How To Reset Engine Failsafe Mode [Symptoms and Fixes]

The failsafe mode of a car is an important feature that is designed to prevent possible further damage to the engine or transmission. 

Whenever you detect an engine failsafe mode, do not ignore it, but rather take the necessary steps to find out what is wrong and have it repaired. 

Right now, modern cars have hundreds of control modules collecting data from different parts of the car. This data is then analyzed by the Engine Control Module or ECM for any anomalies.

In case anomalies are detected, then the system can enter the engine fail-safe mode to prevent additional damage. The only way to get out of it would be to get the repairs done and reset the failsafe mode. 

Soft Code Vs. Hard Code: What’s the Difference

There are two main types of codes that are likely to lead to the fail-safe mode being activated. They include soft code and hard code. 

Soft code 

This happens when a less invasive or priority fault happens to the car system. For this reason, the ECM will not entirely put the engine into failsafe mode. 

The cause of such a code in most cases would be low-priority sensors. Well, it depends on the car’s make and model. 

Hard code 

Hard code is the scary one. It is triggered when there is something wrong with high-priority sensors. 

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A good example is that you might have a fuel injector problem or the transmission is getting too hot. 

During hard code, the ECM puts the car into the failsafe mode or limp mode as some would call it. 

In case there is a problem with the transmission, you would no longer be able to change gears. The same happens to the engine where now you cannot rev beyond a certain point as you risk causing expensive damage. 

When the car gets into limp mode, we recommend having it checked out by a mechanic and repairs are done correctly. 

Signs You Are in Failsafe Mode

A car would normally show a number of signs for you to know that its engine is in failsafe mode. Here are some;

Limited engine RPM and speed

The failsafe mode of the car cuts power going to the transmission. This means that your RPMs may be limited. In most cases, it would keep the engine running below 3,000 RPM. 

Also, the speed is limited to 35 to 45 miles per hour. This would make it hard to drive at higher speeds. You will quickly notice that you cannot get pas the 3rd gear too. 

With such limitations, there is no way you would enjoy driving the car. 

Poor performance 

The driver will notice that acceleration is sluggish. Also, you may feel as if the engine is shuddering or misfiring. 

The car will also downshift automatically and you can no longer go through all the gears. The aim is to get you to stop the car and have it repaired before more damage is done. 

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Check engine light comes on

The Check Engine Light or CEL coming on should not be something you ignore. Chances are you would have already noticed the change in the car’s performance and now there is CEL. 

In case there is overheating, pull over to a safe space and give the car enough time to cool down before diagnosing what is wrong. 

Here is a video with more details

YouTube video

How to Fix the Engine Failsafe Mode

The failsafe mode can be a complicated one. So, it is best to have a professional do it with the right tools. 

You can still do it yourself when you have the recommended scanner to read the fault codes and take the necessary steps to address the issues. 

The OBD/2 scanner can go through the system to point out what is wrong. Once the mechanic checks the mentioned parts, then they can be replaced or repaired to get the car working correctly once again. 

Keep in mind that sometimes the issue could be a broken wire that makes the sensor send a poor signal. So, it is best to consider checking everything first before spending so much money on a part that would be saved. 

Once the faulty parts have been addressed, the technician will clear the error codes in your engine and you should be good to go. The car will no longer be in failsafe mode. 

The clearing of the fault codes is still done by the OBD/2 reader. 

Bypassing the Engine Failsafe Mode

Sometimes you can try a few things and see if they help with resetting the car. 

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The first thing would be to check your fluids. In case you notice the car is low on coolant, simply top it off. 

It is not just the coolant, it could be other fluids too. So, quickly check which fluids might be too low and have them filled. 

The other thing you can try out is to shut off the engine and give it at least 5 minutes before restarting. Use the five minutes to check the levels of different fluids. This brief rest can sometimes make the ECM reset itself and get the car from the failsafe mode. 

The other option you could try is to disconnect the battery cables and hold them together for around 30 seconds. Such drains all the residual power making the ECM reset and clear any codes it had stored. 

Well, using an OBD/2 scanner can do a similar job and also safely. 

Here is a video with more tips

YouTube video


What is the engine protection mode?

This is just another name for failsafe mode. Here, the engine power is reduced to help prevent potential damage to the engine. 

Why does my car go into a failsafe mode?

The ECM monitors different signals and if the major sensors are faulty, it assumes there is a big problem with the car which is why failsafe mode is triggered. 

Which sensors are likely to cause failsafe mode?

Quite a number of sensors are likely to make the car get into failsafe mode. They include MAF, TPS, MAP, speed sensors, and more depending on the car make and model. 

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How long can you drive the car in failsafe mode?

If are in a position to stop driving the better. This is because the failsafe mode is meant to keep the car from potential damage. 

How much will it cost to fix a car in failsafe mode?

It will depend on what made it get into the failsafe mode in the first place. So, let a mechanic inspect it first and you will get the proper quotation.

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