Modern vehicles are becoming smarter and smarter, and in some cases smarter than us. Well, that is what automotive manufacturers and their attorneys think. The reality is your average car was designed to make sure soccer moms can get to Chipotle safely and to Hobby Lobby without rolling over. With that caveat, a lot of electronic aids have been added to these vehicles to ensure Karen doesn’t end up shiny side down in a ditch. That means if you want to take your car to an HPDE event or an autocross, chances are some of these electronic aids will become electronic hindrances that will keep you from having lots of tire-sliding fun. We can fix it!

On some cars, it’s easy to defeat traction control and electronic stability control. Others are much more complex. A 10th-generation Honda Civic involves more than 10 steps to defeat the electronic nannies.

The terms for what stability control is changes by name and functionality between manufacturers. Traction Control, Electronic Stability Control, Vehicle Stability Control, and the list goes on and on. Some vehicles have simple on/off switches on the dashboard to defeat these systems, but others have a much more complex — by design — process to turn the systems off completely. I have seen many cars where one touch of the button will turn off “some” of the traction control but leave on the stability control, which causes problems when the car begins to yaw in a corner and the system activates the brakes to slow the car down. The system is trying to save Karen’s life. It has no idea you are at a racetrack.

Any performance driver worth his weight is immediately looking for this button anytime he climbs into a new modern vehicle. But hitting this button is often only part of the process for defeating the entire Vehicle Stability Control system in many cars.

As much as we like to complain about these modern aids, which can hinder us at a racetrack, you have to give credit where credit is due. These systems are extremely effective at saving lives. Their ability to activate a single brake at a time, add counter steer into the system, and avoid tire slip is impressive. We are driving the safest vehicles ever designed. But, of course, as racing drivers, we can’t wait to turn all this stuff off for a fast lap. If you are someone who finds himself in a lot of different cars, or you are an instructor and want to help teach their students how to defeat these electronic attorneys, then these cheat sheets I am about to describe can help you.

Time for arts and crafts. Once you score the details on how to defeat an electronic stability control system for a specific vehicle from the World Wide Web create a quick how-to list, print it out and cut it into a usable size.

Here is the workflow that does not work. You are sitting in grid, you jump into an unfamiliar car that you have no idea how to turn off the stability control. You start search on your smart phone for YouTube videos to defeat the system. You strain to see your phone screen in the sun. You have to endure seven minutes of a kid telling you to like and subscribe to his videos before he will explain how to turn off the system — which should take 20 seconds. The grid marshal is waving at you to roll out. You get yelled at for having your phone in your hand and holding up the show. You end up on track without turning off the system and then you are annoyed when the rear brakes activate on corner exit. This is not a solid plan.

To make these pocket sized instructions more durable, throw them through a laminator to give them some plastic protection.

When I know I am going to be jumping into a specific make or model of car at an event, either as a driver or as an instructor, I search for the proven method to completely defeat a system, type it out in a Word document, size it so it will fit in my pocket, print it, cut it, laminate it and then take it with me. When I get to an event I pull the instructions out of my pocket, quickly defeat the system, and them I’m out on course. If it is a student’s car, I will often give them the laminated card and tell them to keep it in their center console for future reference. What can I say? I’m a nice guy.

Once the cards are laminated, I trim them so they fit in my pocket or in a glove box or center console for easy access and future reference.

You might be thinking, “This all seems like a lot for the simple act of just pushing a button,” and you would be thinking incorrectly. Most cars are not a simple push of a button. You are only turning off a portion of the stability control and as soon as you turn off the ignition, the entire system resets to “on” again. Some vehicles need to have a fuse pulled to keep them from going into ice mode (Ford Fiesta ST). And most cars when you restart the car you will need to do through the entire process over again in order to turn the system completely off again. Oh, and obviously you have never tried to do this process on a 10th generation Honda Civic Type R. It is absolutely ridiculous as I will demonstrate below.

Okay folks, here we go. First put the car in neutral, foot on brake, start the car. Then release electronic emergency brake. Then depress the brake pedal. Now hit the traction control button two times. No, we are not done yet.

I came up with this process after doing some instructing at a Porsche club event where I was teaching people how to drive cars I can’t afford and have never driven. I wasn’t a very effective instructor because I was unfamiliar with the cars and their different settings. The students wanted to leave all electronic aids on, and I was trying to convince them to turn them off, but …  I didn’t actually know how to do it myself. Embarrassing. After that experience, I was given the chance to drive a 10th-generation Honda Civic at an autocross where I found out that to get the VSC system off you need to run around the car three times while patting your head and rubbing your stomach.

To finish the process of turning off VSC on a 10th gen Honda, put the parking brake back on and then release the brake pedal, now hit the traction control button two more times, press the brake pedal again, now hit the traction control button an additional two times. If this was all done correctly and in the perfect order two traction control lights will come on the dash and one will be blinking furiously to remind you that the electronic lawyers can’t help you.

The process for turning off VSC on a 10th generation Honda Civic is arduous and confusing. I have to use the laminated cheat sheet every single time. I do this because I don’t want to be frustrated at the track. I want to enjoy myself. And I don’t want my concentration directed at my phone or working the buttons on the dashboard. I want my concentration on what is ahead of me through the windshield. I have found with these new systems becoming more and more complex to defeat, a quick, handy checklist is a great solution to keep my head where it needs to be, thinking about driving.

Now you understand why I’m reading these instructions so carefully. These Honda systems are insane!

Electronic stability can save your life and at the same moment absolutely ruin your lap times. Choose your own adventure. My two cents is to know how to defeat the systems, be prepared before you arrive on track and go out and feel the yaw! And when you put it into the fence in Turn 4, you didn’t get any of this advice from me. Good luck and keep the shiny side up!

Once the electronic nannies are off, you can hit the track or autocross course with reckless abandon. Slide the car, drive on three wheels, and run over cones. You are on your own like it’s 1999!

Rob Krider is a four-time NASA Honda Challenge 4 National Champion and the author of the novel, “Cadet Blues.”

Images courtesy of and Sam Galindo


  1. It would be interesting to see in which cars traction control is actually better/faster for lap times than the same car with it completely disabled. There is a reason that these technologies are banned in many top-pro motorsports such as F1, Nascar, etc. where the focus is on the driver. In F1 cars with traction control were faster than those without, but those systems are likely tuned very different than road going systems. Modern computers/sensors are extremely powerful though. I could imagine a system like BMWs 10 different levels of sensitivity probably has a setting somewhere between 0-10 that is fastest.

    • The type of system you’re talking about that would potentially help make the car go faster, depending on who is driving it, will be found on an exotic performance car and probably be called “Race” or “Track” mode.

  2. On my 2011 Mustang GT I disconnected the CAN bus high signal from the traction control module to the ABS module so the traction control module can’t signal the ABS module to apply the brakes. The ABS module still works

  3. Beginners aren’t ready to defeat stability control yet. They need to get comfortable with all other aspects of driving a track first. I save that for last when I feel they’re ready.

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