Drive Start Control Malfunction on Your Toyota? (Here’s Why)

No matter how well you know cars, when a warning message comes on the dashboard, it’s natural for your heart to sink slightly. Many of these messages create panic, including the “Drive Start Control Malfunction” message on your Toyota.

This guide helps you understand the meaning of this Toyota warning and shows you what might cause it. We also dive deeper into the methods of fixing it, so you can enjoy driving again.

What Does This Error Message Mean?

All modern Toyota vehicles are equipped with the Drive Start Control Malfunction warning that comes on the dashboard when there’s a problem. This error message indicates an issue with the system responsible for monitoring acceleration.

This advanced system helps control output power along with the input of the engine when there’s a sudden change from the accelerator or brake. Its purpose is to detect if you accidentally stepped on the gas when you should have pushed on the brake and vice versa.

If the system detects that you’ve accidentally stepped on the accelerator, it will perform the following functions:

  • Apply brakes to prevent unintended acceleration
  • Control engine power to keep the car at normal speeds

If the drive start control malfunction message appears, it means that there’s a fault detected in this system. As a result, you may notice a significant drop in power or be unable to start your Toyota. You may also notice trouble getting to higher speeds or instability of the vehicle.

If the DSC malfunction is related to a problem with another system, it’s possible to notice other symptoms as well. 

(Car From Japan)

Possible Causes

Without a proper diagnosis, it would be difficult to determine what has caused the problem. For that reason, we recommend having a Toyota technician take a look at it. However, here are some of the most common reasons for the malfunction message.

  • Wiring issue: Electrical signals can’t go from one place to another if a cable is disconnected or damaged. This problem leads to stalling and difficulty starting the vehicle.
  • Bad battery: If the battery isn’t charged or is dying, it won’t send enough power to run these systems. Therefore, the message comes on to alert you to the problem. This would likely come on in conjunction with the low-voltage light. 
  • Blown fuse: Because everything runs through the fuse box, a blown fuse can lead to many different electrical problems.
  • Faulty sensor: The traction control sensor and ABS sensors can send out a faulty signal that causes a malfunction. 
  • Bad ignition coil: If the air-fuel mixture cannot ignite properly, there could be a lack of power, a misfiring condition, or a rough idle. It can also lead to the Drive Start Control Malfunction error and a Check Engine Light. 
  • ECU error: If the input and output signals aren’t being sent to the appropriate systems, the electronic control unit (ECU) may be to blame. There could be a problem with the ground connection, or the software may need to be reset. 


Is It Safe to Drive?

Whenever a warning message appears on your Toyota, it’s best to stop driving until you know what’s wrong. By continuing to drive, you could allow other problems to occur, costing you more on repairs and possibly leading to more damage.

This error message indicates a significant problem. In fact, you may not be able to start the car until you get it repaired. Even if you can, it may fail on you at any time, leaving you stranded away from home.

For these reasons, our only recommendation is to have the vehicle looked at immediately. 

How to Resolve

If you have some mechanical knowledge or you have a service manual, you may be able to resolve the issue on your own. Here are some things to try.

  • Clean the ABS sensor. If the sensor is contaminated, cleaning it off may help. Otherwise, you could replace the sensor by following the information in your service manual.
  • Examine the wiring. If any of the wires are disconnected or broken, repair them. Tighten up any connections that seem loose.
  • Replace a blown fuse with a new one. Make sure it has the same amperage as the one being replaced.

If you aren’t sure what you’re doing or these issues don’t resolve the problem, it’s best to have a Toyota technician look at the vehicle. 

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Cost to Repair

The cost of repair depends on what is wrong.

You could spend as little as $5 to replace a blown fuse on your own. At the other range of the spectrum, you may pay more than $1,000 to have an ECU professionally replaced and configured. It really depends on what the underlying issue is.

With that in mind, let’s examine a few estimates available online.

  • One Tacoma World Forum user (Tacoma in Ottawa) stated the cost of repairs was $264.92 for parts and $161.94 for labor to fix the malfunction. In this case, a neutral safety switch short circuit needed to be repaired.
  • According to Repair Pal, replacing a Corolla Powertrain Control Module costs between $870 and $952. This cost includes labor charges between $67 and $85 and parts between $803 and $866.
  • To replace a sensor, you may spend $377 to $445. According to Repair Pal, Labor is estimated at $75-$95, while parts may cost $302-$349.

If you can’t perform the work yourself, you need to pay the hourly rate of a mechanic. Taking your vehicle to a Toyota technician can be even more expensive, but they have the expertise to work on your vehicle.   

No More Malfunctions

Removing all warning messages from the dashboard is the only way to ensure that your Toyota vehicle runs as intended. If there’s a message indicated, it means there’s a problem that needs to be repaired.

Don’t mess around with these warnings, as negligence only leads to bigger problems. Keep your Toyota in good working condition, and it will continue taking care of you. 

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One Comment

  1. I like to read and follow your tips, thank you for caring for my RAV4.
    Pl keep posting variety of such information, include ageing RAV4s as well.