Reader Question: ESC on – or Off?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Mike asks: I enjoy reading your posts; it’s nice to see rational thought in print. A quick question regarding ESC. Is it better to drive with it on or off?

My reply: ESC – Electronic Stability Control – uses selective application of brake pressure (and in some systems, backs off the throttle) to correct for oversteer or understeer (and so on) and thereby maintain the car’s stability, especially when cornering. It is a definite boon for the inexperienced driver, who doesn’t know how to correct for understeer or oversteer – much in the way way that ABS helps prevent an inexperienced driver from locking up the brakes and skidding out of control during a panic stop.

But, experienced drivers may regard it as a form of idiot-proofing that prevents them from fully driving the car. For example, using the throttle to steer the car through the corner, with the car sliding some in a controlled manner. However, not many drivers possess such skill – in part because such skills are no longer generally taught outside of high-performance driving schools, which few attend.

So, on balance, for the average driver, ESC is probably a good thing. Though in my opinion, it would be a better thing to encourage more skill development and less reliance on technology.

A better driver is always a safer driver.

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Not all ESC is created equal. Twice the ESC on my 2013 Jeep Wrangler kicked in when I hit bumps in curves and applied gross overcorrections for me to deal with, which caused me to decide to get rid of the vehicle. On the other hand, the ESC on my 2018 Subaru WRX straightened the car out so fast when I hit a patch of black ice in a curve that it was all over and fixed before I had a chance to react.


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