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:
87,569 miles
Total Complaints:
416 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace steering wheel lock (160 reports)
  2. not sure (100 reports)
  3. replace steering lock controller unit (94 reports)
  4. make it recall (20 reports)
  5. replace electronic steering wheel column (10 reports)
  6. replace brake switch (8 reports)
2009 Nissan Altima steering problems

steering problem

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2009 Nissan Altima Owner Comments (Page 1 of 21)

problem #416

Aug 022016

Altima S 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 68,000 miles


It looks like I'm one of thousands, It's keeping me from buying a new altima, as everything else with the car to this point has been great.

- , Kalispell, MT, USA

problem #415

Aug 012016

Altima ES 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

I am currently making a monthly payment on three Nissan vehicle plus one more which my Daughter owned. I will not buy another Nissan vehicle since they will not help me fix my Nissan Altima steering lock failure column. Even though a letter was never sent to me regarding the steering lock failure. Nissan would not pay for the repair. This is just unacceptable and poor customer service and unsafe for people who has health problem.

- , San Diego, CA, USA

problem #414

Dec 282016

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,474 miles


- , burlington, ON, Canada

problem #413

Oct 032016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles


This failure was extremely surprising to me as I had NO issue with my car one moment then the next it wouldn't start. Then I had to have it towed, then my mechanic had to order the very expensive part and now I'm without a car for a couple of days. Who would have thought that this module that is required for your car to operate would fail after 7 years. On top of that it appears to be an issue with this year's make and model and yet no recall. I bet if someone on the recall team had this happen, it would have gotten recalled. Please look at the history of complaints and do the right thing.

- , Springfield, PA, USA

problem #412

Aug 292016

Altima SL 2.5L

  • CVT transmission
  • 77,456 miles

This problem should be recalled with the 2008-2010 Nissan Altima, I have been doing my research and seen about close to 500 other people have had the same problem as I did, if not more. THIS IS NOT SOMETHING PEOPLE WANT TO DEAL WITH unexpectedly NOT BEING ABLE TO MOVE YOUR CAR. HAVE THIS RECALLED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- , Staten Island, NY, USA

problem #411

Dec 022016

Altima SL 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 123,571 miles

I left out the house to got to work, and the car wouldn't start. looked it up on YouTube, called the dealership had it towed there around 9:30. they tell me its not a common problem that happens a lot. a couple hrs go bye I get a call around 12 noon. they say they find out the problem and tell me the part alone is gonna COST! ME! $1000 plus the labor that will take a few hrs. but they have to order the part maybe can get it tomorrow and can start on the car on Monday. I call back 42 mins later to get the name of the part. They can't find my paper work and the person who helped me is busy helping someone right. I get a call back around 2pm, they tell me they found the part for a few hundred dollars less and can get started on it and be finished by the end of the day, OK. I get a call back right at 3:20 '' your car is ready for pick up do you need a ride". To me this is a scam Nissan knows about this problem and is doing nothing about it. how can you extend the warranty on a problem for this year, make, model but don't notify owners. this needs to be RECALLED AND REFUNDED. $1200 with Christmas three weeks away. this will be the last Nissan I will Own if this is how Nissan is going to do Owners.

- , Berkeley, CA, USA

problem #410

Feb 082017

Altima LS

  • Automatic transmission
  • 54,558 miles


I'm very distressed that Nissan failed to do a recall in regards to steering lock failure which appears to be a problem in 2009 Altima. Fortunately I was in a parking lot area, but I could easily have been stranded alone at night. Thus, a big safety concern. I had the added inconvenience of taking three hours to tow my car to the dealership. They had to order the part. Therefore, I had no car until the next day. All car manufacturers have recalls.

Right now I am interested in Nissan since I have an Altima. It would have cost Nissan a lot less to replace my steering lock than it will cost Nissan $20,000 plus since I will not buy another one. Nissan will have to decide whether or not they made the right decision not to do a recall. There are a lot of other good cars out there and due to the concern for safety plus the cost you passed on to me, I feel no loyalty in purchasing another Altima, and won't.

