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What is ESC (electronic stability control)?

  • How does ESC work?
  • Do I need electronic stability control?
  • Also known as ESP (electronic stability program)

What is ESC?

ESC, or electronic stability control, is an electronic stability aid that automatically controls engine power and individually applies braking to a vehicle’s wheels if a loss of traction is detected. The technology is very similar to dynamic stability control and electronic stability program. It's also known as ESP (electronic stability program), and DSC (dynamic stability control).

How does ESC electronic stability control work?

ESC sensors are fitted to each of a vehicle’s wheels and will detect if a loss of traction occurs, by measuring the rotational speed compared with other tyres.

The ESC system will then automatically apply brakes and/or restrict power to the wheel that is beginning to slide - helping the driver regain control and preventing skids before they spiral out of control. Every car with ESC has anti-lock braking and traction control, as the sensors and hardware are very similar.

Do I need ESC?

Yes. As well as being standard on all mass-produced cars in Europe, studies have shown that cars fitted with electronic stability systems are less at risk of an accident.

ESC is found on

Electronic stability control – or a similar derivative – is standard on all new cars sold in Europe, under a voluntary agreement among car manufacturers.

Looking for more jargon-busting motoring meanings? Head over to our Parkers Car Glossary page and take a look at our other definitions