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:
87,557 miles
Total Complaints:
407 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace steering wheel lock (155 reports)
  2. not sure (100 reports)
  3. replace steering lock controller unit (91 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 #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.


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

problem #396

Dec 212016

Altima LX V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,000 miles

I wondered why my 2009 Nissan Altima is such a piece of garbage when everyone else sings praises about the Nissan Altima. So I go online and Google 2009 Nissan Altima, and I find this site and all the complaints on this issue. Now, this is the second time I have gone out on an errand and come back to my car to find it won't start. I had to have the car towed on both occasions to the dealer. The first time this happened the dealership was Capitol Nissan, and they replaced the steering lock unit and told me that they had other customers with the same problem. The car was under warranty so I didn't have to pay for the fix. This dealership no longer exists. Nally Nissan fixed the problem the second time it happened. It cost me $1155.29 to have it fixed. The service department must know this is an ongoing problem, yet didn't feel the need to let me know about it, but did tell me they don't make the cars; they just fix them. They let me drive off their lot knowing this is going to happen again. Unconscionable.

- , Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #395

Dec 022016

Altima SL 2.4L

  • CVT transmission
  • 55,400 miles

12-2-16, Friday 9:30 PM very cold in Northeastern Ohio. Car in parking lot would not start because of a steering lock failure. Called neighbor 25 miles away for a ride home. 12-3-16,Sat.Car towed to Nissan dealer where purchased. Repair would cost upwards of $1,000. Research on the internet indicates Nissan had extended warranty repairs for this problem and then rescinded it. I believe this is a safety issue. If a person is stranded and cannot get a cell tower connection, one could freeze to death. What if a family with small children experienced this on a sub-zero night? The car has only 55,400 miles on it but I do not trust it for me or my wife to drive. There should be a Federal recall for this problem.

- , Amherst, OH, US

problem #394

Jan 072017


  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,565 miles

I'm really pissed off... I can't believe it just happened on the week end. On Saturday Jan 07, 2017 we went into the grocery store and came out to go home and the car was dead. I tried to change the battery in the key fobs but it did not work. I had to call CAA to help me and after spending 3 hour in the parking lot in the freezing condition stranded in -20 degree temperature, the CAA arranged towing my vehicle to the nearest Nissan dealer to be checked. On Monday the Nissan dealer called me and said that the problem in my Altima 2009 is in the “Steering Lock” which is defected and need to be replaced and the cost of the part which they have to order is $977.39. I called Nissan Canada to inform about this Steering Lock defect problem of my Nissan Altima 2009 they told me that this part was no longer under the "extended warranty” I have to pay for its replacement and if Nissan do recall then I can present the expenses to them for reimbursement.

I have notice how many more complaints have been written about this Steering Lock “DEFECT” problem in just the recent months. This is very annoying; it seems to me this is a manufacturer problem. Nissan should cover the charges because it was a defective part that had been installed...Nissan needs to recall this and restore its customers trust. I have been a customer for about 17 years and what I found now that for Nissan there is no appreciation for its customers loyalty… shame on NISSAN... I will never buy another Nissan after this issue

- , Ca, AB, Canada

problem #393

Dec 192016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,300 miles

Went out to go home from work and it would not start...waited 3 hours for AAA and finally cancelled it when I realized it was not a battery issue...I had called Nissan dealership and the service person told me that it should work if I put the fob in the little fob insert on the car...did not start...I had my sister bring me the other fob and it made no difference...After 3 hours, I cancelled AAA service and just went was very cold and it was dark.

I drove my daughter's Altima to work the next day and called AAA to tow it to the dealership(towed at 8:30 am). They did not have time to look at it because they were so busy. I had left a note in the drivers seat about the steering lock issue with the 2009 Altima. The next day they told me it was no longer under the "extended warranty" and the part might be in Chicago and if so would be ready the next day (3 days later). When I went in to discuss this with the Service Manager about why this was not a recall or Nissan should cover the charges because it was a defective part that had been installed...he told me that the part was on "back order." He was not helpful at all...we can't just pay for everyones repairs. Things fail on cars.

Nissan needs to recall this and restore the trust in Nissan cars. I have been a customer for about 30 years and there is no loyalty with customers with Nissan as I can see.

Update from Dec 29, 2016: Notice how many more complaints have been written in just the recent months...shame on NISSAN...RECALL IT NOW

- , Fishers, IN, USA

problem #392

Jan 042017

Altima S 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,000 miles

I'm really pissed....I get off from work in the evening and stop by the store and once I returned to my car it wouldn't start. Two key symbols come up on the dashboard. The lights, horn, and alarm all worked, but the car wouldn't start. I had to call someone to come and get me so I could get home. The next morning I had to borrow someone's car to get to work and I also had to have the car towed to the Nissan dealership yesterday and was told the steering lock control failed and it would cost $1200.00 to fix. I sent an email to about my concerns and they responded that the warranty had been extended to 7 years or unlimited mileage. I responded to email indicating the car owners were never notified. I have been assigned a case number and waiting for a response. What pisses me off is the fact the Nissan knew of this problem and instead of having a recall they changed the warranty and didn't notify the owners. That's just foul. The sad part about it is, I have been taking my car to get serviced at the Nissan dealership and they never mentioned anything.

- , Quincy, FL, USA

problem #391

Jan 052017


  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,700 miles

I got off work last night and was about to start my car, nothing happened. Start engine not even on ACC mode. Then I saw the key sign is always on. I changed my key battery 2 weeks before, and it can lock/unlock the car, open the trunk, everything. So not the key problem. Then googled what's this about. Then realized it's my steering lock problem. I can't believe it just happened. Spending half an hour in the freezing car in the parking lot I gave it up. Due to the pricey replacement, I decided to fix it myself, by using hammer hitting that metal box. Now car can be turned on, but it's just a quick temporary fix, I am worried what I should do afterwards.

Nissan should help us on fixing its own problem.

- , Edison, NJ, USA

problem #390

Dec 132016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 87,000 miles

Cold night here in Mn car to be unabel to start cR due to steering lock failure. Tried new batteries in smart keys, tried jump, tried shifting steering wheel. Had to have it towed to local garage and am having ignition control module replaced. Heard this has happened to many 2009 Nissans, anyway to recoop some cost from Nissan?

- , Woodbury, MN, USA

problem #389

May 012015


  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,798 miles


- , Abbotsford, BC, Canada

problem #388

Nov 192016

Altima Coupe 2.5L

  • CVT transmission
  • 165,000 miles

This is very annoying and really needs to be recalled as they are getting over on this small parts that's costing anywhere from $500 and up. I will never buy another Nissan after this issue.

- , Maywood, IL, USA

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