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What Happens When a Yaw Sensor Fails?

CarPart  ·  February 20, 2023

What Happens When a Yaw Sensor Fails?

Modern cars rely on an increasing number of sensors to function correctly, efficiently, and safely. One sensor that contributes to the car’s safe operation is the yaw sensor, also known as the yaw rate sensor.

The yaw rate sensor is crucial to the car’s stability or traction control systems (TCS). It senses oversteering or understeering—especially around tight corners—and triggers the TCS to correct the problem. When it fails, you’ll experience a loss of traction control and see warnings like the Check Engine light, stability or traction control light, and OBD2 fault codes.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about yaw sensors and what they do. Then, you'll learn what happens when they fail so that you can troubleshoot and resolve the issue quickly.

What Are Yaw Sensors?

The yaw sensor on your car, also known as the ‘yaw rate’ sensor, is a device that measures the vehicle’s rotational speed.

From a technical perspective, the sensor does that by measuring your car’s angular velocity (i.e., how far it's turning and how fast). Then, it supplies that data to your car’s onboard computer to see if the vehicle is moving dangerously, especially around tricky corners.

In simpler terms, it senses how much your car’s wheels are rotating at any given time and informs the onboard systems to determine if it’s oversteering, understeering, or spinning out of control.

Depending on your car’s brand, model, and safety features, the sensor will cause the vehicle to act protectively. For example, when it senses that your car is turning too much, it’ll take corrective steps like slowing the engine or engaging the brakes automatically to stabilise the vehicle.

As you might have guessed, the yaw sensor is a part of your car’s stability system. 

Where Is the Yaw Rate Sensor on My Car?

You’ll typically find your car’s yaw rate sensor attached somewhere on the floorboard. The sensor is usually concealed underneath the driver or front passenger seat.

The sensor has a wire harness that runs along the car’s floorboard, connecting it to the rest of the vehicle’s onboard systems.

The placement of the sensor is critical to ensure that it sits at the car’s centre of gravity. That way, it can more accurately tell if the car’s turning at a dangerous angle.

What Happens When a Yaw Rate Sensor Fails?

A failing yaw sensor will reveal the problem with the following signs:

1. The Check Engine Light Turns On

One of the first signs that your yaw rate sensor has failed is the Check Engine light turns on. As you might already know, that light can be triggered by a long list of problems in your car.

In other words, it’s not particularly helpful in determining whether the yaw rate sensor is triggering the Check Engine light or something else.

Still, it’s an excellent first warning that tells you there’s a problem that needs your immediate attention. You’ll know that your yaw rate sensor is to blame when you notice the Check Engine light come on while other symptoms on this list appear.

Some car makes and models with more sophisticated warnings will flash a message or code indicating the problem is with the yaw rate sensor.

2. Vehicle Stability or Traction Control Light

As you read earlier, the yaw rate sensor is part of the car’s stability or traction control systems. If the problem is with the yaw sensor, the vehicle stability or traction control light will turn on.

Although those warnings aren’t specific to the yaw rate sensor, they act as a first warning of the problem, much like the Check Engine light. At least here, these lights narrow down the root cause to the stability or traction control system.

3. Stability Control Light Flashes Intermittently

One of the most important things to remember about the yaw rate sensor (or any sensor, for that matter) is that it doesn’t necessarily fail all at once. Instead, it might malfunction briefly before it eventually stops working.

So, one sign of a failing yaw rate sensor is the intermittent flashing Stability Control (SC) light. If you think that’s the SC light briefly flashing while you drive but aren’t sure because the light’s now off, you must get a professional to inspect the yaw sensor. Intermittent warnings like that could suggest that the yaw rate sensor is at the end of its lifespan and will fail soon.

You can catch the problem early and preemptively replace the sensor.

4. Reduced Stability Control

Unfortunately, you can also learn it the hard way.

Remember, the sensor measures when your car turns too fast or too hard and triggers the car's stability control systems to help correct the problem.

However, a failed sensor can’t tell when that situation occurs, compromising the feature that supposedly assists drivers in controlling stability.

So, another symptom of a failed yaw sensor is when your car tilts a lot while taking a hard corner. In that case, you’ll want to get the sensor checked immediately, regardless of any other symptom that may or may not appear.

5. Onboard Diagnostics Fault Codes

Last but not least, a failing yaw sensor will trigger OBD2 trouble codes in the onboard diagnostics system. You’ll discover those codes when you use a code scanner or reader to check your car for problems.

Your mechanic will have a professional reader that can check those codes for you. However, you can also invest in a code reader to check the car yourself, as those are very inexpensive to own.

Can You Drive Without a Yaw Sensor?

Your car will still function normally with a failed yaw sensor, even if you remove the sensor from your vehicle entirely. However, it’s never a good idea to do so.

Remember that the yaw sensor helps your car stop dangerous driving conditions, like understeering or oversteering around a tight corner.

Without a functioning yaw sensor, you’ll increase the likelihood of your vehicle spinning out of control.

Yaw rate sensors protect your vehicle, so you must never drive without them. If your sensor has failed, check out CarpartAU to find replacement parts compatible with your vehicle. Alternatively, you can use the Directory to find local automotive businesses to help you troubleshoot and replace the sensor.


By Ray Hasbollah

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