How To Get Your Car Out Of Limp Mode

How To Get Your Car Out Of Limp Mode

Imagine that you are driving near town and suddenly your “check engine” warning light gleams. When this warning light suddenly flashes, there is certainly something wrong with your engine. During this time, when your car’s transmission suddenly shifts to second or third gear and stays in this position, you are certainly under the spell of a “Limp Mode”.

Additionally, your car is undergoing a “Limp Mode scenario especially when it is running at lower speed (30-45mph), limited to one gear, and lower power. But what is actually a “Limp Mode”? How to get your car out of “Limp Mode”?

We will try to answer these questions on this article and enlighten you of the dangers of being in a Limp Mode (also called “Fail Code”) situation. You will also know some basic facts about this “phenomenon”.

Definition of Limp Mode

A Limp Mode is basically one of the functions of the computer system in your car that alerts you of a recognized problem. These problems may concern about the transmission system, sensors, computer program glitch, signals somewhere in the system, and other possible internal trouble.

The Limp Mode is actually the computer’s reaction to an impending or ongoing problem to notify you of what’s going on with the car’s system. Don’t be afraid of this warning sign, your computer is only giving you the time to do something about an imminent danger.

Causes of Limp Mode

During the advent of computer systems for cars in early 1980’s, it was merely used for monitoring and controlling limited systems in vehicles. Initially, a computer system is basically used for fuel economy and emissions. Through the years, the use of computers expanded to temperature control, handling, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), airbags, and other similar controls.

At this time, a computer controls almost all of the systems in your car. Now, these systems may include the transmission system, line pressure, sequence and feel, shift timing, and other more sophisticated electronic controlled systems.

Here are some of the most prominent reasons why your car will shift to Limp Mode during your most inconvenient time while you are driving in the middle of the road:

  • Transmission problem

When a Limp Mode occurs, there could be a problem somewhere in the logic of the car’s computer system. This may be due to a signal value sent via a sensor that is not in the pre-programmed parameters of the computer (primarily supplied by your car manufacturer).

At this instance, the car may opt for a “secondary programming”. This is usually designed to allow protection of the transmission from further damage that may result from the deviation in error signal.

  • The boost deviation might have an error

The first thing the computer will do is to flash the “check engine” warning light so that you will know that there is a problem with the system. This will be done by the computer if the signal value is not too far from the range to specify a mechanical breakdown.

When the “check engine” light gleams, the computer is telling you that you should have your car checked up via code reader or the diagnostic scanner to figure out if there are “soft codes” to be listed. The soft codes could signify that there is a low priority sensor has stopped working or is beginning to malfunction.

  • Signal value way too far from range

If the signal value is way too far from the acceptable range, it is quite dangerous to operate the car. What the computer does is to shift to a secondary “survival” state. At this mode, also known as a “hard code”, the computer shuts down the electronic shift solenoids disabling the transmission system’s capacity to shift gears.

At this onset, the transmission is limited for the utilization of a single usable gear, which is commonly the second or the third. Further more, the transmission fluid line is set to high pressure to be able to protect the clutches and bands from being harm and consequently may lead to damages.

That is why it is called a Limp Mode, these changes in your car’s performance will not leave you stranded on the street with a defective car. It will allow you to “limp” your car into the nearest service center for reparations or bring you home first so that you can call service personnel to perform the necessary repairs. This will avoid further damage to your car.

A good replacement for an automatic solenoid, if ever you have to replace this unit, is the Delphi SL10007 Automatic Solenoid. This product by Delphi is easy to install, an original equipment, and could be partnered with other automobile brands. Check this one out if it fits your car. Easily available from Amazon.

  • Batter acid leakage

When your car battery leaks, there is the possibility that it will leak through wiring and other essential parts of the system. The wiring may corrode or break over time that will affect the transmission of information into your computer. Once there is no communication or signal coming from your car’s engine or any other parts thereof because of a problem in the wiring, the computer may interpret this as a malfunction of the transmission system.

If you have a frequent problem with your existing car battery, why not replace it with a safer and low-maintenance one. Just like the Optima Batteries 8020-164 35 RedTop Starting Battery. This has fifteen (15) times more resistant to vibration. Currently available in Amazon Prime.

How to get out of a Limp Mode?

The triggering of a Limp Mode helps protect your transmission system if damages are detected. Limp Mode limits the transmission to only the second or the third gear, keeping you and your car safer than ever. This will also give you enough speed to get you to a dealer or a service center.

However, if you believe that the transmission problem is only temporary, then you can readjust the Limp Mode by following these simple steps:

    • Don’t panic, remain cool and calm.
    • Bring your car in an uncrowded part of the road.
    • Bring the automatic transmission into “PARK”.
    • Turn off the ignition switch.
    • Wait for 10-20 seconds.
    • Then turn on the engine.
    • Shift the gear to anything you want.

If your car will shift into all the gears you chose, then there is no problem with your car, you can now continue to drive normally. However, if the car is still stuck in second or third gear, then it is more likely that you have a transmission problem. This should be addressed immediately.


Remember that a Limp Mode is not the end for your car. As you have known now, how to get your car out of Limp Mode is getting away from trouble. Your computer system is just like an average gauge, it will tell you in advance or at the instant that there is something not right in your car’s system.

It is better to know that your computer system is designed to notify you of what’s going on inside your car. So, next time you undergo maintenance, be sure everything is in place and properly checked.

Please send us your comment if you have any question regarding this article.

About the author

Carolina - Care My Cars

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