What is Limp Mode? (Symptoms, Causes, and How to Fix)

Have you ever experienced your car suddenly losing power, and you could not accelerate beyond a certain speed? This may be due to your car’s limp mode being activated.

Take this warning seriously because your vehicle likely has a major problem. Keep reading to learn what causes limp mode, symptoms you can expect to appear, and how to bypass limp mode if the situation calls for it.

what is limp mode

Related: What is Eco Mode (and When Should You Use It?)

What is Limp Mode?

Limp mode is a self-preservation feature programmed into most vehicles. Your car will activate this feature when it detects abnormal readings from sensors, or improper mechanical part operations. 

Limp mode, also known as “limp home mode”, is designed to protect your engine and transmission from catastrophic failure. Most diesel vehicles have a similar mode referred to as “engine derate“.

Performance of your vehicle will be greatly reduced by the computer to prevent major damage but allow you “limp” your car home, a nearby auto repair shop, or simply off to the shoulder where a tow truck can be called.

When activated, your car is telling you there is a serious problem and this issue should be addressed immediately. It is imperative you get to a safe location as soon as possible and attempt to identify why limp mode has occurred. 

3 Symptoms of Limp Mode

#1 – Limited Speed and RPM

limp home mode symptoms

When active, your car may exhibit a variety of symptoms. Limp mode limits the amount of power to your engine and transmission.

RPMs may be limited (usually to less than 3,000), and your driving speed will often be limited to about 35 to 45 MPH, making it impossible to drive at highway speeds and you may find yourself unable to shift above 3rd gear.

Related: Common Causes of a Faulty Speedometer

#2 – Poor Performance

tire noise

Acceleration will be sluggish and you may feel your engine shuddering or misfiring.

You may find that your transmission automatically downshifts and you’re unable to shift above 3rd gear or maybe even not be able to shift gears at all.

#3 – Check Engine Light

The check engine light will illuminate or flash, and depending on the failure, you may notice your vehicle overheating.

If overheating occurs, you must immediately pull over off the road and give your car time to cool down to prevent further damage to the engine and transmission before attempting to drive any further.

See Also: DPF Warning Light (Diesel Engines)

4 Common Causes of Limp Mode

While limp mode can be caused by many different problems, there are a few common causes that can be easily identified. 

#1 – Low Fluid Level

causes of limp mode

Low fluids, especially transmission fluid and oil, can cause a vehicle to enter limp mode.

This is especially true of the transmission fluid, since low fluid can cause low pressure, which will not allow the transmission to operate properly.

#2 – Sensor Malfunction

bad map sensor symptoms

There are quite a few sensors which control the engine and transmission. If one of the sensors, such as the MAF, MAP, TPS or speed sensors are sending improper signals to the computer, limp mode can activate.

Failed fuel injectors, coil packs and worn out spark plugs can also cause it.

#3 – Damaged Wiring

damaged wiring

Damaged or broken wiring can also be a potential cause. Wires can be damaged by heat, debris hitting them, or even battery acid leaking onto them.

A damaged wire cannot send a proper electrical signal, making the computer believe a part has failed.

#4 – Failing Clutch or Transmission

blown transmission symptoms

A failing or failed clutch can also cause a vehicle to enter limp mode.

Improperly adjusted linkage, and bad solenoids in the transmission will activate limp home mode in order to prevent further damage to the transmission. 

How to Bypass Limp Mode (3 Methods)

If limp mode occurs, the first thing to do is find a safe spot to pull over at. Once pulled over, there are a few things you can do to try and reset your vehicle’s computer. 

#1 – Check and Top Off Fluids

check engine oil

The first thing is to check your fluids. To do this you will need to be on level ground. With the vehicle in park, and the engine running, first check your transmission fluid.

If it is low, this is most likely your culprit. Adjust the fluid to with proper specifications, and take note of the color and smell. Dirty or burnt transmission fluid can cause issues as well.

Once fluid is topped off, shut off the engine and reset the car’s ECU as shown in #2 below.

