What Does Service StabiliTrak Mean? – Symptoms & Cost

StabiliTrak is a stability control system that applies breaks to every wheel individually. You can think of this system as an all-wheel-drive system for the brakes. Just like the traction system, StabiliTrak aims at maintaining vehicle stability. It’s a GM’s proprietary Electronic Stability Control system, so you’ll exclusively find it only on their models.

Connected to the stability control system, wheel and steering wheel, StabiliTrak uses sensors to monitor the vehicle movements. Every time it detects an issue, it provides a warning through a Service StabiliTrak light. 

The system ensures your car moves in a straight line when in motion. Through the sensors, it monitors and compares the position of the steering wheel and tires versus the direction of the car. If it detects imbalance like the vehicle fishtailing, the system swings into action immediately.

For instance, if your car fishtails towards left but tires and steering wheel points to the right, StabiliTrak applies brakes on the frontier. The brakes are on the outside for the car to straighten out. That’s just one way the StabiliTrak can help you.

Being a system interconnected with several parts, many issues can activate its light. So, when you notice the StabiliTrak light on, a thorough inspection is recommended to establish the cause.

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What Does It Mean When The Service StabiliTrak Light Comes On?

When the StabiliTrak light is on, it simply means there is a problem with the system. However, the light cannot interpret or tell you what the exact problem is. This is because it is a general indicator that represents various system issues.

What Does Service StabiliTrak Mean

Therefore, there is no defined way to deal with this warning light. The best you can do is take your car for a mechanical diagnosis. Ignoring the warning may perhaps lead to major complications thus not advisable. Some of the main issues that can activate the StabiliTrak light include;

A faulty input sensor 

Faulty input sensor is one of the common reasons your Service StabiliTrak signal will light. These could be sensors on any part of your vehicle; be it wheel, steering wheel, rotational speed etc. To fix this, all you need is to replace the affected sensor with the right spare. 

Faulty controller 

Breakdown of the powertrain control module can lead to a StabiliTrak warning. The system works perfectly only if all the sensors are reporting to PCM in regards to the vehicle stability and steering. Without this communication, then the system will translate that as an error. 

  • Bad connection: All GM cars have an aLAN communication cable running towards the transmission. If this cable breaks down, then, the StabiliTrakgenerates an error signal. Even though this cable has a protection shield, natural elements can easily make it wear out over time. Additionally, wiring and grounding can result in a StabiliTrak error message.
  • Bad steering angle sensors: The steering angle sensor determines the turning angle based on the signals generated. This sensor is fixed on the steering column. Basically, the sensor is designed in such a way that it detects the driver’s direction of movement. If the sensor is faulty, definitely the traction control light goes on.

Other causes of a StabiliTrak light can be due to:

  • System malfunctioning
  • Defective system parts such as the Throttle body assembly
  • A damaged fuel pumps
  • Conflicting signals 
  • Improper tire size
  • Engine misfires 
  • A damaged steering wheel position sensor 
  • Use of E85 Fuel
  • Body control module 
  • Active fuel management 
  • Park assistance sensor 
  • 02 Sensor failure

What Are The Symptoms Of StabiliTrak and Traction Control Issues?

There are several signs and symptoms of StabiliTrak and Traction control issues. These include;

TCS won’t turn on/off

Some cars have a TCS allowing drivers to switch modes either on or off. Sometimes this switch may fail to work. It may happen that Traction control remains off even when the switch is on. 

Hard shifting

This occurs due to friction between metallic parts in the transmission fluid.

Warning indicator light on

This can be a result of very many issues. For instance, disconnection, faulty parts among others. When your StabiliTrak or Traction control module is about to fail, it automatically powers on a warning light on the dashboard. The warning is an indicator that your system has a serious problem. 

Loss of Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) features

If your control StabiliTrak and TCS have a problem, chances are your ABS features will diminish. Therefore, the driver will have to apply more pressure on the pedals so as to stop. 

Loss of power/Limp mode

When your car StabiliTrak has issues, it’s possible to experience power loss momentarily. That’s why cars with these control systems find it hard to pull through rough terrain.

Engine Error codes alongside the problem

Some of the most common error codes that you’ll encounter are;

  • C0561: This means that the ABS is disabled
  • P0011: This error code translates that the Camshaft Positioning A
  • P0521: Engine Oil Pressure Sensor
  • P0121: Pedal Position Sensor

Is It Safe To Drive With The StabiliTrak Light On?

Yes. You can still drive your truck even with the StabiliTrak on. Although, you may experience some difficulties such as reduced power and mostly this problem comes with hard shifts. Whereas you can still drive your truck, the hard shifts are a big problem for transmission.

Mostly, the hard shifts are a result of low transmission fluid. This results in high friction between the metallic parts in the transmission system.

However, there is no direct link between low fluid flow and StabiliTrak warning light. But still the internal parts of the transmission system cause hard shifts. The experts haven’t been able to explain the relationship between the two. Having said that, note that driving your truck with hard shifting can lead to serious wear and tear. 

How to Fix Service StabiliTrak Message?

This is a common problem experienced by many drivers. Unfortunately, the dealers do not provide any one answer or solution to this problem. Lack of error code alongside the problem makes it even harder to decipher. Additionally, the problem is intermittent making it hard to analyze. Therefore, solving this problem requires rigorous tests and trials. 

However, certain things have been established to be the main causes. These include things like fuel, AFM or throttle interference. Since E85 Fuel tops most people’s suggestions, your first step should be checking your fuel. To try and see whether it is the problem, drain your tank completely and refill with regular gasoline. Other possible fixes are;

Reset the system

To rest the StabiliTrak message, follow the steps below;

Rotate the steering wheel in a clockwise direction from nine to three o’clock. Alternatively, turn off your vehicle. Wait for at least 15 seconds then turn it on again. 

  • Turn off AFM: Sometimes, the message is due to fuel management alerts. When you turn off AFM, the message should disappear if that’s the cause.
  • Check spark plug: A faulty spark plug can cause engine misfires. In that case, you will be receiving a StabiliTrak. Check to ensure that your plugs are in good condition. If not, you can replace them. 

If none of these methods clears the error message, you should consider seeking a mechanic’s assistance. Take the car for a full diagnosis which can establish which component has malfunctioned. 

How Much Does It Cost to Fix the StabiliTrak?

The cost of fixing any StabiliTrak problem shouldn’t go beyond $100. In most cases, the total average cost ranges from $80-$90. This includes labor and any spare parts required. However, the charges vary depending on location and your dealer. 

The charges may however go higher up to $400 in the event you have to replace the sensors. Sometimes, the Service StabiliTrak message can resist all repairs and the only option is replacing the sensors. Before you can get to that point though, ensure that a scan confirms nothing else has a problem.

Final word 

The StabiliTrak in vehicles is a great safety feature in vehicles. It protects the drivers against accidents even when on slippery or rough roads. However, this feature has its downside as it causes decreased power in vehicles.

Therefore, sometimes you may be forced to turn off the StabiliTrak for your car to gain maximum power. This is essentially important in emergency cases like when you get stuck in snow or mud. 

Depending on your car model, disabling the system may vary. If you can’t do it on your own, you better seek assistance from a professional mechanic or technical. To locate the StabiliTrak, follow the steps below

  • Navigate to the car’s menu. 
  • Under the instrumental panel, pick the steering wheel controls 
  • On the left side of the steering wheel, check the black arrow
  • Scroll down to control settings then choose to accept