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Weird Electrical problems on Nissan Sentra SE 2001

Stirgar Stirgar
New User | Posts: 2 | Joined: 01/06
Posted: 01/15/06
06:04 PM


I have a 2001 Nissan Sentra SE edition. Lately it has given me a lot of headaches. I've encountered lots of different minor and not so minor glitches in the general behavior of the car. I'm far from a car mechanic or anything but I do know electrical/electronic stuff well and as such I'll give out what know from that perspective.

About 2 months ago I had to get the car serviced because it would get stuck at Park. I used the shift lock for a while but when I did get it serviced, the mechanic told me it was a corroded wire.

This fixed my car for a while. Two weeks ago the cruise control went out. I could enable and disable the function but not engage the cruise control itself. Oh well, bummer I thought but I'll look into it when winter's over.

The next day, the brake oil light went on. Greeeat I thought. I checked the level. All fine. Check the hand brake. Nope... Weird... Oh well...

Then last week, my GF had the car for maintenance and the guys told her the alternator was giving up on the car. That same day, coming back from work, the car stalled on her. I went there and yup, the battery was dead (The battery light was lit and there was 10V or so left on charge). So I took the car back home that night but did notice the car still wouldn't shift to drive, I had to use the shift lock again. Fair enough, the next day I had it at the local shop here for a cleanup/or replacement of the alternator . The guys there told me the alternator was in perfect condittion. They did notice that sometime the car just wouldn't charge. As if the relay enabling the charge was acting up. Anyhow, I boosted the car and sent it at work where I can at least do some checking out in the warmth indoors. I noticed then that the foglights were acting up. They were actually on when the switch was set to off. I toggled the switch on, the lights went out. When I switched it back off att work, the lights blinked on, then off.

I left the car there for the evening, when I came back to it, it was starting up and charging (I used a voltmeter to monitor the voltage across the battery AND the battery indicator was OK). I took the car for ride and it kept charging all along. I probed the battery when I got back. Stopped and started the car at least 5 times, took it for another spin. No problem with the charge. Better yet, the brake light was now back off! The car still didn't want to shift gears unless I used the shift lock. I let the car outside for a few hours, thinking maybe it was a freezing / thawing stuff. Nope, when I got back it fired up and kept charging. Still couldn't change gears AND now the power windows AND the rear defrost weren't working...

So this is kinda where I am right now. I;m gonna take the car back to the dealership just for the sake that they get the car to shift gears. I paid for it (twice in fact, already too long a story I guess) and they should at least get that to work... I hope...

I checked every fuse and cleaned the relay box I found. Haven't check the ECM yet though this is what I'm leaning for right now., I checked a few connections, including the ones leading to the gearbox and the battery. I checked the ground connection... Bit of corrosion here and there but nothing preventing a good contact.

I wish I had the workshop manual so that at least I could understand what signal comes from where. I'm still very much a novice in cars. Checked around my area for it but couldn't find it. Nissan sells theirs for like 200 bucks...

Well, that your for reading my post and allowing me to vent out a bit. If any of you guys have an idea I'd be pleased to try it out. Thank you and y'all have a nice week.


Stirgar Stirgar
New User | Posts: 2 | Joined: 01/06
Posted: 01/18/06
04:26 PM

Though this could seem like a shameless bump I got thinking this afternoon (in the rare cases this happens to me) that this could be related to the steering wheel spring mechanism.  Any of you guys think this could be worth investigating?  

I'm supposed to get a hold of the nissan electrical diagrams on friday but in the meantime I'm entertaining ideas on where to look.  In resume I've had problems shifting the car in gear (because of the brake lock), problems charging the battery, problems with rear defrost, power windows and fog lamps.  Also this evening, when the car battery died on me once again, the car would automatically try to start even though I didn't even have the key in.    

Anyone think this a good idea?


rivman69 rivman69
New User | Posts: 11 | Joined: 12/05
Posted: 01/18/06
07:31 PM

Stirgar wrote:
Though this could seem like a shameless bump I got thinking this afternoon (in the rare cases this happens to me) that this could be related to the steering wheel spring mechanism. Any of you guys think this could be worth investigating?

I'm supposed to get a hold of the nissan electrical diagrams on friday but in the meantime I'm entertaining ideas on where to look. In resume I've had problems shifting the car in gear (because of the brake lock), problems charging the battery, problems with rear defrost, power windows and fog lamps. Also this evening, when the car battery died on me once again, the car would automatically try to start even though I didn't even have the key in.