- , Lombard, IL, USA

problem #409

Dec 102016

Altima V4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

I can't understand why there is not a recall on this. The tow truck guy knew what the problem was before we got to the service station. He said 90% of all Nissans he picks up has this same problem. Only other disappointment was paying 1,042 to fix this problem. I will always look to this site in the future before buying

- , Norwalk, CT, USA

problem #408

Feb 162017


  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,934 miles

I think it' ridiculous just how many failures there have been with the steering wheel lock controller unit. in the 2009 Altima. Obviously, Nissan knows about this problem but is unwilling to own up to the problem by issuing a recall. I knew it was a common problem when my local dealer diagnosed the issue over the phone. It's bad enough for Nissan to know about the problem but to never notify owners of the potential threat of failure is completely irresponsible. Fortunately I know many Nissan owners and will go out of my way to discuss the way Nissan has responded to this problem. Nice job Nissan, save a few hundred thousand dollars and cost the company millions in future sales.

- , Caledonia, US

problem #407

Feb 052017

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,648 miles

I just got my Nissan Altima and I haven't had it a month and I went to the store and I come out to start the car and it won't start! The steering wheel was locked and the key symbol was light up and I put my foot on the brake to push button start and nothing. So I call the car lot and they give me a number of someone who can help. They called me and tried to walk me through some things but nothing. So I had to wait an hour at the store. The guy starts banging on something under the steering wheel and tells me it's the escl and it's going to cost anywhere from $600 to 1,000 to fix it. I have to get it fixed because it could happen again. I went to my car lot and big help they were, they didn't want to change the car for something else and they didn't want to fix it either. I left the car there and they say they are going to fix it. This is a big pain in the ass that a car I'm buying and haven't had it a month does this and on top of the car payment, I have to make now this!! I'm really upset I wanted an Altima for a while but this is making me regret my choice in cars

- , Sevierville, TN, USA

problem #406

Dec 202016

Altima 2.5S V4

  • Manual transmission
  • 132,000 miles


My car wouldn't start and of course it was cold as crap and I wasn't home. Any who turns out it's because the steering lock control unit needs to be replaced. I didn't know this last month, I just found out this morning when the dealer called me. I had the same issue this week and turns out that unit needs to be replaced. In Dec I had my car towed but it started right up the next morning so it didn't cost me anything but it's going to cost me almost $1000 this time. The part is $800+ and after reading the multiple compliments online I'm pissed Nissan has made this a recall. They know obviously there's an issue and instead of handling it they've put the cost off to their customers. Me and my checking account are steaming right now!

- , Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #405

Feb 022017


  • Automatic transmission
  • 49,000 miles

Vehicle would not start. Vehicle was in high crime area and afraid for our well being and also did not feel that it was safe from vandals in that area. This failure Nissan knows about and should had a recall on it. I have owned seven Nissan products and felt that Nissan would be a reasonable company and would and should take the responsibility for this defect.

- , Burkeville, TX, USA

problem #404

Jan 242017

Altima 2.5S V4

  • Manual transmission
  • 133,000 miles

My car wouldn't start in Dec 2016, I had it towed to my mechanic and it started right up the next morning. He couldn't find anything wrong. Then this week I went to leave work and my car wouldn't start so I had it towed to a Nissan Dealer. Dealer called this morning to say the steering lock control unit needs to be replaced, the cost will be $976+tax. The part cost $800+ and of course my car is out of warranty. I wouldn't have a problem if it was the basic wear and tear however I'm highly irritated after searching online to see others have had the same issue and Nissan refuses to do a recall.

My car is an 09 so I'm out of the warranty Nissan issued for the part in 2013. Now I'll have to spend approximately a $1000 for a part that Nissan knows there's an issue with and I'm pissed. I've always been a Nissan fan even as a little girl which is why I'm so disappointed that they aren't accepting responsibility by having a recall and/or extending the time of the warranty. Thankfully I have roadside through my insurance company so I don't have to add the cost of a tow to an already unexpected expense. I'm so over companies being greedy and getting over on everyday people.

Overall I'm satisfied with my car, it drives well, it looks good and mechanically it's treated me well however it still chaps my hide to the fullest that I have to come out of pocket for a defective part and it's obvious by the complements online that I'm not the only to have experienced this issue and sad to say I'm sure I won't be the last.

- , Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #403

Dec 182016

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

Wife used the car earlier to do some errands. It was cold but car started with no problems. Later in the evening, she tried to leave the house to pick me up from the airport. Car wouldn't start. After doing some googling, found out that this was a common issue (dead steering lock mechanism) and covered by an extended warranty. Unfortunately, we were out of warranty as most of us will be. Luckily, I work from home and did not need to use our other vehicle and since the kids were on Christmas break, we didn't need 2 vehicles so she was able to go to work for the week .

