Notes: Here's a disturbing trend for the 2002 Nissan Altima: the engine starts burning oil like crazy, the catalytic converter goes bad, the head gasket blows and eventually the entire engine needs replacement. Sound familiar? Like a script from a horror film, these Altimas seem doomed to fail around 95k miles.


really awful
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
102,400 miles
Total Complaints:
48 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace gasket (20 reports)
  2. replace engine (15 reports)
  3. not sure (9 reports)
  4. replace (3 reports)
  5. head cylinder rebuilt (1 reports)
2002 Nissan Altima engine problems

engine problem

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2002 Nissan Altima Owner Comments (Page 1 of 3)

problem #48

Sep 282018

Altima SL 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,145 miles


Purchased this car new at Vallejo Nissan on March 13, 2002, odometer reading 225 miles. All maintenance work performed at the dealer as required. Never took my car to any other place but the dealer. They have all my records as proof. In addition, I have the copies of my records too. August 9, 2005, (25,506 miles) replaced the battery. September 9, 2009, (52,701 miles) replaced the battery. January 17, 2011 (59,499 miles), took my car in because the SES light was on and the engine was hard to start.

They removed and replaced the crankshaft sensor. December 11, 2012, (69,512 miles) replaced the battery. January 14, 2016, (88,250 miles) replaced Gasket-Rocker cover because it was leaking. June 13, 2016, (89,756 miles) took my car in because the check engine light was on. They said the code was false, then cleared it. October 27, 2016, (91,302 miles), took my car in because the check engine light was on. They installed Gasket-Exhaust maniford, Maniford Exhaust W/Cat, Bearing-Seal, Exhaust Joint and a Bolt. March 17, 2017, (92,687 miles), replaced the battery. I filled out and filed a claim form for reimbursement for engine damage caused by loose power valve screw but was rejected December 22, 2017, because the engine damage must have occurred when my car was less than 12 years in-service.

August 7, 2017, ( 94,039 miles) check engine light came on, hard to start. Replaced #2 coil. August 21, 2017, (94,058 miles) check engine light came on. Replaced #3 coil and 4 spark plugs. June 2, 2018, (97,608 miles), check engine light came on. Replaced the battery and cleared the code. June 15, 2018, (97,846 miles), check engine light came on. Cleared the code. July 25, 2018, (98,501 miles), same problem. July 28, 2018, (98,571 miles), check engine light came on. Replaced the crankshaft position sensor. August 30, 2018, (99,142 Miles), same problem.

Dealer states that it is a bad head gasket recommends replacing the motor because of the miles on the vehicle. I did not know other owners was having the same problems until I was directed to this web site by my insurance company. As you can see this car is a lemon and Nissan should do something about this. The body is still beauty for a sixteen year old car. The engine is no good. I have not gotten 100,000 miles out of it. As of today, November 13, 2018, I have donated my car to Kars 4 Kids. The radio works, but the check engine light, the battery light, the oil light and other lights came on when I turn the ignition. I tried this several days, then made my decision to donate it to a worthly cause. The engine would not start.

I will not be purchasing another car from the Nissan Dealers.

- janieh, Vallejo, US

problem #47

Apr 092008

Altima SL 2.5L 4CYL

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,252 miles

Bought my car from used car dealer with 35,000 miles on it. Ran like a top. Great response and acceleration superbly beyond expectation. All a mask for the hidden problems Nissan had been hiding. Around 88,000 miles starting burning a quart of oil every 150 miles. Dealer told me that I didn't have any kind of warranty. After I replaced the motor then they told me oh they could have did something, but now I had too many miles when I should have been covered the first time I asked them about it. Why did they play games???

Evidently I suffered from the same issue every other 2002 Altima owner suffers from. Had to replace engine $4000 dollars later for a used motor that lasted 149,000 then that one needed replacing. Replaced that motor, got 20,000 miles off the next then 14,000 on the next motor. There are no good 2.5L Nissan Altima motors in existence. Barely getting 10,000 miles off the 5th motor in the car.

Why put up with the car: I like the larger seating area because I am tall, but on the motor side they are Garbage cars and don't recommend them to any buyers, BEWARE!!!! Maybe if I bought a Toyota, my life could have been a lot different as I had to tow that car 11 times.

It has 327,000 on it still looks good, rides smooth and would probably reach 500k if I could keep the car running......


