Will Driving in Limp Mode Damage Your Car? (Helpful Tips)

will driving in limp mode damage car

Have you ever wondered if driving in limp mode will damage your car and how to fix it? Well, we got you covered.

Limp mode is a common term used to describe a vehicle’s reduced performance due to a malfunction within its systems. This self-preservation feature is designed to protect your car from further damage, allowing you to safely reach your destination or a service center.

But, can driving in limp mode cause damage to your car? In this comprehensive guide, we will explore what limp mode is, its causes, symptoms, and how to handle it correctly to prevent any harm to your vehicle.

1. What is Limp Mode?

Limp mode, also known as “limp home mode,” is a built-in safety feature in modern cars that activates when the vehicle’s computer detects an issue within its critical systems.

When activated, limp mode reduces the car’s power and performance to prevent further damage to the vehicle and its components.

This is achieved by limiting the engine’s RPM (revolutions per minute) and disabling certain functionalities such as air conditioning or transmission shifting.

1.1 How Serious is Limp Mode?

The severity of limp mode depends on the underlying issue that triggered it. In some cases, the problem may be minor and easily solvable, such as low transmission fluid levels.

In other instances, the issue could be more serious, requiring urgent attention from a professional technician.

Until the cause is determined, it is essential to take limp mode seriously, especially if your car repeatedly enters this state.

Read also >> How to Bypass Limp Mode? (Helpful Guide)

2. Causes of Limp Mode

Several factors can trigger your car to enter limp mode. Some of the most common causes include:

2.1 Damaged Wiring

Faulty wiring or a loose connection can obstruct or prevent electrical signals from being transmitted properly, leading to limp mode activation.

2.2 Overheating

An increase in engine temperature above normal levels often signals a problem with the cooling system, which can cause your car to enter limp mode to protect itself.

2.3 Sensor Malfunction

Modern cars have numerous sensors monitoring various systems and components. A malfunctioning or faulty sensor can trigger limp mode as the car’s computer reacts to the sensor’s failure as if the monitored system itself is compromised.

Read also >> What Sensors Can Cause Limp Mode? (Helpful Tips + More)

Read also >> Sensor Malfunction (Here Is How To Fix)

2.4 Low Fluid Levels

Transmission fluid, coolant, or engine oil levels dropping below a certain threshold can activate limp mode.

2.5 Transmission Issues

Problems with the transmission, such as a failing clutch or a faulty solenoid, can initiate limp mode.

2.6 Mass Airflow Sensor

A dirty or malfunctioning mass airflow sensor may not accurately monitor the flow and temperature of air entering the engine, causing your car to enter limp mode.

2.7 Misfiring Engine

A misfiring engine can manifest as stalling while idling, severe shaking during acceleration, uneven power delivery, or black smoke from the exhaust. Dirty or worn spark plugs may be the cause of the misfiring, triggering limp mode.

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Read also >> Engine Misfire Symptoms (This Is What Really Happens)

Read also >> Misfire Without Check Engine Light (Causes and Solutions)

3. Symptoms and Signs of Limp Mode

Limp mode, although designed to protect your car, can be dangerous and stressful, depending on when and where it activates. A sudden decrease in power while driving on a busy highway can be frightening and hazardous. To help you recognize if your car is in limp mode, here are some common symptoms and signs:

3.1 Check-Engine Light

The check-engine warning light on your dashboard can be triggered by various issues, from a malfunctioning catalytic converter to a loose fuel-filler cap.

If your car’s performance has decreased along with the illumination of the check-engine light, it’s likely in limp mode.

3.2 Transmission Won’t Shift

If your car’s automatic transmission is stuck in one gear, typically second or third, it could be a sign of limp mode activation. This prevents rapid acceleration from a stop and limits the vehicle’s speed.

Read also >> Limp Mode in Automatic Transmission (Causes and Solutions)

Read also >> Mercedes Won`t Shift Out of First Gear (Here Is How To Solve)

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3.3 Limited RPM

In most cases, limp mode limits the engine’s RPM to between 2,000 and 3,000, effectively restricting the car’s speed to around 35 miles per hour.

3.4 Loss of Systems

To reduce the load on the engine, limp mode may disable certain systems, such as air conditioning, particularly if overheating is the underlying issue.

4. How to Get a Car Out of Limp Mode

Addressing the underlying problem that triggered limp mode is crucial, as attempting to override or bypass it could result in more severe issues and costly repairs.

If your check-engine warning light is on and your car is in limp mode, an on-board diagnosis of your vehicle’s computer system is necessary.

