vsc light

VSC Light Turns on in My Toyota – What Does It Mean?

If you drive a Toyota or a Lexus, then you might notice that your car has a VSC button and a VSC light. VSC is short for Vehicle Stability Control, which is Toyota’s system that helps drivers maintain control of the car under difficult conditions. When you’re driving in heavy rain, snow, or other slippery terrains, VSC helps to keep your car in control. We’ll discuss more on how VSC works, what VSC light means, and what to do if it won’t turn off.

How Does VSC Work?

The VSC is the system in your Toyota or Lexus that’s responsible for keeping the car stable when driving and cornering. There is also a system called traction control, which is responsible for your car’s stability during acceleration. Actually, the two terms are often interchangeable. The definition may vary between manufacturers, but this is how Toyota defines it. Anyway, VSC and traction control works by modulating the car’s brake and engine speed when necessary. It will sometimes also adjust your car’s differential if it has a mechanical locking differential.

So, how does it work exactly? Well, if your Toyota or Lexus has VSC then it will usually have sensors on all four wheels. These sensors then communicate with what Toyota calls a Powertrain Control Module or PCM. The PCM is a combined control unit consisting of the Engine Control Unit (ECU) and the Transmission Control Unit. The ECU controls the engine to ensure optimal performance in all conditions. Meanwhile, the transmission control unit determines when and which gears to change for optimal performance. It also works with the ABS system to modulate the brakes to control wheel rotation.

If the sensors on those wheels detect that a wheel is going to or is slipping, it will then tell the PCM and ABS system to modulate either the engine, the transmission, or the brakes in order to reduce the slip. For example, if the front left wheel is slipping, then the PCM will reduce engine speeds to slow it down. It will also apply more braking power to that wheel as it needs it the most to slow down.

In summary, VSC helps to keep your car under control in difficult conditions. It does this by automatically modulating the engine, transmission, and brakes when necessary.

What about Traction Control?

Good question. In principle, traction control works the same way as the VSC: by modulating the engine speed and the brakes to control slippage. The difference is that traction control helps to keep the car under control during acceleration, not while cornering. So, there isn’t much difference in the way they work, it’s merely about WHEN they work.

How to Turn VSC Light Off

Toyota Hilux Arctic Trucks 20 - VSC Light

Your VSC light may turn on simply because you’ve accidentally pushed the VSC button. When you do, this means that the VSC system is currently off.  To turn it on again (and to turn off the light), locate your VSC button first. The placement may vary depending on your Toyota model, but it’s often located either on the dashboard just above your knees or near the gear stick. The button may also either have “VSC” written on it or a picture of a car slipping with the word “Off” below it.

Once you’ve located the button, it’s ideal that you do this while you’re at a complete stop. Next, press and hold the VSC button, you may see TRAC OFF and VSC OFF lights come on on your dashboard. This means that both systems are currently off. Next, press the VSC button once more and the light should come off. If it’s off, that means both systems are working normally again.

If the light won’t turn off, then that means you have a problem with the VSC system. This won’t necessarily mean your VSC system is faulty, there might be something else wrong with your car that prevents the VSC system from turning on, thus the VSC OFF light won’t turn off.

Why Won’t the VSC Light Turn Off?

There might be a few reasons causing this, which are:

If the ABS and VSC Light is On

As mentioned, the VSC system works together with your ABS (Antilock Braking System). The ABS measures your tire speeds as you drive along and transfers that information to the PCM. If the system detects wheel slippage, the PCM then will decide the best course of action to keep the car under control.

If your ABS light is on, then that means your car is experiencing an issue with the ABS system. Since the ABS system isn’t able to work properly, your VSC won’t be able to work as well. Which leads to both warning lights turning on. There are several reasons why your ABS light is on, including low brake fluid and damage to the ABS sensors. You can also check if the ABS fuse is blown, if it is, then it would be wise to check why it’s blown in the first place.

If you can’t identify the issue, then you should take your car to a mechanic to diagnose the problem. It’s generally still safe to drive your Toyota even if the ABS and VSC light is on. However, we advise you to be extra careful, especially when it’s raining or snowing. No ABS and VSC mean there is no safety net that prevents wheel slippage as you drive along.

If the Check Engine Light and VSC Light is On

How to Reset a Check Engine Light

It’s quite common to find the check engine light to turn on alongside the VSC and ABS light in a Toyota or a Lexus. The check engine light indicates that there is an issue related to the engine. Sometimes, the issue may prevent the VSC system from working properly, leading your dashboard to light up like a Christmas tree.