Everyone's comments and suggestions are welcome. Please feel free to comment

- esj318, Roselle, NJ, US

problem #46

Nov 012014

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 119,000 miles

click to see larger images

blown head gasket blown head gasket

I bought my 2002 Nissan Altima with only a couple thousand miles on it. I always kept up with the maintenance. I had a slow coolant leak for a couple of years and had to add more every couple of months, which gradually got worse, but I never saw a leak on the ground. In October last year, my car started having problems starting. Then when I was driving my service engine light would start flashing. I took it to the shop November 2014 and was told that my head gasket was blown and the catalytic converter was bad. Apparently the coolant had been leaking in to the engine. Yeah, it's a 2002, but I have no idea why this would happen to a car with low miles.

- Nicole D., Murray, UT, US

problem #45

Mar 042015

Altima SL 4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 118,000 miles


Have had this car since 30,000 miles. It's always been serviced regularly. I've put so much money into it for the last 10,000 miles: new radiator, catalytic converter, alternator, new brake drums, oxygen sensor,etc. Now it has a blown head gasket. The engine light has been going off and on past 2 years. No mechanic (including Nissan dealership) has been able to find the problem. It was always "engine misfire" I've had it towed to my mechanic twice after it died in the past year. Then it starts right up for them.

This car is a lemon. I loved it when it ran well. Now it's an unreliable vehicle. I still owe money on it,but it's only good for the junkyard if it continues to be a money pit! Nissan should take responsibility for such a poor product!, I'll stick to Hondas and Toyotas!

- Elena B., Laceys Spring, AL, US

problem #44

Dec 012011

Altima SE 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

Soooooo this car is considered a plague. I COMPLETELY AGREE. First the engine overheated so the head gasket went bad, water went into cylinders, had to get rebuilt head cylinders. $2,700.

Then after other mayor problems (alternator went bad, starter, radiator, catalytic converter) just the engine gasket again went bad.

Worst time ever.

- eddyq123, la Puente, CA, US

problem #43

Jul 182012

Altima LX 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 124,564 miles

i will never buy another nissan. they did a recall, knew the car had a bad engine, played like they fixed it and sent me on my way. worst experiance ever, purchased another motor, and it went out

- sylonda, Ogden, AR, US Minor Outlying Islands

problem #42

Jan 172012

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles


Let me preface this by saying I'm not a crazy driver and I am very good to my car. In 10 years of owning it I only have 75000 miles on it...and none of them were spent street racing!

It all started with rough starts in the morning as well as some other random times. Then one morning my car wouldn't start. I waited a few minutes (mentally freaking out) and then it started right up. Naturally the check engine light came on soon after. I plugged my laptop into the car and low an behold I get a cylinder misfire error (number 3). Online suggestions pointed to changing the spark plugs so I did. Amazing! The car started right up and ran better than it had for a long time! I guess I hadn't noticed the sluggish response that had crept up over the years.

But wait...oh how I wish the story could end there... the problem came only took about three weeks, but the rough starts trickled right on back and the engine light was on once again. So...I took it in to my trusty local mechanic. He said it was a faulty ignition coil. Swapped it out and I was on my way. Yay! The car was running smoothly with no problems...but wait...

Four months later: it was back. The shaky starts, the little hiccups while driving, and that bastard of a check engine light. What the hell! Checked the engine code and it said that a different cylinder was misfiring. OK...I replaced both the spark plug and the ignition coil myself. No big deal. Problem came back. OK. Now I'm pissed...and I am also starting to fear the big 'Head Gasket' thing everyone has been talking about or avoiding on this page.

I took it in. Yep. I had a coolant leak. Arterial sized. Into the engine. Here is what was happening. Coolant was leaking into the engine through a blown head gasket and a crack in the engine itself. According to my mechanic, he sees this ALL THE TIME with the 2.5L Nissan Altima engine (not the 3.5L you lucky bastards). The coolant was gumming up the heads of the spark plugs (which is why changing the spark plug 'fixed the problem' for a brief moment until they got gummed up again). Fix? Install a new re-manufactured engine for $3500. least it came with a three year 100,000 mile warranty. Sigh. do you know if you have the same problem I did (and many others on here?) Follow this simple check list: 2.5L engine? Shaky/rough starts? Losing coolant? After the engine cools a bit, check under the oil cap and see bubbles on the bottom of the cap?

If you answered YES to all of these questions, then congratulations! You have a blown head gasket and possibly a blown engine! Whoo hoo! Options: Replace the engine if it is that bad, or just replace the head gasket if you are lucky that your engine didn't get blown. After I replaced the engine I thought to myself...should I have just left the broken engine in there and just kept putting more coolant in and replacing the spark plugs until it got so bad I HAD to replace the engine? It would have postponed the hurt of paying...the problem is, I don't know if running the engine into the ground would have also damaged any other parts. Hence the early replacement.

