Electronic Stability Control and Suspension

Electronic Stability Control or ESC is an on-board electronic system which is an extension of antilock brake technology. Its job is to stabilise the vehicle and prevent skidding by applying specific brake pressure on one or more wheels as required.

A series of ESC sensors provide vehicle operation conditions to one of the vehicle’s on-board computers. When the computer determines that the vehicle is losing control, leaning too far, or when the tyres begin to lose traction, it instantly begins reducing engine speed through the engine management system and then applies the appropriate individual brake in just the right proportions to keep the vehicle in control.

ESC has been on the market since 1995 and since 2014 has been mandatory on all new vehicles sold in the EU. Approximately 80-90% of cars driving on Europe’s roads are now equipped with ESC technology.

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Most accidents that involve losing control of the vehicle occur when the vehicle is driven beyond its traction limits like during over-steer or under-steer conditions or driving too fast for the conditions. Studies show that ESC could reduce fatal skidding accidents by up to 38%.

Numerous studies have shown ESC is highly effective at preventing loss-of-control and fatal crashes. It is estimated that since ESC was introduced, in Europe at least 188,500 crashes involving injury have been avoided and more than 6,100 lives saved. Vehicles with ESC reduce the risk of fatal loss of control by half and reduce rollover risk by up to 80%. ESC has been described as the most important advancement in safety by automotive experts.

How Does ESC Relate to Suspension?

  • The effectiveness of ESC is limited by the ability of the tyres and the vehicle’s suspension. If the tyres can’t grip the road, then the ESC can’t perform the corrective measures required.
  • Replacement parts (like shock absorbers) must restore the car’s handling ability to the level of when it was brand new. Some aftermarket parts (especially low cost / low quality parts) are not as capable as original equipment. These parts will affect the performance of ESC.

ESC-equipped vehicles, like all vehicles, require periodic replacement of brake pads, shock absorbers and coil springs, tyres and other wearable parts. Be sure to choose replacement parts that are designed to restore the vehicles originally designed handling and control capabilities. Restoring original handling and control is critical to ESC performance. Even with ESC, stopping and turning still depends on good tyre traction. Good tyre traction relies on well-functioning shocks and springs, keeping the tyre pushed firmly into the road. It is important to remember that a car’s ESC was calibrated when the car was brand new, therefore the presence of worn or low-quality shock absorbers, brakes or tyres will mean the ESC may not have the right tools to perform its safety critical job correctly.

Why Choose KYB Shock Absorbers for ESC vehicles?

All OE suppliers such as KYB agree that worn shocks lose their effectiveness after 80,000 kilometres (50,000 miles). This is due to the gradual fatigue of the valves inside the shock absorber. It is a very subtle decline in performance, often so subtle it is not noticed by the driver. This is why technician advice is very important when it comes to keeping a vehicle performing at its safest, with brakes, tyres and suspension all maintained.

Low-quality aftermarket shocks are often engineered and perform differently from OE shocks. Removal of things such as internal rebound springs, reduced quality of materials and reduced quality of hydraulic fluid all mean the unit will not perform in the way the ESC wants it to, rendering all calculated measures inaccurate. KYB shock absorbers are calibrated especially for the aftermarket. They restore originally-designed ESC capabilities not only by restoring the performance of the shock absorber unit, but the valves inside are tweaked specifically to allow for the wear of surrounding mountings and bushes, ensuring the whole suspension system works together to give a like-new ride, and crucially to restore the car to the way the ESC needs it to perform. For this reason, the KYB shock absorber is the preferred choice of industry professionals even above an OE part direct from the vehicle manufacturer.