Ever turn your car on and see a “Check VSA System” warning light? Maybe the light even flashed at you while you were driving. If you own a Honda or an Acura for any length of time, there’s a good chance you’ll see a message on the dash warning you to “Check VSA System”.
Here’s a little information on what the light means, why the light might be on, and what you should do next.
What is the VSA System?
The VSA system is Honda’s Vehicle Stability Assist system, an electronic driving assist that Honda developed. This system is used in most current Hondas and some Acuras (Acura is the performance and luxury division of Honda in North America).
The VSA system includes both traction control and stability control. It is related to the anti-lock brake system (ABS). In fact, the VSA System is controlled by a module called the VSA modulator, which is essentially the same thing as an ABS module.
Almost all modern cars have some sort of traction control and stability control system. The names of these systems vary by manufacturer, but the principle is the same, even if the algorithms and implementation are a little different between makes and models.
The traction control system (TCS) reduces engine torque or applies brakes to specific wheels when you accelerate in slippery conditions. Stability control helps keep the car pointed the direction you’re steering when the car starts to slide.
The anti-lock braking system (ABS) helps you stop as quickly as possible without locking up the tires. This is because a rolling tire has more grip than a sliding tire.
What Does the VSA Light Mean?
When It’s Flashing
A flashing VSA light actually means the system is working properly. The VSA light flashes when traction is low and the VSA system is kicking in to keep your car on the road. You are more likely to notice the VSA light flashing during snowy or icy conditions.
This condition should be covered in your owner’s manual and may have more specific information for your vehicle model.
When It’s on Solid
A Check VSA System light that stays illuminated usually indicates a problem. This is often caused by a failed sensor, electrical issue, or communication interruption between vehicle sensors. You can often learn more information about the specific cause of the problem by using a scan tool.
Mechanics are equipped with professional grade scanners that give a lot more information than what you might find at your local auto parts store. If you would like to scan the code yourself, here is a list of professional scanners to help you get the job done.
Read Also: “Check AWD System” Light On?
How Does the VSA System Work?
The VSA System reads input from wheel speed sensors on all four corners, a steering angle sensor, a yaw sensor, and possibly others. An algorithm in the control module compares expected yaw to actual yaw rate based on these various sensors around the vehicle.
If the expected vs actual yaw rates are outside the specified tolerance, the stability control system will brake individual wheels to correct the course of the vehicle. Some newer vehicles may apply their own steering input as well. The automatic application of steering input is how Honda’s Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) works as well.
Causes of a Check VSA System Warning
1) Bad Wheel Speed Sensor
The VSA system needs to see data from all four wheel speed sensors in order to work properly. If one wheel speed sensor fails, this could trigger a VSA warning light.
2) Bad VSA Modulator
The VSA modulator is an ABS module. It controls the brakes individually for each wheel according to an algorithm created by Honda. If you have a bad VSA modulator, the ABS, traction control, and stability control systems may stop working.
3) Bad Clock Spring
A clock spring is a spiral coil of wire that allows the steering wheel electronics to work while you turn the wheel. If the clock spring fails, you are likely to notice several other issues such as an airbag light, no horn, and inoperable steering wheel controls. The VSA system may be powered by the clock spring.
4) Bad Yaw Sensor
A yaw sensor is a fancy accelerometer that detects how hard you are cornering. If the yaw sensor sends erroneous data or communication is interrupted, this could cause a VSA warning light.
5) Mismatched Tires
The algorithms in the VSA system operate under the assumption that all four tires are roughly the same circumference. If one tire has a different diameter or significantly lower tread depth than the others, this will likely throw off the VSA system.
The VSA system may believe the wheel speed sensors are feeding it bad data, even if the wheel speed sensors are functioning normally.
Manufacturers give you a small margin of error where the tires can vary by a couple 32nds of an inch. Your owner’s manual should have more information on this, especially if your vehicle is equipped with an all-wheel drive system (AWD).
Can You Drive with the VSA Light On?
It’s usually safe to drive in fair weather conditions when the VSA light comes on. If the weather isn’t looking great, you may want to reconsider. A little rain is OK, but if you’re worried about hydroplaning through standing water or sliding on ice, it may be better to wait for the roads to clear.
You’re probably also good to go if you have some experience with a car control course or high performance driving event (HPDE). After you’ve gained some experience driving your car at the limit, you’ll understand more about vehicle dynamics. Stability control is designed to compensate for lack of driver experience when loss of traction occurs.
If other warning lights are illuminated such as the check engine light or ABS light, it’s probably best to get the vehicle repaired as soon as possible. It is recommended that you identify the root cause of the problem before you drive any significant distance in this case.
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