Perpetually Random ESC OFF Light



The ESC OFF light continually comes on which causes the vehicle to not function correctly, especially the shifting of the transmission (others have reported this elsewhere as sluggish acceleration, but the vehicle’s automatic transmission stays in gear 4 if you keep it in Drive mode. If you switch to the “sport shift” or “manual mode” where the driver has some control over the gears, then the sluggish acceleration goes away.) But back to the question, does anyone know what is causing this “Dummy Light” to come on? I have seen “throttle sensor” to “brake sensor” and one person even said they told her it was dirt in the carburetor, which is especially interesting since it is EFI. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks for reading.


It would be helpful if you told us the model year of the vehicle, the odometer mileage, and whether it is still under warranty.


You haven’t given a model year, mileage, or any info about maintenance history. In general, lacking that kind of info makes it harder for people to say anything.

But in any case, these lights are not things that call for guessing. The ESC is a computer controlled system and it turns on the light when a problem is detected. The computer will hold error codes that give one a starting point for diagnosis.

Is your check engine light also on? If so, go to a big box-type auto parts store where you can get error codes read for free. I suspect, however, that normal code readers probably can’t tap into ESC system issues in which case you will need a shop with the proper scanning equipment.


I think you may be confusing two unrelated problems.

Electronic stability control has nothing to do with “sluggish acceleration,” at least in the cars I’m familiar with. Electronic stability control kicks in with selective braking when it senses maneuvers that may cause loss of control (e.g. slalom-type avoidance maneuvers). Usually cars with ESC come equipped with an “ESC Off” switch that allows you to turn the ESC off under rare conditions when you do want wheel slip, like when you get stuck in snow and need the wheels to be able to spin freely. The “ESC Off” light on the dash comes on to remind/notify you when you have pressed the “ESC Off” switch. It should not come on unless you press the “ESC Off” switch. Why it’s coming on randomly, I don’t know. However, even with the ESC off, you shouldn’t notice any difference in normal driving. You would only notice in an extreme avoidance maneuver that caused the car to spin out.

As for the “sluggish acceleration,” that sounds like a totally unrelated issue.


I don’t know about KIA, but many stability control systems can and will reduce engine power under some situations. It could all still be one issue.


Tardis is correct.
On the Stability Control systems with which I am familiar, reduction in engine power, coupled with selective wheel braking, is how the system works.


But the OP is saying the “sluggish acceleration” is happening when the ESC is OFF, which doesn’t make sense.

Is it possible that OP is confused about which light is coming on? In the cars I’ve seen, there’s an “ESC Off” light to tell you when you’ve switched the ESC off, but there’s also a “ESC activated” light that goes on when the system senses imminent loss of control and the ESC system actively kicks in. If it’s the “ESC activated” light that’s turning on, that might explain the loss of acceleration.



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I have a 2008 Kia Sorento, has approx 64,000 miles, which I bought used about 8 years ago and have had the ESC OFF light problem periodically the entire time I have owned this car. While you are driving, no matter how fast or slow, all of a sudden the ESC OFF light will come on (sometimes the check engine light will also come on at the same time) and the vehicle will lose acceleration and be sluggish. You cannot make it go more than 40 or 45 miles per hour and it has trouble shifting. I have to pull over, turn the car off and wait a few minutes then turn the car back on. Sometimes it will work properly again after the restart, sometimes it has to be restarted several times. After that it may not do it again for months or it may do it again a mile down the road, you just never know. I have taken my car in three different times to be fixed, it was not fixed. I also took it in for a recall that was not for this problem, but others have said that it should fix the problem, it did not fix the problem. This issue can become very dangerous if you are driving at a high rate of speed on an interstate. The mechanics at the Kia dealership kinda of blow us off about the issue. It is very frustrating. I would say overall I have had this happen no less than 20 times since I’ve owned this vehicle. As you can see from the amount of miles I have on this car, it isn’t driven a whole lot. I live very close to work, but I can’t imagine having this problem and having to take this vehicle on long daily drives, especially in heavy, fast moving, traffic.


Your owner’s manual will have information about how to contact the manufacturer when the dealer is unable to fix a problem properly. You should have pursued this issue while the car was under warranty, but it wouldn’t hurt to contact the manufacturer anyway at this point to see what they say.