Anyone think this a good idea?
what wiring diagrams do you need i hace alldata i can email them to you jeff

rddube rddube
New User | Posts: 1 | Joined: 05/06
Posted: 05/27/06
10:08 PM

Hi Sylvain,

My daughter's boyfriend has the same problem with his car, which is same model and year as yours. Now his alternator doesn't work all the time (more often it doesn't work) so he gets stuck on highways, bridges, etc. which means a towing! The garage are asking approx. 500$ to change the alternator, but I have a feeling that the alternator is not bad.

Any developments on your side?



BigBadBeater BigBadBeater
New User | Posts: 24 | Joined: 04/06
Posted: 05/29/06
08:30 AM

go ahead and try changing the alternator, a faulty alternator can make random lights come on as you mentioned....happened to my car before and the speed/rpm cluster needle went haywire before the car eventually stalled out.  

PassingThru PassingThru
New User | Posts: 1 | Joined: 06/06
Posted: 06/02/06
11:36 AM

I've been having similar funky problems. I too am wondering about wiring diagrams see if what the dealer told me is really possible or not.

About 2 years ago, after much misdiagnosis (by a non-Nissan mechanic)with numerous emissions and idle problems, replacing the Idle Air Control Motor (I think) and still having the same problems of it dying at stops, surging and then not accellerating, etc.I finally took it into Nissan - they replaced my ECM. Thankfully, they told me that part had a....10 yr/100,000 mi. ???? warranty on it- whatever it was - basically all the rest of the car was out of warranty but the ECM had a longer one. Yeay! So fine.

Well, fast forward to about a month ago. Check Engine light comes on and even scarier - my odometer totally blanks out. A little freaky. Other than the check engine light and the odometer blanking out, there's no other problems that I've noticed. Take it into the dealer and they replace the Idle _Speed_ Motor cuz they say that's what the Check Engine is telling them. A week later, my dials, speedometer, etc. die flat - I'm driving along but my speedometer says 0, for example; and all indicators on the dash just start being weird. Sometimes they go flat, sometimes they get "stuck" (so I'm going 40 when I'm stopped, for example) - and they aren't being consistent even in their weirdness. It's not even all the dials - sometimes it's one or two, sometimes its all, it varies.
Well, take it back in, now they tell me I need the ECM replaced. What?? I just had that done 2 year ago.  Well, at least that part still has that long term warranty, right? No! Only 12 mos. or 12,000 mi. - and so now I'm out more $$ for that.
Alrighty. So I get the ECM replaced and I think that'll finally be the end of all my troubles. WRONG! I'm STILL having "dial" problems, and so when I take it in this time, they tell me that the problem all along has been a bad wire behind my dash. That that has caused my ECM to go out this time...and probably the time before. So now they replace the "Unified Meter Control"....and gratefully, I have had no further problems (but hey, it hasn't even been a month yet!)
About four months ago, I also had to have BOTH catalytic converters replaced.
I'm wondering if all of this stuff is connected to a bad ECM, and if it is true that the wire running from the Unified Meter Control goes "straight into" the ECM and could cause it to "burn out" or whatever. The mechanic explained that it wasn't really a short - but that the bad wire affected the ECM, totally messed it up (requiring its replacement) and made it do all these things.

I have a hard time believing that a bad wire is responsible for ALL of the problems I've described.
Anything sound odd or fishy to anyone else out there?
Thanks for any insight.  

thirdstring thirdstring
New User | Posts: 1 | Joined: 02/07
Posted: 02/02/07
07:58 PM

My first thought when reading this message was ground wire. There are tons of places where the wiring harness is grounded, and my guess is that either something isn't grounded properly that should be, or something is grounded that shouldn't be.

As for the previous reply, one wire can do all that. I'm not a professional, but one wire, especially if it's going to the ECU, can do a number on an electrical system.  

ajfa ajfa
New User | Posts: 1 | Joined: 05/09
Posted: 05/06/09
02:39 PM

I am having similar problems. I just finished changing the alternator but the battery isnt charging. Last time the car stalled on me i lifted the hood and noticed a small amount of smoke coming from behind the left side of the motor. What i believe has happened is a wire has grounded out somewhere on the car. The smoke smelled like burning wire or rubber. Im going to check it out today, it may be worth checking into on your car?  

