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
Crashes / Fires:
3 / 7
Injuries / Deaths:
5 / 0
Average Mileage:
76,816 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2002 Nissan Altima engine problems

engine problem

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2002 Nissan Altima Owner Comments (Page 1 of 9)

problem #164

Feb 242009

Altima 4-cyl

  • 102,150 miles


I had purchased a Nissan 2002 Altima from a dealer as certified vehicle. I have bought two other cars from the same dealer and in addition all the cars were always serviced by the same dealer. Since last two years the "service engine soon" light comes on and on one such occasion I was informed by the same dealership that the cat converter had failed and the same needs to be replaced. Recently the car has failed mv inspection with two codes P0420 and P1217. There is a similar recall # PE02078 on 268,000 cars on Oct. 2002 (I bought the car in 2005, and have no knowledge if this issue has been taken care of or not.) the mv inspection report clearly indicates the failure of catalytic converter and requires repairs and monitors set for re-inspection. The inspection also notes a voluntary recalls ntb07-081 and ntb03-070C for pre-catalyst. The federal law requires emissions warranties (as per the mv inspection report)for at least 80000 miles and I have no idea if this was corrected on my vehicle on Nissan's voluntary recall. I had not opted to repair this when the mechanic at dealer informed the reason for "service engine soon" at 82080 miles as the cost was exorbitant and until I had similar problem (recall)with a Ford Windstar van thru" NHTSA and was solved by the dealer. (I was about to junk that car, thanks to NHTSA).

- East Brunswick, NJ, USA

problem #163

Dec 012002


  • 180,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle was leaking oil. The vehicle was taken to a local mechanic who diagnosed that the transmission needed to be replaced since water and oil were mixing together and leaking into the engine block which also caused the radiator to over heat. The engine block also needed to be resealed. The remedy did not correct the failure. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who diagnosed that the engine block needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The vehicle was repaired. The failure mileage was 180,000 and the current mileage was 230,000.

- Fontana, CA, USA

problem #162

Apr 172011


  • 100,000 miles
No real warning. Engine starting knocking one day and found out it was 2 quarts low after changing it the previous week. Put 2 quarts of oil more in and drove 300 miles to only find that it was low again. I have to put oil in around every 200 miles now to prevent my engine from making loud noises. The mechanic I took it too said the cat converters and motor needed replacement. I am a college student and cannot afford a replacement engine or a new car so am stuck dumping 2 quarts in every 200 miles.

- Randall, MN, USA

problem #161

Jun 012008

Altima 4-cyl

  • 94,378 miles


When driving the vehicle in warm weather for over 15 minutes, the engine will stall in traffic or refuse to start after engine is turned off briefly (ex: At the gas pump.) the dealership serviced the recall for the crankshaft sensor, and we had another put in by an independent mechanic since then. Diagnostics gave consult code PO420 catalyst sys-B1. Gave us an estimate to replace the catalyst. Heard about a recall of some Nissan for a similar problem in fall of 2010, but I guess this car did not fall into this category. We are also told that the heater core needs replacing, but do not want to put any more money into a vehicle that has a stalling problem that cannot be fixed.

- Rochester, NY, USA

problem #160

Mar 312011


  • 144,000 miles
At 85,000 miles, the car began to shudder and had difficulty accelerating; the diagnosis was a blown head gasket. At around 130,000 miles the car started feeling rough and making rattling sounds. The dealer replaced the right and back engine mounts, leaking valve cover gaskets, front lower control arms, and left front hub and bearing but the sound still exists. At 141000 miles the "check engine light" came on and the dealer replaced the catalytic converter. At 144,000 miles, the car suddenly would not go more than 10 mph. After turning the car off, the engine initially would not turn over; after a few minutes, the car started again but still could not go more than 10 mph. The second stop seemed to temporarily revive the car because it could be driven at normal speeds (at least long enough to make the 1 mile drive home) but it emitted a strong burning smell. At this point the diagnosis is irrelevant - it's time for a new, more reliable car.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #159

Oct 012010

Altima 6-cyl

  • 161,000 miles
My vehicle has shut off three times while driving in traffic. Of course, this has been extremely dangerous each time, and we have been very lucky to avoid accidents. Each time, we have had to find a way to get the vehicle to a safe location, and have it towed. Because various mechanics have been unable to properly diagnose the problem, we have given up on driving the vehicle. We have now been through three alternators, a battery, and some wiring. After having previously said parts replaced, I decided to try the dealer. I dropped the vehicle off at the Nissan dealership one morning before work. They called me at work and told me that a bolt had been welded to the alternator, and that it would cost me about $800 to resolve the problem. They also assured my wife that there was no recall on the vehicle. I told them not to fix it. When I went to inspect it myself, it was plainly evident that the bolt was not welded to the alternator, it was just not fully tightened down. Since complaining to Nissan recalls about poor service and the vehicle shutting off, I have been told that there is in fact a recall on my year, make, and model, but not on my specific VIN. I have also been promised that a regional manager would be in contact with me. I have called back asking to speak with this regional manager, and they keep telling me he will call me in two business days. It has been at least two weeks now. NHTSA id number: 03V455000. 2002 Nissan Altima, 3.5se.