I got 75,000 miles out of that engine. I should have gotten a hell of a lot more. Hope this helps someone out there.

- Robert S., North Hollywood, CA, US

problem #41

Jun 072012

Altima 2.5S QR25DE

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

Two weeks back my 2002 Altima 2.5s vehicle's SES light came up. I took to the Stadium Nissan dealership in Seattle . It was diagnosed as a blown Head Gasket issue and they recommended to replace the Engine due to the past engine fixes . I called up Nissan Customer Service on the issue . Nissan HQ said since the car was 10 years old they can't help me in replacing the engine even though the car had only 75,000 miles. I bought the car in 2004 when it had 32,00 miles.

In 2004, I had taken the car to the dealership to take care of a recall related to the Engine. Back in 2010, I had 2 back-to-back engine issues related to Sensors. One was fixed by the dealership under Nissan's warranty and for the other one I paid around $150.At that point ( March 2010), I wrote a letter to Nissan HQ to highlight my concern about the engine falling apart. At that time, the car had only 66,000 miles. At that point, I was asked to call back if there is another issue.9000 miles later on June 2012, the Head Gasket blew up for Cylinder#4. When I called back, I didn't get any support from Nissan HQ.

I moved my car to another Nissan dealership to get a second opinion.As I write this email, my the head gasket is getting fixed for $1800. I'm planning to sell-off the car later this year and get another Honda or Subaru. I'm done with Nissan. It is a shame that a car like Nissan Altima will fall apart in 75,000 miles and the company doesn't have the spine to stand by its customers.

- Rajesh R., Seattle, WA, US

problem #40

Feb 062013

Altima GXS 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 142,000 miles

I bought this car from a used car dealer in April of 2012. At first, it ran great and looked good. I thought, wow, someone took really good care of this vehicle. Well, appearances can be very deceiving. First in December of 2012 exactly 8 months later the alternator goes and car strands me. I have to have it towed. I get it back and within weeks the specks I had noticed on the radiator soon make it known just what those specks meant. A bad bad radiator. So, I replace the radiator. I might mention that the car overheated. Only, I did not know the car was overheating, because the temperature gauage never moved, as the wires were bad and so therefore the temperature gauge was not working......PERIOD. So, I pick up the car, at around 6:00 at night with it's new radiator and head home. Within 20 minutes of leaving the car overheats massively and I have to have it towed yet again. This time it is the Head Gasket. This is NOT what I wanted to hear. I had to get a rental car and it took nearly two weeks to fix my car. With the rental and the repairs, I spent nearly $1500 and I might add that I am still paying on the car and am getting behind on the payments too!!!!!! I get the car back and within two months it dies on me again and I have to have it towed for the third time in four months. This time it is the water pump. I also, have had water in the floorboard and it is at times three inches deep and sloshing around. So, they (the dealership does all the repairs) replace the water pump, rotor button and the distributor cap. I get the car back and the water is still flooding the floorboard!!!!!! Now the overflow resevoir sounds like there is water boiling in it after I turn the car off and the check engine light came on, stayed on for a day, then went out again and my brake light is coming on and I have had to add brake fluid. This car is truly a LEMON!!!!!!

- Dawn H., Charlotte, NC, US

problem #39

Feb 012010

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,000 miles

Just like so many others here, I have an 02 Nissan Altima that blew a head gasket. I babied this car...all the scheduled maintenance services,etc. I had the head gasket replaced last December after hearing the engine make all kinds of weird noises and the ac and heater went out in the car. Then it overheated. All this cost $1500.

Then, a couple of days ago while driving up a hill, I lost power and all the dash lights came on. The worst part was losing the power steering. My service person hooked it up to the computer and now it looks like I need a new catalytic converter. I think what I really need is a new engine because, as I forgot to mention, it also eats oil, and its been doing this for over a year. No spots or drips...just the engine consuming it. And the motor is still making odd noises.<p> I bought this car thinking I could get at least 200k out of it (seeing that it was a Nissan), but it is on its last leg. Youd never know that by looking at it...but internally it is rotting!

Someone from NNA is supposed to call me Monday, but I'm not holding out any great hope. With the sheer number of people who are having this problem, it might be deserving of a class action suit.

