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CarComplaints.com Notes: The 2009-2010 Nissan Altima appears to have a defect where it occasionally refuses to start. We know the feeling, but it's just not acceptable in a car.

For the fix, Nissan dealers enjoy replacing the steering lock control unit for $800. Stranded Nissan owners have found that banging like hell on the steering lock unit at the base of the steering column will do the trick. Yes, the same unit that apparently has $800 worth of electronics.

How far do you have to drive to experience this? The average mileage at failure is just over 55,000 very short miles.

More info & videos are available over at NissanProblems.com.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
1 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
59,329 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 steering problems

steering problem

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2009 Nissan Altima Owner Comments (Page 1 of 12)

problem #234

Dec 012014


  • 74,728 miles


Car would not start after a school meeting on evening of 12/1/14. Locks worked fine and remote start would still start vehicle, but would kill again after hitting start button. Tried jumping car battery and changing batteries in key fobs with no success. Had car towed to local shop next morning on 12/2 for review. After looking at car on 12/3, local shop advised the issue to be the electronic steering column lock. After reviewing this to be a common issue, so common Nissan extended warranty for this model for this part to 6 yrs unlimited miles (my car has just under 75,000 miles). Called my dealer (who I purchased car brand new and have all regular oil/service maintenance done there) and asked about it. My 6 yrs expired on 11/22 (9 days prior to issue) so would have to call Nissan Consumer Affairs for any chance of covering under warranty. Nissan stated they would no┐┐T listen to me until I had a dealer review the issue. Had to pay local shop for their diagnosis and incurred another towing expense to get to my dealer (which is the closest) 30 miles away. Dealer confirmed issue and in order to get my car back as I needed to use, I authorized repairs (over $1200 for just the repair). Submitted my claim then to Nissan for all my incurred expenses (which was $1500) but was fully denied. Was told 9 days is the same as 3 years over the warranty in their eyes and they can no┐┐T do anything, including even covering the additional towing and diagnosis fees incurred to meet their requirement of the dealer to review. Seeing the large volume of complaints here and Nissan┐'s own admission of known issue by extending warranty for this model year and part, something more needs to be done. Very disappointed in Nissan.

- Faribault, MN, USA

problem #233

Nov 272014


  • miles
I drove my 2009 Nissan Altima 2.5S to work on 11/27 and it started up just fine as usual. However, when I went to leave work for the day the car did not start. The keyless remote will allow me to lock and unlock my car, but when I go to start the car, it will not register my keyless remote. An error code shows that the electronic steering column lock (escl) mechanism was malfunctioning. Also, there is a yellow key icon on the left side of the dash that intermittently flashes no key. The ignition is indicating that the steering wheel is locked although I can turn the steering wheel. There are or were no prior warning that the part was about to fail including anylights on the dash panel. I had to leave my car in the garage and was stranded for sometime trying to find a way home. My car is still sitting in the garage as I cannot afford to pay the repairs at this time. After doing further research into the issue I have come to see that multiple people have complained about this same exact problem. A very disturbing factor since Nissan is aware of the problem, and for some customers has issued an extended warranty for this specific problem. Although either issuing a recall or removing the part from the later manufactured models to avoid this from occuring again. Hopefully, my vehicle does not fall outside the extended warranty window as Nissan is not assisting with the repairs.

- Detroit, MI, USA

problem #232

Nov 202014


  • 83,669 miles
Car would not start due to failure of steering lock mechanism. Contacted Nissan dealership, they were aware of issue and indicated that it would need to be towed in for repair. Repair and tow cost $1383.21. Nissan Nissan dealership stated Nissan was aware of defective part (steering lock #48700-1nc1A) and to call 1-800-nissan1 for reimbursement. Nissan is indicating the my vehicle is 2 months out of warranty. They are offering to pay 50% of the total bill. I feel this is a safety issue, due to being stranded, and potential for part to fail while the I in motion. Due to the fact that they were aware of the defective part in their vehicle, Nissan should have notified owners of affected vehicles. If they had we would have had the part replaced in advance of failure.

- Overland Park, KS, USA

problem #231

Nov 282014


  • 122,000 miles


My keyless remote will allow me to lock and unlock my car but when I go to start the car, my car will not register my keyless remote. It is not the battery of my car or the remote or any blown fuses; those were all checked as well. Apparently multiple people have complained about this same exact problem. Nissan has an extended warranty for this problem but only for so long. This issue has left a lot of people, including myself, without a vehicle or sometimes stranded.

- Gilbert, AZ, USA

problem #230

Nov 302014


  • 99,000 miles
When trying to start my son's 2009 Nissan Altima 3.5se coupe, it will not start and displays a yellow key icon on the left side of the dash. We reviewed the car's manual, which states the light is an intelligent key malfunction. We changed the key faub battery and tried removing and reinstalling the battery, as some others suggested, but still nothing. After reviewing several different web sites, I see this is a common issue with 2009 Nissan/Altima. From reading different owner's comments and complaints, I believe it will be an issue with the steering lock and will have towed to Nissan tomorrow. I am surprised with so many comments over the same issue, there is not a campaign to fix? I've been a faithful Toyota patron all of my life and this is my first Nissan. Not good a first impression!!

