2003 Altima loses power; odd error code result

My 2003 Altima (generally trouble-free!) recently lost power … it would just putter along at 5mph. I parked, and the engine revved up fine. Waited a bit, put in drive and and same issue. I punched the accelerator, it sort of backfired and then ran OK. Next day, I called the local auto center who thought it could be catalytic converter blockage. They ran test for error codes and one stated check engine light was out of order and that instrument cluster should be replaced (at $520). They admitted it was bizarre, so I declined the repair and have driven just a handful of miles in the few days since. Today, power lost again, same 5 mph-only issue. I park, turn off engine and wait a bit. Then it wouldn’t turn over… some blinking lights in the instrument cluster. So… it’s been towed and tomorrow the same auto center will investigate. Any ideas for me?

“local auto center” is what?

When the ignition switch was turned to the run position, did the Check Engine turn on and then shut off?

That’s the self test for the ECU.

And if that doesn’t happen it usually means there’s a problem with the ECU.


Car is at what I’d call a decent tire & auto center (Jensen Tire), though Nissan dealer may have been the better destination. The check engine light did not appear to my knowledge. I’m auto-ignorant, what is ECU?

Engine Control Unit.



This is the first time I’ve heard that if the Check engine light does not light up, you have to replace the cluster. And all for a burned out bulb.

I think that your car is in Limp mode and until something gets fixed, it will stay right there.

I’d have it towed to someone who knows what they are doing, and I doubt that the converter is the problem.


@Yosemite ,
This cluster may use LED’s for the warning lights, my 02 Camry does. Most shops won’t go through the trouble to replace a LED, so they just take the easy way out and replace the cluster.

When you turn on the car do all the lights come on?

Well, here’s the surprising final analysis and result. The repair place tested possible solutions to “losing power” for two full days… in the end, the original error code directing to replace th instrument cluster was the necessary repair. Thankfully they found a used unit, dropping the parts price from $450 for new, to about $200. The one downside is the odometer is part of the unit. My car’s odometer had been 94k… the replacement registers at 117K. So, I had the manager create a sort of affidavit about the change stating true mileage is 23,000 less than indicated.

Losing power was caused by a bad instrument panel?

That’s what they claim! I’ve picked up the vehicle, driving it now without issue (for half a day, anyway.)

Fault P0650, Malfunction indicator light control circuit would indicate a problem with the check engine light but shouldn’t cause a driveability problem.

The problem with the vehicle may not have set a stored fault so they may not be aware of the problem you experienced. Some faults require two consecutive trips failures to store a fault, perhaps the next time you experience problems you will see the check engine light on.