GUS3991 GUS3991
New User | Posts: 1 | Joined: 01/11
Posted: 01/11/11
05:36 PM

My Nissan Sentra SE 2001 has had gone through 5 starter, one Alternator, Distributor cap, Fuse issues, and now it's in the shop yet again for possibly the Alternator again. My Horn doesn't work, the blower motor doesn't work and A/C hasn't work in two yrs. I use to think it was just my car but now I believe it's not. I wish Nissan would recall it for electrical issues.  

waynep7122 waynep7122
Addict | Posts: 4545 | Joined: 08/09
Posted: 01/12/11
12:09 AM

electrical problems... like is described above...

the first test... and is not done by many mechanics...

a voltage drop test...    its simple takes only a few minutes.. one only needs a digital volt meter... they start at 8 bucks.. and you don't need more than a 25 buck version..

start the engine...   turn on the headlights...

set your digital volt meter to 20 volts DC scale..

1.  test between the negative battery post and the engine block... a reading of 0.04 volts is expected...

2.  test between the negative battery post and the body..
a reading of 0.02 volts is expected...

3.  test between the engine block and the firewall... a reading of 0.02 volts is expected...

if you get the 0.02 or 0.04 volts DC readings.. the grounds are probably OK...

time to move to the positive side....

i am not familiar with the layout under the hood of your cars...  

test the positive side...

4. test between the positive battery post and the alternator output terminal...  thats the big wire on the back or side of the alternator..  less than 0.08 volts is expected...

5. turn on as much stuff as you can ...  test between the positive battery and the various fuses...  again.. less than 0.08 volts is a normal and expected reading...

if you get a 0.00 reading.. you either have a very short circuit.. or NO current flowing through that circuit...

if you get a reading between 0.02 and 0.08..   but usually less than 0.04 volts DC.. thats an expected voltage drop...

when current is flowing through a wire to a LOAD.. there is resistance in the wire...    digital volt meters measure the difference in voltage between the test leads...   if you have a bad ground... and you measure that circuit with the load on.. you will see a difference in voltage across that circuit..

this test only takes a few minutes... try it.. try it on a car thats working perfectly...  its EASY to ***

why do ground wires need to be tight?????

electrons flow from negative to positive...   if you have a loose ground wire.. you won't have enough electrons to power the circuit..  this is what you are going to be measuring..

repeated alternator failures... can be traced to bad grounds and bad power side connections...

when the connections between the alternator and the battery get loose..  the voltage can build up to damaging levels before the voltage regulator can reduce the load..
this damages the alternator diodes.. and sometimes the voltage regulator thats built into the alternator..

remember. electrons flow from negative to positive..  the current from the alternator flows from the alternator case through the brackets, to the engine block and then up the ground cable to the battery..  

the positive side is connected to the battery .. usually through a fusible link..  

waynep7122 waynep7122
Addict | Posts: 4545 | Joined: 08/09
Posted: 01/12/11
12:13 AM

oh.. and why 5 starters...  when the voltage drops..  it takes more current to spin the starter..  this increase in current burns out the starter ...

sometimes.. and early in my live as a mechanic i changed a few starters when the ground wire at the engine block was actually bad...

i just had a ford  in.. running bad...   i talked the owner through a voltage drop test..  he said he did it properly. when it got here.. i found the negative cable where it was attached to the motor .. tight on the stud..  but the stud was loose..  took the ground wire off the stud.. cleaned the stud.. reinstalled it tightly.. then installed the ground wire on that.. the ford worked perfectly..  

Laizure.Girl Laizure.Girl
New User | Posts: 1 | Joined: 02/11
Posted: 02/08/11
09:00 AM

I just google possible electrical issue with the 2001 Nissan Sentra spec.   Confused My husband and I are very confused about this car. First my Air bag light came on and has been consistently on for no apparent reason.  Then suddenly the car won't start.  It also will not start with a jump, Only way to start it is compression start.  Then the alarm goes hay wire.  Three times now we thought we had the starter issue repaired.  Not the case..It works for a couple day and suddenly stops working.  Same thing with the alarm. Finally we disconnected the alarm all together. Still having starter issues.  So I'm at the gas station... Can not shut my car off because it will only compression start. The doors all lock themselves. My husband broke in for me. Later that day. I turn the car off and before I get out the doors lock again.  They won't unlock!!  I start think about Christine.,  Is that the evil car movie?  I think so.  Then a couple days evenings later, I'm sitting on my porch enjoying and after dinner smoke when my car door rapidly lock themselves and unlock themselves repeatedly., How crazy is that.  Shocked  Just before that happens.. I'm driving on the Boeing Freeway and my brakes lock up the car loses all power.  About an hour later when my husband shows up to rescue me.. Blush  the car starts right up and drive wonderfully again.  OMG  Mad  I've pretty much had enough.  Frown   I loved this car.  I was so proud of it,  I was just starting to get into dressing it up and stuff. I no longer have children at home so I planned to be one myself...  Hot pink skull decor on my sweet ass black 01 Nissan..  Now I just can't get interested in the car. Thinking of selling, but now all these issues to fix,  Oh well right? Confused  

UncleScout86 UncleScout86
New User | Posts: 1 | Joined: 10/15
Posted: 10/29/15
06:37 AM

Okay so this all sounds super similar to what I'm going through.

