What is Limp Mode? Causes, Symptoms & Fixes

Find out if you’re overpaying on car insurance using our cost calculator! Save money by comparing quotes from over 30 of Canada’s top insurance providers!

The best part? It’s FREE!

limp mode

Nowadays, the computer controls nearly all car functions, such as the transmission line pressure, shift time, sequencing, and sensation. Its speed sensors deliver information that assists in regulating the anti-lock braking system, the fuel ratio, fuel injection system, and gearbox function.

For example, your vehicle’s throttle position sensor (TPS) and manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensor deliver data on your engine’s load, and they are utilized to regulate your transmission’s shifting while driving. That’s only one instance of how sophisticated cars are these days.

Imagine yourself driving downtown, and your car’s transmission starts acting strange, together with your check engine light instantly illuminates. If this indicator light flashes rapidly, there is almost probably a problem with your engine.

If your vehicle’s gearbox abruptly switches to 2nd or 3rd gear and remains there, your car is undoubtedly under the thrall of the Limp Mode.

If your automobile is in Limp Mode while running at a slower speed, it is restricted to one gear, therefore, has less power. However, what’s a Limp Mode? How to take your vehicle out of limp mode state?

Not everybody is an automotive expert, and it may be pretty alarming whenever your car begins behaving oddly for no obvious reason. One example situation is when limp mode occurs. You might feel terrified and may be puzzled. However, don’t panic.

We’ve gathered all the facts you need about the limp mode, including how to fix limp mode and the hazards associated with operating in Limp Mode, aka “Fail Code” or “Limp Home Mode.”

So that you can ready yourself and learn how to manage it; additionally, you’ll learn some fundamental facts concerning this occurrence. Read on to learn more!

Signs and Symptoms of Limp Mode

  1. Poor Performance And Limited Speed
  2. Can’t Shift Beyond Third Gear
  3. Unresponsive Accelerator Pedal
  4. Overheating
  5. Check Engine Light

What Is Limp Mode?

Limp mode or Limp home mode is a meticulous calibration or map that the transmission control unit (TCU) or engine control unit (ECU) uses when one of your powertrain components detects a possibly hazardous issue.

Consider limp home mode as a safety function or mode for your automobile, intended to avoid or limit the engine’s further damage.

Rather than entirely shutting down its engine and rendering you stuck somewhere, this calibration enables you to cautiously “limp home” or travel to a technician for diagnosis and fix.

If your automobile goes into limp mode, it could trigger the check engine light. The system will conduct several functions that reduce the car’s potential performance to a safe and reasonable level.

First, most engine calibrations are running rich since a rich air/fuel mixture is frequently far better than a low air/fuel ratio.

Additionally, the ECU in limp mode can restrict your engine’s max speed, adjust ignition timing (delay the time at which each cylinder ignites), or vary valve timing (adjust the time at which the intake/exhaust valve opens).

Whenever your automobile is turbocharged, its map would very certainly run with your turbo wastegate totally opened, reducing boost pressure.

This boost pressure is certainly multiple orders of magnitude less than its maximum boost pressure seen in regular operation.

Whenever a transmission failure is identified, your transmission might move into 2nd or 3rd gear and remain there. This results in slow acceleration and a significantly increased engine speed on the road.

Limp Mode Signs and Symptoms

Determining if your automobile is already in limp mode or having other troubles isn’t simple, especially if you don’t understand what you’re searching for.

It’s crucial to realize that various faults with your car might be mistaken as limp mode. But, your automobile doesn’t enter limp mode each time it suffers a problem.

The most typical indications of limp mode include check engine light, low engine power, Speed restriction, or locked gear. Here’s a more thorough list of the most prevalent signs and symptoms of limp mode.

Poor Performance And Limited Speed

Under limp mode, your ECU reduces your engine’s speed and performance. This implies that you’ll be limited to driving around 30 to 45 miles per hour.

The purpose of limp mode is to avoid causing extra harm to your vehicle. Usually, automobiles in limp mode cannot surpass 2,000 and 3,000 RPM. The max RPM is determined by the make and model of the car.

This decreases the amount of stress and heat generated within your engine and practically eliminates the possibility of any existing engine problems becoming worse.

