Electronic stability helps keep drivers safe
Published: Saturday, May 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Q: I want to learn about stability control. How does it work? How do I know what it is doing? Will it improve the way I can take corners? — Paula H.
A: Electronic stability control, or ESC, has been available under many names for close to twenty years. Typically managed by the antilock brake control unit, in conjunction with other vehicle controllers and components, ESC helps bring a vehicle in line with what the driver intended. ESC is not intended to be a performance enhancement; it's there to help get you out of trouble as the vehicle becomes loose. Because of its proven benefits, ESC is federally mandated on passenger vehicles.
Several sensors are used, such as vehicle speed, yaw, steering angle and lateral acceleration. They determine the speed of each wheel; the degree of vehicle rotation, or turning; the driver's steering motions; and actual direction, which includes veering or sliding. Should the vehicle fail to turn in harmony with the driver's intentions, engine throttle is adjusted and individual wheel brakes are applied to straighten things out.
You won't hear or see ESC activity until the car is pushed to a predetermined level of instability. An illuminated instrument panel lamp and/or tone will indicate ESC is intervening and the assistance may come in so smoothly, it may be difficult to determine how it is being done. I've noticed vehicles built perhaps 5-10 years ago intervened somewhat early and clumsily, seemingly scolding you with a large and lingering throttle reduction, while newer ones are smarter and take action more seamlessly.
Q: I recently endured a problem with my car where the battery went dead while driving. It was the alternator that needed replacing. I was told if I had noticed the voltmeter reading incorrectly, I might have been spared the breakdown. How might this have looked on the meter? — Raymond Peralta
A: While under way, a vehicle's charging system tries to maintain a system voltage of around 14-14.8 volts. When you see this on the instrument panel gauge, it's safe to assume electricity is being generated at a greater rate than is being consumed, and not in excess. At idle, with many accessory loads active, voltage may temporarily dip to perhaps 13-13.5 volts, as the charging system isn't as effective at low engine speed — but this is OK. A gauge reading below 13 or above 15 indicates a charging system fault. A low reading may lead to a discharged battery; a high reading may cook the battery and certain vehicle components.
Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org; he cannot make personal replies.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pennsylvania, other states considering bids to host Boeing 777X production
- Federal regulator OKs Peoples Gas’ acquisition of Equitable Gas
- Figures rise on growth
- Positive reports add to investor fears the Fed is nearing end of its stimulus
- Area jobless rate slips on decline in workforce
- Firms transmit market data at near light speed
- European officials fine first U.S. banks in rate rigging scandal
- Crown Castle to grow, adding Mylan building
- Range looks to sell Texas drilling assets
- Madoff cut dead client’s payout by creating fake loss, jury told
- Generic drugmaker Mylan completes $1.75B acquisition in India