If your vehicle has an ESP or BAS light, then you definitely need to know what they mean and what they're learning to you when they pop up on your dashboard. Not every vehicle is going to have these lights, so it's good to know what they mean sister not a standard across the whole industry.
ESP stands for electronic stability program. In some vehicles this is known as Electronic Stability Control. Other manufacturers will refer to it as Dynamic Stability Control. Whatever they choose to call it, it is all the same thing. It is technology that is controlled by your car's computer designed to improve your stability by detecting a loss of traction and helping to reduce it so that you can maintain proper control of your vehicle and potentially dangerous circumstances.
When your electronic stability program detects that you're having a loss of traction, maybe you're driving on an icy road in the winter it automatically applies the brakes so that you can better steer the vehicle where you're trying to go. The brakes are applied to the wheels individually to prevent over steering in these slippery conditions. Depending on what kind of vehicle you have it may also reduce your engines power as well
BAS stands for brake assist system, sometimes called emergency brake assist, is a system that will improve the pressure of your brakes when you're trying to stop in an emergency. If you're trying to avoid an accident, then you're more likely to slam your foot on the brake very quickly. Your BAS is able to detect the urgency with which you're breaking, including the speed and force that you're putting on the pedal, to tell that there is a serious situation you are trying to avoid. when it detects that you are trying to stop because there is an emergency it will override the brakes and apply full pressure for you until your anti-lock brake system prevents your wheels from locking up.
When the ESP or BAS light shows up on your dashboard, it means these systems have been engaged.
Signs and Symptoms of a Bad ESP/BAS
It's possible that you can have a problem with your ESP which will cause the lights to come on. If the module that controls your electronic stability program is starting to fail, that's going to cause the light to come on even though you're not actually experiencing a problem with your traction at all.
Lights Won't Turn Off: If the light on your dashboard comes on and stays on for seemingly no reason then that's a good indication you have a problem with your ESP. Some vehicles actually have the ability to turn the ESP on and off at will, this is useful if you do off-roading for when you're in a muddy situation and you're trying to spin your wheels to get out. You don't actually want the traction control coming on during the situation. However, if your traction control won't turn off, or in some cases won't turn on, then you definitely should get a mechanic to check it out for you.
Loss of Anti-Lock Brakes: Your anti-lock brakes in your electronic stability program have to work together. They are controlled by the same module in your car's computer. If you noticed that your anti-lock brakes aren't working properly any longer, that's giving you a problem with your ESP module malfunctioning.
Ineffective Traction Control: When your ESP is starting to go bad on you it's not going to maintain control on the road the way that it's supposed to. That means if you're driving in Slippery conditions when the ESP actually kicks in it's not going to really increase your ability to maintain stability on the road. That means if conditions are wet you may start hydroplaning and your ESP won't click in quickly or not quickly enough to be effective. As you can imagine this could be particularly dangerous. If you have any indication that your ESP is failing in this way you need to get it fixed as soon as you can.
In the case of your brake assist, when it isn't working the way it's supposed to then the most common symptom that you're going to have to deal with is the system simply not working the way it's supposed to. That means that when you hit the brakes in an emergency, the system will not kick in to compensate with the extra pressure that you expect to experience as a result. This could potentially lead to some serious accidents as if you're not applying the correct amount of pressure to the brakes, they may not respond as strongly or effectively as they should.
To get to the root of the problem you're probably going to need to use an OBD2 scanner to diagnose exactly why your ESP or BAS systems aren't working precisely the way they're supposed to. This is exactly what a mechanic would do to diagnose the problem as well, but you can save yourself a little bit of time by picking up your own OBD2 scanner on a site like Amazon.com. You can get them for between $30 and $40 and they will give you a code to let you know what exactly is going wrong so that you can get it fixed that much more quickly.
One thing to keep in mind here is that some cheap scanners only read engine codes. For this particular issue, because your ESP and BAS systems rely on sensors, you're going to want to find an OBD2 scanner that reads wheel speed sensors, ABS and chassis. This may cost a little bit more, but it will give you the results you're looking for.
Is it Safe to Drive with the ESP BAS Light On?
