Hill Start Assist Not Available Ford Escape [Meaning and How to Fix]

Did you just get the Hill Start Assist Not Available message in your Ford Escape, and you’re wondering what it means? This warning message is common in some models of Ford vehicles, such as Ford Escape, Ford Fusion, Ford Focus and Ford F-150.

Ford Escape Dashboard

Hill Start Assist Not Available means the feature which prevents your vehicle from rolling backwards while you’re driving uphill has stopped working. 

In this article, we’ll explain more details about the Hill Start Assist problem and how to fix it.

What is Hill Start Assist in a Ford Vehicle?

Imagine if you are driving over a slope on the road with a manual car. You’ve already pressed the brake pedal before going downhill.

When you want to move back up, you’ll need a few seconds to shift your foot away from the brakes and onto your accelerator pedal. During those few seconds, the force of gravity pulls your car, and it rolls backwards.

If you are driving a Ford car, the Hill Start Assist will prevent your car from rolling backwards as you move uphill. This feature works by holding down your brakes for 2.5 seconds, giving you enough time to move your foot from your brakes to your accelerator.

How Do I Activate Hill Start Assist?

You don’t need to use any special controls to activate the Hill Start Assist on your Ford car. As long as you press the brake pedals while driving over a slope, the feature will work on your vehicle.

What Does No Hill Start Assist Mean?

The No Hill Start Assist message means the Hill Start Assist feature in your car isn’t working. This problem may occur due to a random error, software glitch, faulty ABS sensor, brake light issues, or an inactive Electronic Stability Control (ESC) module.

In the next paragraphs, we’ll look at how to fix this issue and prevent future occurrences.

How to Fix “Hill Start Assist Not Available” in Your Ford Vehicle

Correct Your Faults

Random errors, like the Hill Start Not Available message, may pop up on your dashboard even when there is nothing wrong with your car. Usually, these errors appear because of a slight blunder on your part. Maybe you didn’t close your hood properly, or you’ve pressed your Start button for too long.

To fix this issue, you need to correct your mistakes. So, make sure you’ve shut your hood correctly. Also, check if your finger is still on the Start button. If you’ve been pressing the Start button for a while, release the button.

After you’ve corrected your faults, restart your car.

If the Hill Start Assist Not Available message doesn’t disappear after this, try the next step.

Turn on Your ESC system

Your Hill Start Assist feature won’t work if the ESC (Electronic Stability Control) system is turned off. This system manages all the features that prevent you from losing total control of your vehicle while driving, including the Hill Start Assist.

If you get the No Hill Start Assist error, check if your ESC system is off. If the system is off, its icon will appear on your dashboard. The ESC icon is the image of a car with three curly lines below it. Sometimes, this icon may also include an OFF text.

If you find the ESC indicator on your dashboard, press the button to turn it back on. The ESC button is located on your instrument panel.

Once your ESC system is on, the No Hill Start Assist message should disappear from your screen. However, if the button is still on your dashboard, check the next tip.

Reset Your Transmission Control Module

A faulty TCM (Transmission Control Module) may display the No Hill Start Assist error on your dashboard, even when other parts of your Ford car are working properly.

The role of the TCM is to collect data from transmission components and use the data to control gear shifting. If any data from the transmission relates to an electronic feature, the TCM will display the information on your dashboard. For instance, if your ABS sensor is faulty, you’ll get the No Hill Start Assist error.

But your TCM can develop issues after you’ve used your car for a while. When this happens, the system may interpret data wrongly and display incorrect information on your dashboard. Showing No Hill Start Assist on your car is a common instance.

The fastest way to fix a faulty TCM is to reset it.

Follow these steps to reset the TCM in your Ford car:

  • If your AC is turned on, turn it off.
  • Move your shifter to Park.
  • Turn off your ignition and wait ten seconds.
  • Start your engine.
  • Leave it to idle for five seconds. Then switch off your ignition again and wait for about forty seconds.
  • Repeat these steps three times to reset the TCM.

Once you’ve reset your TCM, start your car and wait for the lights on your dashboard to come on. If you see the Hill Start Assist Not Available error, try other solutions below.

Related Resource: Ford Escape Backup Camera Problems and Fixes.

Replace Your ABS Sensor

Your wheels tend to lock when you’re moving uphill because your gear is set to Neutral mode. This tendency is further increased by the Hill Start Assist, as it holds down the brake pedals even after you’ve stopped pressing them.

To prevent your wheels from locking, your Ford car deactivates the Hill Start Assist immediately after the ABS sensor becomes faulty. The Hill Start Assist will only resume working after you’ve replaced your ABS sensor.

The tools you’ll need to replace your ABS sensor are a wheel brace, a car jack, an axle stand, an 8-mm socket, a wrench, a Phillips screwdriver, and a star screwdriver.

Follow these steps to replace your ABS sensor:

  • Walk to the front wheel on the left side of your car
  • If there is a wheel trim on the wheel, take it off.
  • Loosen all the bolts on the wheel, but don’t remove them yet.
  • Find a suitable jacking point below the wheel and place the jack there.
  • Raise your car until the front wheel is off the ground.
  • Place the axle stand under the chassis.
  • Lower your jack to make your car rest on the axle stand.
  • Leave your jack in place to give your car extra stability.
  • You can now remove the bolts on your wheel.
  • Drag out your wheel.
  • Study the back of the wheel hub for an 8 mm bolt.
  • Your ABS sensor is secured to the 8 mm bolt.
  • Trace your ABS sensor to its other end.
  • You’ll find that the sensor goes behind the wheel arch liner.
  • So, you have to take out the wheel arch liner to access your ABS sensor.
  • Take a picture of all the bolts on your wheel arch liner, noting their position.
  • This will help you remember where to insert them when re-assembling your wheel.
  • Now, use a Phillips screwdriver to remove all the bolts on your wheel arch liner.
  • Once you’ve pulled out all the screws on the wheel arch liner, it will fall out.
  • Unplug your ABS sensor from the connector on your car. Then slide out the sensor from the clips holding it down.
  • Remove the bolt connecting the sensor to your wheel hub.
  • Pull out your ABS sensor. Then insert your new ABS sensor into the opening where you’ve just removed the old one.
  • Re-install the bolts and wheel arch liner back onto your car.
  • Finally, place your front wheel back into its position.

