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


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
86,163 miles
Total Complaints:
354 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace steering wheel lock (130 reports)
  2. not sure (99 reports)
  3. replace steering lock controller unit (82 reports)
  4. make it recall (9 reports)
  5. replace brake switch (8 reports)
  6. replace electronic steering wheel column (7 reports)
2009 Nissan Altima steering problems

steering problem

Find something helpful? Spread the word.
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2009 Nissan Altima:

Unsubscribe any time. We don't sell/share your email.

2009 Nissan Altima Owner Comments (Page 1 of 18)

problem #354

Feb 212016


  • CVT transmission
  • 41,000 miles


I own a 2009 Nissan Altima. In February of 2016, just before 41,000 miles, my car failed to start. The vehicle showed no prior signs of imminent failure. I had my car towed to my residence. I eventually came to believe the problem to be the Electronic Steering Column Lock (ESCL). I contacted the local dealership and was told the part and replacement procedure would be a little over $1,100. I decided to contact Nissan directly. After contacting Nissan through proper channels, I was told the part was out of the six-year warranty. However, they would review my situation and contact me after, at most, three days. Three days without my vehicle later, I was called five minutes before 5:00 PM to be told that I did not qualify for a paid replacement. I decided to make my own attempt at repairing my vehicle, based off what other Nissan owners had experienced. After a bit of research and elbow grease, I was able to gain access to the ESCL and get the car started by using a screwdriver to push down a recessing 'metal block' on the ESCL. I then pressed the start key on the dashboard to get the car into 'battery mode' or 'accessory mode'. I went under the hood and pulled a 10A red fuse from the fusebox related to the ESCL- no larger than a dime. Having done all this, I could now start the vehicle nominally. I taped the ESCL to the underside of the steering column, unplugged, in event I will need the part again for resale or whatnot. I keep the fuse hanging from my rear view mirror as a proud reminder of overcoming the daunting situation. I have had zero issues with my vehicle in the seven months since, thus also confirming that my actions were not just a temporary fix. I have heard from Nissan owners of some of the more recent models that the ESCL still exists in the vehicle, however the fuse had been pulled (presumably before purchase). Also considering the frequency of the problem and the relative abundance of the solution online, I believe it unlikely that Nissan was unaware of being able to resolve the issue without the $1,100 dollar replacement. Furthermore, when I called my local dealer, I specifically asked what revision the new ESCL part would be. I was surprised to find the new part they offered to put inside my car was the same revision as other faulty ESCL's, not the fixed revision. In other words, I would have another metaphoric timebomb in my vehicle. Every instance of reaching out to Nissan or affiliate was met with high resistance and ultimate futility, except for the sales people, who were very easy to reach when offering a costly replacement. I felt that instead of offering assistance in some manner, Nissan service laid barriers of time and frustration between me and my goal of a functioning vehicle. Minus the incident above, I have enjoyed my Nissan vehicle experience very much. I was excited to hear that the Nissan Leaf is a competitive electric vehicle, as I am looking for an electric car as my next purchase. However, after these events with customer service, I cannot condone purchasing an Altima-like vehicle, and I will assuredly refrain from purchasing a Nissan vehicle the next time I look to purchase a car, as it appears the company has an unacceptably low level of interest in its customers. This is truly unfortunate, as the car is an otherwise recommendable product. To other Nissan owners, who are still seeing these parts suddenly cease working in their vehicles, you may very well be able to overcome the situation without the repair bill. I am rather mechanically inept, and I was able to solve the issue, you probably can as well. The best of luck to you.

- , Dayton, OH, USA

problem #353

Sep 082016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 85,300 miles

So I could not start my car (push button, no option for a key) today after grocery shopping. Thought maybe I was doing something wrong, so I used google to explain my problem. That's when I could not believe how common this was for all 2009 Nissan Altima owners. Every post and article was about a bad steering lock. Even a few news programs had articles of this problem. Had the car towed to my dealership, got picked up and taken home by a friend. I kept educating myself and reading articles and stories from owners, most of whom had to pay ridiculous sums of money. Now I've had this car for less than 5 months as I'm financing it through the dealership, Nissan of Atlantic City. And I got really mad when I recalled the night I got the car, asking questions to the salesman. My first was about the push button start and if it was reliable or had a history of problems since I wasn't familiar with it. I was told no, it's super reliable lol. Needless to say upon my research I learned Nissan extended the warranty for this very problem, as they stated it was a "manufacturing irregularity". Basically saying they know they put a defective part in the vehicle. Unless that can be interpreted differently?? So I get called by the dealership and quoted a price of nearly $900.00! Now why am I on the hook as a consumer to replace a "manufacturing irregularity" and not the manufacturer? I'm disgusted that the dealership is not looking out for this when they sell this model since it is a known problem and has had warranty extensions, yet no recall. Obviously I did not own the car when the warranty for it expired so that sucks... but still, I feel like I got sold a defective car none the less.

