P0500 Code – What Does It Mean & How To Fix It

This is one of the most frequent OBD2 trouble codes. Read the full article below to know what it means, how to fix it, and what other codes may show related to it.

Definition

P0500- Vehicle Speed Sensor Malfunction

Meaning

When your vehicle pops this trouble code on an ODB2 tool, it means it found a fault with the vehicle speed sensor (the sensor that reads vehicle speed and sends information to the speedometer for display). The speed sensor is monitored by the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) and when a test of the sensor comes back with fault or no signal, the ECU sets the P0500 code. As soon as the problem is coded in the ECU, the Check Engine Light turns on to alert you to the problem.

Causes

There is a short list of causes that trigger a P0500 trouble code, and they vary in both the complexity of the repair and the cost of parts and labor to repair them. P0500 codes can be caused by:

  • Failed vehicle speed sensor (the sensor itself has died/stopped working)
  • Open or short in the wiring harness (can happen over time due to normal wear and tear)
  • Damaged vehicle speed sensor drive gear (another wear and tear issue)
  • Poor electrical connection (may take a little time to figure out where the connection issue is, but ultimately easy  to fix)

Symptoms

Sometimes when you get a check engine light, you can figure out if it’s a P0500 trouble code by observing the following symptoms:

  • Check Engine Light is illuminated
  • The speedometer may not work (a dead giveaway most of the time)
  • Transmission may not shift properly as the ECU uses the vehicle speed to help determine when to shift (a real problem that can cause additional wear to your transmission)
  • The vehicle’s ABS and traction control systems may become disabled (not a severe problem until you have to drive in heavy traffic or bad weather)

Diagnosis

Here’s our process for diagnosing a P0500 Trouble Code on your vehicle.

  • Bring It To a Technician
    First, a qualified technician connects an ODB2 Scan Tool to your car’s ECU via the access port under the dashboard. Your technician reads what trouble codes are present and will make a note of all codes along with the freeze-frame data taken while your car is running.
  • Clearing The Codes for A Second Check
    All codes will be cleared for a clean ECU scan. The technician will start your car back up and record trouble codes and freeze-frame data again. A brief road test is next to confirm the problem is present and consistent with the trouble codes in the ECU.
  • Visual Inspection
    Our technician visually checks the speed sensor and all associated wiring for obvious damage or wear. This helps us make a correct diagnosis of the problem to prevent replacing parts unnecessarily or doing more than needs to be done to resolve the problem.
  • Checking For Signal
    After checking the wiring and part exterior, we use the scan tool to check if the vehicle speed sensor (VSS) is present while driving. This helps us determine if the sensor is faulty and needs replacement, or if there is a problem with some component of the sensor like a faulty sensor drive gear.
  • Checking The Voltage
    Lastly, our technician checks the speed sensor with an electrical multimeter to see if any electrical current is running through the sensor. If it has a dead/open circuit, the sensor may need to be replaced altogether.

Common Diagnostic Mistakes

If a problem with the vehicle speed sensor is overlooked, owners may end up needlessly replacing their speedometer only to find that they are still getting a trouble code and the problem has not been resolved. This is why we conduct a thorough, proper diagnosis of all components on a step-by-step basis to avoid these unnecessary repairs.

How Serious Is a P0500 Trouble Code?

P0500 won’t prevent your vehicle from running and driving,  but it may cause your transmission to shift roughly from gear to gear. Other than a bumpy ride, it’s not likely to cause additional damage in the short term. If your speedometer stops working, you may run into trouble obeying speed limits until you diagnose the problem and repair it. If the ABS system and Traction Control System (TCS) stop working, you’ll need to drive more carefully in inclement weather since your vehicle will handle differently without these electronically controlled driving stability systems.

What Repairs Can Fix A P0500 Trouble Code?

Thanks to our step-by-step diagnosis and troubleshooting, we can easily find the problem for you when we inspect your vehicle at our shop. Fixing a P0500 error generally requires one or more of the following repairs:

  • Vehicle speed sensor drive gear replaced
  • Repair or replacement of the wiring harness
  • Vehicle speed sensor replaced
  • Poor electrical connection resolved

Conclusion

A P0500 Vehicle Speed Sensor Malfunction code isn’t a drop everything and get your car to the shop immediately issue. Nevertheless, you should bring your car in to determine what codes are present when your check engine light comes on, and have a qualified technician diagnose the problem and what repair is needed. Trouble codes come up to help you keep your vehicle on the road, and a minor repair now can mean major savings later.

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