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Automakers constantly add more car safety features to protect occupants and others. For instance, General Motors has included StabiliTrak in its vehicles since the 2011 GMC Terrain debuted. But what is StabiliTrak, and is it as safe as advertised?

What is StabiliTrak in GM vehicles?

StabiliTrak engineer Bret Dick
Engineer Bret Dick worked on the team that developed StabiliTrak | General Motors

The best safety features work only when needed. StabiliTrak is intended to kick in when it senses the vehicle begins to lose control. When introducing the 2011 Terrain SUV, GMC called StabiliTrak “a control freak — but in a good way” because it takes charge only when necessary.

So, how does StabiliTrak work? If you’re driving and suddenly the vehicle is no longer on the intended track because of hydroplaning or spinning, GM’s trademarked tech engages. It applies pressure to the brakes and even reduces engine power to help steer in the correct direction.

Though StabiliTrak might seem like a glorified form of traction control, that’s not the case. Traction control works by keeping tabs on a vehicle’s traction. It uses the same wheel-speed sensors as the antilock braking system (ABS) and kicks in if the wheels spin too much.

So, how does that differ from StabiliTrak? GM’s system steers input and monitors the car’s motions. If the vehicle begins to spin out, StabiliTrak engages. Traction control and StabiliTrak work together to keep the car on the road and traveling in the intended direction. Both systems use wheel speed and brake-pedal-position sensors to know when it’s time to activate and when to remain dormant.

When promoting the 2011 Terrain, GMC touted StabiliTrak as “the most significant safety feature since the development of the safety belt.” The company also cited Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) statistics claiming that the technology reduced the risk of fatal accidents by 33%.

What SUVs, trucks, and cars have StabiliTrak?

All General Motors vehicles have included StabiliTrak as standard equipment since 2012. 

However, GM began adding the tech to some SUVs in 1997 and aimed for all its products to include it by 2010. Since then, the automaker has offered StabiliTrak in all its models.

That includes Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC vehicles. Saturn and Pontiac were other GM brands whose cars had this safety technology. 

Was GM sued over this safety tech?

Some critics have complained about StabiliTrak sensor problems. For that reason, the survivors of a woman killed in a 2007 Chevy Trailblazer crash filed a lawsuit in 2016. As part of their claim, the plaintiffs alleged StabiliTrak failed and took out the electronic stability control with it.

In response to the lawsuit, a 2018 GM probe found 73,700 warranty claims involving the steering sensor. A judge sealed that document from the public, but Reuters obtained the details and revealed in 2021 that 10% of GM SUVs built between 2006 and 2009 had sensor issues. Dealers and customers reported other legal claims and complaints. 

GM also brought in several experts to examine the steering sensors, but the automaker found no reason to issue a recall. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also became involved but did not open a formal investigation.

General Motors still includes the technology in its vehicles. And there are still no NHTSA recalls or investigations into StabiliTrak.