VDC warning light: What does it mean, and why is it lit?

ESC / ESP / VDC warning light
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The VDC warning light can signal the activity of the VDC system (Vehicle Dynamic Control), its shutdown, or its malfunction. If the warning light is flashing, the dynamic control system is active. If the warning light is on, the system is probably not working due to shutdown or malfunction.

VDC is an important element in modern car technology, and its failure should not be ignored. In this article, we will briefly look at how the dynamic control system works and what it means when the VDC warning light is on or, on the contrary, flashing.


What is VDC, and how does it work?

The VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) system stabilizes the vehicle and helps to manage situations in which the car could skid. This system monitors steering wheel position, wheel speed, vehicle acceleration, and other parameters to determine whether the vehicle maintains the desired direction.

When the VDC detects a loss of traction, it automatically processes the information from the ABS and the steering wheel rotation sensor. Then it applies braking force onto the individual wheels of the car to prevent skidding.

However, the system uses braking force on the wheels whenever needed. It can occur during acceleration as well as when you take sharp turns. The VDC system reduces the risk of skidding by applying the braking force. In addition to the ABS, this system also uses the ASR system.

VDC warning light flashes. Is this a problem?

In the case of a flashing VDC warning light, this is not a problem—quite the opposite. Flashing indicates system activity. The vehicle got into a difficult situation, and the VDC system intervened to stabilize it and prevent it from skidding.

In difficult driving situations, such as sharp turns or sudden braking, this warning light may flash and then light up. In such a case, the VDC system stabilizes the vehicle by interfering with the steering. If the system works properly, the warning light will go out as soon as the car stabilizes.

The VDC warning light is still on. What's up?

If the warning light does not light up only during difficult driving conditions and risk of skidding, the following situations may occur:

  • The VDC system was turned off using a button (with the inscription OFF below the standard symbol or with a crossed-out icon) or via the interface on your car's dashboard
  • There was a malfunction in the VDC system
  • There was a sensor failure or an electronics failure

Some cars do not allow the VDC system to be turned off, but if you have such an option, a lit warning light may signal an intentional turn-off of the dynamic control.

We, therefore, recommend trying to turn off/on the VDC system. If nothing happens with the indicator light when you turn it on or off, it is probably one of the abovementioned faults.

However, it is impossible to solve these malfunctions by yourself, since, in both cases, it is necessary to perform car diagnostics. The best thing to do is to take your car to the repair shop immediately.

Electronic Stability System Markings

Car manufacturers use different abbreviations when labeling the electronic stability system, but the principle of operation of these systems is the same. In the case of this system, you may encounter the following labels:

  • ESC (Electronic Stability Control) - general name for electronic stabilization system, but used by Škoda, Fiat, Hyundai, Tesla, Luxgen, and Proton

  • ESP (Electronic Stability Program) - designation used by Audi, Chrysler, Dodge, Hyundai, Jeep, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Saab, Suzuki, Lamborghini, and Smart

  • ESP (Electronic Stabilization Program) - the designation is used by Volkswagen (the abbreviation is the same as the previous one, the minor difference is only in the full name)

  • VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) - designation used by Subaru, Nissan, and Infiniti

  • DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) - designation used by Aston Martin, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mazda, and Mini

  • VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist) - designation used by Acura and Honda

  • VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) - the designation used by Lexus and Toyota

  • VDIM (Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management) - the designation used by Lexus and Toyota

  • ASC (Active Stability Control) - the designation used by Jaguar and Mitsubishi

  • DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control) - designation used by Volvo

  • PSM (Porsche Stability Management) - the designation, as the name implies, is used by Porsche

  • M-ASTC (Mitsubishi Active Skid and Traction Control) - the designation used by Mitsubishi

  • StabiliTrak - designation used by Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet (most models), GMC, Pontiac, Saturn, Isuzu, and Hummer

  • AdvanceTrac - designation used by Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury

  • Active Handling - designation used by Chevrolet (Corvette)

Some manufacturers use multiple designations, as the designation may not apply to the entire brand but to a specific model.

Different shape of the VDC warning light

As with the markings of the VDC system, this warning light may have a different shape depending on the manufacturer and the specific model. In addition to the warning light in the main picture, you can also come across a triangle with an exclamation point in an almost complete circle - Alfa Romeo uses this warning light for the VDC system.

ESC / VDC / DSC warning light

Some cars share the same shape of the VDC warning light as in the case of ESC or DSC systems. For example, you can see a triangle and an exclamation point on the Alfa Romeo and BMW models, even if BMW uses a DSC system instead of a VDC. The point is that the VDC system is essentially identical to other electronic stabilization systems. The difference is only in the name.

VDC OFF warning lights

ESC/VDC OFF warning light

This warning light may indicate a disabled VDC system or traction control, depending on the model and manufacturer. If your vehicle allows the system to be turned off, the button may have the same shape as this warning light.

VDC OFF warning light

Frequently asked questions about the VDC warning light

Question 1: Can I drive with the VDC warning light on?

Yes, you can, but it is necessary to find out the cause of the warning light coming on as soon as possible and solve the problem in case the VDC system is not turned off on purpose. Driving with the VDC warning light on can mean lower stability, leading to dangerous situations on the road and a higher risk of a skid.

So if the VDC warning light is on, drive carefully, especially on slippery surfaces, and avoid sharp turns or sudden braking.

Question 2: Can the VDC warning light come on even if there is no problem with the VDC system?

Yes, the warning light can come on even if there is no problem with the dynamic control system. The reason may vary, such as a fault in the electrical system or a problem with the sensor. In this case, performing car diagnostics and eliminating the cause is necessary.


The illuminated VDC warning light should not be ignored, that is, unless you deliberately disabled the dynamic control system. According to the European Commission regulation, every newly homologated car must have this system installed as of November 1, 2011. All vehicles in the EU must be equipped with this system since 2014.

Video comparison with ESC on and off (equivalent to the VDC system) on a VW Golf Sportwagen