#2 – Shut Off Engine and Restart

The next fix you can try is to shut off the engine and let it rest for at least 5 minutes. During this time you can check the engine oil level, as well as the level of all the other fluids under the hood. Sometimes, this brief rest will allow the computer to reset itself and bring it out of limp mode. 

#3 – Clear Check Engine Light

bypass limp mode

A third option is to disconnect the battery cables. It is best to pull both cables off the battery, and hold them together for 15 to 30 seconds. This will drain any residual power from the computer and cause it to forget any codes that may be stored.

Clearing the codes with an OBD2 scanner will achieve the same results and is faster and safer.

How to Fix Limp Mode 

Due to the complexity of limp mode, the best way to fix it, is by using a scanner to read the codes stored in the car’s computer. If all fluids check out clean and are at the proper level, this is the best way to identify failed parts. 

An OBD/OBD2 scanner will read the codes, which can then point you towards which sensors or parts need replacing.

However, it is important to keep in mind, that just because a part is reading bad on the computer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that part is bad. A broken or damaged wire can cause the part to not send the proper signal. 

If a sensor or part is reading bad, be sure to visually inspect the wires coming out of that part, and verify conductivity with a multimeter. If electricity is reaching a certain spot in the wire, but not all the way to the sensor, that wire should be replaced. 

Conclusion 

Tracking down the cause of limp mode can be vexing and time consuming, and ignoring it or constantly resetting the computer to avoid it can lead to even more costly repairs, or severe safety malfunctions. If none of the above fixes have helped, it is ideal to seek out repairs at a reputable automotive repair shop. 

Any time a vehicle enters limp mode, it should be treated as a serious problem and be immediately addressed. If you find yourself unable to fix the problem on the road, have your car towed to a garage or your house where issues can be safely and accurately identified and repaired.

Mark Stevens

63 Comments

  1. I have a 2008 Honda Accord. My check engine light is flashing. My car I think is going into limp mode. My car wont go over 20 mph, It was pulling when driven if that makes sense. (Car hasn’t been driven in a few weeks since issue started). I had the spark plugs and engine coils changed. The fluid in my cars are at the correct levels. I check with the scanner and after the spark plugs and coils were replaced it’s still showing P0302 , P300, P0303. I’m unsure as to why.

    1. Yes, that sounds like limp mode. Those are misfire codes. I would pull the spark plugs and inspect those to see if they tell a story. Often times you’ll notice one spark plug or coil looks different than the others, and that can give you a hint about what’s going on. Sometimes you’ll even pull the spark plugs and find that part broke off or is damaged in some way. Start there, see how it goes. It’ll take some diagnostic work to find the root cause.

  2. My Infiniti isn’t saying it’s entering “limp mode,” no check engine light, no code. I kill it for 5 minutes, it runs just fine. But it’s happened more than once. I thought it was spark plugs and I blew an engine coil. So I fixed all that, thought it would resolve. Last night, on the highway, my RPMS began to fluctuate a bit and I was decelerating fast. She won’t run over around 25 mph smoothly in this case. I need help diagnosing this problem. I cant afford another car at this time.

    1. If your car is entering limp mode, I’m guessing there is something stored in the ECU, even if the check engine light isn’t illuminated solid. It could have been a series of engine misfires where the check engine light flashes but doesn’t say on solid, for instance. A good scan tool should give you this information. I would also look at some live data if possible to check fuel trims and misfire events while replicating the issue.

      This might be something you need a mechanic to do. I would ask around and try to find one with really good diagnostic skills.

  3. I have a 2013 ford fusion 1.6 and the serpentine belt broke while driving. As soon as the water pump stopped my car automatically went into limp mode. I coasted to the side and turned it off and had it towed to the shop. Once the belts are replaced the limp mode will turn off by itself?

    1. It should, but if limp mode persists you could have the codes cleared and it should be fine. I imagine the shop will take care of that.

  4. I ha e a 2008 BMW 535xi with the N54 tt I uploaded MHD and when I increase throttle fast it goes into limp. I can shut it off and starts immediately and is fine if I don’t floor it. Then put it back to stock tune and I can floor it. I currently have a steep 5 upgraded intercooler and bigger pipes and charge pipe with BOV instead of diverters. Replaced all coil packs and 1 step colder plugs. I just recently did upgraded turbo inlets, outlets ( to intercooler ) and downpipes. Massive upgrades and should be on 2+ tune. Only codes are random misfire codes yet my mapping program shows no misfire numbers. Any ideas??

