Any light other than the regular lights in a vehicle’s dashboard should be paid due attention. However, for this particular article, we will be talking about the Stabilitrak system from GM that is popular with modern cars. As it stands today, the Stabilitrak system is also known via a variety of names, such as the ABS in other vehicle systems outside of GM. In general terms, it is GM’s term for the Electronic Stability System of a vehicle. This particular component of a vehicle’s engine is critical as it involves the car’s braking system.

Any self-respecting vehicle owner or driver should never ignore any warning light they see on their car’s dashboard. As you continue reading, we aim to answer the question of what does it mean when the service stabilitrak light comes on? It is our hope that by the time you finish reading this, you will be familiar with stabilitrak problems and how to go about fixing them.

What Does The Service StabiliTrak Light Mean And How It Works?

In layman’s terms, the service traction control and stabilitrak is GM’s way to gain control of a vehicle and make it go in a straight line. Unlike traction control systems that re-distribute power to the steering and wheels depending on terrain, the stabilitrak sensor will help with steering the vehicle as well. Let us use an example, if you are driving down a slippery road either due to rain or snow conditions, this is where the stabilitrak meaning becomes very clear. So if your car starts to fishtail and become uncontrollable, the system will reduce power, engage the brakes on the appropriate tire, and steer the car back to its original course. It can be referred to as a maneuvering system to keep your car from going wayward and cause accidents. Stabilitrak is made up of sensors primarily and uses these sensors to know where and what position the steering wheel relative to the tires are so it can apply direction and brakes. These sensors apply braking power to wheels as it sees fit, reducing the chances of your car to fishtail out of control. There is only one caveat to Stabilitrak systems, this is because they immediately reduce power when turned on. This is why offroaders disable stabilitrak and those that want the engine to optimize its power.
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When the stabilitrak light stays on, it means one or more components of the system is compromised and it needs to be looked at. Now what does service stabilitrak mean is that it is a visual cue for you to pay attention to this particular feature of your car. There are a myriad of things that can make the stabilitrak and traction control disabling itself, as well as keeping the stabilitrak light on. The best course of action when the service stabilitrak light comes on is to stop, look at it yourself if you can, or have the vehicle serviced by a professional. The bottomline is to have it looked at, it does not matter whether you DIY it or go to the shop.

What Causes The Service StabiliTrak Light To Come On?

We already know that the system revolves around the car’s steering wheel, the vehicle’s brake systems, and its traction control mechanisms. This may be true but there are other components that will cause how to turn on stabilitrak light. It is important that we know these other components for us to have an idea of how to fix stabilitrak when it turns its light on. Check out the list below:
  • A failing or a faulty TPS (Throttle Position Sensor)
  • A failing or a faulty Steering Wheel Position Sensor
  • A faulty or failing ABS Sensor
  • A defective fuel pump
  • Faulty TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring Sensor)
  • A failing or a faulty brake switch
  • Body Control Module failure
  • The use of E85 Fuel
By far those are what we have gathered that may cause the Service Stabilitrak Light to come on. It is very interesting to note that the use of E85 fuel can cause problems with this system. For that however, you can drain the fuel or let it run dry and refill with a more suitable one and this fixes the problem. The fuel pump is also among those that may or may not trigger the light coming on, but it has been noted on multiple occasions that it can cause the light to come on. Keep in mind that it always pays to be vigilant and pay attention to your scheduled preventive maintenance. This goes a long way in ensuring that your car is in top shape in the long run no matter if you know what is stabilitrak or not.
Typical Automotive braking system: image
Typical Automotive braking system

Service StabiliTrak Chevy

Chevy is always among the first vehicle brands to equip new technology in their cars, this is the same for the Stabilitrak system. The chevy stabilitrak sensor location revolves around its steering wheel. This is true both for service stabilitrak chevy malibu and service stabilitrak chevy cruze line of vehicles. The way it works is that the Chevy gets the sensor data from the sensors and determines the wheels position versus the steering wheels position. The computer will then correct the vehicle's trajectory and position based on this data. This is why a defective steering wheel position will cause the stabilitrak light on the dashboard to come on. Chevy’s system assures the driver of always maintaining control over your vehicle's steering and traction control in slippery and less than ideal driving conditions. For the most part, the Chevy stabilitrak system adds another layer for your road safety as you travel the roads no matter the weather conditions. Preventing accidents by augmenting the drivers control over key systems is the driving force behind this system.

