You have to reset the information or it just continues to do average calculations, but you can reset it but holding down the same knob you use to read the information. When you restart your pathfinder the dte recalculates according to what was previously used, mine does it too!!
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Guessing here, might help to know the make/model/year/engine.
Sounds like you're running in "limp mode" because one of your sensors is either bad or simply not hooked up. Perhaps TPS (throttle position sensor) or MAF (Mass AirFlow)
The DTE is automatic and is the result of your previous miles per gallon multiplied by the gallons of gas registered in your tank.
Unlike the Trip miles, this DTE number can not be reset. It will vary by the fuel mileage per gallon recorded at each startup. That is why if you filled the tank and showed 400DTE you may have had 20 Gallons multiplied by 20 MPG. But if your new average is 16 MPG then it would show 320 DTE.
I have a similar problems on my 2005 9-3. It has developed a number of minor electical issues. including dial and false warning light triggers. I have fixed most of them by simply going round the car disconnecting the electical connectors and spraying "switch cleaner" (Maplin or Radio Shack). The only problem I have left is the rev counter occasionally starts reading high, removing the fuse (end of dash panel - 4th fuse down) for about 30s with engine off normally resets everything back to normal. Hope that helps.
Check to make sure that you aren't changing between km/mph readings. I had the same problem when it was 90 degrees out side and the temp was registering in the thirties. It's the button on the left, should say something about KM/IMP or something...