I resolved the issue for $275 by Youtubing how to replace this part and it was actually very easy to do. Found it on Ebay (the actual replacement part used by Nissan) and replaced it with no problems. Please note that I'm not a mechanic but I am a bit of a tinkerer so I wasn't too worried about screwing something up.

If you have this problem and are no longer under warranty, check out Ebay ( and try to replace yourself.

Forget giving the Nissan dealer money for an issue that is obviously their problem (as they have also acknowledged) but will no longer reimburse since most of us bought these vehicles in 2009.

Update from Feb 1, 2017: Part on Ebay is now $385 with many sold already (1000+). Other sellers selling part for more. I am not associated with this seller...just want to help out and stick it to Nissan.

Part can be found at .

As stated in my original post, it is actually an easy fix. If you know someone that's confident enough to remove panels, unplug battery/parts then reinstall back, this issue can be resolved for $385 and a six pack. The added screws actually make it easier to install.

Update from Mar 2, 2017: Received an Owner Notification today stating that NISSAN has issued a voluntary service campaign to replace the ESCL (Electronic Steering Column Lock) free of charge. All of us who have already paid to have this repair done will have the opportunity to request reimbursement.


problem #402

Nov 282016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 151,132 miles

I could not start my car because the Steering Lock control Unit shorted out. The car had been running fine up until that point. I asked the dealership what would cause this malfunction and the Service Manger said your car is more prone to it once you get high mileage on your car.

When I did more research, I found out that Nissan knew that the ESCL on the 09' Altima's was a faulty product and issued a warranty extension that ended on March 31st 2015 with unlimited mileage use. However, I was never made aware of this warranty extension and was stuck with a $1,050 bill to fix it.

- , Oak Lawn, IL, USA

problem #401

Jan 022017


  • CVT transmission
  • 96,000 miles

Just as the 400 other comments on here state...key alert appeared on the dash display, checked the manual, said it was something to do with steering lock. Took it to the Nissan Dealer the next day, they stated it was steering malfunction and they had to replace it. Will run me about $1290 to fix. If all these people have the same complaint and Nissan won't knowledge it's a manufacturing defect...I'm not buying Nissan again.

- , Massapequa, NY, USA

problem #400

Dec 302016

Altima EX 2.55

  • Automatic transmission
  • 159,700 miles

why did Nissan only extend warranty so far? Only to save money money.

- , Perry, OH, USA

problem #399

Jan 182017

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 73,000 miles

The car would not start, and gave me a warning signal on my dash. I looked that up in the manual and found that it is a malfunction with the electrical steering wheel lock. The only fix is to take it to a dealer (and it has to be done from a Nissan dealer directly) and to replace the part. It's a known problem with the year and model, and very expensive to fix - mins was $1,100. This part should definitely be recalled!

- , Austin, TX, USA

problem #398

Jan 062017

Altima SE Coupe 3.5L

  • Manual transmission
  • 45,000 miles

I went to leave work late at night a couple weeks back. It had started snowing and temps dipped well into freezing. Roads were turning to ice already. I was already concerned for my safety.

I unlocked my car with my fob, great. Lights came on, I got in, shut the door, pushed the clutch down and hit "Start" and absolutely nothing happened. Not even a click, not even an attempt at the car starting. I locked, unlocked the doors, popped the hood, checked the battery cables, all the lights inside the cabin powered on fully, but I found it wouldn't recognize my key fob as allowing the car to start. Even if I inserted it in the fob holder, absolutely nothing. Wouldn't click to ACC or to ON. Just... dead.

Got a ride home from the last coworker left, and did some serious Googling. All signs pointed to the Electronic Steering Column Lock having failed. I was super-pissed after reading so many readily available complaints about this same issue across many different forums and webpages. Now, I've got a 2009, so it's older... sure, but not covered by any warranty. Though it has less than 50K miles. It's a car still in it's prime! I called Nissan and they roughly quoted $1100 to repair.

No. Absolutely not.

So I got a rental, went back to work, played with the car a bit more to try and confirm it was the steering column lock... and after I was convinced... I took off the bottom dash housing... found the ESCL, and banged on that stupid little part with a wrench that Nissan wanted $1100 to fix. I banged on it hard, for 10 minutes, with my foot pushing the clutch down... hitting the START button...

...and it went to ACC mode. Oh man. I then started the car, and it came to life.