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #158

Aug 012009


  • 65,000 miles


The contact owns a 2002 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the crankshaft sensor malfunctioned. The failure occurred several times before. The vehicle was taken to a local shop where the contact was informed that the crank shaft sensor and the cam shaft sensor needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was contacted offered no assistance. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage was 65,000.

- Diamond Bar, CA, USA

problem #157

Feb 102011

Altima 4-cyl

  • 247,000 miles
I bought a Nissan Altima 2002 2.5 one month ago from her previous owner I drove the car back home it was smooth and perfect I put a temporary plates on it to do safety and emission test to it put before I do that I replaced the oil in it and after a couple of days I drove it to do the safety checks on it suddenly the car was making noise from the engine while I was driving on the highway and I was going about 100 and the car engine shutdown thank god I controlled the car on a highway filled with a lot of cars so I called a towtruck to take it a way from the street to the garage and when the mechanic looked and did some test on it he told me that it needs a new engine and it cost 1,500 to buy an engine I told him its impossible I just bought the car it cant be, I asked him how did this happen he told me that this car has a manufacture problem the programming of the crankshaft sensor gave the engine a wrong codes causing the engine to overheat and to burn more oil and because of that the engine is dead now he told me to call the Nissan dealership and give them the V.I.N number of the car I live in ottawa by the way and to ask if there is any recall on it so I did that and they told me to call the Nissan dealership in North America because its from there I did that I spoke with an agent and he told me yes there is a recall on it but we cant do anything about it because the car is nine years old now and the recall has ended tow years ago I told him why? its the dealership responsibility to make sure that they recall every damaged cars or some one will get hurt because of it that's first, second there was an investigation about this issue and there was alot of customers having the samething so its the dealership fault to make sure that every car has to be safe and perfect to drive it especially its a family car too so all im asking is that they have to take responsibility of this and to fix my car and every car that has a manufacture problem in it as soon as possible please....

- Ottawa,Ontario,Canada, 00, USA

problem #156

Jan 262011

Altima 4-cyl

  • 109,000 miles
Nissan 02 Altima 2.5S has problem with engine/cat converter, car developed a P0420 error and has been routinely consuming oil, now dealer has diagnosed problem of cat converter disintegrating and getting sucked into engine causing it to fail, estimate for repair is ~ $6,000. See following links for the similar problem reported by others.

- Fremont, CA, USA

problem #155

Apr 112010

Altima 4-cyl

  • 128,800 miles
2002 Nissan Altima engine has hole in the side. I was told they had a recall to put a shied between the engine and the catalytic converter. I think this was done to stop the heat from the cat. Converter from fatiguing the block. Well on my car they did the recall but it didn't work! I had to put another engine in the car! I have also put a complaint in for the floor boards rotting out on the same car! Nissan doesn't care that they have built cars with defects!!! these problems should both have been fixed for free!!! these two problems will cost me thousands to fix!!!

- Ri, RI, USA

problem #154

Oct 102002

Altima 6-cyl

  • 90,000 miles


I have a 2002 Nissan Altima 3.5L V6. VIN# is [xxx]. at 90,000 miles my car dies while slowing down to a traffic light. The engine light comes on so I got it towed to auto zone for a diagnostic test. A failure crankshaft senor was a result. It has a recall for camshaft/crankshaft sensors. It states that due to these defective parts, the car will shut off while in operation resulting to a accident/crash. So I brought into nisaan to have this these fixed along with other recalls. They said that only the camshaft was fixed and not the crankshaft. It wasn't a recall for my vehicle according the VIN#. I thought it ridiculous and a coincidence that the sensor that caused my car to shut off wasn't a recall for my car. So I ended up buyin the sensor for around 80 dollars. But after a few weeks after fixing, it my cars stalls out again while on the highway with both of my little children in the car almost ending up what would of been a real bad crash. Fortunately I was in the inside lane with light traffic and able to quickly pull into the breakdown lane. My car would still be running but would not accelerate when in drive. After waiting for a 15 mins it would start to accelerate again and when I start to slow down it would stall again. This would go on and on until I finally got to a repair shop for help. My car was put through a diagnostic test and it came up twice for crankshaft sensor failure. I do not want to spend another 80 dollars on a sensor that will fail again. There is alot of complaint about this same issue for these Nissan Altima. I am paying to much for this car and cannot afford another. I'm afraid to drive it now because I don't want to put the lives of my family at risk in this car with this ongoing problem. Please help correct this problem before it becomes tragic. Thanks. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Woonsocket, RI, USA

problem #153

Nov 222010


  • 111,111 miles
I have a 2002 Nissan Altima, that is burning oil. I have to put at least two quarts of oil in there every 2 weeks. Now my car is shuttering and hissing at me and not getting anymore when I accelerate. I'm being told that I will need a new catalytic converter and possibly an engine. Nissan is willing to do nothing about this issue. After doing some research I'm showing that this a common problem with this year of car and should be taken care of by Nissan. As a consumer what can be done. This is unfair to us, thinking we are buying a reliable car when it's really a piece of crap. I will never buy a Nissan again. Sticking to Honda's.

