How to recalibrate VSC system on 2001 Toyota 4Runner

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VSC TRACOver the past few weeks my 4Runner will occasionally behave weirdly when pressing on its gas pedal. When it happens, it is usually when at a standstill and then pressing the gas pedal to move forward doesn’t do anything, not even rev the engine up. The vehicle just idles forward, which is very dangerous if you are in an intersection and can’t move anywhere! (Note that the 4Runner starts and idles just fine.) This can be due to two possible problems. Either the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system needs to be recalibrated (described in this post), or the throttle body is dirty and is sticking shut (I describe how to clean it in a different post).

If your vehicle has these same symptoms, then you can perform fixes for both of the issues I mentioned above. The VSC recalibration is free and I will describe it in this post. I found a solution to this problem at http://www.yotatech.com/f2/01-02-4runner-how-zero-point-calibrate-your-vsc-system-203498/, but their solution is not entirely correct so I’m writing this post to explain what I did. The solution to the throttle body cleaning can be found at http://www.top4runners.com/ja/cleantb.html.

Materials Needed

A single piece of wireYou only need one thing for this fix: a single piece of wire about 4 to 6 inches long, with the insulation stripped at both ends. (See picture at right).

The Problem

The cause of the problem is that the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), which is responsible for the traction control, needs to be calibrated. It can go out of calibration for various reasons – for example, from any vehicle repair, maintenance, modifications or aging that cause the vehicle to not sit level anymore. The result is that the 4Runner thinks that you are skidding or sliding when you really aren’t (because the non-level tilt of the vehicle doesn’t match what the wheels’ rotations should be for that tilt, or something like that I think).

Performing the Fix

Inflating the tires
Make sure the tires are inflated to proper levels. Click image to enlarge.
This fix involves recalibrating the VSC system, so it is important to get your vehicle as level as you can make it. To do this, first make sure that your tires are all inflated to their proper level (I highly recommend the Viair 70P air compressor). Second, park the vehicle on a level surface. Third, open the driver-side window, get out of the vehicle, and close the door – you can’t be sitting in the vehicle or it won’t be level.

Diagnostic port
The location of the diagnostic port and the terminals. We use terminals E1 and TS. Click image to enlarge.
Next make sure that the vehicle is off. Open the hood. Locate the Diagnostic port on the driver’s side of the engine and open it (circled in green in picture at right). You will see a bunch of metal terminals. If you look in the lid you will see that it has labeled them for you. We will be using the E1 and TS terminals, but don’t do anything with them yet.

The VSC TRAC light
Waiting for the VSC TRAC light to turn off. Click image to enlarge.
Reach in the driver’s window and turn the key to the "ON" position. (Do not actually start the vehicle, just turn it to "ON" so that the battery is running the vehicle’s electronics.) Look at the dash board and wait for the "VSC TRAC" light to go out.

Shorting E1 and TS terminals
Repeatedly shorting E1 and TS terminals together. Click image to enlarge.
Use the aforementioned piece of wire to repeatedly short together the E1 and TS terminals at least 4 times within 8 seconds. Remove the wire and look in the driver’s window again and you will see the "VSC TRAC" dash light on again. After 5 or 6 seconds it will turn off, and then if you wait a couple more seconds it will start blinking rapidly.

Now turn off the ignition.

Turn the key back to the "ON" position (but don’t start the car) and wait for the "VSC TRAC" light to go off.

HERE IS THE KEY PART missing from the other tutorial linked above. The last thing to do is:

  1. Turn off the ignition.
  2. Put the wire back in the E1 and TS terminals, but this time do not repeatedly short it, just put it in and leave it in.
  3. Turn the key back to "ON" and wait for the "VSC TRAC" light to start blinking very quickly.
  4. Turn off the ignition.
  5. Remove the wire.
  6. Start the car (you can get in it now).

The other tutorial that I previously linked to said that these steps I just mentioned were optional, but they are not – they must be performed. If you skip this step then when you start driving the vehicle then the "VSC OFF" light will turn on while you press on the gas and then the light won’t turn off. For some reason performing these steps prevents that.

You can now close the Diagnostic port lid, close the hood, get in the vehicle and take it for a drive. Make sure that neither the "VSC OFF" nor the "VSC TRAC" lights turn on during your short drive (unless you actually spin out somewhere or if you have locked your rear differential).

I just performed this fix, so I need a few days of driving before I will know for sure if it has actually fixed my problem. I’ll post back here with an update if it didn’t fix my problem (if I don’t put an update, then problem fixed!)

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25 thoughts on “How to recalibrate VSC system on 2001 Toyota 4Runner”

  1. I am having this problem on my 01 4runner. I have had it at the dealer 6 times and they haven’t fixed it yet. I spent over 1,000 and I am afraid to even drive it. They replaced the throttle control, it was ok for a short time, but still doing the same thing.

    1. Sorry to hear that. You should try the fix I described in my post. I also noticed an interesting thing – for me the problem would only occur if I have the vehicle in 4-wheel drive, and never would happen if I kept it in 2WD. Is this the same for you?

  2. I started having this same problem with my 01 4runner SR5 W/121,000 miles over the last 2 months. My shop has replaced the Throttle body twice and now the ECU and it happened again this weekend after 5 days of driving. So frustrated. I will ask them to try this fix and see what happens. Does replacing the throttle body reset the VSC? Anyone else find that this fix has permanently solved this problem? Both me and my mechanic are perplexed.

    1. Hi James,

      Mine has started doing this again, too. I haven’t found the solution to this latest one either. For me it only occurs within the first few minutes after starting up on a cold morning… same for you?

