Car with wavy lines symbol: Meaning, function, and importance

Updated Mar 23, 2021 | Same topic: Automotive FYIs

I’m seeing a car with wavy lines symbol on my dash. What does it mean?

On many modern cars, its instrument cluster is a host to a lot of lights. Of course, there’s the backlight for the gauges, but then there are the many pilot lights for your car’s numerous features and parts. This of course includes the dreaded check engine light

A picture of a car stability pilot light turned on

Does this mean that your car is on "burnout" mode?

These take on shapes that serve as a hint as to what they represent. Sometimes however, newer car owners will get confused by these symbols. Take for example the symbol of a car with wavy or squiggly lines behind it. So, what does this particular symbol mean?

Car with squiggly lines symbol: What does it mean?

When a symbol with a car with wavy or squiggly lines behind it lights, it means that your car has activated its stability control feature. In some cars, the light flashes whenever the said feature is doing its job. In others, the said symbol has the words “off” written below it. If that’s the case, then it means that the stability control system is deactivated. 

A picture of some stability control pilot lights

The stability control light indicating that it's off (left)

In cars where you can toggle the stability control system on and off, its button usually features the same car with squiggly lines symbol. Conversely, if you’re sure that you didn’t turn it off, but the light comes on, there might be something wrong with the said system. If this happens, we urge you to take it to your car brand’s nearest casa and have it fixed.

>>> Related: Safe driving: Everything you need to know about ESP light

But what is stability control?

A car’s stability control system applies the brakes to help direct the car and/or to help the driver maintain control. Whenever it detects that there is a loss of traction or loss of steering control, the system as directed by the car’s computer applies the appropriate amount of braking.

To this end, it also helps to counter the effects of oversteer and understeer.

To do this, modern cars with stability control communicate with the anti-lock braking system’s yaw control rate. It can also slow down a car’s individual wheels, and can sense wheel slip loss of traction by way of sensors.

A picture of a wet road

This feature is particularly useful on road conditiongs like these

>>> Related: What else you need to know about Electronic Stability Control (ESC)?

In more modern cars, stability control is often done through minute and fast adjustments. This allows the stability control to perform changes in the blink of an eye.

In some road conditions, stability control is a must-have safety feature for some drivers. Wet roads, muddy roads, sandy roads, among others can rob a car of control. As such, this system is one of the few things that’s preventing you from spinning out, or worse, crashing.

A picture of a car's stability control button

In some models, the stability control can be toggled with a button

For some more advanced stability control systems, these can even actively override the car’s anti-lock braking system and lock the wheels whenever the brakes are applied.

This way, the tires can provide constant grip. This capability varies to some degree depending on niche car models, but are common on cars with four-wheel-drive systems. It can even communicate with the car’s differential lock and adjust accordingly to provide better grip.

>>> Related: 

Car with squiggly lines symbol: FAQs

1. How do I turn off the squiggly lines on my car?

Answer: Depending on the make and model of the car, one car presses a button to turn it off. In some cars though, an activated light with a car with squiggly lines combined with the words “off” indicates that the system is off. In this case, if the said light is off, the stability control is in fact turned on.

2. Should I turn off stability control?

Answer: Choosing to turn off the stability control depends on you and your confidence in your skills as a driver. We recommend leaving it turned on.

3. Can I fix my stability control system at home?

Answer: Modern cars equipped with stability control systems use a complex array of components. These constantly communicate with numerous other parts of a car to work. So no, we do not recommend tinkering with your car’s stability control by yourself.

4. Is it true that I can drive faster if I turn off stability control?

Answer: Turning off your stability control can allow a skilled driver to do things that will improve lap times on a race track. If you’re driving on a normal public road however, we recommend leaving the stability control on.

5. What does ESC mean?

Answer: ESC means electronic stability control.

Cesar G.B. Miguel

Cesar G.B. Miguel


Cesar is a graduate of AB English with previous experience working as a freelance writer for varied internet publications in-between his former stints in the Pharmaceutical Industry, and later as a First Aid Provider and Training Staff at the Iligan City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.

Since childhood, Cesar has been keenly interested in cars. He has learned the ins and outs of these marvelous vehicles and is a competent amateur mechanic who is keen on sharing his knowledge.

Cesar is perceptive of car culture in general – not only in the Philippines but in global regard, as well. His knowledge ranges from the prevalent stories and trends among car enthusiasts around the world, to closely following the latest local and international developments in the automotive industry.

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