What Does the VSC Light Mean on a Toyota or Lexus and How Can It Be Reset?

There are some lights on the dashboard which are obvious and there are others that might only make sense to the more learned automotive specialist. One of these enigmas might for some be the VSC light that appears in certain Toyota and Lexus models.

In this article we will demystify this particular warning light and help you deal with the issue. This may mean making repairs to fix a problem or could be as simple as a reset. Whichever it is, hopefully this post will help you out.

In Which Cars Will I See the VSC Light?

In this article we are looking at Toyota and Lexus models that might display this warning light. This is a newer technology so chances are you will only see it in the following models:

  • Toyota Camry
  • Toyota Avensis
  • Toyota Verso
  • Toyota Sienna
  • Lexus RX400H
  • Lexus is250
  • Lexus Is220d

What Does the VSC Light Mean?

If the check VSC or VSC warning light comes on on your dashboard it means that the vehicle's computer has detected a problem with your traction control system. This may mean that your VSC and ABS (anti-lock brakes) systems will be temporarily disabled.

The VSC, or Vehicle Stability Control, is a Toyota and Lexus system for handling the traction control of your vehicle. This traction control is what helps you maintain grip on slippery roads, reducing the power sent to the wheels and sometimes even automatically braking when bad conditions are detected.

It is a combination of the VSC and ABS that maintains the traction control functions so if you see “VSC OFF” on your dashboard you do not have the assistance of traction control. Not all cars have traction control of course so this is not dire but it does mean you need to drive with more care especially if road conditions are less than optimal.

Why Might You Get the VSC Warning?

An engine problem is the most common cause for an issue with VSC if you also see the check engine light. You might also be having issues with the ABS system which as mentioned works with the VSC system. Issues can be as simple as a faulty sensor or as complicated as wiring or broken components.

As the VSC is connected to engine management and the brake control system there is a long list of possible causes. Read on to see some of the potential issues and how you might go about fixing the issue.

Engine Issues

As previously referenced, one of the main causes of a VSC light popping up on your dash could be an issue in the engine. If the VSC is accompanied by the check engine light it is almost certainly an engine issue which is at fault in this case.

In modern vehicles there are sensors for almost every aspect of the engine so unless you are a mechanic with psychic abilities you are not even going to be able to guess at what exactly the issue is. Thankfully though the errors that initiated the warning lights will have recorded a trouble code in the engine control module.

Among the most common causes might be:

  • Faulty MAF Sensor
  • Bad O2 Sensor
  • Loose Gas Cap
  • Faulty Accelerator Pedal
  • Bad Crankshaft/Camshaft Position Sensor
  • Wiring Issues

There could be countless other issues however so the first step is to get a read on that trouble code which can be done using a scanner tool.

Faulty ABS Sensor

As mentioned the ABS is a major part of the VSC partnership so problems with this system can cause the warning light to come on. The issue may stem from a faulty sensor of which there are four, one at each of the car's wheels.

The ABS sensors monitor the wheel speed which is not only tracked by this system but also by other control systems like the ECM and TCM. As these sensors are on the wheel spindle hubs they are at the mercy of water, rust and dirt so can very easily become damaged over time.

As the VSC uses the data from these sensors, if they fail then the system does not have the information it needs to work correctly so it has to stop working. You will then obviously receive the warning light to reflect this.

Aside from the sensors themselves the issue might be wiring related, the ABS reluctor rings or even the steering angle sensor.

Faulty Brake Light Switch

You may wonder why the brake light switch might have any effect on the VSC. If it was just turning the brake lights on and off then it wouldn’t really but there is actually more to this switch than that.

The brake light switch is located in the brake pedal so when we press the brake the message is sent to the brake lights which illuminate. The signal however also goes elsewhere to other systems including, you guessed it, the VSC.

If the VSC does not receive messages from the brake light switch then it will store a fault code and turn on the VSC warning light.