If you notice that the ESP or BAS light is on your dashboard all the time, you definitely have a problem. That's not to say you can't drive your car like this, you just shouldn't drive your car like this. These are safety features so they should only be in use when you need them. You don't want your traction control or your brake assist operating all the time because you simply don't need to have them all the time. If the light is on endlessly, then there is some kind of a malfunction in the system, and you do need to get it checked out. You don't want these systems failing on you when you actually do need them and that's what matters.
If you see the ESP or BAS light come on your dashboard it’s not a sign of something you need to be worried about necessarily. These lights will come on when the system is needed. You probably noticed the light that looks like the back of the car with the wavy lines behind it when you've been driving on a slippery road. That's your ESP system coming into play and trying to straighten things out and stabilize your vehicle for you. When you're no longer on the slippery surface, the light should go off. If that's how it worked for you, that means it works properly and you don't have anything to worry about right now.
For a long time, cars were made without ESP or BAS systems so it's not like driving without them is utterly impossible. So just keep that in mind. They are safety systems that were designed in more recent years to help improve the driving experience and keep you safer. In fact, there is an abundance of statistical evidence that shows traction control systems have prevented numerous accidents. And, in cases with cars that didn't have traction control, there is just as much evidence to show that those vehicles could have been much safer with the system in place. So, it's a matter of your own safety and the safety of other vehicles on the road as well that you should make sure the system is working the way you need it to.
One thing that's worth remembering which we touched on earlier is that it's possible in some vehicles to turn the ESP or BAS lights on and off with the push of a button. If that's the case in your vehicle, as silly as it sounds, you definitely want to check that out ahead of time before you take your car to a mechanic to get it looked at. It may just be as simple as you forgetting to have actually turned it back on or turn it off again with the push of a button. That does sound super obvious, but you'd be surprised how often the most obvious answer is the right one when it comes to automotive problems. Ask any mechanic and they'll tell you how at least once they've had to deal with a customer complaining that their car wouldn't start and the reason was because they didn't actually have any gas in the tank. In the modern world, sometimes we just overlook simple things. It happens to the best of us.
How Much Does It Cost to Fix ESP/BAS?
When it comes to repairing your ESP or BAS light when it's on all the time, it can be hard to pin down an exact cost for the job. That's because there are several potential reasons for it to come on in the first place. Because the ESP relies on a number of sensors and systems that are monitored by your car's computer to maintain proper functioning, a breakdown in any one of these things could potentially cause the light to come on and stay on. With that in mind, let's take a look at a few other reasons why your ESP light might be on and what you could potentially expect to pay to have these things repaired.
ABS Pump: If the problem causing your ESP light to come on is related to an anti-lock brake system pump that has failed, you could potentially be looking at a cost of somewhere between $800 and $1,000 to get it fixed depending on the make and model of your vehicle. Once the pump has been replaced, that should fix any problems you're facing with your ESP light.
Wheel Sensors: The wheel sensors are integral for allowing your ESP light to function properly. Without these, your traction control system would be unaware of the issues you're facing with traction on the road. A wheel sensor might cost you between $200 and $300 to get repaired. That's for each sensor so hopefully you don't have a problem with more than one of them. The price can go up considerably if you're driving a rarer, high-end vehicle.
Brake Pads: Worn brake pads can cause some serious troubles with your ESP light as well. Fortunately, replacing brake pads is not as expensive as dealing with something like an anti-lock brake system pump. New brake pads will usually cost you anywhere from $100 to $300 or so depending on how many pads you need to replace, and also if you're dealing with replacing the calipers at the same time.
The Bottom Line
The ESP and BAS systems in your car do you an invaluable job for keeping you safe. The difference in accident rates before the implementation of these symptoms and after is quite dramatic if you check out some of the statistics. Word is that upwards of 80% of accidents that involve skidding on slippery roads can be prevented with a properly functioning traction system in the vehicle. Those are some pretty impressive statistics, so you want to do everything you can do to make sure your ESP and BAS systems are working as well as they can.
If you're noticing a problem with your ESP light coming on when it shouldn't, or never turning off, then it's in your best interests to get to a mechanic as soon as you can so you can have the problem evaluated and repaired as soon as possible. What it comes to your safety and the safety of others on the road, you never want to put off a repair job like this for too long.