- , Egg Harbor Twp, NJ, USA

problem #352

Sep 092016

Altima SL

  • Automatic transmission
  • 105,000 miles

I got stranded this past Friday! Car wouldn't start and the ECSL light was on. I tried shaking the crap out of the steering wheel (as explained on YouTube) and hitting the steering column. None of which worked! I refused to risk cosmetic damage attempting to remove the panel underneath the steering wheel to access the ECSL as may YouTubers advised. Instead I called it a night, and returned in the morning hoping for a miracle start in the morning.

Next morning..nothing! I prepared myself to call a tow truck $$$ and take it directly to Nissan a few hours later, and VIOLA! Car started, no ECSL light. Light would come and go the next day, but my car started even with the light on. After a couple days of being ECSL light free, I thought my worries were over. Until I left work today!

STUCK in the parking garage. After an hour, I found some pliers thin enough to stick in the gap of the panel and steering column and heavy enough to tap to ECSL. Light went off, car started. I think I'll go get this puppy replaced before I'm stranded and am late/miss another meeting! As soon as I find $600! Oh and my extended warranty I paid for expired 5,000 miles ago, GREAT.

Seriously Nissan, a WELL KNOWN issue and no recall?! Not cool.

- , Indianapolis, IN, USA

problem #351

Aug 272016


  • CVT transmission
  • 88,000 miles


This is a horrible example of poor customer service by Nissan. Owners were not notified of the problem and therefore had no opportunity to address the issue prior to the vehicle's warranty expiration or the extended "customer satisfaction warranty extension" offered by Nissan. Of course, the steering lock module failed after the customer satisfaction warranty extension occurred and over $1000 later, I have just spent money on a fix that I would never have spent to fix a 2009 vehicle. When I contact Nissan for assistance, after "looking into the claim" they denied any reimbursement, coverage or assistance because the fault happened after the car's warranty expired. After 20 minutes of useless conversation with my Regional Customers Service Rep. I was only frustrated and angry. My faith in Nissan is lost. To not make any concession regarding the repair of this part is ridiculous. If they were truly interested in "customer satisfaction" they would have been so inspired enough to cover a portion of the cost. Further, why on Earth would they make a necessary part so darn expensive. This is highway robbery. It's bad enough that Nissan will not stand behind their product and make us whole for the repair, but it's insult to injury to make the needed part exorbitantly expensive. Nissan has lost this customer for life.

- , Sarasota, FL, USA

problem #350

Aug 312016

Altima 4DR SDN

  • Automatic transmission
  • 67,729 miles

Last long weekend of the summer, car is packed ready to head to the cottage kids are so excited so am I, first weekend off in a while. Go to start the car, and have to be kidding me right now I said to myself. I did not want the kids to know just in case I got it started but after a few minutes, nothing. I called for a tow truck thank god for CAA but not so lucky at the dealership. I had to fork out money that I could not afford. I had budgeted for the weekend and this was an extra cost that I could not afford. The dealership told me the problem, got it started and said it would happen again. They would order the part which would cost $700.00 that does not included labour which is $89.00 an hour. I already work two jobs to get by and with no car I cannot work. I need a car to work and support my family. Pleaseeeeeee HELP! CALL A RECALL FOR STEERING LOCK ACTUATOR ON ALL 2009 AND 2010 NISSAN ALTIMA .ENOUGH OF THIS BULLSHIT.

- , Collingwood, ON, Canada

problem #349

Aug 152016

Altima S 2.5s

  • Automatic transmission
  • 148,000 miles

If I had my grandchildren in the car it would have been much worse. There was no warning, no lights on. Just got in my car after filling up with gas and it would not start. Nothing. Now I have found out that this is a common problem with Nissans. I have loved this brand and should have been notified of this potential/now current problem.

