Every modern Honda has vehicle stability assist, also known as VSA. If your VSA warning light has just come on there are two main reasons why, and a third that is less likely, but that you should know about.
Vehicle stability assist is just what it sounds like. A system that Honda, and every automaker, uses to help you keep the vehicle under your control. It can do many things in certain risky situations that no driver can do. Like brake individual wheels, retard the engine power, and similar functions. These actions by the system can keep your car from skidding, from flipping over, and ultimately from crashing. The VSA system is also part of the traction control system and helps you get moving in slippery situations. Anti-lock braking and other related systems interact with VSA.
Your VSA Light Is On - Most Likely Cause
If you have just noticed that your yellow triangle surrounding an exclamation point VSA warning light has come on, the most likely cause is you shut the system off accidentally. In vehicles a few years old, the system has a manual button that you can press to shut the system off in certain situations. The button on the 2006 Honda Accord, for example, is down to the left of the steering wheel on the center dash about knee level. We have posted a picture at the top of the story. It is directly next to your sunroof controls if you have an Accord with a sunroof.
If you bump or brush or bump the button it may come on and the light is there to warn you that you have shut it off. Try pushing the button. If this is the reason it turned on, it will shut back off.
Your VSA Light Is On - Because Something Else Went Wrong
In many Hondas, when something in the general engine system goes awry, the vehicle also shuts off VSA. It then shows the warning light. If you have multiple lights lit up, it is not likely a VSA issue, but rather, the car just letting you know it shut off VSA temporarily until you fix the engine and clear the codes.
VSA Light On - You Got The Wrong Tires
Your Honda is watching your wheels go round and round and it is also recording the time each takes to rotate. If one or more of the tires is not going around at the right speed the VSA system is going to know about it. On comes the light. Honda tells you about a dozen times in its manual not to put different sized tires and wheels on your vehicle than that which it came with. If you did, the VSA light is on to tell you you did so. Why in the world would you change the size of the wheels and tires on your Honda? A team of highly educated, very well trained engineers picked the perfect size for your vehicle. Put back the right wheels and tires!
VSA Light On - VSA is Actually Broken
We spoke to Mark McMullen a mechanic in Millis Mass. at G&M Services who has decades of experience maintaining and fixing hondas. Mark tells us that he almost never sees a Honda with a VSA issue. He does have customers who have the light on, but usually for one of the above 3 reasons. So if yours is on, start above and work your way down. If you have no luck, it may be a problem with this system. You should have it serviced as soon as practical. The VSA system in your Honda is a potentially life-saving system you don't want to be without.
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John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career and dedicated himself to chasing his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and connect with him at Linkedin.