    1. I think you should have the car retuned by a professional. Sounds like the tune isn’t matching up to the hard parts you have on the vehicle.

  5. This feature might have saved a few engines from further damage. But the vast majority of comments I have read on other boards report that NO engine problems were found upon taking the vehicle in for service. Trivial issues can engage this feature, and many times no cause is discovered. And that this is a known but hush-hush problem among manufacturers.

    Me, I have a real problem with “safety features” that can kill you.

    My Honda Civic went into limp mode while I was heading E on I-90 out of Seattle, just as I’d entered the Mount Baker tunnel prior to the bridge across Lake Washington. Two narrow lanes and no shoulder. I really thought I was going to die as cars entered the darkened cavern and suddenly had to screech on their brakes.

    The diagnosis on my car? Nothing. No codes, perfect shape.

  6. I have Nissan elgrand I parked it for 3hours and went to drive away it felt like it was in limp mode it won’t come out of limp now what could be problem

    1. I don’t know. Can you think of anything that might have changed in that time? Parking it could just be coincidence.

    1. Someone threw power steering fluid on the outside of the gearbox? Won’t hurt a thing. Just make sure it’s not near anything hot like the exhaust so it doesn’t smoke.

      Did you mean they put the power steering fluid in the gearbox? Most power steering systems use automatic transmission fluid, which is the same stuff that goes in your automatic transmission. If this is the case, that is normal.

  7. 07 gmc sierra 1500 can get in car and drive it all day.. next i try to drive it shifts fine the first time you stop it goes into a higher gear no power ..you can shift in to a low gear and shift a higher gear and go as fast as you want car codes read po758–po740–753 i keep thinking elec problem

  8. I have a 2016 Hyundai Sonata 113k on it. Check engine light came on with a p0036 code and sending the car into limp mode. I’ve replaced the downstream O2 sensor and all 4 plugs. disconnected the battery to reset the computer but still throwing the same code and still in limp mode. anybody have any ideas on what I can do? about to take tow it to Hyundai and have them look at it.

  9. I have a 2016 Ford EcoSport diesel. If used everyday it drives lovely, but every time it’s parked for 48hrs or longer i.e. over the weekend, within a few minutes of driving the powertrain warning light comes on and a message saying about service the engine now, and it goes into a limp mode. If I turn the car off and park up for 5 minutes and start it again, the car drives lovely again until it’s parked up for 48hrs or longer. It’s at a ford specialist as it’s under a warranty and there are no fault codes and they are struggling to diagnose any issue despite being able to replicate the issue. All it’s fluids, wires and sensors seem to be working fine and various pressures seem to be right. Any further ideas?

  10. My car only goes in reverse it threw code p0010 p0455 p0522 p0523 p0128 but it’s like it’s in limp mode….I changed the camshaft sensor

    1. That is a lot of seemingly unrelated codes.

      Double check the work you did replacing the camshaft sensor. Are all sensors reconnected after you did the work? Were any of these codes present before the maintenance? It may be a good idea to take the vehicle to a shop if you don’t find anything obvious that went wrong during the repair.

  11. I have a Hyundai Santa Fe 2014 model, while i was cruising in the highway suddenly the engine died for a few seconds and turned itself back on and i went down slowly to the curve at the speed of 80 and after kilometers it driving the engine turned itself off and on again.

    after that car was ok when i reached my destination.
    Please advice.

    1. Scan for codes to narrow down the problem. It might be best to have the vehicle towed to a mechanic where they can evaluate the situation. I don’t think it’s safe to drive if it’s stalling on the highway like that.

  12. I have a Toyota Matrix 2005/2006, it enters limp mode when the weather is dark. It can go above 20 at night or early in the morning when the weather is yet to get bright unless I’m going down hill then it gets to like 60.

    But when the day is bright, it functions well without any delay, a mechanic has checked but don’t seem to narrow down the issue as it only happens at night.
    What could be the cause?

