Huge win for car owners! All TSBs to be made public. The Center for Auto Safety just made the NHTSA (US Government) make public the full text of all TSBs from now on. They are the same organization that has petitioned the NHTSA & filed lawsuits to protect car owners over exploding gas tanks & other major safety issues. Whenever you drive in your car, you are safer thanks in part to a lot of work over the years by this small but very effective consumer advocacy group.

Please take a moment & say thank you by donating $5 or whatever you can to the Center for Auto Safety. Notes: You don't want to get 2009 and 2010 Altima owners started about their cars. That is, unless, you know how to start their cars.

These vehicles can suddenly become impossible to start thanks to a faulty electronic steering column lock (ESCL). Nissan dealers will gladly replace it, but that will run you $1000.

It's one of the many reasons this car was named CarTalk's Turd of the Week and given our Beware of this Clunker badge. Two dubious honors.

More info & videos are available over at


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
70,250 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2009 Nissan Altima electrical problems

electrical problem

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2009 Nissan Altima Owner Comments (Page 1 of 18)

problem #358

Nov 142016


  • 119,000 miles


I was driving on highway when "intelligent key" warning light flashed on dashboard. I continued to my work place. When I attempted to leave my place of employment, the steering wheel locked, ignition self start would not work and I had to contact aaa to bring car to dealer. I was told that when this warning light is on, the car may lock up at anytime. I was told that I ought be driving since the steering wheel would lock up in the middle of traffic. One of the representatives at the dealer indicated that many people with this car had similar problems, in fact that day there were three 2009 Altima in the same area going to the same dealer with the "smart key" locking the car. Nissan is going to reimburse $800+ dollars because I believe they know this is a problem, yet they have not announced an official recall. This is very concerning for all of those people driving this vehicle with the risk of having the car lock while in motion.

- Concord, NC, USA

problem #357

Sep 152016


  • 66,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the air bag warning indicator illuminated consistently without warning. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the sensor failed on the passenger side of the vehicle. The seat bottom assembly needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The VIN was unknown. The approximate failure mileage was 66,000.

- Melbourne, FL, USA

problem #356

Nov 182016


  • 56,000 miles
My daughter was stranded in a not so great area when her car would not start due to a well known issue with Nissan Altima's electronic steering column lock (escl). Nissan did not issue a recall on this dangerous issue, but instead offered an extended warranty if the part failed, without notifying consumers. This is shameful on Nissan's part to allow people to be stranded in possibly dangerous situations. The repair will now cost her between $1000 and $1200

- Aston, PA, USA

problem #355

Nov 152016


  • 85,000 miles


Vehicle would not crank after steering mechanism malfunction.

- Greenville, AL, USA

problem #354

Nov 142016


  • miles
Steering lock controler is broken and its a common problem on all Altima and Nissan doesn't take risponsibility

- Huntington Beach, CA, USA

problem #353

Nov 102016


  • miles
Car stalled twice both parked in a parking lot. Battery works and key fob works with doors. But engine wont start with push button start. Electronic steering column lock defect.

- West Nyack, NY, USA

problem #352

Nov 102016


  • 160,000 miles


The electronic steering lock has malfunctioned. The car would not start, leaving myself and two children stranded.

- Columbia, IL, USA

problem #351

Nov 012016


  • 135,000 miles
Electronic steering column lock failure. Leaves car disabled where ever you are. Car will not start. Must be towed. Nissan had an earlier recall but never published it to 2009 Altima owners.

- Auburn, MA, USA

problem #350

Oct 212016


  • 120,000 miles
Escl replaced after failing to allow push button start and failed again a few months later.

- Berryton, KS, USA

problem #349

Nov 012016


  • 136,000 miles
The electronic steering column lock (escl) has broken without any warning and my car has become a giant brick and I can't even place the car in neutral to move it. I walked out to start my car for work one day and I found out my car was dead.

- Greenville, SC, USA

problem #348

Oct 122016


  • 91,000 miles


The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. When the contact attempted to start the vehicle, it failed to start and the steering wheel locked up without warning. The contact received an email that informed her of the failure; however, the VIN was excluded from the recall. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the steering wheel locked. The push to start button failed and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The NHTSA campaign number was unknown. The failure mileage was 91,000.

