want to learn about stability control, which my new car supposedly
has. How exactly does it work? How do I know what it is doing? Will
it improve the way I can take corners?
Electronic stability control, or ESC, has been available under many
differing 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; itís there to help get you out of trouble as the
vehicle becomes loose. Because of its proven benefits, ESC is now
federally mandated on all passenger vehicles.
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 driverís steering
motions; and actual direction, which includes veering or sliding.
Should the vehicle fail to turn in harmony with the driverís
intentions, engine throttle is adjusted and individual wheel brakes
are applied to straighten things out. Keep in mind that nothing can
be done to overcome improper steering wheel actions, severe tire
hydroplaning or the laws of physics.
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.
Iíve 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.
I recently had
the privilege of driving about two dozen new cars around Mazda
Raceway in Monterey, Calif., and even under spirited cornering
maneuvers didnít encounter a single ESC intervention. One
explanation may be the excellent tires and suspension dynamics
offered better grip than I felt comfortable exploring. In years
past, the first thing one did when starting the car was to locate
and press the ESC disable switch to avoid certain annoyance.
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?
underway, a vehicleís charging system tries to maintain a system
voltage of around 14-14.8 volts. When you see this on the instrument
panel gauge, itís 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 isnít as effective
at low engine speed ó 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.