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CarComplaints.com Notes: Here's a disturbing trend for the 2002 Nissan Altima: the engine starts burning oil like crazy, the catalytic converter goes bad, the head gasket blows and eventually the entire engine needs replacement. Sound familiar? Like a script from a horror film, these Altimas seem doomed to fail around 95k miles.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
96,162 miles
Total Complaints:
240 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace the engine (80 reports)
  2. not sure (64 reports)
  3. add oil as needed (38 reports)
  4. new engine (22 reports)
  5. get rid of it asap (10 reports)
  6. nissan should replace the engine for the 2nd time (10 reports)
2002 Nissan Altima engine problems

engine problem

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2002 Nissan Altima Owner Comments (Page 1 of 12)

problem #240

Jan 012009

Altima SE 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles


Do not buy a Nissan, every 150 mi. uses 1 qt. of oil. I complained to Nissan about this, they said take to Nissan dealer and I paid to get checked. Dealer said cat convertor broke down and sucked back into engine which scarred cylinder walls and ruined engine. Plus i've had lots of other problems too.

- , Piqua, OH, USA

problem #239

Jan 012010

Altima 2.4L V4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 101,000 miles

In all honesty, I have never had a worse vehicle (and my first car didn't really have power steering!). I had previously owned a 2000 Nissan Maxima, and the short while I had it, I didn't have any problems, so I thought this car was a no brainer. Dead wrong.

I do almost all the work on all my cars and its kind of a hobby of mine. My wife and I were driving on the interstate and all of a sudden there was loud knocking and smoke coming from the engine bay. After calling a tow truck and talking to the body shop, they said it threw a rod (broken piston) and jacked everything up so we had to buy a new or used engine. I went the used route due to a couple thousand dollars difference. Listen to me when I say it wouldn't matter how old the engine was. After a couple months, I started noticing after doing a couple oil changes, that the level was always low and that somewhere oil was being wasted. Around the same time the car was making really loud exhaust noises when accelerating, and when I did accelerate it hardly had any get up and go.

After reading multiple forums such as this one I found that the compression ring where the front catalytic converter meshes with the exhaust pipe was visibly worn to almost nothing. I attempted to replace just the ring but the bolts and springs on the cat were toast so I needed a new cat since they were the welded-on type ($400). Let me take this time to explain that in the forums I read, and is evidence of what I experienced, the catalytic converters on this vehicle are garbage. They essentially throw dirt, oil, mesh, and other debris directly back into the combustion chamber and after about 60,000 miles through the catalytic converters life it builds up so much gunk that the piston shatters while its going 2000+ rpms and destroys your engine. Oh did I mention the heat and A/C don't work either? Complete trash.

- , Omaha, NE, USA

problem #238

Oct 152014

Altima S 2.5L V4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 109,000 miles

I bought this car in August of 2014 in hopes of a more fuel efficient car than a Jeep Cherokee. I wish I never got rid of the Cherokee. Since day one this car has been nothing but problems, but I'll just rant about the engine here.

I had gotten an oil change and then 1,000 miles later I was left stranded with no oil, a broken catalytic converter, and an engine with a serious knock. Took it to the shop and was told the entire engine had to be replaced, which isn't a cheap feat. One month and $2,000 later, it was back on the road, but that's just the beginning of the problems I've had with my car. I've probably put about $4,000 worth of work into this car in the six months I've owned it, and if it wasn't for the lien I have on the title then this car would have been gone after day one. Stay away.

- , Forked River, NJ, USA

problem #237

May 052014

Altima S 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 141,000 miles


This car has been a living hell, was told Nissans were reliable cars. I bought the car with cash .. no warranty it was driving great, 6 months into owning car started to burn oil and smoke .. now when I start the car I smell gas. Not sure what's going on .. took it to several shops no answer. Changed the valve cover gasket, still burning oil and smoking.

- , Rochester, NY, USA

problem #236

Jul 022014


  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,313 miles

This is upsetting, reading the downward spiral this car goes through as I just bought this car 6 months ago and love it! Until I realized this thing goes through oil like my grandpa goes through whiskey....which is a lot..... I recently bought this car in June of 2014 and had a reputable mechanic look over and gave it the okay.

I checked the oil and did my pre-road trip checklist (oil, tire pressure, etc) and everything was great! Or so I thought...I got to my destination 7 hours later and my car was completely dry. I was in shock as the oil was topped up and looking good earlier that day. I filled it up (3.5 litres!!!) and now I drive for about 2 hours then have to keep refilling the stupid oil. It is beyond frustrating. It doesn't smell and there isn't any black smoke but is annoying having to do this all the time so I am just going to sell it.

