Today’s vehicles are equipped with a variety of safety features. “Limp Mode” is one of the most helpful safety designs. A vehicle goes into limp mode when the engine or transmission control unit picks up a fault. It allows the vehicle to “limp home” and signals a problem that needs to be addressed immediately.
Once a major problem is detected, limp mode will cause non-essential parts of the vehicle, such as the radio or air conditioning, to turn off. The speed of the vehicle will automatically be reduced. The vehicle will cease to function normally, but will allow you to get it safely off the road.
How to Tell If Your Vehicle is in Limp Mode
Be aware of the main signals that your vehicle has shifted into limp mode:
- The check engine light will come on.
- The vehicle may shake and the check engine light may flash.
- If there is a transmission issue, the car will be locked into one middle gear.
- The vehicle will respond very slowly when accelerating from a stop.
- If there is an engine failure, the temperature gauge may elevate quickly, or the temperature warning light may be activated.
Seven Reasons Why a Vehicle Will Go in Limp Mode
These are some of the most common reasons for a car to go into limp mode:
- Bad sensors. A sensor may fail when the component it monitors fails or if their is a fault within the sensor itself.
- Check Engine Light is On. The vehicle may move into limp mode if the check engine light has been on for some time.
- Damaged wiring. Wires damaged by debris, heat, or leaking acid will not send the proper electrical signals.
- Engine Misfire. A misfiring engine can damage the catalytic converter.
- Faulty clutch. A broken, damaged, or faulty clutch can put the car into limp mode.
- Low fluid levels. Low levels of fluids, especially transmission fluid and oil, can cause a vehicle to enter limp mode.
- Overheating. Many cars will activate limp mode when the vehicle begins to overheat.
Three Common Ways to Bypass Limp Mode
You will want to get your vehicle out of limp mode as safely and quickly as possible. Here are three of the primary methods for doing so:
- Restart the engine. If your vehicle enters into limp mode while in operation, find a safe place to pull over. Allow the motor to cool down. Then try restarting the engine and carefully check if this step has fixed the problem. This method is effective if a low transmission level is causing the limp mode to be activated.
- Check all fluid levels. Check all the car’s fluid levels to be sure that they are at correct levels, as low fluids can cause several significant problems. Follow the instructions from your owner’s manual before checking the transmission fluid level.
- Clear fault codes using an OBD-II scanner. An OBD-II scanner reads your car’s inner computer and determines many of the exact causes of it going into limp mode. You can then address the codes and clear them from the computer’s memory to see if this action addresses the problem.
My Vehicle is Still in Limp Mode… What do I do?
If you try the steps listed above and find that your car still operates in limp mode, it is time to get a professional mechanic involved.
The manufacturers of most major vehicles caution only to continue driving in limp mode to take it to the nearest mechanic. Ignoring warning signs can result in complete failure of the vehicle.
There are several indications that the vehicle should be immediately stopped and towed for analysis. Do not drive in limp mode if:
- The vehicle is overheating.
- The check engine light is flashing.
- The oil light is on.
- There is noise coming from the engine or transmission.
The limp mode safety feature of many modern vehicles offers the detection of numerous serious problems with your vehicle. This system gives several warning effects, such as reduced speed and indicator signals to caution the driver that immediate action is needed.
While there are a few productive steps to bypass limp mode, these processes must be done with caution. Unless the problem is entirely resolved by restarting the engine, adjusting fluid levels, or clearing fault codes, it is time to take immediate action. Driving in limp mode is dangerous. Avoid unnecessary damage to your vehicle by seeking help from a professional.