What is VDC Electronic Stability Control?

Electronic stability control (ESC) is a sophisticated safety feature with stability and braking technologies to help drivers maintain control of their vehicle. The feature, known as Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) in Subaru vehicles, continuously monitors factors like wheel speed, steering angle, and lateral acceleration and makes intelligent adjustments to braking and engine torque to help balance sudden steering maneuvers that might cause a vehicle to spin out. This feature helps keep drivers safely in their lane by counteracting under- or over-steering, making VDC-equipped vehicles less likely to skid and more likely to avoid collisions due to loss of control. 

VDC electronic stability system is standard across most Subaru models. When combined with our standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD), this dynamic duo provides drivers with added peace of mind alongside other unique benefits. Read on to learn more about this exciting feature!

How Does VDC Electronic Stability Control Work?

Electronic stability control uses a system of sensors and internal computers to constantly monitor a vehicle’s dynamics and driver behaviors. If ESC sensors detect loss of traction or control, the system intervenes to modulate engine throttle and individual wheel brakes. This helps counteract sudden movements behind the wheel that could cause skidding or spinning.  

For instance, a driver might quickly swerve to avoid an obstacle in the middle of the road. If they understeer, it can cause the front wheels to lose traction, causing the vehicle to plow straight ahead instead of maneuvering around the obstacle. If the driver oversteers, the rear wheels may lose grip, resulting in uncontrolled spinning due to too much power and torque. ESC helps mitigate this problem. If the system senses understeering, it can reduce engine power immediately and apply or ease braking to specific wheels, helping the driver regain control of steering. Likewise, if the system senses oversteering, it can apply braking to the necessary wheels to help bring the vehicle back into line.

When is VDC Electronic Stability Control Active?

Most electronic stability control systems, including the Subaru Vehicle Dynamics Control, are active by default. System computers and sensors automatically work to consistently monitor traction, steering, and speed in real-time. This way, VDC is ready to engage and modulate braking and engine throttle in the event a vehicle loses control. If the system engages and takes action, it will flash a warning light on the dashboard while in operation.

What does the VDC Electronic Stability Control Light Mean?


The ESC light is a useful indicator. In Subaru vehicles VDC, the light is located in the dashboard, so drivers can easily observe the system’s status. When operational but not currently engaged, no light will be visible. The moment the system begins to apply braking power and/or reduce engine torque to help the vehicle correct course, the light will come on and remain on while in active use (usually a matter of seconds). It will shut off once the driver regains full control of their vehicle. Temporarily disengaging the system will illuminate another dashboard indicator light that says VDC OFF or resembles the ESC icon with a slash through it. 

If the indicator light remains steadily lit or turns on simultaneously with the Check Engine light, it could signify an internal malfunction or failure. Possible reasons for failure could include a faulty sensor, electrical problem, ABS issue, or other damaged system component and should be looked at by a professional mechanic.

How to Operate VDC Electronic Stability Control

In many cases, drivers have the option to shut off an electronic stability control system. In Subaru models, drivers must press the dedicated VDC button to the left of the steering wheel while their vehicle is running and the dashboard light is off, holding it down until the VDC OFF light appears on the dash. To re-activate VDC in your Subaru vehicle, press the dedicated button again until the light goes off—or simply restart the vehicle.

Benefits of VDC Electronic Stability Control

ESC brings drivers new levels of safety, control, and support. In Subaru models, VDC electronic stability control works seamlessly alongside other essential systems including Symmetrical AWD, 4-wheel ABS,  X-MODE, Hill-Descent Control, and EyeSight® to offer drivers greater safety behind the wheel.

Key benefits ESC systems like the Subaru VDC offer include:

  • Exceptional stability: Helps prevent understeering and oversteering, reducing the risk of spinouts or loss of control on slippery and/or high-speed roadways.
  • Improved traction: Applies selective braking to individual wheels and/or modulates engine power to enhance traction, especially on uneven or low-grip surfaces.
  • Reduced rollover risk: Helps stabilize the vehicle during sudden swerves.
  • Enhanced handling in cornering: Helps drivers maintain control when navigating sharp turns and curves in the road.
  • Driver confidence: Gives drivers greater peace of mind to proceed confidently through inclement weather or when making emergency maneuvers.
  • Helpful handling in inclement weather: Offers added traction in weather conditions such as sleet, snow, or rain - reducing the risk of hydroplaning and slipping that could cause drivers to lose control of their vehicle.

Explore the Full Lineup of Subaru Vehicles

Almost all Subaru vehicles are equipped with VDC electronic stability control. In keeping with their sports car DNA, the Subaru WRX and Subaru BRZ offer a VDC Traction/Track Mode that allows drivers to enjoy the safety benefits of ESC while enjoying the full-throttle driving experience of a performance model. 

Explore our impressive roster of vehicles today!