Wiring Issues

It’s a simple fact when it comes to modern cars the more electrics you have the more things there are to break down. We do pay the price for tricked out vehicles these days because electrics can be complicated and often delicate things.

The issues with a VSC can very easily be wiring related and this can be very difficult to diagnose as well. Having checked all other options you may be faced with the reality that there is a loose or burned out wire. In this case you should seek the help of an expert because this may be a complicated repair.

Human Error

Sometimes we scare ourselves into thinking there’s a big problem when in fact we just turned off a switch without noticing. The majority of cars with this VSC system have an on/off switch or button which controls it.

So the very first thing you should do if the VSC warning light appears on your dash is to check the on/off button. You may have bumped it accidently and it merely needs to be turned back on. This is of course the very best case scenario but wouldn’t it be sweet if that’s all it is?

Resetting the VSC Light

After checking that it wasn’t an accidental button press that caused the light to turn on you might next attempt a reset of the button. Sometimes error messages happen by accident and there is not actually a problem. If you can reset the light and it stays off then all is well.

In order to reset your VSC take the following steps:

  • With the car turned off and in park, locate the VSC button. This is usually near the gear stick but also might be by the steering wheel or behind it.
  • Press and hold the VSC button for a few seconds
  • The TRAC OFF and VSC OFF indicator lights should come on indicating that both are now turned off.
  • Press the VSC button again and this should cause the TRAC and VSC lights to turn off. This should re-engage the systems.

If this does not work and the warning light returns then it means the error message was present so there is likely a problem that must be fixed.

Fixing the VSC Light

So you tried the reset and it didn’t help. That means there may be a problem that needs to be fixed. You will need to take steps to try and diagnose the issue.

Use a Scanner Tool

Assuming you want to try and deal with the issue yourself then your first step now will be to locate the problem. As mentioned, error messages get stored on your car's computer and they will give you more details regarding the issue.

You will need a OBD2 scanner to be able to read the error codes stored in your engine's control module. If it is an ABS issue however you may need to get a specific scanner based on your car's model. You should also understand that the scanners you can get for yourself are not as good as those used by the professionals.

Check Your Brake Lights

A simple test to diagnose an issue related to the brake light switch as mentioned earlier is to check that your brake lights come on when you depress the brake. Either have someone press the brake while you watch the brake lights or have someone watch the lights while you do it.

If the brake lights do not come on then obviously there is an issue with the brake light switch. As we have already discussed this can and likely will cause the VSC issue. Having this switch replaced will hopefully start your brake lights working again and also the VSC. Remember after a fix you may still have to run a reset to turn the warning light off.

Check Your Gas Cap

You may have noticed this earlier among the common causes and thought it was an error. Actually, it is not. A leaking or loose gas cap that can cause real issues with the VSC on Toyota and Lexus models. As a clue if the VSC came on soon after you filled up the car with gas check the gas cap.

It is important to note that not only is it risky to have your car running while refueling, doing so can trigger the VSC warning light. Obviously this can be fixed by clearing the error code memory and ensuring that the gas cap is secure and not leaking.

It Could Be Low Brake Fluid

Anything affecting the brakes which might create an error code can be the cause of the VSC warning. This includes low brake fluid which in itself is a big problem. Check the brake fluid reservoir to make sure it has enough fluid. If it is low then you will need to check for a leak around the brakes and refill with fluid.

Ask a Professional

If you have investigated all the easy options and nothing has helped it may be time to turn to a professional. It will cost money to do this obviously but some problems are beyond your at-home skills and if you want these systems working then you may have no other choice.


The Vehicle Stability Control system in Toyota and Lexus cars is important as an additional driver aid in tough weather conditions. We do not necessarily need this system to make the car function but it is very helpful.

The fixes can range from simple to complicated and you do have some basic things you can check before taking the car to a professional. Hopefully this article has been helpful to you and you can diagnose the reason for that pesky VSC warning light.

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