- skitch, Mechanicsburg, PA, US

problem #38

Sep 032012

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles


Started with blinking check engine light so I stopped to get a free diagnostic test at Auto Zone results were misfire in the #2 cylinder. Same day I realized that car was hot, but not once did the gauge show that the car was hot! I only realized it was hot when car started to run slow, had trouble getting speed, seemed sluggish. So we checked under the hood and it was so low on water, we put water and headed home. We had a compression test done, by our neighbor, test showed that all four spark plugs had good compression, #1 had 150, #2 had 125, #3 had 125 and #4 had 125. So our neighbor who is a mechanic, told us okay now we can invest money in cause your engine is okay, so we got a new radiator, they put that in and we bought new spark plugs cause of the #2 misfire, reading that we had got earlier. We were so happy car ran fine, had power, sounded great! So we took it for a test drive, we drove about 30 miles, car ran so good we were so happy, next morning we woke up and went another 20 miles came home and car would not start, my husband said well it must be that we need spark plug wires, cause it turned over but it seemed to not be getting fire. These are things I heard him saying to the neighbor, and workers at auto zone, so it never started again. We had it towed and now we are told that a head gasket is blown and I have water and coolant in the oil. Aye, I have been so stressed out this is my only car. Don't know what my next move is, sorry for all of those out there who have had problems with their cars, If I did something like ignore a problem on my car, then I wouldn't feel so bad, but I took care of my car and fixed it when ever it needed anything. JUST SO SAD, AND ANGRY!!!!!

- theresabojorquez, Tucso, AZ, US

problem #37

Oct 242011

Altima 2.5L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,383 miles

click to see larger images

blown head gasket blown head gasket

Known issue, search the forums. Head gaskets blow at or about 100000 miles. I put in a remanufactured engine from nissan. I spoke with the parts guy and he said that the problem has not even been fixed in the remanufactured ones. I also have contacts that are nissan engineers in the states. They even said this was a known issue and why the engine was retooled in 2005. however they still didn't get it right and had to redo it again in 2006. Buyer beware of all 2.5l 4cyl in the 2002 to 2005 range.

Update from Aug 6, 2012: Oh couple other things. New radiator due to breaking the overflow tube while pulling the alternator. Removed the precat before it could fall apart into the cylinders. replace the crank sensor (this is actually a false report most of the time before the Head gasket blows) Added loctite to the intake butterfly valve screws because this is a known issue. (they fall out into the cylinders) most people that show a misfire on one cylinder are about to replace their engine. This is the Head gasket failing and leaking fluid into the cylinder.

Funny part is you see the pre 2002s all over the place.

On the day I picked up my engine there were 2 altimas up on the rack and their engines on the floor for the same problem

- noctumluvr, Heiskell, TN, US

problem #36

Feb 012012

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

Took my 2002 Nissan Altima to the shop (again) for the check engine light. I have been dealing w/ that light for 6 months now. The shop has informed me that I have a blown head gasket. I have no idea what to do. I still owe on the car. By reading these complaints my car has been having the SAME issues for over a year. I am highly upset on many levels. Mainly just the fact that these people KNEW they were selling me a lemon and will NOT fix the issue on any of our SAME complaints. I will say this at this moment I have no idea what I am going to do. But when I figure it out I will NEVER deal w/ Nissan again and that hurts to say cause I have enjoyed their Altimas.

- Brandi T., Wilmington, NC, US

problem #35

Jul 132011

Altima 2.5sl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 159,952 miles

Well, I WISH I would have found this website 2 years ago. I drive an 02 altima fully loaded. I love the car, and it was awesome...which turned into a nightmare as of recently. The first thing to go out was the Cat. Converter...that was 600.00 (used part) and labor..Then...As of may of 2010 the oil in my car started disappearing. No leaks...nothing...Check engine light has BEEN on...I've had my throttle body replaced, the 02 sensor twice within the past 3 months, the crankshaft position sensor, the radiator, all spark plugs 4 times, and all to find out it's a stupid blown gasket which I have to have them ALL replaced. And now, my fuses are going out. I am immobile and like another person on here, I just paid it off and it's the only transportation I have...I bust my butt with 2 jobs pulling the load in my home b/c of a sick mother...and I can't afford this...if I'd have know I was going to have this many problems back to back I'd have definitely reconsidered my options. Stupid Nissan. But thanks to everyone else on here I know what the issue is. No more Nissan for me.

- adelynn, Boyce, LA, US

problem #34

Jul 012011

Altima 2.5 S

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,812 miles

Wow! I can't believe this car would fall apart at such low mileage. I always serviced it on time or early. I've read everybody else's problems and I'm falling into the same sad story. Once this car is fixed I'm dumping it. Here is my grocery list of pain! Keep in mind this is all in one visit for an engine light.....

