limp mode

Limp Mode – Meaning, Causes & Solutions

flashing check engine lightDid your car suddenly became slow on acceleration and refused to rev past 2000-3000 rpm, while the engine light was flashing on the dashboard?

Then your car was most likely in a condition called Limp Mode, and you are reading the right article to solve this problem.

However, why does this happen and how expensive will it be to repair my car? You may think.

I work as a car technician, I have seen the most common problems in a lot of different vehicles, and I know how to repair and diagnose them in the fastest and cheapest way. In this article, I will teach you everything you have to tell about limp home mode, What it is and why it does happen.

What is Limp mode?

Limp mode is a security function for your engine and transmission. When the engine or transmission control unit has recognized a serious faulty value from the engine or transmission, the car will go into limp mode. The limp mode does often reduce the power and limit the RPM of the engine so you can drive your car to a workshop without damaging the engine.

For example, Your engine control unit is detecting that your turbo boost pressure is 2.0 bar when the maximum boost pressure should be 1.3 bar. Overboost could blow your engine fast, and because many car owners do not care enough about the engine light, the engine control unit does put your engine into limp mode and shut off the turbo boost completely and put a max RPM limit to 3000 RPM’s so you won’t blow or damage your engine.

In the video below, you will get in-depth information about what limp mode is. The video is specific for truck diesel engines, but the video will get detailed information for all car models.

DIESEL INSIGHTS: LIMP MODE

Limp Mode Symptoms

The Limp mode’s function is to get you to the workshop in the safest way without damaging anything inside your engine on the way. Different car manufacturers design different kinds of limp modes to save your engine. The common characteristics of limp mode are different depending on the problem with your engine/transmission and depending on which car and engine you have. Here are some of the most common symptoms when it comes to limp mode.

  • Reduced Engine Power / Turbo boost shut off completely
  • RPM Limit Lowered
  • Your Automatic Transmission is “stuck” in a gear/limited to max 3rd gear
  • Check Engine light/Half engine light/EPC(Volkswagen) is flashing

Possible Causes

Down below, you will find the most common causes which could cause the limp home mode. As you see, I do only mention the issues in general. That is because I do not want you to replace parts that are not weak and limp mode could have a lot of different causes. Read the trouble code memory with an OBD2 scannerLimp Mode - Meaning, Causes & Solutions and find a fault before you are replacing any parts!

  • Engine boost control, Overboost/Underboost
  • Faulty engine sensors
  • Faulty engine components
  • Engine wiring issues
  • Transmission issues
  • Transmission wiring issues
  • Brake system wiring issues

Limp Mode Troubleshooting Table

ProblemSymptomsCausesSolution
Limp ModeRev Limit 2500-4000 RPM

Low Performance

Under-boost

Transmission shifting max 3rd gear

Check Engine Light

Restricted Functions
Engine boost control, Overboost/Underboost

Faulty engine sensors

Faulty engine components

Engine wiring issues

Transmission issues

Transmission wiring issues

Brake system wiring issues
Read the trouble code memory with an OBD2 scanner.

This will help you to find the problem the cheapest and fastest way.

What causes Limp mode?

ancel obd2 scanner toolWhen the engine control module, transmission control module or brake control unit(ABS) finds a problem in the engine, transmission or brake system, it will store a trouble code in your DTC memory.

If the control units are deciding that the problem is dangerous for the engine or transmission, it will put the car into limp mode. So the cause of limp mode can be a lot of different things.

The best way to find the cause of the limp mode is to always read out the trouble code memory first with an OBD2 scanner.

Usually, You will maybe do a little research on the internet, and you will get many tips on what could cause the limp mode. They are telling you that they had the same characteristics as their vehicle five years ago and “I replaced this part and it fixed my problem.”

The problem with the limp mode is that you are getting the same characteristics with a lot of different faults. That’s why you should never listen to anyone that had the same problem before. You will only end up wasting your money on parts that were not faulty from the beginning.

It is straightforward to read the DTC memory and find out the real solution to why your car has gotten into limp mode. You could either drive your car to a friend or a mechanic to get help to read your DTC memory, it will probably not cost much money, and you will get a real answer to your problem.

How to use an OBD2 code scanner?

The process to connect an OBD2 scanner is pretty simple. First, you have to locate the OBD connector, generally found under your steering wheel. I do recommend to attach a car battery charger while you are doing this job to avoid any damages to the electrical system.