I have a 2010 Kia Sportage with approximately 28,000 miles. I bought it new in 2010.

I started to notice the ESC OFF light turning on periodically about two years ago.

All of a sudden the ESC OFF light will come on, and the vehicle will lose torque, and it will settle to a slow speed of about 30 miles per hr. I come out of this predicament by pressing the ESC button. (I sometimes press it when I start the car, for fear of the problem happening when I need to accelerate). Otherwise I must turn the car off and restart it. Most of the time the car will work well after restarting. This problem happens randomly. I have not been able to notice a pattern.

I took my car to the dealer to be fixed, under extended warranty, but they could not see it happen. They did other adjustments, and fixes.

A few weeks ago, as soon as I saw it happen, I carefully drove to the dealer without restarting the car (i.e. with the ESC OFF button pressed) and showed them the problem by releasing the ESC button.

They proposed replacing a “YAW sensor”, but were honest to tell me that they did not know for sure whether that would fix the problem, and told me that if this replacement didn’t solve the problem I would have to cover the $850.00 cost, because the insurance does not cover it.

I believe KIA should fix this problem for me. The car is under extended warranty, and it only has 28000 miles on it. This is a dangerous problem. I sincerely hope KIA is not waiting for a bad accident to happen before they find a solution, as it has happened with other car manufacturers.


@gracienglory @msoteldo This 5 year old thread now has three people asking for advice. Please start your own thread and the replies will be for your problem and not confused with others.

This should be the last post so this thread will drift off into cyber space.


On some cars the ESC light will turn on b/c of a problem completely unassociated with the stability function. Like an ignition timing, brakes, or transmission problem. It does this b/c other car functions have to work correctly for stability to work, so it turns the light on to let the driver know the stability function is not available. The sluggishness is not likely associated with the stability system, but b/c of the other problem(s) the engine or transmission computer has detected. Likely the car has been put in some kind of safe mode with low power available only. When this happens the owner should bring the car to the shop as the soonest opportunity so all the engine and transmission diagnostic codes can be read out so the fundamental problem can be discovered and fixed.


George this is a five year old thread with three different people asking questions! For pete’s sake let the thing die.


The last two Kia owners told of their experiences with their vehicles and didn’t ask a question. Why should they start a new thread?


Absolutely right, this is a good place to post for Kia owners with this same problem.

fwiw, this is where I’d start as a driveway diy’er if I had this problem on my Corolla.

  • Read out the diagnostic codes, both engine and transmission.
  • Bring required maintenance, especially tune-up procedures, up to date.
  • Make sure to keep plenty of gas in the tank. Don’t ever run the tank too low. Intermittent lean fuel mixtures could cause this.
  • Visual inspection for corroded or disconnected engine fuel and ignition components, sensors, or controls.
  • Look for leaks in the intake manifold and vacuum hoses, especially confirm idle intake manifold vacuum level is correct.
  • Any signs of shorted, pinched or damaged wire in the warning light wiring harness under the dash?


Did you at any time get an engine check light or code while this happened? A bad YAW sensor should throw a code, I would think.

You better read your extended warranty again and find out what all is included. Some are bumper to bumper and others provide only partial coverage.


In my limited experience this is a tell tale sign of a slowly dying battery. I do not understand why that’s true, but several times now it has been true. Replacing the battery solved the issue completely. If you check the age of your battery, and it’s more than 5 years, then probably it’s time for a trip to your favorite place for a new one.


Good call. I started my 2010 Kia Forte and the Traction/Stability OFF, ABS, and red brake light did not go off. I was not concerned by the red brake light as the parking brake was set. I checked the brake master cylinder and it was full. When I released the parking brake the light stayed on. I did a lap around my cul de sac. hitting the brakes a few times and they functioned normally. I drove to the grocery store and was inside for about 15-20 minutes. I started the car and the lights went out and stayed out. My 6 month oil an filter change was due in less than 2 weeks so I made an appointment 3 days later with a check of the lights. They suspected dying battery. The 6 year old battery under load test had less than 2/3 CCA available. I had it replaced. 8 months later: No problems.