    1. I wonder if it only happens at night because your headlights are on. Can you try turning your headlights on during the day to replicate the issue?

      Since you’re in limp mode, did you scan for any codes?

      1. It appears so, I turned on the headlight as you suggest and the car went into limp mode and couldn’t go beyond 20. It was scanned also and these codes showed P0031, P0606, P2103. They did reset but same issue occurred.

        1. Those codes appear unrelated and make me think you have a bad ground or some bad wiring. Check all grounds, make sure they are clean and tight. I would also test the battery and alternator while you’re in there before you do anything too invasive.

  13. We bought a used Renault Captur 1.0 petrol 2016 reg, manual around a month ago.

    Generally the car is fine, probably around 95% of the time. However now had three very similar experiences. It happens at a slow location, roundabouts, then quick acceleration, the first two times the car would not go over 30 miles per hour and the second time it was 19. The whole car shudders and does not matter if you change down gear, foot to the floor etc. No dashlight warnings came on. Next stage is to pull over, engine off, engine back on and it’s like nothing has happened.

    The garage we bought the car off have had the car last few days and cannot find any faults, the diagnostic check also showed no problems. They are planning to just give us the car back but I’m concerned that this could happen again and could cause an accident.

    1. That’s an interesting problem. Intermittent issues can be really hard to diagnose.

      Are you able to consistently replicate the problem? Try to figure out if there is a specific place you can go or way you can drive that causes the issue. Then explain in great detail to the mechanic what happened, or better yet, let them drive it and experience it for themselves.

      I am wondering if there is an intermittent electrical issue like a bad ground that is causing the ignition system to stop working momentarily. Has your mechanic pulled the spark plugs? How did they look?

  14. my 2012 honda accord 2.4l keeps going into limp mode. Ive changed the crankshaft sensor. I put another throttle body in. New plugs. And still in limp mode. What else can i do

    1. Check the codes for more information on why it is going into limp mode. From there, use that code to narrow the scope of the problem. Is the issue with fuel delivery, spark, timing, or air?

  15. Diagnostics found a fault with the booster sensor on my Ford mondeo 1.6 2011 estate. (Car was in limp mode and orange warning light was intermittent ) I cleaned the sensor but problem persisted. I bought a new sensor and replaced it, still problem persisted ie limp mode and engine warning light. Had a good look under the bonnet and found one of the injectors was leaking and looked like it had the Black Death . Could I have found my problem and the computer was getting the wrong info? Thanks

    1. I’m not familiar with the booster sensor. Does it go by another name?

      A leaky injector could certainly cause issues. That means a measured amount of fuel is not entering the combustion chamber as expected.

  16. I have 2006 auto Lancer 2.4l with a manual 2007 2.4l motor in it that goes into limp mode sometimes I can drive it to and from the shop that is 1km away and it won’t go into limp mode then sometimes I get 100m and straight into limp mode it was getting up to 35kms changed the throttle position senor so it then went up to 70kms still in limp mode but now it’s back down to 35kms in limp mode with engine light on any ideas

    1. There should be a check engine light code associated with the limp mode condition. Do you know what that code is? There may even be more than one.

  17. i have citroen xsara 1.4 petrol years2004 timing belt snap on motor way put the hazzad light on ring AA recovery they tow me home less a mile park the car window not go up indicater,head light, wiper most electric off/ starter motor,central lock work,i check all the fuse and conection earth wire AA came no luck any body has any idea please joe thank you

  18. We were at Orlando on a vacation when our RENTAL CAR went into limp home mode on the INTERSTATE we ended up almost missing our flight and cruise over this. The worst part was when we got back to the rental car return spot, they didn’t do anything. Feel so bad for the next person who got that car!

  19. i have an issue on a kia optima with a 2.0l engine code p0340 and it says that the vvti system is in limp mode..test everything seems ok..starting is difficult..thanks

    1. Have you tried replacing the camshaft position sensor? The root cause is likely either the sensor itself or the wiring leading to the sensor. Before replacing the sensor, consider doing some electrical diagnostic work to see if the sensor actually needs to be replaced at all.