Also, the other day I went to start my car and it won't start because there wasn't oil! So I filled it up and it is fine now, but I am going to have it looked over by a mechanic first before taking it anywhere. Unfortunately, my grandma recently became ill and I won't be able to drive over and see her so that is a huge piss off as I can't afford to rent a car for 2 weeks. We shall see what I end up doing.

Class action anyone??

- , Vancouver, BC, canada

problem #235

Jul 312010

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 170,000 miles

Oil, oil, oil, oil and smoke, smoke,smoke, now it is knocking........

- , Florence, SC, USA

problem #234

Jun 212014

Altima 2.5L

  • Manual transmission
  • 144,000 miles


I purchased an 02 Nissan Altima with a manual transmission in 07 with approx. 40,000 miles. I've had Nissan's in the past and they were dependable and low maintenance. That is not to say I didn't do regular maintenance on them, because I did.

Then in 2012, with out warning, my engine seized up and died. I figure, okay - excrement happens sometimes. I bit the bullet and had a new rebuilt engine put in. Less than a month after the engine was put in, the "Service Engine Light" went on. I called the mechanic (who happens to be a relative), and he said it was probably just a bad sensor in the catalytic converted, but he'd look at it. He did, and concluded that was the issue and his advice to me was "just drive it..."

Now, with less than 30,000 miles on it - this rebuilt engine going through approx. 1-2 quarts of oil daily, even after adding Lucas oil additive. I was told by the shop that put it in that I was probably the problem because I might have neglected the oil changes (which I did not) and voided the warranty. Now I'm discovering from researching this make and model that I'm not the issue. Seems the catalytic converter is the crux of the cluster *k of Nissan's car. And most of the car owners have similar experiences with catastrophic engine failure in almost exactly the same manner as myself.

Man am I ticked that a car company that I had come to rely on for a quality product is not addressing any of these issues for the primary or secondary owners.

Nissan needed to address this issue at the very least with replacing the catalytic converters, but they didn't. From here on in - I'm advising anyone to boycott Nissan.

- , Milwaukee, WI, USA

problem #233

Jun 012010

Altima 4 cyl

  • CVT transmission
  • 110,000 miles

I was a victim of the same exact problem everyone else is complaining about on here. First the catalytic converter went bad. I had it replaced a couple of times. Then the car started burning oil like crazy. I would put in a quart per week. The engine was looked at by multiple mechanics and there was no answer aside from changing the motor. STAY AWAY FROM THIS CAR...DO NOT BUY IT!

- , Royal Oak, MI, USA

problem #232

Jul 152014

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles

Nissan Altima 2.5 Auto transmission. Burns oil like crazy. Put in better synthetic oil, burns faster. Had the car die on the interstate at 75mph right in front of an 18-wheeler. Could have died. Could have been killed by the Nissan Corporation. Know any good lawyers? This is really dangerous, Nissan should recall and replace this engine. Replaced catalytic converter, O2 sensor, some other related stuff. Burns oil even faster than before. Completely ran out of oil in 300 miles. I am trying 10-40 oil to see if the oil burning problem will slow down. Car only has 125000 miles on it. Complete POS. Never buy a Nissan, I never will again. This was my first, only 125k on it. I am used to selling perfectly good Ford and VWs at 250k miles.

Other symptoms: no power, no acceleration, no response by Nissan dealer. Nissan "service" is a joke. Never take a car to Nissan for repairs. Unrelated sign of really really bad engineering: paint is falling off car. Never had that happen to a car before, I have a 14 year old Ford with 240k and the original paint job, even though it is not garaged.

- , Monument, CO, USA

problem #231

Jun 022012

Altima 2.5L

  • Manual transmission
  • 100,000 miles

The Nissan 2.5 liter engine IS DEFECTIVE, if you own one get rid of it before the engine fails- to recover some of your investment. If you are thinking of buying a used one- DO NOT BUY IT!!! It will cost you all that you pay for it. I wish I had some fair warning before purchasing a used 2002 back in 2007. I am on my third engine and it burns a quart of oil per 300 miles. I am finally seeing information on the internet that these cars should be avoided. No one at the dealerships or any of the mechanics I encountered advised me of the futility of repairing this car.

I will no longer repair anything on this car, I intend to drive it until I burn 1 quart per 100 mile and then drive it to the junkyard- I don't want anyone else to own this lemon. Nissan should issue a public apology for creating such a miserable engine. I WILL NEVER OWN ANOTHER Nissan.

