you can efficiently resolve by following the steps to reset the StabiliTrak light or pressing the StabiliTrak button. You may need to go deeper than just press a button because of a system problem.

Before resetting the warning light, perform all diagnostic checks as the light could communicate a bigger underlying problem. Here is how to reset the service StabiliTrak Light in simple steps:

  • Step 1: Ascertain that you haven’t pressed the StabiliTrak manually or that the StabiliTrak system isn’t disabled due to prevailing weather conditions.
  • Step 2: If none of the above conditions is true, turn your vehicle’s handwheel clockwise. If the handwheel shuts off, your vehicle doesn’t need further service. However, if it doesn’t shut off, move on to the next step.
  • Step 3: Turn your vehicle off and wait for at least 15 seconds. Turn on the vehicle and check the dashboard for the DIC message. If the DIC message disappears, you are good to go.
  • Step 4: If the DIC message persists, your vehicle requires further service. Be sure to contact a professional car repair shop or the local DMC dealer.

StabiliTrak and Traction Control Disabling Itself

It sometimes seems like all is lost when your engine misfires, the engine light starts flashing, and your vehicle’s stabilization and traction control systems get turned off. One of the most logical consequences of this is the service StabiliTrak light turning on.

Flashing engine light is a sign of your vehicle’s engine misfiring. An engine misfire causes the StabiliTrak system to go out since it relies on steady engine speed. All GMC vehicles are programmed to shut off the StabiliTrak system when the engine misfires. However, automatically fixing the misfire fixes the StabiliTrak problems.

An engine can misfire due to various reasons, including a loosely connected spark plug cable. Therefore, it is important to check under your vehicle’s hood for any problems. If that doesn’t work, you need a computer-generated code to know the exact cause of the problem. Ask for help from a trained repair technician if you need it.

How Much Does It Cost to Fix StabiliTrak?

After going through all the possible causes of the StabiliTrak error, you can conclude that the entire system requires replacement. Typically, replacing a StabiliTrak system costs between $80 and $190, including a $30 to $50 labor cost.

However, some vehicles may require wheel speed sensor replacement, which costs anything from $250 to $400 per vehicle. That’s why you need to investigate all possible causes of a StabiliTrak warning before you take the next step. If the seemingly obvious options don’t work, take the vehicle to a repair specialist or the local GMC dealership for repair.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is it safe to drive with the service StabiliTrak light on?

It is only safe to drive with the StabiliTrak on if it appears as your vehicle starts losing traction. The light means that the system is engaging the StabiliTrak system to protect you. If you drive with the StabiliTrak light on under different circumstances, your vehicle can spin or slide on the road. That’s because the light constantly staying on means StabiliTrak is disabled.

Why do StabiliTrak and ABS lights turn on at the same time?

When the StabiliTrak and ABS lights turn on simultaneously, it means that ABS is failing. Both StabiliTrak and ABS utilize the TCM to carry out their functions. Therefore, a problem with the ABS is likely to trigger the service StabiliTrak warning light. That’s why both lights are on at the same time.

What causes StabiliTrak to malfunction?

The StabiliTrak system can malfunction because of several reasons, including blocked wheel speed sensors. When dirt builds up on these sensors, they can no longer pick and transmit signals to the StabiliTrak system. Hence, your vehicle’s StabiliTrak system can no longer protect you.

Conclusion

Does it concern you when you see your service StabiliTrak GMC warning light turn on? The purpose of the warning light is to warn you that the StabiliTrak system isn’t working as you expect it. Luckily, turning the warning light off is as easy as pushing the StabiliTrak switch. If that doesn’t work, the problem is beyond StabiliTrak and its components. Your car engine could be misfiring, or the tires aren’t quite correctly aligned. Having your local GMC dealer carry out the complete diagnosis of the problem can fully help you fix the car.

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