1. Head gasket

2. 2 Struts

3. 1 Engine mount

4. Complete airbag replacement drivers side back

5. Rear brakes

- Darren C., Camarillo, CA, US

problem #33

Feb 022011

Altima SL 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles

MY 2002 NISSAN ALTIMA 2.5 SL SUMMARY OF PROBLEMS: (car was driven softly and had under 80k miles-less than 7k miles per year!!!) 1. BLOWN HEAD GASKET-car over heated at intersection without warning-REPLACED 2. BLOWN RADIATOR-cheap plastic connector blew off radiator at intersection without warning-REPLACED 3. COMPRESSOR BLEW AT SAME TIME-REPLACED

After #1 & #2 EXPENSIVE SERIES OF EVENTS & PROBLEMS BEGINS-Car Was Never The Same Again-DO NOT FIX YOUR NISSAN ALTIMA LIKE I DID! Car Drove Loud, Loud, Loud, Rattled, Rattled, Rattle, Slow, Slow, Slow, Sluggish, Sluggish, Sluggish, & very Unpredictable...from then try and fix Loud Rattling and Slow Sluggish driving I did the following...



Oh yeah, I had to get a new battery too...granted it was old...but I'm pretty bitter at this point. I HAVE SPENT OVER $4,000.00 IN REPAIRS WITHOUT RESOLUTION. I would like Nissan to be held accountable in a class action lawsuit for what they know...that there are faulty catalytic converter and heads in the 2002 Nissan Altima!



- nissanfailedusall, Anaheim, CA, US

problem #32

Apr 022011

Altima 2.5s

  • Automatic transmission
  • 82,642 miles

no heat and engine over heated. I have had about 20 cars or more and this 2002 nissan altima 2.5s is the worst lemon that I have ever drove.

- skiffington, Clarenville, NL, canada

problem #31

Sep 102010

Altima 2.5s

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

When you first start it up in the morning it would run a little rough, but after it ran for a while it would smooth it self ouit. Then the engine light would start coming on and it would sputter as if it was going to cut off. We took it to the Nissan dealership and they did a diagnostic and said the head gasket has a small crack in it, but the car never showed signs of overheating. They said the car was fixed and come pick it up. We picked the car up and about a mile up the road we smelled smoke. We pulled over and open the hood and saw that oil was leaking from where the mechanics did not put the head gasket on right. We took it back they kept it another week and said the problem was fixed. We picked it up again and when we got home it still has an oil leak and also coolant was leaking from the radiator. We took it back again and they replaced the radiator, don't know how the radiator got a hole in it and they worked on the oil leak.After they fixed these problems, the car started back running rough and losing power which was very dangerous the battery began to get weak, so we replaced the battery but that did not solve the problem. We took it back again and left it with them for two weeks and they replaced the battery with a Nissan Battery and it seemed to stay charged but the car is still running rough and stalling in traffic. The engine light still comes on. This is getting ridiculous. We are going to call Nissan back. I don't know why they did not send a letter or put on news for a recall. We have spent too much money on this car for it to be doing this. The body looks good, but the reliability sucks.

- hendersonsc, Seneca, SC, US

problem #30

Dec 152010

Altima 2.5 S 2.5L 4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

I took my 2002 Altima 2.5S to our regular mechanic when the heater wasn't heating properly. He said it was due to low coolant and there was no external leak, which he immediately knew was a leaking head gasket (confirmed with a compression test). He refused to do any more work on it at that point since he had had several other Altimas come in with same symptoms but then have the engine fail catastrophically after he changed the gasket. I was a bit skeptical until I got home and did a web search for "2002 Altima engine problems", which brought me here and about a hundred other places. I checked the oil and it was about a quart low as well, despite a change not too long before. So I am obviously having the same engine failure due to the faulty pre-catalytic converter that everyone else has reported here. There is little point in going into more detail. I'll agree with another poster that it appears that just about every 2002 Altima 2.5L engine will fail like this eventually. I'm just going to keep adding coolant and oil and use it for local trips until it completely stops since I can't sell it to someone in good conscience.

- David S., Phoenix, AZ, US

problem #29

Jun 082010

Altima SE 4 Cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 106,000 miles

I seem to be headed down the road in the same direction. It began with my engine shaking at idle and then I went through oil (oil nearly empty when I caught it) but could find no leaks. The MIL (check engine light/service engine soon light) began flashing on and off, which usually indicates a catalytic converter problem. Now my heater blows cold air at idle. I suspected a thermostat or coolant problem but not a blown head gasket and cat. convrtr problem. I considered buying another Nissan but not now. Having reviewed the internet, my 2002 Altima problems seem common. What can we do?! It is my opinion that: DO NOT BUY A 2002-2006 NISSAN!! If you own one, trade it in for a Honda, Toyota, or Subaru.

- James B., Phoenix, AZ, US

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