- , Phoenix, OR, USA

problem #230

Feb 012012

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,000 miles


Noticed oil consumption. Finally engine light went on.. had it scanned... Cat convert was bad. Went to dealer and replaced. $450. Found out Cat was replaced 2008. I bought car used at 90m miles in 2009. Its now 2012 and I have 107m miles. This car went thru 2 new cats in 20m miles ??... WT? When I replace cat.. shop noticed a hole in the screen... Then I found out about this site and I was not the only one with this problem. The only cure... rebuilt engine and use after market headers without front cat. Do away with front cat with headers and you should never have this problem. I have not experianced any overheating problems..... yet!..... Wonder if I can get a refund for the Cat I just bought ?? You can find headers on EBAY. I am taking my car for a rebuilt engine...(3/30/12)... then I will purchase the headers and install them ASAP. If you look on youtube, you can also find out about the header replacement...

- , Hac Hgts, CA, USA

problem #229

May 022012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,061 miles

My Nissan Altima started burning oil like crazy. I took it to mechanic, he didn't know what the problem was. Then searched online and saw so many people have had this problem, so decided I won't bother spending money fixing the car anymore.

Stupid Nissan, never buying another Nissan now.

- , Toronto, Ontario, canada

problem #228

Jul 232012

Altima SL 2.5L

  • Manual transmission
  • 119,000 miles

I bought my used Nissan Altima because of the supposedly good car reputation Nissan is supposed to have in lasting for quite a few miles. In addition, I wanted a more economical mode of transportation. However, the 1st day I had my car, I discovered there was absolutely no oil in the engine what so ever. It was a known issue that the dealership as aware of since they provide a 130 inspection on the vehicles before they're sold. I hold both the dealership and Nissan responsible for this matter. If there were a few isolated incidents, I could understand Nissan not doing a recall. BUT this is an epidemic! Nissan has known about this issue and fails to acknowledge it's their problem which they've passed on to the buyers. With this experience, I will never buy another Nissan. Nor should anyone else if they aren't going to stand behind their product. I hold the dealership responsible for not providing the vehicle inspection that they advertise and for selling a vehicle that had this issue. I am looking at litigation for both parties!!!!


- , Indianapolis, IN, USA

problem #227

Dec 312012

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 148,000 miles






- , Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #226

Jun 132012

Altima S 2.5L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,544 miles

Well all you angry people, i have bought this 02 Altima with 68k miles or so, and notice immediately the lack of power and the funny oscillation in the temperature gauge, at first it scares me really bad, but after some research and inspection just made what i think the best possible solution to my concerns, I've lift the car from the engine area, unscrew 2 bolts that holds the exhaust pipe and the pre-cat, located right at the end of the exhaust manifold and took off the two 02 sensors, then took a metal bar, a hummer and proceed to destroy the material inside the pre-cat, take a 2nd look to verify that anything goes out and install the exhaust pipe again with the 2 bolts, then start engine and since then car runs very strong, no oil/coolant consumption of any kind, just a 1/2-second rattling at totally cold start-up but that's all, no single issues since then, so that is my experience, hope helps someone out. HOLLOW THE PRE-CAT Before It's Too Late.....Just when you feel ANY LACK OF POWER, or see funny movements on your temp gauge, do as i say and you'll see your problems go far away, i can say that now months and thousands of miles of the cat crap.....and still running like a champ.....good luck....

- , El Centro, CA, USA

problem #225

Oct 312012

Altima S 2.5L S

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

It is hard to believe that the person who sold me the car didn't mentioned about this problem that he was experienced.

I also paid a mechanic to check the car up before I bought it. He stated that was normal but I shouldn't paid more than $3800, but my wife really liked the car, so we end up paying $4200 cash. The major expenses have been constant purchase of the oil and the Lucas to protect the engine, but the fear of something mayor happen to the engine is the worst thing as the other guys are mentioned that it happened to them,...meaning that this can get worse and worse and more expensive and get stuck in a traffic jam or highway.

God guide us to sell this car as soon as possible with clear awareness of the problem to the new buyer for a fair price.

Anyone has a suggestion about the best way to sell this car and a price range to ask for.

And about you Nissan... you will pay for this lack of honesty and quality sooner or later the consumer will run off from you...and NOW I am one of them.

By the way American cars are getting better now and Hyundai and Kia has good warranties and support their products.

- , Decatur, GA, USA

problem #224

Nov 012012

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 170,000 miles

Nissan has a real problem with these 2.5 l engines . the cat converter goes bad and starts the engine using oil very bad, i mean 1 qt every 200 miles.

