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Garage Studio

Understanding Electronic Suspension Controls

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Can you think of anything you can change about yourself in only a couple of milliseconds? For example, are you able to wash your hair in that short amount of time if it’s a mess? How about changing your clothes after you dropped a big fat slice of pizza on your shirt? Absolutely not. We are not vehicles, and therefore don’t have the tools to make changes in only milliseconds.

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However, in this Continental Tire Garage Studio video, we’ll talk about one specific vehicle system that does just that with your vehicle – the electronic suspension control.

The electronic suspension control (or ESC) system independently controls each of the four shock absorbers. This controls the vehicle’s ride characteristics, making it capable of changes within milliseconds.

The ESC is meant to control the inputs that include vehicle speed, pitch, steering angle and body-to-wheel displacement. An ESC module evaluates these inputs which, in turn, provides an enhanced ride and comfort level over an expansive range of operating conditions.

An ESC module provides electronic control logic and output drive for each shock absorber. The ESC module makes decisions based on the road and driving condition information gathered from various inputs.

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If an ESC system detects a malfunction that sets a diagnostic trouble code (or DTC) off, the ESC system then sends a message on the serial data line directly or through the powertrain control module which then displays one of three messages: SHOCKS INOPERATIVE, SERVICE SUSPENSION SYSTEM or SERVICE RIDE CONTROL and SPEED LIMITED.

Usually though, if an ESC detects a malfunction, the ESC system defaults with a fail-soft action, which refers to any specific action the ESC system takes in order to compensate for a detected malfunction. A typical ESC fail-soft action occurs if the ESC system detects a malfunction with a shock absorber. The ESC system uses an ignition cycling diagnostic technique in order to reduce the occurrence of false or intermittent DTCs that do not affect the functionality of the ESC system.

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