Ford Hill Descent Control Fault Message: Causes and Fixes

Ford is a top-grade vehicle and it boasts excellent driver support features. With the automaker’s Hill Descent Control (HDC), drivers receive support to adjust the braking pressure when driving down a steep grade or on a snowy, ice-covered terrain. This way, you can avoid or control slippage. Plus, the system uses traction control technology to help you maintain a constant preset speed when descending a hill. 

However, when you see the hill descent control fault message displays, you should pull over and check a few things. What causes the problem and what should you do? Let’s find out here. 

What is Hill Descent Control and How does it Work?

As I’ve hinted earlier, an HDC is a support system that provides some safety measures to drivers and car owners. It’s cruise control that allows drivers to set a speed limit that their vehicle won’t exceed. This way, you can maintain a specific speed when coming down steep grades or traveling down a lengthy mountain. 

Once you activate this feature, the HDC utilizes and works with your vehicle’s anti-brake system (ABS) to monitor and control the speed of the car as it descends a hill. Consequently, you can focus on steering. To activate or deactivate the HDC, simply press the HDC button on your dash. Ford F150 owners, the button is located right of the warning light. A light will pop up on the instrumental cluster, allowing a chime to make a sound that alerts you that the system is active. 

The speed range you can set using the hill descent control feature is 2-20 miles per hour (mph). However, you can adjust the speed at any time. With the speed set, your car will maintain the preset speed each time you release your foot off the gas or brake pedal. The HDC is designed to maintain speed on downhill grades but will deactivate itself once your car accelerates past its speed maximum. 

For proper self-control and maintenance, the HDC cools itself down after a period. When this happens, you’ll hear an audible message tone from the message center warning you that the system will stop working or have disengaged. You’ll need the brake pedal to keep yourself at the same speed limit.  

Why Ford Hill Descent Control Fault Message? 

Ok, we’re now in the heart of the discussion and I hope you’re still with me. Now, it’s time to fasten your seatbelt as you hold your pen and notepad. Ready? Here are a few things to suspect when you hear the alert that your Ford’s Hill Descent Control won’t be available. 

Steering Rack Misalignment 

You may notice that the HDC is in good condition until you turn the steering wheel a few inches right or left. The HDC can become faulty if the steering rack doesn’t align after you’ve replaced the steering wheel. A poor installation of the steering angle sensor plug or a wrong wheel-to-column connection can cause the HDC to malfunction. Perhaps, you forgot to correctly connect the steering angle sensor after swapping the steering rack. If any of these issues arise, the possible symptom is a Hill Descent Control fault or AdvanceTrac Fault. 

How to Fix: While the solution is in the problem, you should first contact your local dealer or Ford auto center for diagnosis and proper servicing. In the meantime, you should drive your Ford 150 to a mechanic to align the steering rack and correctly connect the steering angle sensor plug. Alternatively, go to your dash and reset the HDC back to the factory setting using the touchscreen option. This should work. 

Faulty ABS 

A Hill Descent Control fault message can also pop up in the instrumental cluster if there’s trouble with the Anti-lock braking system (ABS). There are quite a couple of reasons the ABS can malfunction. The brake sensor may have been clogged by debris, dirt, or moisture. Damaged sensor wiring, failing hydraulic control unit, or contaminated brake fluid are also culprits. 

How to Fix: If you’re dealing with a “Service AdvanceTrac” and “Check Brake System” fault message, you’ll need a professional to handle it. As I’ve stated, any of the issues above can cause the ABS to fail. Unless a diagnosis is done, you can’t affirm the cause. In most cases, you may need to replace the ABS with a new one. You can spend up to $1,500 including the labor cost.

Self-Cooling Mechanism 

To protect itself against overheating, the hill descent control system self-disengages after some time. This is due to continuous use which often requires some period of cooling down. When the HDC stops working, you’ll see the message center displays a warning sound. The idea is to notify you that the system is no longer active due to certain reasons. One of the likely causes is over-speeding. Perhaps, the car is running past the present speed limit you’ve set on the HDC.

How to Fix: Resolving overheating protection is simple. Simply hit your foot on the brake pedal to slow down the car. Allow the car to maintain the speed you’ve set the HDC to. During this period, the HDC won’t work until it cools down completely and is ready to work again.   


What are the things to do When Using HDC System?

Go question. The first to tell you is that you should avoid going down a steep grade when using the hill descent control feature. In addition, never drive on bumpier terrain. Again, be on the lookout for any hazards when driving downhill. This way you can steer safely and pull over. There’s one more thing to say. When driving your Ford, the Hill descent assist should self-activate. In case it doesn’t, then put your foot on the brake pedal. At least this will send a signal to cars behind you that you’re gradually slowing down. 

Can I Activate Hill Descent Control in Snow and Reverse Mode?

Let me answer the question one after another. While it’s very safe to use your HDC on icy terrain and hills, you shouldn’t attempt it if the car is in reverse transmission. HDC system generally doesn’t function properly in all vehicle combos or ratios. The feature may function well in low and reverse; they won’t in high range. On snowy pavement, you’ll still need to replace your tires for quality handling, traction, and grip

Final Thoughts

The HDC is a support and safety system for drivers who’re going down a steep. You need to drive slowly and maintain some level of balance when descending a mountain. When the system goes bad in your Ford Fiesta or F150, take your car for a proper auto diagnosis. A DIY may work to an extent, but hiring the services of professional works best. I hope you’ve learned a few things from this article. 

  • James Smith

    I'm James Smith, a car enthusiast and a content writer for Daily Car Tips. I have a passion for all things cars, from classic muscle cars to the latest electric vehicles. When I'm not writing about cars, you can usually find me tinkering with my car or checking out the latest automotive trends.

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