- , Salisbury, NC, USA

problem #223

Sep 282012

Altima SE 3.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 157,000 miles

It looks like the 4 cyl cars have a much bigger problem than mine. You have my sympathies. My V6 burns about a quart every 1 or 2 thousand miles. It's been doing it for years but I check it alot so I'm OK. I want to give people some advice. DON'T RUN SYNTHETIC OIL. It's too thin and burns way too fast. Just run regular oil and you'll save money and won't have to fill it nearly as much. Aside from that, I love my engine! Bought it 4 years old with 50k. Now my car has 157K miles and still feels like it has 100% of it's original power throughout the RPM range. I redline it a lot, at least 10 times a week and it still runs awesome! Even if you don't check your oil often enough you can notice when the oil light blinks too much when starting. Shut it off and put in a quart. If you let it get really low you'll hear lifter rattle for a second when you start it. Shut it off and put in a quart, or maybe even two. Just keep a rag and a couple of $3 quarts of oil in your trunk at all times and you'll love this car. Follow these simple rules and your V6 will easily last to 250k.

- , Boston, MA, USA

problem #222

Jul 152012

Altima SL 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 102,500 miles

I feel compelled at this time to fall in line and tell my tale of woe as did so many consumers before me. I feel pretty lucky regarding the outcome of my problem. In February 2002 my wife and I treated ourselves to a brand new Nissan Altima SL 2.5 It was purchased from a reputable Long Island NY Nissan dealership and was in stock on their lot. It was the first year of the new body style and I decided to take a chance. We would enjoy the car for the next 10 years; the service and reliability. During that 10 year period, the car was primarily serviced at the dealership. Some minor work like oil changes and brake pads were done aftermarket. Nissan Recalls of course were done at the dealership. Recalls such as airbag sensor, pump screen kit, engine sensor, pre cat exhaust pipe hanger pin, headlamp, rear suspension member replacement, reprogram ECM. Never in an accident. Washed and waxed often. Baby'd it. We loved it. I was sold on Nissan for the future. Alas, in July 2012 my "service engine soon" light came on. Ity was diagnosed as "a misfire cyl #4" by a local auto parts store. The light was intermittent and I believed it was time for a major tune up since the car had recently turned 102,500 miles. A few weeks later, and the tune up still not done, the engine did not sound right. the oil idiot light on the dash started to flicker. I checked the oil level and found it to be almost 4 quarts low. I immediately added the missing oil and began to curse the last oil change vendor for not filling to capacity. it had been only 3100 miles since that change. The following 2 days I drove approximately 250 miles. The car drove strong as always, the oil idiot light was out, and but the "service engine soon" light was still on. I once again checked the oil level and found it to be over 2 quarts low. Where did the oil go? There were no visible leaks on the driveway nor clouds of exhaust smoke. Now I knew I had a major problem. I wanted to research this problem online before I went to Nissan for a diagnosis. Good move! I googled the car/complaints/recalls and came up with this website. I realized that there were many, many, many consumers with the same problem. In addition, many had the same problems I had with air conditioning, heating, and CD player. There was however one major difference between my car and a lot of the aforementioned consumers. MY CAR WAS STILL RUNNING VERY STRONG. It was inevitable that my car was doomed having read the situations and experiences of the other writers. The engine would eventually blow. Thousands of dollars people put into their cars and Nissan did not want to know squat. I went to one of Nissans competitors and told him I wanted to lease one of their vehicles. Told them I had the Altima to trade in. They informed me that the car was in excellent condition, the mileage was high, and the "service engine soon" light was on. They offered me a few thousand dollars for the car and I immediately accepted. They said that they were going to wholesale the car out. I just got back from picking up my leased vehicle. I feel fortunate to have been able to avoid losing money on the Altima. I thank all the aforementioned consumers for sharing their stories which helped me save alot of money. Although the Altima ran strong right up to the last day, I will never again buy a Nissan. THEY DID NOT DO THE RIGHT THING FOR THEIR CUSTOMERS. GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!

- , Eastport, NY, USA

problem #221

Jul 192012

Altima SE 2.5L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,722 miles

We bought our car from a used dealership with 103,100 miles on it. After a few weeks and 600 miles the car seizes up and we have to have it towed. The mechanic says that the car has no oil inside. They fill it with oil and tell us that it is probably burning oil. Two days later we check the oil level again to find that again the engine is BONE DRY. After TWO DAYS of driving. I've read some of the reports on here of people having to refill after 1000, 2000 miles etc., but the problem is so far gone on this car. We took it to a Nissan dealership for them to diagnose and confirm the problem. It was recorded that the car burned over a quart in just 80 miles of driving it!!!! The dealership that sold us the car gave us a limited warranty, but "of course" can't find anything thing wrong and deny that it's burning any oil. Furthermore, they stated that they "don't believe" the Nissan techs reports. For this issue to be this far gone, it would have HAD TO BE an existing issue at the sale of the car. We are now it the process of suing the dealership that sold us the car for consumer fraud.

- , Highlands, NJ, USA

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