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Developed in the late 1980s, Electronic Stability Control (also known as ESC or ESP), has formed a major part of vehicle safety. When reader Stefan contacted CarAdvice asking whether he should be looking for a vehicle with stability control, we wanted to put the technology to the test to demonstrate just how integral it is to vehicle safety.

Q: Hi CarAdvice. I am looking to buy a used car (a Hyundai i30) and have noticed that some cars are fitted with stability control, while some aren’t.

There is an associated price difference with these cars and I’m not sure whether it’s worth spending that extra money and getting stability control, or whether I should save the money and go without. What is stability control and how does stability control work?

A: Great question, Stefan. From our point of view, you should never pass on Electronic Stability Control when choosing a used car. This technology is a critical component of road safety and has arguably been one of the main factors associated with reducing the nation’s road toll.

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Stability control is an active safety feature that works by braking individual wheels depending on steering inputs and vehicle position. When the vehicle begins losing control or travelling in a direction contrary to driver inputs, the vehicle’s computer will send braking commands to each wheel to control the direction of the vehicle. This allows the driver to maintain steering and direction of the vehicle.

The system can actually brake and skid wheels as required to bring the car back into line. It requires minimal driver effort and produces outstanding results when it kicks into action.

To demonstrate ESP, we ventured to the Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground in New Zealand with the new Holden Insignia VXR to test ESP at its theoretical limits. A road surface like snow represents the worst case scenario for low-friction road surfaces and puts the system to the ultimate test.

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To further demonstrate the technology, we asked V8 Supercars driver James Courtney to attempt to brake and steer a sudden lane change in the snow with ESP off and once again with ESP on. The results may surprise you. Watch the tyres individually skid in the slow motion portion of the video to witness the crux of ESP technology.

So, to answer your question Stefan, it is absolutely worth spending the extra money to invest in Electronic Stability Control. It could one day save your life.

ESP is now mandatory on all new passenger vehicles and SUVs sold in Australia from November 2013. Make sure it’s high on your list if you are in the market for a used vehicle.




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