Never connect an OBD2 Scanner when you have a bad/worn out car battery. If you think you need a new car battery you can check out the best ones in this article at ReviewJam.com. If your car battery is good and you have a car battery charger connected, turn the ignition on and follow the manual with the OBD2 scanner.

Here is a small video to help you out to use an OBD2 scanner

Where can I get an OBD2 scanner?

If you want, you could also buy an OBD2 scanner to read your trouble codes at home by yourself. They do often not cost a lot, and it could be an excellent investment instead of taking it to your mechanic all the time, and you will save the money fast. If you want to check out some different OBD2 scanners, you can check our OBD2 scanner review where we have listed the best OBD2 scanners on the market.

If you got any trouble codes stored in your memory and you do not know which to fix first, you could save and erase them and take it for a drive to see if the problem is coming back or not. If you are fortunate, it was just a coincidence, and your car may work as it should. However, in most cases, the trouble code will come back, and you have to repair anything to get it away.

When you found out which error code that is causing the limp mode, you should search for some information about the trouble-code and not just replace the part that it is telling you is faulty. It does not happen to be a broken part it could be a wiring issue or something else. The OBD2 scanners in our review do have an inbuilt trouble code library where it will show you the causes and solution of different trouble codes. If you have a cheaper OBD2 scanner, you could search the internet or ask us a question on our homepage.

What to do if limp home mode occurs on the road

It would help if you always tried to avoid to drive with the limp mode happening. Try to make a stop as fast as possible to check for any leakage, smoke or noise from the engine or transmission. If everything seems okay, you could either drive to the closest workshop or get it towed if you feel uncomfortable. If it’s not possible, encourage the shortest way to your home and fix it there or get it towed to a workshop.

Tow your car to the workshop or home is always the safest move.

Limp Mode FAQ

My limp mode is only occurring sometimes, and it went after an engine restart?

The limp mode does often disappear after a restart of your vehicle. At the start of your engine, the engine control unit will check all the sensors if they are OK. If the status is Ok, the control unit will allow you to drive your car as usual. The problem is maybe not occurring at idle, and that is why it will remove the limp mode automatically for you. Then when the control unit detects the fault again, it will put your car into limp mode again.

My Limp mode occurs when hard accelerating and happening when driving normal?

If the problem only occurs when you are doing hard accelerating, there is most likely a problem with your boost control system. If the vehicle detects an overboost/underboost pressure, it will go into limp mode. If you are getting into limp mode at a lower speed or at idle also, you are most likely not having a boost problem. However, you should always check your DTC memory before doing any repairs or troubleshooting.

Is it dangerous to drive with limp home mode?

Yes, the limp mode is set because of a reason. If you notice that your car has gotten into limp mode, you should fix it as soon as possible. The limp mode is designed so you can drive the closest way to a workshop to get the problem fixed. Do not drive around with the engine light ON. Even if you know the problem and it’s not a fault that will cause any damage, it can hurt your engine, and you will not notice if you get any real trouble with your engine.

I have replaced the damaged part, will the engine light and limp mode go away by itself?

Yes, in most cases. The trouble code system is working in cycles. Each time you start your vehicle, and it gets hot, and it has tested all the sensors, it gets registered as one fully functional cycle. Depending on the car model, the engine light will reset after a fixed number of cycles. If it has detected that the fault has not occurred within 10-20 periods, it will see the problem as repaired.

However, the easiest way and the best way is of course to reset the engine light and trouble codes with an OBD2 scanner. With these tools, you could always check all the parameters in the engine to see if they are okay if you have some knowledge.

Conclusion

  • Don’t panic when the limp mode occurs. It’s designed to make your engine survive to make sure that you can drive to the workshop to repair the problem.
  • Limp mode is caused by an electrical problem with the engine or transmission
  • Limp mode is a security state
  • Make sure that you go to a workshop or try to fix it yourself as soon as possible. It’s not good to drive around with limp mode
  • You can buy an obd2 scanner to check the cause of the limp mode yourself at home.
  • Do not just replace parts on your vehicle without reading the trouble code memory first.

If you have any more questions about the limp mode or want to tell us your store about it, you can comment down below here and let us know. If you have any other car questions, you are welcome to read our other articles on our blog or ask us for free at our homepage. We will help you out as soon as possible.

Good luck with your troubleshooting and I hope that I will see you in the next article also!

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Comments

  1. I have a friend that’s selling a dodge caliber but its stuck on limp mode and it won’t let you drive faster than 20mph? What can be the problem?