      Replacing the throttle body shouldn’t have anything to do with the VSC. The two are separate, although when misbehaving they can have the same symptoms. Another thing you might want to check is make sure your brake calipers are not getting stuck, which could cause one of your wheels to have a hard time turning if the brake caliper piston can’t retract.

      Also check and make sure you don’t have any axle oil or brake fluid leaking on your brake disks or drums, which could also cause them to stick.

      Good luck, and let me know if you find out anything!

      1. For me, mostly it happens after I have driven a while. Only a few times has it happened when I first start driving. It usually happens after about 20-30 minutes of driving, or 12-15 miles. I will ask them to inspect the brakes to be sure that’s not contributing. This is so frustrating because the truck is like new except for this problem.

  3. I’ve been having the same issue with my 4runner as well. After a short time driving dash lights come on and throttle is unresponsive until about 2/3 from full. And of course only when it’s snowy and cold. Still thinking along the lines of TPS with these symptoms?

    1. Mitch,

      Yes, it could definitely be something to do with the TPS. Did you check out my other post about cleaning the throttle body, which would indirectly affect the TPS? It is here: http://mike-thomson.com/blog/?p=1178

      Good luck, and please post back here if you figure out what is wrong. Sometimes these acceleration problems are very difficult to figure out.

  4. hi mike,
    i have done this procedure yesterday but, the problem stills.
    is the key part, the second one?
    or is a different procedure from the first procedure ?

    1. I don’t know what problems your vehicle is having, but yes, if you still are experiencing the lagging acceleration problem then you should also try cleaning the throttle body.

    1. You would definitely need to do this after doing a lift to your car, but then the problem should go away. If the problem doesn’t go away, then it is either because you did it on a surface that wasn’t level, or there is some other problem altogether. It is probably some other problem. Just like your case, you should note from some of the comments above that sometimes this problem happens even when this fix has been done. I haven’t been able to find out the reason why mine has started doing this again either, but it’s conceivable that it could be bad wheel speed sensors, CV joints, differential, etc. There are lots of things that are in play here.

      1. Thanks for responding Mike. I disconnected the battery for 24 hours and finally 3 dash lights was turned off. (Check Engine, VSC OFF and VSC TRACK )

        Those lights are crazy, I have read much on the internet about this and it is very common to happen to the 4 Runner.

        I’ll drive the car if the lights turn on back again to update.

        Sorry for my bad English, I use the Google translator.

  5. Thanks Mick’s works perfectly for a Prado 90 TX Auto after replacing a failed ABS ECU ($4000 from Toyota) but luckily not much from a wrecker.

  6. Need help. Having similar throttle issues with 2001 4runner that has never been used in 4×4 or off road for that matter. Throttle is fickle on acceleration for a half second or so once in a while, but, the big problem I’m trying to fix is the fact that the car turns almost completely off on a high banking turn near my house when driving at normal speed. I professionally replaced the steering angle sensor and had an alignment 1 year ago to the day. Took it back to the dealership and now they say play in the steering rack caused by worn internal tie rods and bad bushings is the culprit, ($1400 fix). 1. Could the VSC recalibration solve this problem and 2. if there is about 1/8 play in the steering rack when on a lift, would that be a dangerous issue or one OK to live with?

    1. Hi Josh,

      Yes, VSC calibration could be the issue with the 4Runner behaving strangely, especially when driving on a banked road. However, I don’t think that is related to the 4Runner almost turning off… I’m not sure what you mean by that – are you saying the engine actually goes to a really low RPM and almost dies? Does it only happen when tilted in one direction, but not the other direction? I wouldn’t expect anything to shut off the vehicle when it’s just tilted in some direction – unless maybe there’s an electrical short or corrosion somewhere and the wires make a bad connection when tilted in one direction.

      I don’t know enough about what could be going on with a the steering rack play when on a lift, so I can’t help you out there.

      Good luck,
      Mike

    2. Josh…way late to need here, but your igniter could have an intermittent short. It will not hard code and if the VSC calibration did nothing, it might be worth a look.

  7. Thanks Mike,
    The throttle will cut down to an idle, the steering and braking loose power, and the dash lights up. This only lasts a second or two then the truck restores to full power. Not sure what dash lights go on, would need to force it again to see, but they all go off after. The last time this happened a year ago it tripped a code for the angle sensor, this time it did not. It occurs at a bout 50mph on a banked left turn on the highway, not sure if it happens going right because it is only one specific turn that causes this, so hard to say it’s not a short. Don’t think it’s had the VSC calibrated ever so that will be the likely first option (along with checking for shorts) but anything else you can think of would be helpful. Thanks again.

  8. My problem came after I had an O2 sensor changed. The vehicle check engine light was off, but then this delay response started randomly whenever I hit the gas, especially turning at an intersection (dangerous as hell). Then within a few days the check engine light came on and the delay disappeared for 3 months and just this past week the check engine light disappeared again and the delay is back…

    I did the VSC re-calibration and it seemed to work – however, it came back randomly after about 10 miles of driving. Should I reset the system by disconnecting the battery to clear out the computer?

    1. You can try that, but it probably won’t make a difference – the problem might be due to something else (see the other comments and suggestions, like maybe check for leaking brake cylinders in the rear drums, or for a leaking axle seal). If you do try it and it helps, then definitely let us know! Good luck!

  9. Tony- My car does the exact same thing with after the 02 sensor! If you ever find out what the problem was could you post back with an update.

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