Symptoms Of Service StabiliTrak Issue

Aside from the obvious light in the dashboard calling your attention to service the stabilitrak system, there are also several tell tale signs to warn you of what is ailing your car’s steering and traction system. We will put them as a list below which can also serve as a handy checklist for you to go over in order to ascertain and pinpoint the issue. The list is by no means complete but it is as comprehensive as we can get it to be.
  • The Stabilitrak, Traction Control, or ABS lights on the dash come on
  • Reduced engine power, very similar to an engine in ‘limp’ mode
  • Service ESC (Electronic Stability Control) light comes on
  • The Stabilitrak shows as ‘OFF’ on the instrument cluster
  • The ‘Stabilitrak Initializing’ message comes on in the instrument cluster
  • Transmission gets stuck in one gear
  • Poor throttle response and loss of engine power
  • Stabilitrak light comes on when going from a dead stop
  • Stabilitrak Not Ready message on the dash
  • Dash says Service Traction Control
  • The ABS light comes on
  • When using an OBD scanner the trouble codes P0121, P0011, P0521, C0561
When you experience these symptoms, never think of them as an isolated case but rather try to get a mechanic to properly isolate the problem before it costs you your safety and a lot of expenses in the long run. You also have the option to purchase a scanner and learn how to DIY in your own garage. For most problems, it is as simple as replacing the sensor modules.
Symptoms Of Service StabiliTrak Issue: image

How To Fix Service StabiliTrak Issue

Even with the most rigid maintenance schedule, this can still happen to the very best of drivers. If and when it does happen to you, below is a set of instructions on how to go about with troubleshooting and fixing the Stabilitrak issue. By no means should you continue driving with this light on, especially if you have passengers.

Step 1: Pullover

When you see this light come on while driving, find a safe place to pull over and inspect the vehicle. Walk around your vehicle for any physical signs of trouble, such as leaks, tell-tale smoke, or physical deformities.

Step 2: Turn off the engine

Just like any electronic system, a good power cycle will fix most minor problems. Turn off your engine and wait for 2-3 minutes.

Step 3: Start the engine

After the recommended time has passed, start cranking the engine and if the issue is a minor one, the light should be gone or have turned off by this time. If the light is still on even after this process, it could be something that needs replacing and it is a good idea to have a professional look at your vehicle. We are confident we have covered all the basics up to this point, however just to make sure we do not miss anything out and leave any stone unturned, these are some of the most asked questions we can find about Stabilitrak systems

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Can I drive with the StabiliTrak light on?

You usually can drive the car even if the Stabilitrak System light is on but at a greatly increased risk to your safety and your passengers. You will notice loss of power as well as the throttle response being sluggish but the vehicle will still get you where you need to go. However we feel compelled to let you know that while it can still transport you, your drive is more susceptible to fishtailing in less than ideal driving conditions. If you are in an area where there is light snow or wet driving conditions, make sure that this system is in top condition before you venture out.

How much does it cost to fix the service StabiliTrak?

Steering and traction related repairs can cost anywhere from 30$ to about 100$, depending on the shop you have taken it to. Thankfully, for such a useful system it does not cost an arm and a leg to service. The prices may vary depending on location but it stays within the range that I mentioned. Of course, some parts may not be immediately available and may cost extra to have shipped to your location, but then again it will vary.

How do I turn off service StabiliTrak?

Whether you want power or the cars Stabilitrak light came on and you want to turn it off altogether, you can do these steps:

  • Press the TCS button on your car’s console or steering wheel wherever it is located and then release it.
  • Press and hold the same button for at least 5 seconds and wait for the instrument cluster indicator to turn off.

What is the difference between stability control and traction control?

While these two may seem identical, they perform a completely different function from each other. Stability control involves braking and cutting power off from the wheels to make sure the cars go in the direction it was steered to in the first place. The stability control function is an augmentation to the vehicle’s maneuvering system and is especially helpful when driving on snowy and wet roads.

Traction control, on the other hand, has to do with controlling the actual tires spinning speed and has little to do with controlling the vehicle’s direction. Traction control is only a part of a stability control system in a vehicle. A vehicle can have traction control without stability control but never vice versa.

Can StabiliTrak cause a car to stall?

This is quite a possibility especially when driving in wet and slippery conditions such as snow on the road. When the system is overwhelmed with too many corrections, it can become confused and stall the engine as a safety precaution. Sometimes power is cut off so drastically that the vehicle no longer has the power to move forward.

Watch the video to find out How to reset Service StabiliTrak light


While the Stabilitrak system can be turned off in case of needed power during emergencies, do it only when needed and in a few and select circumstances only and not for long periods. If you see your Stabilitrak light or your traction light turn on in the instrument cluster, do not let it sit for too long or even drive it without inspecting the car or making sure it goes to the shop for a safety inspection. Always give your safety priority over maintenance.