- Olathe, KS, USA

problem #229

Nov 162014


  • 92,000 miles
My wife parked her 2009 Nissan Altima 2.5S and turned off her engine on 11/15/14.the next day when she went to start her car, it refused to start, giving her an error code that the electronic steering column lock (escl) mechanism was malfunctioning. There was no way to to get around the problem and we eventually had to tow the car to the dealership to get it fixed. My wife was lucky, in that she was somewhere safe when she was stranded. But, since she had no prior warning that the part was about to fail, she very easily could have been stranded somewhere much less safe. Nissan is aware of the problem and has issued an extended warranty for this specific problem for the 2009 Altima, while issuing a recall for all other models with this part. Unfortunately, our vehicle fell outside the extended warranty window and Nissan will not help with the repair. I find it very disconcerting that Nissan would prefer to have its customers figure out that they have a problem by getting stranded in possibly dangerous situations than issue a recall to ensure that the problem never happens in the first place. I am asking that the nhsta makes Nissan issue a recall for this problem so that others are not put in potential danger.

- Omaha, NE, USA

problem #228

Nov 182014


  • 95,000 miles


I tried to crank my car this morning (push start) my anti-theft light on my dashboard came on and it would not crank. The lights came on in my car but the car would not crank at all. Tried everything I could do and made calls but it will not crank.

- Blackshear, GA, USA

problem #227

Nov 092014


  • 78,862 miles
I went to osh with my kids. When we got back in the car it wouldn't start. Sat in parking lot for two hours. Had to have car towed eventually. Problem was a faulty steering lock control unit. Looked online - apparently hundreds of people have had this problem with the 2009 Altima (and imagine all the ones who haven't posted online). If you do a search in yahoo for "steering lock contol unit, " 2009 Nissan Altima automatically pops up. They need to be recalled. It's not safe to have a car with a known problem that will cause it not to start and leave you stranded. Eventually, someone is going to get stuck somewhere and be hurt or killed.

- Clovis, CA, USA

problem #226

Nov 172014


  • 95,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle failed to start and an unknown light illuminated. The vehicle was taken to the dealer. The technician diagnosed that the steering lock module needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 95,000.

- New Orleans, LA, USA

problem #225

Aug 112014


  • miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. While driving 30 mph, the steering mechanism and the lower control arm corroded. The failure occurred on numerous occasions. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage and VIN were unavailable.

- Saddle Brook , NJ, USA

problem #224

Aug 062014


  • 72,822 miles


Have had several issues with my 2009 Nissan Altima. I bought it November 2012. By February 2013, I replaced tires. Was sold a car with incorrect license plates that owed registration fees to dmv. I almost got towed and didn't know why. Between February and November 2013, I replaced brakes, another set of tires, third brake light twice, and battery. May 2014, took it to rogers & rogers dealership for an oil change. Maintenance other light and tires on. (car was bought with a flashing tire maintenance light on) mounts and struts were replaced and was advised to replace sensors. August 2014, car wouldn't start again. Steering lock unit needs to be replaced. It's not covered under extended warranty. Rear left window doesn't work either. Everything adds up to over $3000.

- El Centro, CA, USA

problem #223

Mar 122014


  • 64,451 miles
Vehicle would not start. Appeared not to be a battery issue. Vehicle was towed to the dealership where I purchased the car. However, car started and electrical system seemed fine. Subsequently (after a discussion with the service person), it seemed apparent the there was a wheel lock switch assy failure (which is under a formal recall). I was told that the part is severely backordered. I then decided to return in a few months (during the next oil change) and attempt to schedule a warranty replacement per the formal recall. However, the dealership (grubbs Nissan in hurst, Texas) told me that "since the switch was not broken now, that they would not be able to honor the warranty". I was given a phone number to call corporate. After some research on the web, it appears that my warranty request should have been honored (especially since I already was stranded and had to pay for towing once before!). I will call corporate on Monday, but wanted to file this official complaint (if you look on the web, you can note countless people in the same situation with mixed results (obviously, very poorly communicated from corporate out to the dealerships or very poorly complied with at the dealerships (whichever is the answer, it is not acceptable). Thanks for listening, bruce campbell

- Fort Worth, TX, USA

problem #222

Jul 072014


  • 72,300 miles
Car will not start.dash display illuminates "no key",which is a "fob" type system which has a start button.this happened multiple times over the past 2 weeks.car left at Nissan of medford, MA today for replacement of the electronic lock module under the dash.Nissan extended the warranty for up to 72 months just for this issue, a known problem.not a recall yet.better not be a "diagnostic"fee for this.somebody needs to step up and demand a recall for this issue.it is all over the internet for the past several years, affecting 2009-2010 Nissan Altima's.