There are several reasons why your check engine light is on, and it can be as simple as a loose gas cap. If your gas cap is closed tight, then you will need to identify the problem by using an OBD-2 scanner. This scanner connects to your car’s on-board diagnostic system and shows error codes that will help you to identify what’s wrong with your car. Here’s our guide on how to use an OBD-2 scanner:

  1. Plug the reader into the car’s OBD port. This port is often located underneath the dashboard area, either above your pedals or knee. Keep in mind that some cars might have their port hidden out of sight. Check your owner’s manual or online to see where it’s located in your car.
  2. Once plugged in, turn on the OBD scanner. It should immediately scan the car. However, some scanners might require you to input additional information such as make, model year, VIN number, etc.
  3. It will then display the error codes it has found. A more complex scanner may also display a description of what’s wrong with the car, but if you have a simpler scanner then it’s recommended to take note of the codes displayed. This way, you can cross-check them with the owner’s manual later on.

Once identified, fix the problem and reset your check engine light. You can watch this guide below on how to diagnose your car using an OBD-2 scanner:

ASR, DSC, and the VSC Light

Okay, there’s a lot of acronyms here but bear with us as this is crucial in understanding how the VSC system in your Toyota or Lexus works. The Acceleration Slip Regulation or ASR is another word for your traction control. As the name suggests, the ASR is responsible for preventing the driving wheels from spinning or slipping. It uses the sensors on your wheels to determine if one wheel is spinning faster than the other. If it does, then it will automatically determine if the brakes are enough to help reduce the spin. If it isn’t, it will then tell the PCM to reduce power to that wheel in order to regain grip and maintain stability.

The Dynamic Stability Control or DSC meanwhile is activated when you drive through difficult and unstable terrains. The DSC can allow an individual wheel to spin more than the others to gain more traction. If your car starts to skid, the DSC will take control and decide the best course of action to regain traction.

Both of these systems work together with your VSC system to maintain your car’s stability while driving. If one of them fails, then it may cause your VSC light to turn on and preventing the system from working properly. Both systems work by using the sensors on your wheels and communicating with the powertrain control module.

ESC and the VSC Light

ESC stands for Electronic Stability Control. The system works together with the VSC system to aid the traction control system. The ESC turns on when your car lost its grip and is skidding. The system is capable of estimating how long the skid will occur and the direction, it will then give the appropriate braking power to the necessary wheels. Much like the previous system, if there’s something wrong with the ESC, then the VSC system won’t be able to work properly.

How to Reset VSC Light

If your VSC light won’t turn off you can try resetting it. Keep in mind that you should do this when only the VSC light is on. If the check engine or ABS light is on, then there’s an underlying issue with your car that you need to fix. There are several methods you can try to reset your VSC light:

Odometer Reset

This is the simplest method you cant try. First, turn your engine key to ACC (or press the Start button once) and press the odometer until it reads the mileage of your car. Next, switch off the car completely and let it sit for a minute. Afterward, turn the engine on again and press the odometer button simultaneously. See if the VSC has reset and the light is gone.

Hard Reset

If the first method didn’t work, then you can try a hard reset method. Before you do this method, make sure to follow these safety precautions:

  1. Remove any accessories such as metal jewellery, rings, and watches. These are excellent conductors for electricity and could trigger an electric shock. Best leave them off your body.
  2. Keep everything dry, as the slightest amount of water that touches the battery can spell disaster. This goes without saying, you should work indoors if it’s raining.
  3. Turn off your car before you touch the battery.
  4. Work in a well-ventilated space, as battery contains acid and it’s likely to emit harmful gasses.
  5. Check for signs of corrosion. If there’s a widespread greenish-white powder, then be extra careful.

To do this method, simply park your car in a dry place, open the hood, and then disconnect the battery terminals. Leave it for 10 minutes, and then reconnect the terminals and try turning on your car to see if the VSC light is still there. Keep in mind that disconnecting your battery may reset other electrical settings in your car as well, such as the clock and the radio.

VSC Recalibration

The last method you can try is by doing a recalibration for your VSC system via the OBD-2 port. This method is a bit more complicated to explain with text, so you can watch the video below instead to guide you:

Fixing the VSC Light

If none of the methods above work, and there is a check engine or ABS warning light on your dashboard, then you may need to diagnose the underlying problem and fix it to get rid of the VSC light. To diagnose the problem, you will need an OBD-2 scanner and plug it into the OBD port. Scan the system to see the error codes, and identify what the codes mean. If you have a more expensive OBD-2 scanner, then it should be able to directly tell you what the codes mean.