- Smithville, NJ, USA

problem #347

Apr 012016


  • miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle failed to start, both with the push to start button and the emergency key slot. The vehicle was towed to an independent mechanic who diagnosed that the steering column needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired; however, the failure recurred. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage and VIN were unknown.

- Opp, AL, USA

problem #346

Oct 202016


  • 124,000 miles
Parked in garage, wouldn't start, steering lock system was not working so the engine didn't recognize the push button start, had to have it towed to auto mechanic to have the part replaced for $1,000 plus towing! Nissan stopped using this part in 2010 so they must know it was a bad part. I could have been anywhere when this happened and been stranded.

- Winchester Bay, OR, USA

problem #345

Oct 262016


  • 50,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. While in park, the vehicle failed to start and "key fob" was displayed across the message board. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was notified and stated that there was an extended warranty for the electronic steering column lock (escl); however, the warranty was expired. The failure mileage was 50,000.

- Sunnyside, NY, USA

problem #344

Oct 162016


  • 149,500 miles
Today the steering wheel control lock went out. After doing some research I found that this is a common problem and there is not a recall to cover this defective part. Clearly Nissan has acknowledged this is a problem as they have had recalls that expired. This is not a maintenance issue that an owner should have to pay for. This is strictly a defect in electronics system. What would happen if my wife and 4 year old were stranded on days where the heat in memphis can reach indexes of 115 and it can get as cold as 10 degrees?

- Germantown, TN, USA

problem #343

Oct 032016


  • 67,000 miles
Electric steering column lock (escl) failed and left me stranded at work. Had to wait 2 hours for someone to come get me.

- Fargo, ND, USA

problem #342

Oct 032016


  • 12 miles
The push button start will not recognize the key "fob". I can still unlock and lock my doors with the fob, pop open my trunk, but the system that is supposed to recognize my key and unlock my steering wheel is faulty. Reading up this has been a problem for many '09 Altima and Nissan even extended a warranty on this part, unfortunately that warranty is expired and my car now has the problem.

- Olathe, KS, USA

problem #341

Oct 022016


  • 96,000 miles
The electrical steering column lock (escl) failure which wouldn't allow the car to start is the most stupid thing I've ever heard. And that Nissan wouldn't recall it is a big shame on the manufacturer. On top of that, they charge ridiculously expensive to have the part replaced ($600+labor)"?!! this is super unsafe for drivers in the northeast as we may get stuck in a cold winter freezing to death for what? there is even no mechanic problem with the car. Just a little wedge-like thing that wouldn't drop to where it's supposed to be???" ridiculous!!

- Plattsburgh, NY, USA

problem #340

Sep 272016


  • 90,000 miles
We are currently experiencing what so many Nissan owners have noted online... the steering lock mechanism has malfunctioned. (the key light is on, the steering wheel won't lock, doors still lock/ unlock). This is a widespread problem in the electrical system, and many people have expressed frustration online. It is electrical, so all our proper maintenance performed means nothing. Our situation was the 90 year old grandfather stranded at the grocery store parking lot for 2.5 hours. Once he returned to the car, it would not crank. The car is just now to 90,000 miles, and now we learn that Nissan was aware and extended the warranty for a time, and now it has expired. There was no notice sent out nor was there an official recall. Our $1000 repair bill for a common problem spanning several years and several models is not acceptable. Please force them to do a recall!!! it's a widespread, known issue that they are already aware of.

- Ringgold, GA, USA

problem #339

Sep 162016


  • miles
Ecsl went out and my high school daughter was driving the car at the time as we were out of town, this could really be a hazard and definitely was costly as far as towing, thank god we have an extra vehicle but she had to find transportation, had the stress being 17 and not really knowing what to do, the car sat until we got home to have to towed to dealership, missed some of school. This part definitely should be recalled and put back out there indefinitely to be warrantied. I had heard nothing prior but good things about this vehicle and then after reading about the same year and model of vehicle I am praying after the fix this will be the only time it happens!

- Helena, MT, USA

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