- , Havana, FL, USA

problem #348

Aug 242016

Altima SEL 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 210,000 miles


With no warning, we were unable to start our 2009 Nissan Altima. We never heard of steering lock problem with 2009 Altima before, but it is ALL OVER the internet. My husband was stranded at work, with the vehicle on the 5th level of a parking garage. After an interesting (and expensive) tow from the parking garage to the dealership, the problem was confirmed. We would need to pay $1000 or not be able to start our vehicle.This part/repair was under an extended warranty, but that expired over a year ago. Nissan knows about the faulty part and the dangers it presents to owners (we live in Wisconsin and were lucky this did not occur during the middle of a winter weather event), but they still feel that after 6 years it should become OUR issue. It was originally an INDEFINITE extended warranty, but I'm sure this became too expensive, to it was changed too 6 years...NISSAN is now saving money at their customers' expense. They are fully aware that this failure could occur at any time. We purchased a lemon and Nissan does not want to make this right. This is our second Altima that experience a known failure (we previously owned a 2002 Altima), this is our last.

- , Hartford, WI, USA

problem #347

Aug 132016

Altima 2.5S 2.5L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 134,000 miles

Car would not start windows would not go up or down, Called Dealer and place where I bought the car, they said my 2009 Altima's vin number was not in record to replace Steering Lock Box,I never recieved a recall on this steering lock box and want to know why because it is a 2009 Nissan Altima and their was a recall on that part and why would it matter about the vin number it was a 2009 and it has a very dangerous problem with not starting and steering locks up./ I do not have the extra money to fix it and it is my only transportation. I don't think the dealer should discriminate against such vin number when I clearly bought this car as a 2009 and have answered to every recall they have sent in the past, just did not get this recall notice. I think they just don't want to pay for an part, dangerous or not if they don't have to they want me to have it towed there and see if it's a transmission , it's not just want to make a buck

- , Niantic, CT, USA

problem #346

Aug 172016

Altima SL 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 136,000 miles

Issue: Steering Lock fault preventing car from starting.

Dear Sir:

I am very angry, frustrated and disappointed with this ongoing issue with my ’09 Altima. I am sure you can imagine how disconcerting it is to not know when or if your car will start. I have been repeatedly stranded by this problem and have had to be jump started on many occasions and finally towed to the dealership to hopefully fix once and for all.

This is the 2nd repair I’ve had to have done on the same or related issue: Steering Lock. The first repair was resolved by replacing the brake light switch for a total of $177.18. The second repair was fixed by replacing the steering lock for a total of $908.04 plus rental of $45.00. The towing was included in my auto insurance policy.

I realize this is not a new vehicle, however in my mind, this is an item that should not fail as there is no manual/alternative starting mechanism. Not to mention, I’d be fine with the “old fashioned” key start. I’m not sure why Nissan hasn’t stepped up in a major way to fix this known problem. A simple google search will tell you this is no small/isolated issue.

As a multiple Nissan vehicle owner and hopefully a long time, repeat customer I am respectfully requesting a full reimbursement in the amount of - $1,130.22.

- , Peachtree City, GA, USA

problem #345

Mar 102016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

Try this. It works.

- , Clovis, CA, USA

problem #344

Aug 122016


  • CVT transmission
  • 167,000 miles


Doesn't surprise me that there is yet ANOTHER car manufacture to have such serious issues, with so many of the same year models, and they do nothing about it.. I am so sick of being taken advantage of. I first trusted Honda, was so proud when I bought my car, to later find out they were notorious for transmission problems, and wouldn't fix the issue (yes reputable Honda.. going down the drain), two Accords in our family, both with transmission failures. Again, year before last, bought a 2009 Nissan Altima, Loved it! Was proud of it! Bragged about it!, Praised it! Referred people to purchase the Altima.. until it almost left me stranded on the way back from vacation (known transmission issue they refuse to acknowledge or fix GASP!), and then yesterday, it left me stranded for real.. with yet another known steering lock issue that they once acknowledged and now refuse to fix. Cost $1010 big ones.. Kicker.. 5 days before my destination wedding. We complained to the service manager and he did knock a bit off, new cost $875.00 (still a jolt to my wedding/vacations plans). Again, I am so sick of these auto manufactures being allowed to have these known issues, across many different years and makes, taking advantage of their customers, yet not being held accountable. They'll never fix the issue if they are not held accountable for their issues.. fixing this piece of crap and trading it in.. I'm done with Honda and now I'm done with Nissan.

- , Jackson, GA, USA

problem #343

Jul 312016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

The Steering wheel lock was recalled, I did not know about the recall when I purchased the car. They are saying that it is no longer covered. It will cost over $1,000 to get it fixed.