After you diagnose the problem, you can then decide on whether you want to fix the problem by yourself or get a professional mechanic to do the job. As for the cost, check engine light or ABS problems typically cost between $120 – $800 to fix. The cost varies greatly depending on the severity of the issue. Additionally, some repair jobs may be much more serious and cost as high as $2000. It’s impossible for us to give an estimate as there are a lot of issues that can trigger a check engine and ABS warning light.

We advise that you take your car to your trusted repair shop. This way, they can immediately diagnose the issue for you and give you an estimate on how much it will cost to fix the issue. Also, remember to shop around and get multiple quotes on the cost. This way, you can ensure the best quote and service for your car.

Questions & Answers

Lexus RC-F - VSC Light

Is It Safe to Drive with the VSC Light On?

Generally, you can still drive with the VSC light on. However, you will need to be extra careful when driving with the light on because this means your VSC system is off. We do not advise you to drive with the VSC off when it’s snowing or during heavy rain, just to be safe. Keep in mind that if the VSC light is accompanied by a check engine or ABS warning light, then there might be an underlying issue with your car. In which case, you will need to diagnose and fix it immediately. Also, if the check engine light is flashing, you need to stop driving immediately as it indicates a serious issue.

When can I turn off VSC?

The VSC system is there for a reason – mainly to keep your car stable and keep you safe. However, there are several circumstances where you can turn the VSC off, such as:

When You’re Stuck in Snow or Mud

This is especially true if your front wheels are stuck. The VSC system restricts your engine performance and automatically applies the brakes to reduce slippage. However, when you’re stuck you want all the possible power and you don’t want your car restricted. Turning the VSC system off will remove these restrictions and make it easier to get unstuck. If you find yourself stuck in snow or mud, then you should turn it off to get your car out immediately. Even Toyota themselves recommend this.

When You’re Offroading or Driving on Uneven Terrain

When offroading or driving on uneven terrain, you will need to be in control of your engine power output. Since VSC limits your wheel rotation by controlling the power output and the brakes, it’s better to turn it off so you can control your car more freely. When the VSC detects wheel slippage caused by uneven terrains, it will trigger the system to reduce your wheel rotation and power output, which isn’t ideal when you’re maneuvering on uneven terrain.

When You’re Driving on a Track

If you take your car to drive it on a track, chances are you’re a car enthusiast and you know it’s better to turn the VSC off. But if you didn’t know, when you’re driving on a track it’s better to turn the VSC off so you get the full performance of your car. As mentioned, VSC limits your engine’s power output, limiting its performance and slowing you down around a track.

Of course, if you’re not entirely confident in your driving skills and you just want to have fun around a track, then there’s nothing wrong with keeping the VSC on. You’ll get limited performance, but you can still have fun and it’ll keep you out of trouble. More importantly, it’ll help to keep you out of the barriers.

When the VSC is Malfunctioning

The VSC system may malfunction and misbehave when you drive. This is quite rare, but it’s possible that your VSC may trigger even when there’s no issue at all. If you notice your car applying the brakes or reducing engine power even though you are certain that there’s no risk of slippage, then you may have a malfunctioning VSC system. In which case, you may want to turn off the VSC to stop it from interrupting.

A problem with one of the sensor or control modules may cause the VSC to misbehave. In which case, you’d want to turn it off and then take it to a mechanic to fix the issue.

Conclusion

The VSC system in your Toyota or Lexus is there to help you maintain your car’s stability as you drive along, even in adverse conditions. It works by using the sensors on your wheels to monitor tire rotation and detect if any of them are slipping. If it feels necessary, the system then communicates with your car’s ECU to reduce or prevent wheel slippage. It does this by modulating either the engine speed, the transmission, the brakes, or all of them together.

In most circumstances, you want to leave the system alone and let it do its job. However, if you find yourself stuck, offroading, or the VSC misbehaving, then you should turn the system off. In these specific circumstances, it would be easier to drive with the VSC off.

If you notice the VSC light is on, try turning it off by pressing the VSC button. If it won’t turn off, then try one of the reset methods we mentioned above. However, if it still won’t turn off then there might be an underlying issue. This issue is preventing the VSC to turn on, hence the VSC OFF light won’t turn off. In which case, you will need to diagnose the problem and fix it to get your car working normally. You can do this by using an OBD-2 scanner, or take your car to a repair shop for a diagnosis.

Estimating the cost is impossible since there’s a wide variety of problems that can cause this. You will need to diagnose what the problem is first, and then research how much it will cost to fix the problem. Remember to shop around to get the best possible quote for your repair or replacement job.

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