  20. Got car out of limp mode after cleaning throttle body an reset the computer it was running good as soon as I put it into reverse I jumped into limp mode

    1. I suspect it had nothing to do with cleaning the throttle body. When you reset the computer, it may not throw another code immediately. What was the check engine light code that triggered limp mode?

  21. I have a Vauxhall Insignia, had the message SVS (Service Vehicle Soon) and it goes in to ‘limp mode’ …Had my garage plug it in and it didn’t show any codes/ problems!
    Any ideas?
    Thanks 🙂

    1. I think it would be wise to run a more thorough scan. At the very least you might catch something strange in the fuel trims.

  22. I drive a 2015 Honda Fit with approximately 92,000 miles on it. About 2 weeks ago, the battery discharged, and I had AAA jump start the car. This resulted in the “Back-up Main” fuse being blown. While pulling and testing fuses, I dropped the fuse labeled “DBW” down inside the engine, and couldn’t retrieve. I started the engine, and apparently that sent it into limp mode, as the Check Engine, TPMS, Traction Control, and Steering System lights all came on. After discovering and replacing the blown fuse (and the DBW fuse), the lights remained on. Hooked up the OBD-II reader, which showed a P1659 error code for the ETCS relay. On the drive in to work this morning, the Check Engine light went off, but the other lights stayed on. Any thoughts?

    1. I should add that there is not (or at least doesn’t seem to be) a loss in engine power. Was able to maintain highway speeds (75+mph) on the drive in to work.

    2. It sounds like the codes are a result of the blown and/or missing fuse. I would try clearing the codes and see if they come back. If they come back, there’s still a problem to work out.

  23. I have a 2014 Citroen dispatch 1.6hdi. Since buying the van I keep getting risk of filter blocking. The first time It went into limp mode and I took it to a garage who done a forced Regen. They said it was the tank for the dpf fluid, it was half full but not letting the fluid into the dpf. I got the van back while they ordered the part and writhing the space of a week I had to do regen’s on the motorway resetting the code on 4 occasions. I expressed my concern that it wasn’t the tank that needed replacing but fell on deaf ears. I took the van back in to get the job done and driving 5 minutes away from the garage the fault risk of filter blocking come back up. I rang up the garage to speak to the owner, he said to give it a good run and see how it goes. I done a regen again resetting the fault. The day later the code come back again and sent the van back into limo mode. The company I bought the van off was paying the garage to do the work now am stuck as in I don’t think the parts they changed were correct to fix the problem. Any light you can shed on this fault? Thanks

  24. I have a 2012 Toyota Camry le with 182 miles on it and am thinking its on a limp mode. The car will not accelerate to more than 35 to 40 miles per hour. I changed the transmission fluid and also did the sparks plugs and engine air filter but still no change. How do I get it out of the limp mode? There is no check engine light at all. The only light I have is service engine soon.

    1. It does sound like it’s in limp mode. You could probably clear the code to exit limp mode, but that doesn’t address the root cause and it will likely end up back in limp mode in a very short amount of time. I would take it to a shop to figure out what’s causing the limp mode condition before you drive too much farther.

      1. Limp mode isn’t a problem , it’s your ecm response to a problem it detects. So, it is saving itself from letting you destroy it, by not letting you drive. When you do any kind of service work on your car that interrupts the system like change out your solenoids mass air flow, ECT valve, air filters , oil change, your car must be reset to learn the fuel to air ratio in order to run proper idle trims. This is a variable that you can see when you use a diagnostic tool which you can purchase online or auto places. Obd 2 scanner. These numbers can tell a person whom knows how to understand the codes, lean rich, and check to see where your idle trims are at. Should be 0. You got a high and a low and they should level out to meet in the middle , sort of. Like -25 and +25 equals 0. Anyways, I’m sort of laymen terming it. But, it could just need a reset. Could be the mass air flow. EGR valve. IAC valve. Fuel injectors, filters, and pump. You could just need transmission fluid. Or worse, you’ve got a vacuum leak. Get the code scanner. Look up the codes. I am not a mechanic but, I have changed out my oil and filter, my spark plugs and coils, my heater control valve, my mass air flow sensor, my thermostat, the electronic coolant temperature sensor, two bypass hoses, fixed a head gasket leak( temporarily) , stopped coolant leak and no longer have oil in my coolant all just from watching you tube videos. My car went into fail safe mode from all the changes and it must relearn the fuel idle trims but first, I’ve got to fix the fuel injector code p0201 or p0117. Which, a mechanic would probably tell you that you need new fuel pump, and then a new ecm $2,000 later still hasn’t fixed the problem. You can clean your fuel injectors and that might do it. At 185, 000 miles things need replacing. Especially, if it has never been replaced. Mostly all of these parts I’ve mentioned can be cleaned with carb cleaner and they may function just fine without replacement. Go watch chrisfix on youtube and find out how to do it yourself . Girl tired of mechanics burn

