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What Does VSC Mean?

Posted by Auto.com Staff | Jan 3, 2019

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Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

VSC stands for vehicle stability control and is a type of electronic stability control that is specific to Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Toyota was one of the first automakers to develop a preventative stability control system that went beyond basic traction control. While VSC is not an entirely automated system, it can help keep you safe in tricky driving situations. Let's take a moment to shine some light on just how the VSC system works.

VSC is different from traction control. Often known as TRC or TRAC on Toyota and Lexus vehicles, traction control has been required in all production vehicles sold in the United States since 2012. Traction control is a safety feature that uses the brakes to control tire rotation. If you have ever driven an older car on ice, you may remember how the brakes would lock up but the car would continue sliding forward. Traction control reduces wheel slip like this by sensing the movement and quickly pulsing the brakes. These tiny bursts of on-off braking help the tire to get traction on the ice and stop the car from sliding.

Traction control can also help when moving forward on a slick surface. Sensors can check to see if one wheel is spinning faster than another and apply the brakes to the faster-spinning wheel. By evening out the rotational speed, the car can regain traction and avoid an accident.

Electronic stability control systems such as Toyota’s VSC take the idea of traction control even further. By utilizing sensors, the car can tell when a car is steering off course and use the brakes to correct the steering trajectory of the car itself. VSC can even direct engine power to help redirect the car's movement.

Say you are driving on an icy road and you come to a gentle bend. You steer into the curve, but the car loses traction and doesn’t turn in the direction you are steering. Thanks to vehicle stability control, your VSC-equipped Toyota or Lexus would sense this disconnect and apply the brakes where needed in order to help the driver regain control of the vehicle.

Both traction control and VSC can be turned off. Don't fret if you are worried about turning these systems off by accident: lights on your dash will alert you with a TRAC OFF and/or a VSC light coming on. These are usually located near your check engine light. If these lights do come on, and you aren't sure why, you'll want to have a trusted mechanic do a diagnostic check to make sure there is nothing wrong with your VSC system.

Though VSC and similar stability control systems are related to traction control systems, they are not one in the same, and not all cars come standard with electronic stability control. Toyota has recognized that their VSC system has the potential to save lives, and thus has included it in their Star Safety System.