4.1 Using an OBD-II Scanner

If you have an OBD-II scanner, you can perform the diagnostic yourself. Otherwise, it’s best to take your car to a trained technician for a thorough examination. For more information on the diagnostic process, refer to Kelley Blue Book’s Service Advisor.

4.2 Temporary Solutions

In the meantime, there are a few steps you can take to temporarily get your car out of limp mode:

4.2.1 Turn Off the Engine

Find a safe place to exit the flow of traffic and turn off the engine. Wait at least 60 seconds and restart the engine. Much like rebooting a computer, this may be enough to get the engine to perform normally. However, be aware that limp mode may reactivate if the underlying issue is not resolved.

4.2.2 Check Fluid Levels

Low engine oil, transmission fluid, or coolant levels can sometimes trigger limp mode. Check and top off these fluids as needed.

4.2.3 Inspect the Air Filter

A dirty air filter can hinder the smooth flow of air into the engine. Inspect the engine air filter and replace it if necessary.

5. Preventing Car Limp Mode

The best way to prevent limp mode is to follow your car manufacturer’s regular maintenance schedule. While routine maintenance may not prevent every cause of limp mode activation, it will catch many issues before they result in damage.

Regular engine tune-ups ensure that all components are functioning correctly and efficiently.

6. Driving in Limp Mode: Will it Damage Your Car?

Driving in limp mode for a short distance to reach your home or a service center is generally safe, as the feature is designed to protect your car from further damage.

However, driving in limp mode for extended periods or repeatedly ignoring the issue can cause additional wear and stress on your vehicle, ultimately leading to more severe problems and expensive repairs.

7. Limp Mode and Fuel Efficiency

When your car is in limp mode, its reduced performance can impact fuel efficiency. The limited RPM, restricted transmission shifting, and disabled systems can cause your vehicle to consume more fuel than usual.

Therefore, it is essential to address the underlying issue as soon as possible to avoid increased fuel consumption and further damage to your car.

8. Limp Mode in Diesel Vs. Gasoline Engines

While both diesel and gasoline engines can experience limp mode, the causes and symptoms may differ slightly between the two.

Diesel engines often have more complex emissions control systems, making them more susceptible to sensor malfunctions or issues related to the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system.

Gasoline engines, on the other hand, may encounter limp mode due to misfiring or problems with the ignition system.

9. Professional Diagnosis and Repair

If your car frequently enters limp mode or you are unable to resolve the issue using temporary solutions, it’s crucial to seek professional help.

A trained technician can diagnose the problem accurately, perform necessary repairs, and reset your vehicle’s computer system to ensure optimal performance and protection.

How long can you drive car in limp mode?

You can drive a car in limp mode for a short period of time, but it is not recommended to continue driving in this mode for an extended period. The exact duration varies depending on the cause and severity of the issue that triggered the limp mode.

However, driving in limp mode for an extended period can cause further damage to the engine, transmission, and other components of the car.

It’s important to diagnose and address any underlying issues that caused the limp mode to prevent further damage to the car. If you continue to drive in limp mode, it may damage the transmission and other components of the car.

Can you drive on the motorway in limp mode?

Yes, you can drive on the motorway in limp mode, but it is not recommended to drive for an extended period in this mode as it can cause further damage to the car’s components.

Limp mode is designed to get you off the motorway and seek help as it reduces the engine’s power to avoid further damage. If you find yourself in limp mode, find a safe spot away from traffic, turn off the engine, and contact a professional to diagnose and address any underlying issues.

It is important to remember that limp mode is usually caused by various issues, including faulty engine sensors, transmission or turbocharger problems, or brake troubles in electric vehicles.

How fast can you go in limp mode?

In limp mode, the maximum speed of a car is usually limited to around 30-50mph. The RPM is also limited to less than 3000, and the speed can be around 35-45mph. However, it is important to note that driving in limp mode for an extended period of time is not recommended, as it can lead to further damage to the car’s components.

It is advisable to find a safe spot away from traffic and contact a professional to diagnose and address any underlying issues that may have caused the car to enter limp mode.

Limp mode is usually caused by various issues, including faulty engine sensors, transmission or turbocharger problems, or brake troubles in electric vehicles.


Limp mode is a vital safety feature designed to protect your car from further damage when it detects an issue within its systems.

While driving in limp mode for short distances is generally safe, ignoring the problem for extended periods can result in additional wear and costly repairs.

By understanding the causes, symptoms, and corrective actions to take when your car enters limp mode, you can ensure your vehicle’s longevity and optimal performance.

Steve P.

Steve is an automotive technician, technical writer, and Managing Editor. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in cars like the Buick Riviera. Steve is based in Boise, Idaho.

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