    2. I have an 011 camry le. Changing the spark plug is useless if the coil is also bad. Mine has oxidize to an rusty orange color so I know I need to replace the coil and the plug. Since our cars are older, it is best to change all 4 coils and all plugs however, each coil is $90 though. Ouch but when you buy a set, it is cheaper. If you catch this message in time, autozone is having a 20% off $100 on their online website + free next day delivery. Regarding your service engine soon light, that is set at 5000 miles so it means nothing. It will pop up every 5000 to remind you to do your oil change. To reset that light, turn off your ignition, hold down your odometer stick and don’t let go, turn on your ignition just one click but not to start the car, turn off the ignition, turn on again 1 click and you will see your odometer will blink and it will clear that sensor. Hope that helps.

  25. My citroen c4 picasso keeps going into Limp mode around 3000 revs so I checked all the fluid levels and there fine the wires looked fine aswell no codes came up on the scanner so just wondering if it was asda fuel not taking well to the car was wondering if any when else has had this problem

    1. I would start by checking the spark plugs, as their condition may tell a story that helps you diagnose the problem. Make sure the plugs look healthy, and replace them if necessary. We have another article on bad spark plug symptoms in case it helps: http://cartreatments.com/bad-spark-plug-symptoms/

      Next, I’d check for vacuum leaks. If there is a vacuum leak, the air fuel ratio will be off which will make the car not run right. You could try cleaning the MAF as this also affects air fuel ratio.

  26. My Renault Scenic went into Limp Mode whilst driving on the motorway, unfortunately I drained the battery leaving lights on waiting for rescue. Next day charged battery and car running as normal. Took to Mechanic and nothings shows on scanner, so can’t detect faults. Called Auto Electrician and he said possibly the flat battery wiped out code? Any ideas or do I just have to wait until limp mode kicks in again.

    Thanks in advance

    1. Many vehicles will clear codes when the battery is disconnected. Unfortunately, without that information I’d be taking a wild guess. You’ll either have to wait for limp mode to occur again or take it to a mechanic for a thorough diagnostic.

  27. We have a 2001 Lincoln Cont. It is in Limp mode. We have it at the shop being tested . We tried the battery thing, checked oil, restarting. Nothing.I pray it is not to bad a fix.

  28. I have a 2008 Volvo s40 r design keeps going into limp mode so restart the car and it’s ok

  29. I pulled these codes on 06 nissan titan P1168/P0420/P0463/P2135/P0051..Should I replace 02 sensors 1st then move to throttle position sensor ?

  30. i have a 2008 honda Accord and it wont accelerate at all. it might be on limp mode, dont know yet? it has 50 % oil? is that the problem, is that the standard of the oil in my car?

    1. I’m not sure by what you mean when it has 50% oil. You mean the oil level is only half full? If so, don’t drive it until you top it off. If the oil is very dark or thick, get the oil changed asap.

  31. Hi, I have a 2006 Audi A4 Tdi 2l automatic. It recently activated the limp mode, NO warning lights on dash. Checked all fluids, tip top. It hasn’t activated again, but still worried why it did, I did not add any fluids, they were OK. Worried

    1. Limp mode in Audis is often activated due to an overboost of the turbo. The MAF sensor is often the problem but you may also have a vacuum leak somewhere. Plug in an OBD2 scanner to see if there are any stored codes to help diagnose.

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