  2. Author

    Read the trouble code memory with a scanner. When the limp mode is on, there is always a permanent trouble code stored in the memory. It’s cheaper to read it and get a fast answer than guessing and just replacing parts!

  3. I drive a 2013 Honda Civic Si sedan. I don’t know exactly if this is considered limp mode but, the first time I experienced this was after I got a stage 1 clutch installed. My CEL, VSA, Power steering light all came on. I was driving about 65 mph and then my gas pedal stopped working. I was able to down shift and up shift in my car but that was it. Gas pedal stopped. My speed was also decreasing slowly. But what caused it when I checked and inspected was a loose oil drain plug which I tightened it then my lights went away and I was able to drive as normal. But then again it happened but this time it wasn’t an oil drain plug. I just let the car sit then went to research on what it could be but I’m seeing that I need a tune because my stage 1 clutch is not OEM. Could this be it?

  4. Author

    The oil plug should not affect the Limp-mode and is most likely a coincidence. I would recommend you to read the trouble codes in the engine control unit. When the limp mode is active, there is a stored trouble code and you want to check this code as it will most likely lead you to the problem!

  5. I own a 2000 Mitsubishi Mirage de 1.5 “automatic” that recently went into limp mode .. I took it to the mechanic to get it checked out. They put the one scanner in order to read the codes. The codes came out to be the transmission shift solenoid . I bought all five shift solenoids used of eBay ! The mechanic installed the part today with new transmission oil, he test out the car and end up going back into limp mode!?. What could be the issue now , if the part got replaced!? The mechanic told me that it might be the transmission that needs to be replaced!?. I’ve been the second owner!? Please help :/

    1. Author

      @Jc

      You should read the trouble code memory again and check if you have a trouble code on the shift solenoids again. It does also matter a lot of the trouble code is saying an electric or mechanical fault. If the shift solenoids are replaced, and it does still say “Electric fault shift solenoid”, the problem is most likely in the wirings or the transmission control unit. You can measure up the shift solenoids function with a diagnostic scanner and try them manually to make sure they work as they should.

      If the trouble code says mechanical fault, it can be dirty oil or clogged up a transmission and you have to inspect it further, which can end up with a transmission replacement in the worst case!

  6. I have a 2012 Honda accord in limp mode. Car want go past 25mph. Checked the codes and showing crank sensor, and o2, o3 misfire and random misfire. Any suggestions on what I may be experiencing?

    1. Author

      @Heather L Bryant
      I would recommend you to erase the trouble code and start it again to see which trouble codes that would get triggered first.
      Now the trouble codes depend a lot of the O2 sensor says lean mixture or electric fault etc.

      In this case, there could be a problem with the crankshaft sensor, O2 sensor (Depending on what trouble code it have). The misfires can be caused by a faulty Crankshaft sensor or O2 sensor. It can also be caused by an intake leak around the intake.

      But if you have a scanner, erase the trouble codes and check if the crankshaft sensor trouble code or the O2 sensor code appears first. If you have O2 sensor “lean mixture” trouble code and the misfires, I would start to check for any intake leaks around the intake and the hoses.

  7. Have a 2001 mercedes sprinter (diesel/manual) that constantly goes into limp mode around 80 degrees on temp gauge.
    No codes ever show up on the scanner (obd2) and have replaced radiator hose, turbo sensor, air and oil filters.
    Im at my wits end with this thing as it goes great for a few weeks and then bam back to limp mode.
    I also cant3get the glow plug light to go out.
    Any help would be great as the town I live in doesn’t have a mechannic that will touch it – apparently its all too hard work (lazy smucks) and the authorized place wants to charge me 8 grand!!

    1. Author

      @Stephen

      Did you try with any other scanner to see the codes? If your car feels a bit low on power before the limp mode occurs, I would start to check for any boost pipe leaks and the function of the turbo system. Check that the wastegate arm on the turbo moves freely and that the vacuum hoses is okay.

      But however, when this occurs, there should be trouble codes stored and it’s probably just the scanner that cant read then. The best bet here would be to try another if possible, one that can read enhanced trouble codes would be the best 🙂

  8. Have discovered that the fan isn’t cutting in at all when engine is getting warm.
    Can get it to work when I connect straight to battery and car not moving but it won’t work when driving for some unknown reason. Any help on that would be gratefully received.
    Also having trouble locating the egr valve on my sprinter, have looked in books and online but not one mention of the location.

    1. Author

      I would suggest you check the coolant temperature sensor for the cooling fan. Sometimes the car uses two different temperature sensors for the engine control unit and the fan control unit!

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