Car Rental Safety Driving: Electronic Stability Control

Electronic Stability Control (or ESC) is a crash avoidance system found on many recent vehicles. ESC will help you stay in control of your vehicle when you need to swerve or brake suddenly to avoid an obstacle. Transport Canada has been testing vehicles with ESC since 2004; we found that the improvement in vehicle stability due to ESC was impressive.

Transport Canada has introduced the new Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 126 that requires an ESC system on all passenger cars, multi-purpose vehicles, trucks and buses with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 4536kg or less, and manufactured on or after September 1st, 2011.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) reduces the risk of loss of control. Its sensors compare the direction of the steering wheel to the direction the vehicle is going. When they are not the same, ESC will automatically brake one or more wheels for short periods of time, reduce engine power, or both, to correct it.

ESC has many sub-systems, two of which are traction control and skid control. Traction control minimizes the spinning of driving wheels by cutting down engine power and/or applying the brakes as necessary. Skid control keeps the vehicle stable, especially in emergency situations such as when you need to suddenly steer to avoid an obstacle.

ESC is normally on when you start your vehicle.

Some vehicles have an “ESC Off” switch to use when you are stuck in snow, mud, and sand or you drive the vehicle with snow chains or the compact spare tire. An “ESC OFF” light will appear in the dash or a message will appear in the message centre.

ESC sensors are always at work when you drive, unless:

  • you disable ESC;
  • your speed is below 20km/h (12.4 mph);
  • you are driving in reverse

Things to keep in mind

Keep ESC on unless you are stuck or you are driving the vehicle with snow chains or the compact spare tire. Turning off ESC will disable Traction Control and in some systems it will disable Skid Control, as well. Skid Control is very important for maintaining vehicle control during emergency situations.Without Skid Control, you could lose control of your vehicle and crash, especially on slippery surfaces.

ESC does not and cannot change the laws of physics.

If you drive too fast for road conditions, you can still lose control – even with ESC.

Keep your tires and brakes in good condition.

The best ESC system can do little if your tires are worn-out, under-inflated or overloaded.



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