ESP Malfunction On Ford (Here Is How To Fix)

ESP Malfunction Ford

Noticing any kind of warning light or error message on your vehicle can be a heart-stopping moment – particularly when it’s not exactly clear what’s causing it or what you can do to make it go away.

If you’re worried that your Ford has some kind of ESP malfunction, you’ve come to the right place.

Fords have an ESP warning light to show that there may be some issue with the Electronic Stability Program, sometimes accompanied by an “Engine Malfunction” error message on the display.

There are many reasons why this shows up and a number of possible fixes.

Here are a few steps you need to take to fix an ESP malfunction, especially on a Ford vehicle, which includes:

Step 1: Reset the ESP

Step 2: Check the sensors

Step 3: Check the connections

Step 4: Enlist the help of a professional

What Is The ESP?

So that you can truly understand how this particular feature might malfunction, and how it could be fixed, we first need to know what we are actually talking about.

The ESP in your Ford is the Electronic Stability Program, which is often simply referred to as “stability control”. It is a complicated safety system that involves a lot of different parts, but its basic job is to assist you in maintaining control of your vehicle to stop you from spinning out and rolling over or getting into a collision.

It is important to note that the ESP in your Ford can’t prevent accidents on its own, but it can help to reduce the likelihood that they will occur due to lost control, and it can give you support in getting the vehicle stabilized again.

Read also >> Sensor Malfunction (Here Is How To Fix)

Read also >> Steering Wheel Malfunction: Problems; Diagnose (Fixed)

How Does ESP Work?

Your ESP is a relatively complex piece of kit.

It relies on a suite of different electronic components to constantly gather information about how the car is moving, and it will intervene if it deems that there is a likelihood of the vehicle skidding out of control.

The ESP will detect when the vehicle itself is traveling in a different direction from the way that the wheels are facing, which might be when there is an oversteer or understeer that is not in line with the way that you are turning the steering wheel.

When the ESP activates, it automatically applies the brakes to try and counteract the loss of control (sometimes to all wheels simultaneously, sometimes to just one set of wheels, and sometimes to individual wheels – depending on the ESP you have).

Some ESP systems will also adjust the power output of the engine to take further control over the vehicle.

This added stability is designed to reduce the likelihood that the car will continue to skid, which can result in a direct collision or a rollover. It works too. A statistical analysis by the Department of Transportation found that having an ESP reduced the instances of police-reported single-vehicle crashes by 26%, all run-off-road instances by 45%, and rollovers by 64%.

And that’s just for passenger cars. The same study found that light trucks and vans (LTVs) with ESP installed experienced a 48% reduction in all single-vehicle crashes, a 72% reduction in all run-off-road instances, and an 85% reduction in rollovers.

How To Fix An ESP Malfunction On A Ford

To get that ESP warning light to turn off, there are quite a few different things that you can try, and being able to solve the problem will depend on what the problem really is.

Don’t worry. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide of the simple things that you can try, in order to hopefully resolve the issue yourself – or figure out that you might need some professional help to get your ESP up and running again.

Step 1: Reset the ESP

The first thing to try is simply turning the ESP system off and on again. This will determine whether there is a real problem that needs resolving, or whether the system simply needed a quick reset.

First, try navigating through the menu to select the ESP option so that the display shows “ESP Off”. Then wait for ten minutes and repeat the same process to turn it back on again.

If that doesn’t work, you can try fully shutting down your vehicle, or disconnecting the battery entirely and waiting for the same amount of time.

It sometimes takes around 30 minutes of regular driving for the system to recalibrate, so the light may not turn off straight away.

Note: You can drive your vehicle without your ESP switched on and functioning, but it does put you at greater risk of an accident.

Step 2: Check the sensors

If the ESP light does not turn off after a reset, then there is likely a problem somewhere in the system. The most common cause of this would be an issue with the sensors.

Check your Ford’s manual to find out where the sensors are located and investigate the external sensors individually (this would typically be the wheel speed sensors but could include others as well). You want to see whether they are obstructed, dirty, or knocked out of position.

Give them a good clean and make sure they are positioned correctly, then reset the ESP system again to see if the light turns off.

Step 3: Check the connections

If the sensors all look good, then the next thing to look at would be the connections between the various components.

Some of these cables can be hard to reach and, again, you will need to look at your manual to figure out exactly which wires are which for your specific model of Ford.

Check all of the connections to see if any of the wires are damaged or loose. Worn wiring will need replacing, but you may be able to reinsert loose wires to restore the connection to those components.

Step 4: Enlist the help of a professional

If you’ve reset the system, the sensors are clean and properly positioned, and there are no loose cables, then you will probably need the help of a professional. It is likely that one or more of the components in the system needs to be repaired or replaced, and this is a job that’s best left to the pros.

Components Of Ford ESP

In order to function properly, the ESP in your Ford relies on many different individual parts, that all need to be in full working order.

To get an idea of just how many small things come together to make it work, you need to understand just how many components are involved.

  • Steering Wheel Position Sensor. This registers the degree of turn on the steering wheel so that the system can determine whether or not the wheels and vehicle are facing the direction that the driver is intending.
  • Throttle Position Sensor. Along with the Electronic Control Unit, this identifies the accelerator position, which can be overridden by the ECU to reduce the power of the engine.
  • Wheel Speed Sensor. Each individual wheel has a sensor that determines how fast they are spinning so that the system can identify when some wheels are rotating faster than others and apply the brakes to correct this.
  • Positional Sensors. These include lateral acceleration, roll rate, and yaw sensors to determine whether the vehicle is pitching, rolling, or rotating.
  • Electronic Control Unit. This is the computer that receives information from the sensors and sends out commands to regulate the brakes, and sometimes engine power as well.
  • Hydro Electronic Actuator. This receives commands from the ECU and regulates the pressure in the brake lines to control braking.
  • Anti-lock Braking Systems. Most modern ESP systems work in conjunction with your ABS, and both systems will utilize many of the same components.

There are some ESP systems that have even more parts than this, so you can see why it can be a challenge to get to the bottom of why the whole thing might be experiencing a malfunction.

What Causes An ESP Malfunction In A Ford?

So, with all of that information in mind, how do you know that your Ford’s ESP might be malfunctioning, and what might have caused it in the first place?

Generally speaking, an ESP malfunction in a Ford is indicated by the ESP warning light, and this is sometimes accompanied by an “Engine Malfunction” message on the central display.

It is worth noting, though, that it’s possible for the engine malfunction and the ESP malfunction to be two separate issues.

Typically, an ESP light turns on for one of a few different reasons:

  • The ESP has been switched off.
  • The system has an electronic error and needs resetting.
  • One or more of the sensors are obstructed or dirty and are not giving accurate information.
  • One or more of the components in the system is not receiving power.
  • One or more of the components are faulty or damaged and need to be replaced.

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So, what causes an ESP malfunction on a Ford, and how do you fix it? Well, the Electronic Stability Program in your Ford relies on a number of different sensors and electronic components to operate correctly, and an issue with any one of these can cause it to malfunction.

You may just need to reset the ESP system to get it working again, or you may simply need to give the sensors a clean.

If this doesn’t fix the problem, then you will likely need to check the electrical connections and potentially replace a faulty component somewhere.


Steve P.

Steve is an automotive technician, technical writer, and Managing Editor. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in cars like the Buick Riviera. Steve is based in Boise, Idaho.

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