On your dash, you could quickly monitor your RPM. Usually, your RPM is demonstrated in thousands, implying that your automobile will only achieve an RPM around 2 to 3 on the dashboard.

Can’t Shift Beyond Third Gear

When your automobile would not shift beyond 3rd gear, it’s a definite indicator that your car is in limp mode.

This symptom is more prevalent in automatic transmission automobiles. Your car’s computer will restrict the gearbox from shifting past 3rd gear.

This relates to maintaining a low speed or RPM. It might be difficult to tell whether you are traveling below 40mph in certain circumstances.

Unresponsive Accelerator Pedal

You’re probably used to a responsive accelerator pedal; however, in limp mode, the precision of your throttle pedal often decreases.

This is usually more apparent in newer automobiles. However, if you need to press further before your car’s engine revs, your automobile might be in limp mode.

This change is often abrupt, which is another way to verify that it’s unrelated to other problems. In most situations, the loss of responsiveness of the accelerator pedal occurs gradually as a result of wear – and – tear or broken accelerator parts.

If your engine enters limp mode, the changeover is seamless and serves as a precautionary step to safeguard you and your car against driving in harmful situations.


In severe circumstances, you could observe your engine overheating. This is a warning indication suggesting you must pull over and allow your automobile to cool down before continuing. Letting your transmission and engine rest for a while decreases the amount of damage they may sustain.

Check Engine Light

While your vehicle is in limp mode, its check engine light usually illuminates. This means that there’s another problem with your engine.

When you see any warning on this list in addition to your engine light flashing regularly or remaining illuminated, this is a definite indication that your vehicle is in limp mode.

You mustn’t disregard the check engine light. Get your automobile regularly inspected to verify that the engine is operating correctly.

What Causes The Limp Mode?

Numerous factors might lead your car to enter limp mode. The following are the most prevalent and quickest to detect reasons.

When your vehicle does not exhibit any of the issues listed above, you should get it inspected by an expert. Skilled mechanics can ascertain the precise cause for the limp mode’s occurrence.

It’s recommended that you examine your car for any following issues. However, If you lack any of these, this doesn’t necessarily indicate that your vehicle is in excellent shape.

If you cannot detect the problems on your own, contact a mechanic for assistance. The critical point is to respond quickly. Avoid running your car for lengthy periods if the limp mode is activated to avoid further damage.

Low Transmission Fluid Level

Transmission fluid is a lubricant that helps prevent excessive friction of components in your transmission system.

Additionally, it guards the transmission against damage and stress. Maintaining an adequate fluid level is an excellent idea to keep your transmission in a superb functioning state.

A decrease in pressure might occur in your transmission system if there’s insufficient fluid. This could result in the transmission not functioning correctly and the activation of Limp Mode.

Damaged Wirings

All of your vehicle’s electrical lines are connected to its engine. They supply power to all your automobile needs to operate.

As a result, the electrical system is among the most critical components of your vehicle’s internal operations. Electrical systems are perhaps the most delicate.

Engine heat, severe cold, moisture, and filth may all affect the wires to deteriorate or fail. These broken wires might create interference with your vehicle’s other systems, triggering Limp Mode.

For instance, there might be a damaged wire toward the boost pressure sensor, preventing the engine control unit from correctly controlling it.

Additionally, there might be a faulty boost pressure signal, causing your engine control unit to avoid danger and engage limp mode.

Transmission or Clutch Failure

If you own an automatic transmission car, the transmission control module can put your vehicle under limp mode if anything is incorrect with your transmission.

This is often caused by a malfunctioning sensor, a defective valve, insufficient transmission fluid, or a damaged shift solenoid.

Also, a limp mode is activated when the transmission control unit senses that your vehicle’s clutch has broken, been damaged, or developed a defect.


Typically, knocking noises originating through your engine indicate various potential issues. The noises are caused by an improper or erroneous air/fuel mixture within your engine.

When your vehicle consistently knocks or misfires, you won’t only get a check engine light; you’ll also have limp mode as a bonus!


Whenever your vehicle’s cooling system is not operating correctly, it cannot handle the heat generated by your engine, and it’ll overheat. This might cause damage to the vehicle’s components and impair functionality.

