ESP – You Have Heard Of It, But Do You Know How To Use It

Electronic Stability Program (ESP)

Short for Electronic Stability Program, it is a feature found in most modern 4WD vehicles and contrary to popular belief has been around for a very long time. The diagram in this picture is a very common image for ESP but there are many different 3 letter acronyms for this safety feature.

Others are VDC, VSC, ASC, ESC with which if you either one of these or said picture you also have ABS and Traction Control.

ESP Features

The ESP feature is a safety device which is activated as soon as the vehicle is started and responds to steering wheel input and vehicle direction through various sensors throughout the 4WD.

The system quickly detects loss of control and intervenes by using the vehicles braking system and even engine control to help the driver regain control in the direction the steering wheel is being pointed to.

The problem with this feature for many off-roaders is due to way it responds to steering wheel input, wheel speed and vehicle direction than for those that drive their 4WD’s on sand will know that even with good tyre deflation it is very easy to be travelling in a straight line with the steering wheels pointed to the right or left (Steering Disconnect) and having excessive wheel spin to different wheels at different times.

Now what we experience is a huge power loss, the vehicle braking rapidly and can be a huge let down for those that don’t understand the feature and the need to turn it off.

Most Modern 4WD’s that have this feature fitted will automatically have the ESP turn OFF once Low Range is selected which can be ideal for many but not all 4WD’s have this setting. If that is not the case or you wish to drive the vehicle in High Range in Soft condition’s then you must turn the ESP OFF by either pressing the button once or holding it down for up to 6 seconds depending on the model.

For some makes and models of 4WD’s if the ESP button is pressed just once then you may just have TRC OFF on the dash which has turned off Traction Control but NOT ESP, for these models you have to press and hold the button for up to 6 Seconds to have the light illuminate to say ESP has turned OFF. Now do be mindful that if the ESP has been turned off manually every time the vehicle is turned off and restarted the ESP will revert back on again and the lights will have gone meaning you must turn the feature OFF once again.

If your vehicle has the ESP turned OFF automatically once Low Range is selected then as long as the vehicle is in Low Range, the vehicle can be restarted and the ESP OFF light will remain on until Low Range is deselected.

Another common misconception is if Low Range is selected and the ESP OFF light is on the dash that Traction Control has also turned off which in the majority of cases is not the truth. Some make and models you can select the option to have Traction Control on or off completely independent of the ESP feature.

Contact Eureka 4WD Training for ESP Questions

We only recommend turning the feature OFF when needed in Soft terrain such as Sand. If you have any questions relating to your make and model and the use of ESP please contact us so we can have you understand how your make and model works.

Pete Deas