Last Updated on January 8, 2021
If you are the owner of a Ford vehicle, you might have come to notice a curious, yet somewhat concerning message displayed upon your car, truck, or SUV’s dash. Ford owners the world over have been greeted by a “Service AdvanceTrac” message at one point or another during daily commutes.
AdvanceTrac problems are commonly described by Ford vehicle owners, and even the company’s most prestigious models, including the Ford F150, Fusion, Edge, Explorer, and Expedition are all susceptible to such issues.
Luckily, problems of this nature are far from the end of the line for your trusty Ford, and a solution to such issues is seldom as difficult to come by as one might believe.
Read on to learn more about AdvanceTrac, and how to handle any issues with this system as they occur.
What is AdvanceTrac?
AdvanceTrac is Ford’s proprietary version of Electronic Stability Control (ESC). This system is intended to prevent vehicle skid during extreme circumstances, thereby minimizing the risk of an accident.
Ford’s AdvanceTrac system is relatively complex in nature, and utilizes a series of sensors to monitor wheel speed, as well as various other facets of vehicle stability.
The system actually combines several individual safety systems into a single integrated system, in order to further minimize the chance of a traction-loss induced accident. The following capabilities are possessed by Ford’s AdvanceTrac system.
Anti-Lock Brake Function
Anti-Lock brake systems prevent a vehicle from skidding under panicked braking conditions. When one or more wheels lock under significant brake pressure, this stoppage is communicated to a vehicle’s ABS controller by way of a wheel speed sensor.
This software then commands the system’s ABS pump motor/valve body assembly to rapidly pulsate brake pressure to the affected wheel, thereby breaking the skid.
Related: Why is My ABS Light On?
Traction Control Function
Traction control systems compare data from speed sensors at each wheel end location. If the system’s controller detects an irregularity in wheel speed from one wheel to the next, power to any wheel that displays excessive speed will be cut, or brake pressure will be applied.
This effectively evens the speed between each of a vehicle’s four wheels, thereby remedying any prior loss of traction.
Directional Orientated Stability Control Function
Vehicles now rely upon numerous sensors to identify vehicle instability, as skidding occurs. These sensors relay a comprehensive picture of the vehicle’s orientation while in a skid, to a specified controller, which adjusts power output and brake pressure to each wheel as needed for stabilization.
Sources of feedback for this operation include steering wheel angle sensors, yaw rate sensors, and accelerometers.
Why Does the “Service AdvanceTrac” Warning Light Come On?
A vehicle’s “Service AdvanceTrac” warning light can be illuminated for a number of reasons, but most often pertains to sensor-related issues. In any event, the system controller has registered a fault, which makes proper operation impossible.
The most common root causes of an illuminated “Service AdvanceTrac” warning light are as follows:
Related: How to Reset a Check Engine Light
Can You Continue Driving With the Service AdvanceTrac Light On?
When faced with an AdvanceTrac system issue, you can still drive your vehicle without any ill-effects. However, most vehicles automatically disable all AdvanceTrac related functions, when an active system fault has been detected.
While this is never an ideal situation, you are no more in harm’s way, than when driving a vehicle that is not equipped with a stability control system.
AdvanceTrac related issues are not detrimental to a vehicle’s driveability, as is often the case when an engine or transmission-based trouble code is stored. In this instance, your vehicle is simply attempting to bring your attention to an underlying fault in its stability system.
However, it is recommended to have your vehicle’s AdvanceTrac system serviced at the first available opportunity, to restore your car’s safety to an optimal level.
In the meantime, it is also imperative to take extra caution when traversing slick or hazardous roadways, such as those encountered following wintry precipitation or heavy snowfall.
How to Reset the Service AdvanceTrac Light
In the case of a “Service AdvanceTrac” light, motorists have little recourse but to fix the root cause behind the light’s illumination.
While it might be tempting to simply clear all pertinent codes in order to disable the system’s warning message, this is nothing more than a quick fix. This light will almost certainly reilluminate with the next cycle of the ignition, as your vehicle performs its standard system self-checks.
In the vast majority of cases, diagnosis of the issue at hand will require the use of a premium scan tool, and a trained eye. However, the avid DIY mechanic can always perform their own visual inspection in an attempt to root out obvious concerns.
When attempting to locate the root cause of an AdvanceTrac related issue, it is advisable to carefully inspect each wheel’s speed sensor and corresponding wiring harness pigtail. Look for any signs of frayed, pinched, or corroded wires.
Also, check to ensure that all connections between these sensors and their intermediate harnesses are viable. Unplug each speed sensor pigtail from its intermediate harness to check for water intrusion.
In some cases, it might also be possible to check for supply voltage and ground at corresponding modules within the system.
Without full system input voltage, and a stable, resistance-free ground feed, the AdvanceTrac system can experience interruptions in operation. In any event, a vehicle-specific wiring diagram or pin-out reference will be required to conduct such checks.
If you are still unable to locate any obvious source of failure, or simply do not feel comfortable tackling the diagnosis of the AdvanceTrac system yourself, contact a qualified service center for further evaluation.
In some cases, a simple programming update can be installed, to rid your vehicle of AdvanceTrac related software issues. In this case, a trip to the dealership will be necessary, as such software updates tend to be proprietary in nature.