- , Pulaski, TN, USA

problem #342

Jul 312016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

Purchased the car last year, and I was not told that there was a recall on the Steering Wheel Lock failure when the car was sold to me. Mine went out and they will not replace without me paying a $1,000 even though there was a recall on it.

- , Pulaski, TN, USA

problem #341

Jun 062016

Altima LS

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

Left me stranded in 98 degree heat. Had to have the car towed only to find out only the dealership could determine the problem. Towed it to the dealer. Found out it was a Steering Lock issue that happens to most 2009 and 2010 Altima's. Nissan had issued an extended warranty, knowing it was an issue, but not a recall. Unfortunately, the extended warranty expired before my car had the problem.

I've contacted Nissan corporate only to have them tell me "Sorry, the extended warranty has expired". No kidding. So, about to have to spend $1,000 for a repair that should be a recall. NOT HAPPY WITH NISSAN. We're getting ready to buy a new car. Guess which manufacturer we won't be looking at?


problem #340

Jun 282016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 60,000 miles

My Nissan Altima 2009 world not Start after I Went to THE fármacy to get my prescription. THE car would not start. I became very worried and started sweating profussely. I am diabetic, hypertensive and have heart problems. Someone had to help me and call a toll truck that cost me $40.00, from THE pharmacy to my house. I called THE Nissan Dealer in ponce, and THEy told me I have to Pay another tow truck to Take it to THE Dealer and have to Pay THEM $39.95, for revisión of unit, and probable that this Will be at least $1,000.00. I dont have this Kind of money. If I knew of this recall, I would not have purchased this vehicle. I purchased this vehicle on february 2016. I am so upset, and can not use this car or get it fixed.

- , Ponce, Anguilla

problem #339

Jul 012016

Altima LS

  • Automatic transmission
  • 92,000 miles

I went out to my car and it wouldn't start. The lights came on so I knew it wasn't the battery. It was towed to a Nissan dealership, they stated that it was the steering lock control unit that needed to be replaced along with needing to be reprogrammed and new keys. $1,121. WOW! Then looking online NISSAN KNEW about the problem for the 09 Altima and extended the warranty until Oct 2015. So they know it is an issue but I was NEVER told that there was a recall on that part. They should be cover this expense. This is ridiculous.

- , Naperville, IL, USA

problem #338

Jun 092016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

Left the office to get gas during my lunch break, pumped my gas and got back in my car and it would not start, make a sound, brake did not work now gear shift. Nothing...had to call someone to come help me unlock the shift lock to shift the car into neutral to push it out of the way. Car still sitting at the gas station...keys won't work, can't jump start it. Gotta find a way to pay for the $900 repair + towing. PLEASE RECALL THIS! Glad I wasn't stranded at night somewhere....This is on top of the A/C going out last year...this car is a magnet for disaster will never buy another Nissan...

- , Auburn, AL, USA

problem #337

Jun 162016

Altima S 2.5L

  • CVT transmission
  • 123,000 miles

Went to start car to run an errand while at work on lunch break to get in the car and the car would not start. I'll have to get the car towed not to include the daycare late fees that I'm going to have to pay because I am unable to pick my child up from daycare because they close, needless to say it's $1 per minute that I'm late and it is due at the time of pick up. I likely will get to the daycare only 2 hours late if AAA doesn't take to long to arrive at five o'clock then fight rush hour traffic and then get a ride to pick up my child. So that's $120 on top of the cost for the part which is $708.66 not including the labor, stress, and anxiety that this inconvenience has caused. I am infuriated. I was considering buying another Nissan as I have already purchased 6 vehicles from Nissan but this has been a great deterrent. My other 2009 Nissan Altima had to have a new transmission replaced just 2 months ago. The Nissan quality is going DOWN THE DRAIN!

- , Randallstown, MD, USA

problem #336

Jun 062016

Altima 2.5S 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 137,000 miles

I was not aware this was a known issue with Nissans. I went to the doctor, came out and my car wouldn't start. It's hot outside and I was several miles away from work and home. My sister had to come pick me up from 25 miles away and take me to work. I also had to have my car towed to the dealer. I believe this should be a recall considering this could have stranded me somewhere where I could not get assistance easily.

- , Saint Louis, MO, USA

problem #335

Jun 092016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,000 miles

I went to start my car at work and the wheel locked. There was power to the battery and we tried jumping the car. Nothing. I had the car towed to a certified national dealer and they stated that the steering column module needed replacement with a bill of approximately $850.00.

- , Orchard Park, NY, USA

Read the next 20 complaints »

Not what you are looking for?