Car's computer kaput

My mechanics told me the computer on my 2000 Nissan Altima is broken and needs to be replaced. He couldn’t find a used one and a new one installed is $1000.
He said I can run my car without it but I should get it fixed at some point.
I put on only about 4000 miles a year on this car and only take 3 trips a year that are 500 miles round trip each. The car has 110,000 miles on it and has been well maintained.
Can I run the car without the computer and rely on what we use to rely on — our ears and eyes to know when something is wrong?
What would you do and why?
Thanks all.

Somebody is confused. Maybe you, maybe the mechanic. Its possible that you were told that you can continue to run the car in its current state. But without the computer it is a giant paper weight.

Why don’t you give everyone the full details. What is the car doing right now? What got you to the mechanic? There will be a check engine light involved, and that will mean that the computer has error codes in it. What error codes have the mechanics pulled from the computer? (They look like: “P1234”).

After that, tell folks everything that has been done to try to diagnose your troubles, including how these folks got to the notion that you need a computer.

Are there any drivability issues associated with the “computer failure”??

Which computer? What troubles are/were you having that prompted you to take the car in for repair? Do you have emissions or safety inspections in your area?

There are no problems at all with the car.

Three weeks ago — with the car running fine — the check engine light came on. I brought the car in and they said nothing was wrong. Sorry I don’t know what code came up and the mechanic is closed or I would call.

Two weeks later the check engine light came on again. It was then that they told me “the computer” was bad. As to the emmission and safety inspections — there are none where I live

If you have a chain type auto parts house near you (AutoZone, Advance, etc) you might have them scan the car for codes. They will do this for free and it only takes a few minutes.

While there’s always the possibility of a computer hiccup triggering a false CEL I can’t see even considering spending a grand at this point on what could be an incorrect wild guess.

How much time did they spend on your car and did they charge you a fee? Just wondering.

They did not charge me anything. They even found a used computer, put it in but it didn’t work and they did not charge me. They would have spent the appropriate time.

I’ve had this mechanic for years and he is well known and respected in town.

How would they know the computer is bad. Is there a code the computer issues to say it — the computer — is defective?

There are some codes specific to the control module, like ‘P0602 - Control Module Programming Error’. This may or may not require a new control module. Knowing the actual code they pulled would be very helpful. If driveability is not affected, I’d tke it to an Autozone, Advanced Auto, or your local flavor of parts store and have them pull any codes. Post here and we can help you decipher them for a better idea of what is going on.

Thanks Busted Knuckles. I’ll do that and post results. Thanks a lot.

Just bear in mind that “you need a new computer” is one of the default diagnoses from mechanics who have no clue as to what the problem really is. Yes, you might need a new onboard computer, but I would suggest that you get at least one more opinion as to the cause of the problem.

The Mechanics Files (link at the top of the page) can help you to find a good mechanic in your area. Don’t give the new mechanic any clues. Just ask him to diagnose the problem. If he gives you the same solution, then it is likely correct, even though it would be rare.

Incidentally, the other default diagnosis from mechanics who have no clue is, “you got a batch of bad gas”. Luckily that mostly-wrong default diagnosis is much less costly than the one that was given to you.

The mechanic switched your computer for “good” used one and there was no difference? If so, then you don’t need a new computer, your computer is fine. There is a problem somewhere else and your mechanic can’t figure out where. You don’t need a new computer, you need another mechanic!

If the car is running, what exactly is the problem?

Save Your Money…!!! If it’s SERIOUS you will know about it soon enough. Don’t spend money chasing phantoms. If the CEL goes on and off but no codes are set, DRIVE ON! Spending $1000 to cure a computer glitch, and no guarantee a cure will be had, that’s insane! Put a little black tape over the light…

Thanks VDCdriver, UncleTurbo and Caddyman.

As others had requested I took the car (check engine light is still on) to Advance Auto and that guy got a “link error” code on the tester. He checked the fuses and said “they looked ok.” Someone had suggest it could be a fuse.
I then took it to Auto Zone and his tested read "error."
Does that help anyone have an idea of what might be wrong?
I will also look for another mechanic VDCdriver.

Perhaps the shop that said you needed a new one also couldn’t get a link to the computer - so they assumed that the computer was the problem.

The last time I had an issue like that I cleaned the OBDII connector (where you plug in the code reader) and that took care of it. Since this shop already tried replacing the computer, it seems most likely to me that you have a wiring / connector problem for the OBDII port.

I like cigroller’s theory and suggest that you follow through on his suggestion before pursuing anything more expensive.

Along with checking the data lines to the ECU make sure power is getting to the pins on the OBD2 connector and to the ECU.

The Nissan Dealer may be the only place that can help you. They may be the only place that has seen this problem and they may go straight to the bad connection if there is one. They also have the right diagnostic machines and programs to identify a bad computer or a flash memory problem. There are times when reflashing the data will restore the computer. You might even save a lot of time and effort.

Thanks all.
Cigroller (or anyone), at the risk of asking a dumb question — won’t be the first time — what is the best way to clean the connectors?
And a question for anyone. Even though Auto Zone is getting a “link error” message, does that mean they can’t clear the check engine light. AND if they can clear it and it is the OBDII connector that is bad, would the check engine light come back on if there was another problem like an O2 sensor or whatever?

Electrical spray cleaner for computer connectors is probably the only way. The air spray stuff might be a good idea first. You don’t want to use a brush and you don’t want to poke into the connector with anything.