- Seattle, WA, USA

problem #152

Mar 022010

Altima 4-cyl

  • 112,254 miles
There were no significant events leading up to this failure. Vehicle has been meticulously maintained. Failure was recognized by cel P0420. Catalytic converters were replaced. Now engine has lost power and is emitting smoke. Coolant and engine oil are dropping at increasing rates requiring constant attention but have never been allowed to be "dry." Now engine needs to be replaced. This appears to be consistent with many other claims which Nissan denies.

- Pinole, CA, USA

problem #151

Apr 052010

Altima 4-cyl

  • 125,000 miles
I had a 2002 Nissan Altima with 125,000 miles. I was told by Nissan that my catalytic converter was bad and there was only one quart of oil in the engine after my check engine light came on. They added oil and I had to replace it again after only 2 weeks. I called the Nissan dealership about the excessive oil consumption and was told that the only thing I can do to fix this problem is to replace the engine. I have found that this is a huge problem with Altima. I really think there needs to be a recall as this is not acceptable.

- Canton, GA, USA

problem #150

Oct 102010


  • miles
The car began to loose acceleration and the engine would kick and then gained the acceleration back. After 20 miles of driving started loosing acceleration again and shut off on a under construction interstate w/one lane of traffic. No service lights at first and after cranking and driving another 10-15 or so it stalled again and the check-engine, oil, and brake indicator's lights on the dash board came on. Checked for recalls for this problems. Contacting dealership for possible repair if its a recall problem.

- Vicksburg , MS, USA

problem #149

Sep 232010

Altima 4-cyl

  • 112,176 miles
2002 Nissan Altima. Excessive oil consumption with no leak and problems with the vehicle starting. Dealer states head gasket is blown. Did not look at catalytic converter although I asked them to look into the problem as it mirrored issues car was recalled for. Nissan will not cover as a consequence of mileage 112,000. Many complaints online regarding the same issue. Please investigate for the thousands of owners who need your help.

- Fredericksburg, VA, USA

problem #148

Feb 022010


  • 95,000 miles
I made a complaint by phone regarding my 2002 Nissan Altima and have yet to hear back or get a copy as promised of my complaint. Due to the many complaints, concerns and problems related to this year, make and model, you would think Nissan would be a little bit more concerned and wanting to remedy the problems that exist to avoid legal action for ignoring a potently dangerous problem that could be deadly. All though I have not been hurt physically, mentally I am beside myself thinking if you cant get Nissan to step up to the plate then who can"??? I had a engine replaced by Nissan dealership and it did not last 20,000 miles before the catalytic converter fell apart and got sucked up in the engine.. Nissan is aware of the recalls for this year/make/model???? its time to do something as you have pages and pages of complaints regarding this exact thing and it is obvious Nissan will do nothing because they get away with it time and time again..they are worse than Toyota, at least Toyota admits there is a problem...please let me know what and when you intend on doing something to get Nissan to do what's right?/"

- Long Beach, CA, USA

problem #147

Dec 122009


  • 85,000 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Nissan Altima. While driving 40 mph, the vehicle stalled. Within a few hours, she was able to restart the vehicle without difficulty. In addition, the vehicle burned oil excessively. The contact confirmed that she the oil was changed at least three times a week. The dealer was called and stated that there were no related recalls for her VIN. The contact had not taken the vehicle to the dealer for diagnostic testing or to be repaired. The failure mileage was 85,000 and the current mileage was 120,000.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #146

Aug 032009


  • 93,338 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that while driving at approximately 50 mph, the vehicle completely shut off. The contact coasted to the side of the road and was towed to an authorized dealership for a diagnostic test. The dealer informed her that the mass air flow sensor was defective. The failure mileage was 93,338. The current mileage was approximately 98,000. Updated 07/02/10

- Palm Coast, FL, USA

problem #145

Apr 122008


  • 76,800 miles
The contact owns a 2002 Nissan Altima. While driving at speeds of approximately 69 mph, the vehicle stalled without warning. The warning blinkers were activated and was unable to maneuver the vehicle from the center of the highway. The gear was shifted into neutral with the foot applied to the brake pedal. The vehicle was pushed to the to the median with another vehicle. The vehicle was towed to the dealer. The recall repaired was performed under campaign id number 07V527000 reprogramming of the ECU), before the vehicle was completely off the lot, the vehicle stalled a second time without warning. The dealer advised a diagnostic test to determine the actual failure, at the owner's expense. The contact refused to pay out-of-pocket for a recall associated repair. The dealer stated the vehicle was "unsafe to drive." The identical failures occurred one mile from the dealer. The brakes were inoperable and the vehicle began to veer into on coming traffic. While the brakes were depressed the steering wheel was non-responsive with extreme bodily force applied. The vehicle crashed into a telephone pole. There was no personal injury. The insurance company deemed the cause of the crash as "due to engine failure." The vehicle was destroyed. The failure and current mileages were 76,800.

- Offen, TX, USA

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