Frequent overheating might result in your vehicle entering Limp Mode. Its engine control unit will restrict power to certain portions of your engine to allow cold air to cool your overheating engine.


Overboost occurs whenever a turbocharged engine consumes more air than the engine control unit (ECU) permits. This enhances your engine’s performance but at the risk of causing damage.

When the ECU senses an overboost situation caused by a component malfunction, it’ll go into Limp Mode. This eliminates the possibility of a severe engine breakdown.

Faulty Sensor

Your automobile has several sensors that are required for proper operation. For instance, the speed sensor determines how your car is traveling. The throttle position sensor (TPS) monitors how hard you’re pushing on the gas; the manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensor provides instant manifold pressure data to the engine’s electronic control unit ECU). They function in conjunction with various sensors to maintain your automobile running smoothly.

Your vehicle’s ECU will activate Limp Mode if it’s unable to get an accurate reading from any of the vehicle’s various sensors. You must make a practice of checking these sensors to ensure they’re still functioning properly.

Boost or Vacuum Leak

A vacuum leak or boost leak happens when your engine receives higher air than the ECU permits. The distinction is that malfunctioning air intakes cause a vacuum or boost leak. Limp Mode, together with your check engine light, is triggered when the ECU senses that the air/fuel ratio isn’t as expected.

Missing Emission Components

Modifying your vehicle to eliminate its muffler also eliminates a sensor linked with it. When the ECU determines that specific sensors have been missing, it’ll go into Limp Mode.

And besides, automakers invest considerable effort and resources in the engineering of the complete vehicle. This includes the company’s emission-control equipment.

Bad Spark Plugs

Another problem that frequently results in limp mode is worn spark plugs. The car is entering the limp mode, and the check engine light might remain on or flashing. Your engine will perform rough, and it could tremble in the event of a misfire.

In certain instances, a faulty spark plug or, in some other cases, a bad ignition coil results in a cylinder misfire, in which one or more of your cylinders ceases to function. An engine misfire might be caused by a faulty MAF sensor or a blocked catalytic converter.

Running a car with misfiring cylinders damages your catalytic converter and increases the risk of your engine overheating.

  • Other Possible Issues

The fact is that there are several possible explanations for your automobile to go into limp mode. The above listing includes the most frequent reasons for automobiles to go into limp mode, although it isn’t definitive.

  • Turbo under boost or overboost
  • Transmission valve body
  • Faulty engine sensors
  • Bad ground connections
  • Broken wire harness
  • Low battery power or voltage
  • Overheating engine
  • Bad throttle body
  • Manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensor
  • Throttle position sensor (TPS)
  • Wheel speed sensor
  • ECU requires calibration
  • Brake system or ABS problems
  • Shattered fuse for vital automobile systems
  • Vehicular accidents
  • When water penetrates a sensor, for instance, flood or after a car wash.

How To Bypass Limp Mode

Usually, It’s not suggested to bypass limp mode, but if you have a compelling purpose and know the possible implications.

If limp mode is activated, something is wrong with your car, and attempting to continue running your vehicle using regular transmission or engine settings could inflict further damage to your powertrain.

The following alternatives are quite temporary remedies that will take you and your car to the shop or your home but won’t solve the underlying source of the problem.

Try bringing your car to a skilled mechanic asap for an accurate assessment and repair of the underlying issue to prevent the grave danger of transmission or engine damage.

If any of the below techniques are successful, you should anticipate limp mode returning rather quickly if the error persists. Consider driving with this by choosing a shouldered lane or traveling on less crowded highways.

Restart Your Car

Occasionally, only switching the vehicle off and on again might bring the car out of limp mode.

Check and Top Up Fluids

Another action you should do is examine your car’s low transmission fluid levels. To do so, you must be on a flat surface. Inspect your transmission fluid with your vehicle in park gear with the engine idling.

If it’s low, this is almost certainly the cause. Increase the fluid according to the manufacturer’s requirements, taking notice of the coloration and odor. A transmission fluid that is contaminated or burned may also create problems.

Maintaining insufficient fluid levels might impair your car’s performance and need some repair down the road. One approach to determine this issue is to ensure that you keep up with the regular replenishment of your car’s fluids and oils.