- Somerville, MA, USA

problem #221

Mar 192014


  • 69,000 miles
The electrical steering lock is a malfunction defect. It won't let you crank your car. And Nissan won't issue a recall it will only extend the warranty and they won't replace it. It has to do with the security system of the car. Hundreds of people are having issues.

- Cordele, GA, USA

problem #220

Feb 172014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 51,000 miles
When returning to my car after work on February 14th, 2014 the engine would not start using the automatic start intelligent key system in my 2009 Nissan Altima. Upon doing research, I found this is a highly common issue with the 2009 Nissan Altima model. There are also various independent petitions and class action suits being filed by individuals who have been affected by the same part malfunction. In fact, the complications involving the electronic steering column lock (escl) mechanism was so common that Nissan did not implement this part into the 2010 or in any future Altima vehicles. In addition (and in effort to avoid a recall situation) Nissan North american, Inc issued a warranty extension - "as it applies to the electronic steering column lock unit to 6 years/unlimited miles." Furthermore, Nissan also sent a technical service bulletin to all service shops on how to handle this problem concerning 2009 Altima's. ultimately Nissan North America, Inc. Denied my request to utilize a buy back program toward their 2009 Altima and also denied me any further details as to how they reached their decision. The regional specialist said she could only say ┐┐arbitration decision(s) are always based on the service history of vehicle. Too close, it is in my opinion Nissan has monopolistic controls on consumers in this situation. Only a Nissan dealership/service shop can diagnose the escl malfunction, as it requires a Nissan product specific scan tool, and it is their company's arbitration department who facilitates all legal decisions at which are typically not in favor of the consumer. I do not believe a service history of vehicle is material information in this scenario. Nissan should be obligated to buy back any-and-all 2009 Nissan Altima when asked to do so by their consumers who purchased this product in good faith. Updated 04/07/14

- Indianapolis, IN, USA

problem #219

Dec 072013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 42,400 miles
Steering was locked and key indicator was coming on dashboard. It was a mechanical failure related to escl (emission steering control lock).

- Pittsburgh, PA, USA

problem #218

Feb 252014


  • 132,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the electronic steering wheel lock mechanism was defective. The vehicle was towed to a local mechanic, who diagnosed that the electronic steering wheel lock mechanism needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage was 132,000. The VIN was not available.

- Prosperity, PA, USA

problem #217

Feb 102014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 70,000 miles
This is probably the coldest day we have had in East Texas this winter especially when including the windchill factor. I came home at 5:45, parked my car in the garage, and went inside. When my son when to start the car at 9:30, it would not start. It would not recognize his key, he woke me up and we tried mine, it still will not start. We spent the next four hours disconnecting the battery, manually moving the car in and out of the garage, and even tried to jump start it as suggested on this site. Nothing worked. The car will not recognize the key and has the key light flashing in the top left corner. There was no warning and I am grateful after reading all of the complaints on here that it went out in my garage. We have narrowed it down to the steering lock module failure. The battery is only 2 years old and all the lights work, the car just won't start because it won't recognize the key fob. I'm going to call the dealership where I purchased this car this morning but I am very concerned about the lack of availability of this part and how I am going to get alternate transportation until this is fixed. This is a known problem with this part and was covered by warranty which was extended for unlimited miles for this part only. Currently, the part is not available due to high level of failures across the us. Part is susceptible to higher failure in extreme cold weather. Nissan you need to make good on this or it will be the last car many of us will buy from you.

- Tyler, TX, USA

problem #216

Feb 082014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 61,012 miles
I went to run an errand and when I came back out to my car from the store, it wouldn't start. I found that the "no key" warning light was lit on the dash and the vehicle security warning light would turn on when I tried to start the vehicle. When I pushed the start button, nothing happened, it stayed in the "lock" setting. After trying everything I could think of (with no tools available), including using both keys, to get the car to start and reading the owner's manual I realized that my car was not going to start. I was able to get a ride home and researched the issue where I found hundreds of complaints on the NHTSA website, along with threads on forums describing the exact same issue. I had to get the car towed to the dealership, where it was replaced free of charge because Nissan knows that this is a failed part and has extended the warranty. However, there should have been a recall on this as this failure renders the car incapable of starting and since there seems to be a lot of people affected by this failure. I have contacted Nissan about paying for my towing bill since, if there was a recall, I could have driven my vehicle to the dealership while it was still working to have the part replaced proactively instead of having to be stranded and charged for a towing bill.

- Abingdon, MD, USA

problem #215

Feb 072014


  • miles
Trying to start my 2009 Nissan Altima, it would not start!!! the brakes were almost stuck and the car simply would not start! the lights in the car turned on with out a problem so I know it wasn't the battery, plus I changed it 2 years ago. After reading many many reviews, 2009 Nissan Altima are having issues with the start button, now I have to pay tow company to take to dealer and pay so much money. Please please Nissan help replace this!!

- New Carrollton, MD, USA

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