Now, turn on your car. Then check if the Hill Start Not Available message pops on your dashboard. If it does, continue to the next tip.

Update Your ABS Software

Did your dashboard display the No Hill Start Assist message after you replaced your ABS sensor? Then, your ABS software might be glitchy.

Even when you’ve just replaced your ABS sensor, the glitchy software will wrongly detect an issue in the sensor and report the data to your TCM. This leaves the TCM no choice but to declare the Hill Start Assist feature unavailable.

Glitches occur in the ABS software when the software is outdated. So, if you update your ABS software, it might resume working normally.

You’ll need a VCM II switch to update your ABS software. You can find this tool on Amazon.

Follow these steps to update the ABS software in your Ford vehicle:

  • Open your browser and enter IDS download to access the IDS software download page.
  • The link to the website should appear at the top of search results.
  • Download the IDS software and the updates available on the page. You’ll also need to download the VCM package.
  • Once you’ve downloaded the software packages, install them on your computer.
  • Connect your computer to a USB port on your vehicle.
  • Next, launch the IDS software and wait for the software to load.
  • Plug the VCM switch into the DLC port under your dashboard.
  • The tool should take about 15 seconds to boot up. Once your VCM tool fully boots up, a tiny picture of the tool will appear at the bottom right corner of your screen.
  • Turn on your ignition, but don’t start the car.
  • Now, click Start New Session at the top left corner of your screen.
  • Select All Other. Your system will inform you it is establishing communication with the PCM.
  • Once this action is complete, you’ll get a message asking you to create a new session.
  • Click on the message to continue. The list of previous sessions may appear on the screen. If it does, tap on None of the Above.
  • The system will also ask you if you have a navigation system. Answer the question.
  • Some of your vehicle’s details will be displayed on the screen.
  • Ensure that the information is correct. Then tap on Yes.
  • Next, click on the toolbox icon at the top left corner of the screen.
  • Select Module Programming. Then click on Module Reprogramming.
  • A list of options will appear beside the Module Reprogramming tab. Choose ABS.
  • The system will check your VIN and display it. Click on Yes if the VIN is correct.
  • If a new software version is available, it will appear on the screen. The system will ask if you want to reprogram your ABS with the update. Tap on Yes.
  • Your IDS will search for the update on its server.
  • Make sure your ignition is still turned on.
  • The system will start downloading the data from the ABS software update.
  • Don’t touch anything on your vehicle until the download is complete.
  • Once the download is over, turn off your ignition.
  • Your IDS will reboot your ABS software. Then it will ask you to turn on your ignition.
  • You’ll get a message informing you that your ABS software calibration has been loaded and checked.
  • You have updated your ABS software.
  • Disconnect your VCM tool.

If the “Hill Start Assist Not Available” error still shows up on your dashboard after this, move to the next step.

Change Your Battery

If the battery in your Ford car is weak, the vehicle may not have enough power to activate the Hill Start Assist feature. In such cases, the car displays the Hill Start Assist Not Available message when you start it. The vehicle does this to prepare your mind ahead of slippery road conditions.

Since your Hill Start Assist won’t stop your car from rolling backwards, you’ll have to work harder to keep your car stable.

You can resolve this problem by replacing your battery. If the message reappears after you’ve changed your battery, don’t give up yet. The next tip might fix the issue.

Reset Your Battery Monitor System

Even when you have a new battery, the Hill Start Not Available error might still pop up on your dashboard. This often occurs because the Battery Monitor System (BMS) is disabled.

Your BMS controls most of the electronic features, which include the Hill Start Assist on your Ford car. When you remove your old battery, the BMS gets disabled. Before your BMS can resume working on your vehicle, your car has to learn the battery’s charging cycle.

Your Ford vehicle is supposed to learn the battery’s charging cycle automatically. But an error in the BMS system may have prevented the car from doing this.

You can eliminate this problem by resetting your Battery Monitor System.

Here’s how to reset the BMS in your Ford car:

  • Turn on your ignition and start the vehicle.
  • Flash your headlight five times.
  • Wait for about ten seconds.
  • Now, study the dashboard.
  • Your battery light will flash three times.
  • You have reset your BMS.

Fix Your Brake Imbalance

Another reason your Hill Start Assist may not work is a brake imbalance. A brake imbalance occurs when one side of your brakes applies less power than the other.

Brake imbalances affect the Hill Start Assist feature because the brakes are responsible for activating the feature. Any other issues on your brakes may also disable Hill Start Assist.

To determine if your brakes are imbalanced, check if your car pulls to one side when you press the brakes. If it does, your vehicle has a brake imbalance. Hire a skilled mechanic to fix the imbalance.

Replace Your Brake Light Fuse

If none of the steps above fixes the Hill Start Assist problem in your car, chances are the brake light fuse is broken. Locate the brake light fuse with the fuse diagram in your car and replace it.

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Wrapping Up

One of the troubleshooting steps above should fix the Hill Start Assist issue in your Ford car. However, if the message remains on your dashboard after you’ve tried all the steps here, contact your dealer for further assistance.