If these oils seem to be contaminated or diluted, you should take your car to a specialist to avoid further harm. Once the fresh fluids or oils are added, restart your vehicle to verify whether the limp mode has been resolved.

Clear Fault Codes

By utilizing an OBD2 scanner, you could sweep such codes detected. While it is preferable to purchase an OBD2 scanner that’ll compensate for itself within a single usage, your nearby auto parts shop may have scanners available.

Disconnect And Reconnect Your Battery

After your battery is detached and attached, most cars will ignore a check engine light that’s activated. Just detach your battery’s negative terminal for a couple of seconds and reattach again.

You might prefer to depress your brake pedal for a quick moment while disconnecting the battery to ensure that any lingering power inside the system has discharged.

What To Do When Your Car Enters Limp Mode

It’s in distress, and you must repair it immediately. Don’t be alarmed! The limp mode was intended primarily to avoid further damage and to enable you to bring your car to a repair facility.

  • Determine if you could go straight to the nearest repair shop.
  • If possible, you could drive to your house and arrange for your vehicle to be towed by a servicing facility.
  • If you’re uncomfortable driving at a reduced speed, pull over when it’s safe and call a tow company.
  • It’s recommended that you should not keep driving your car under Limp mode since this is risky and may result in significant vehicle problems.

Limp Mode, But No Check Engine Light On

So, what triggers your engine to undergo limp mode without activating its check engine light? Hitting limp mode without such check engine light is uncommon, but this occurs.

This often occurs due to an electronic control unit (ECU) malfunctioning and incorrectly reading the impulses. If somewhat very unusual, other faults may occur when the components of the vehicle that initiate limp mode fail to provide signals to its ECU.

Whenever this occurs, it’s a great idea to inspect the wiring since they may be defective and can contribute to the limp mode by tricking the ECU into feeling there is an issue even though there isn’t.

The limp mode is controlled by the car’s computer, a software that is linked and supervises all of your car’s components. Whenever a malfunction occurs in the vehicle, the computer gets inputs and, relying on the malfunction, triggers alerts, including limp mode.

The car’s computer will initiate a limp mode response to work on critical components, turn them off, or reduce their operation to avoid further damage.

Cost To Fix Limp Mode

An automobile may undergo limp mode for various causes, necessitating numerous repair bills. Generally, repair expenses vary from around $50 up to $500, perhaps more, depending on multiple circumstances.

There are further factors to consider, like the main reason for the limp mode, your location, the mechanic or shop, as well as the automobile’s make and model you own. However, the primary consideration is why the vehicle entered the limp mode.


When your vehicle hits limp mode, it indicates that it suffers mechanical faults that must be addressed before they escalate into more severe and costly troubles. So, if you notice issues such as the engine losing power, or the need to turn off non-essential auto components, you must act immediately to get your car inspected.

Limp mode is intended to alert you when your vehicle is experiencing issues that might impair its operations. It’s just your vehicle’s effort to safeguard you and doesn’t have to be regarded as an “inconvenient” feature that hinders you from driving.

Inspect your transmission, wirings, sensors, and the engine boosts control module to resolve these problems. If you discover that these characteristics are unusual, take measures to restore them to their natural state. If you cannot resolve these difficulties on your own, take the automobile to a specialist for assistance.


How do you get out of limp mode?

Whenever your car enters limp mode while you’re traveling, pull over to a safe spot. Let at least a few minutes for the vehicle to cool down before restarting it. Restarting the engine would reset the car’s limp mode and restore regular operation in some circumstances.

What causes a vehicle to go into limp mode?

Limp mode is activated by your vehicle’s computer system, which collects signals from each of the vehicle’s many components and sensors. The most common causes of these indications include malfunctioning engine sensor systems, transmission difficulties, clutch or brake failure, and possibly low fluid amounts.

Will driving in limp mode damage the car?

Driving under limp mode for such a long period could result in car damage. Most manufacturers suggest that you can only drive a car in limp mode to the closest shop, mechanic, or your house. Avoid driving in limp mode if the engine overheats.

Sign up for our Newsletter

Related Articles