So I drove it, the steering wheel wasn't locked, and I had a car... and I parked it, left it running, locked it, then did some more research. Everything I read told me to pull the ESCL fuse to keep that part from engaging again, and so I did... and it's started every single time since.

I'm angry. Flat out. I've driven several Nissans, bought from the dealership, had serviced, but this one part left me stranded in the freezing cold, and it's a part they absolutely knew about as they extended the warranty on it, but not long enough for me despite keeping low miles on my car. I've already told a great many people that I will never buy a Nissan again. This part needs to be recalled and covered by Nissan in full. It's defective and they know it.

Update from Jan 23, 2017: Figured I'd update with Nissan's Consumer Affairs response so far. After contacting Nissan, I got a call back from them saying that if I wished to discuss this issue further, to call them back... and to be advised that they're on the phone the majority of the day so I should leave a detailed message and they'd get back to me by close of business on such'and'such a date. Cool. I appreciate the follow-up.

Called back, it went to voicemail, and I left a calm and detailed message outlining my issue again, my concerns and what I hoped Nissan would do... and basically said that I know Nissan is aware that this is a manufacturing defect, that it's a severe safety issue (can't even start he car to turn on the heater in freezing temps), that my car has been well maintained for it's life... and that I never expect to be stranded in such a manner. All I asked is that they look to see if Nissan is willing to cover the fix of this part, and if so to let me know. And if not, to also let me know.

I got a call back again today with pretty much the same response... that if I wished to discuss the matter, to call them back and leave a message.

So I guess that's my answer. I called back again and left another message saying pretty much the same thing. I was calm, to the point, not angry... but let them know what I wanted. Either acknowledgement that they could help me, or that they couldn't unless I pay out of pocket. We'll see what happens. My guess is that they won't help besides offering to talk to me further and apologize. I don't want to take my frustrations out on a customer service employee because I've been there, but man... I looked up how much pure revenue Nissan made last year and I think a vein in my forehead twitched. It's in the billions range. Pure profit. All I need is $1100 to ensure my car won't leave me stranded for no good reason for a part that they know is faulty.

A former Nissan lover turning to a Nissan hater. It's a rough feeling. Ugh.

Update from Feb 4, 2017: Final update.

Continued to play phone tag with Nissan Consumer Affairs. I've called them back approximately 50-ish times over the past couple weeks in an attempt to reach a live person, and every single time I called it rang until it went to voicemail. I've left a few messages, and they admittedly have called me back the next day or couple of days after only to say that I should leave them a message, otherwise they'd call me back to discuss on such'n'such a day by close of business. One of the last messages I got was that Nissan had made a decision, but they aren't allowed to tell me the decision over voicemail. At this point, all I want to hear is, "Nissan is unwilling and unable to assist at their cost." Or even better, "We value you as a customer and get your frustration and understand your concerns about this being a safety issue... bring it in and we'll cover the part."

I find it strikingly ridiculous that they can't simply leave a message saying, "Nissan won't cover this part." I'd be fine hearing that at this point. And being that I work typical business hours in a job that requires me to not keep a phone on me... I did make a solid attempt one day to stay near a phone to receive a call, which I told them I'd attempt in a previous VM. I missed the call by about 10 minutes. I then attempted to return the call numerous times after the fact.

I mean, look at that! I called all afternoon and couldn't reach a live person. Why even bother having a consumer affairs department if I can't reach anyone there? My job as a consumer isn't to sit by the phone and wait for it to ring so that they can verbally tell me I'm out of luck and have to cover repair costs on part that Nissan knew was defected. Pretty sure that's the job of the people they employ to work their call centers. I'm not even given an option to hold.

And thusly, I'm done with Nissan.

- , Knoxville, TN, USA

problem #397

Dec 262012

Altima LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 33,572 miles

This is the first incident of the steering lock mechanism going bad. I have posted the second incident previously as it just occurred on 12/21/16. Substantially the same scenario: I go out on an errand, get back to the car, and it doesn't start. This is only a year after I purchased the car. So I have it towed to Capitol Nissan, and they diagnose it and replace the steering lock unit and ignition switch assembly. I am advised at this time that they have had other customers with the same complaint. It was under warranty, and I didn't have to pay for the repair. When they replaced the unit, I was certainly under the impression they wouldn't replace it with another flawed unit. It took another five years for substantially the same unit to fail.

- , Atlanta, GA, USA

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