I have a 2005 Nissan Sentra and this thing was given to me under circumstances beyond my control. Previous car was a 97 Ford Contour well on its way out the door, was in a rush for a new car, parents decided to "gift me" with this used lemonmobile.

So in January my car began to draw from the battery even with the ignition off, keys out, just off. Y'know? OFF. It was still on. All the dashboard lights, the windshield wipers, clicking coming from the battery. It was running. This killed my battery several times before the AAA guy was pretty confused. He suggested (as I see a previous poster here did) a potential ground wire but he also said the battery, (which was sold to us as "good as new") was clearly not and it needed to be replaced stat.

I went to this place near me, let's use names 'cause I haven't seen any forum rules stating I cant - it's called Maher's Auto. It was nice, they wanted to help, they said it was probably the battery. They performed a series of tests. They left it over night no battery, put the battery in, dead. They charged it. Back to normal. Took keys out. Still drawing. They did a version of this three or four times before they concluded - must be the battery. Now remember, I mentioned to them "may be a ground wire."

They replaced my battery. $115 later I'm back on the road. Problem persists and re-appears this September. I go back to Maher's. They don't refund me for the battery, they claim they were going to if they discovered it was a faulty battery situation, but they instead state "Oh, it must be the alternator." So, $389 dollars later, I'm back on the road after the alternator. They did not check for ground wires. They wasted no time. Ordered the part, got it in, after I gave the yes. They Seemed pretty positive. Besides, when you go to Nissan and auto dealers, they charge you an arm and a leg for labor, and these guys felt bad about the battery so they weren't charging for all the labor (I saw the prices, and they didn't actually which was nice). So I felt that worked out.

I go to head to work. Car doesn't start. Must've left an overhead lamp on. Jump it with girlfriend's car. Perfect! No lights on the dash, nothing. I shut the door and use my automatic car lock button thinger on my key chain.


All the lights on the dash are on car starts clicking. I freak the hell out. I call Maher's auto, they say ground wire.

Now I'm done with this and i'm bringing it to Nissan. I hate that I have to, but at some point someone has to be able to lift the hood and be able to tell me what in the ever-living-hell is going on with this car. Is it haunted or something?!

I'm sure my post doesn't help OP's problem, but maybe it lends to some more evidence that Nissan's have serious electrical issues and will dissuade some people from purchasing the used ones in the future.  

Just Try It1 Just Try It1
Moderator | Posts: 2796 | Joined: 08/14
Posted: 10/29/15
07:51 AM

print and perform this test

voltage drop test link to view full size


this will usually find the major connection issues under the hood..

the clicking is a loose or dirty connection... when the starter is engaged.. the massive amount of currents exceeds the ability of the bad connection to pass current..  so the voltage drops..  when it goes below 9 volts the relays and solenoid pop open.. as soon as they do the voltage comes back up above 10 volts and the relays close again.. causing the voltage to drop and opening the relays again.. so you get various speeds of CLICK CLICK CLICK.. or a buzzing noise when you try to start the engine..

this is what you need to assemble to perform a voltage drop test on 1996 and newer cars..


you will also need something like the harborfreight 37772 digital multimeter as it has a 20 AMP DC setting. where many others only have a 10Amp DC..

you hook this between the Negative battery post and the negative battery cable..

with the switch turned ON.. you will want to start the engine and let the engine run at least 1 minute.. the volt meter is not hooked to the test leads during cranking..

roll the drivers window down.. turn the engine off.. take the keys with you and get out..  lock the door in the normal fashion that it gets locked every night..  look at your watch..

after 7 minutes.. plug the test leads into the digital volt meter amp jacks.. you may now turn off the battery switch so all the power the car is pulling from the battery is going thru your meter and you have not disconnected the battery...

this allows the system to shut down in a normal manner.. so you can measure the parasitic draw properly.. OBD2 cars and trucks may take 6 minutes to shut all the devices off to get a proper reading.  

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