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:
No data
Average Mileage:
102,750 miles
Total Complaints:
8 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace the engine (5 reports)
  2. not sure (2 reports)
  3. replace valve cover gasket o-ring (1 reports)
2002 Nissan Altima engine problems

engine problem

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2002 Nissan Altima Owner Comments

problem #8

Feb 142013

Altima SE 3.5L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 114,099 miles


click to see larger images

excessive knocking

On February 14th, 2013 I was taking my wife's 2002 Nissan Altima SE with a 3.5L V6 for an oil change and car wash. En-route, the engine started knocking/ticking (like a stuck valve). I went to my mechanic and he immediately shut off the engine and suggested that I have the vehicle towed to a Nissan dealership for a Service Diagnostic check. I had the vehicle towed to a local authorized Nissan Dealer & Service Centre, booked in the car, explained the problem and requested a diagnostic check. Later that afternoon, I received a phone call from the service department indicating that they located the problem and sent me an email with the attached photo, showing the valve baffle and assembly (missing 2 screws). I was quoted a repair of $208.50 for a new valve and $188.55 for labour (taxes and shop fees not included). About 15 minutes later, I received another call indicating that the screws were apparently sucked into the intake as the noise was still present. I was informed that the course of action would be to use a salvaged engine and replace my damaged engine. Did I mention that they already located one and offered to do the work for about $3,800.00? Red flag went up and I called "time-out". At this point, I had the vehicle towed to my mechanic and he is currently hunting for a good salvaged engine. I spoke with the Nissan Service Department and was informed that there are no recalls for the power valve on the 3.5L engine, but noted that there was something for the 2.5L (4 cylinder) engine. I was also informed that they could not do anything for me and suggested that I contact Nissan Canada.

On Friday, February 22nd, 2013 I contacted Nissan Canada Customer Service (oxymoron) and basically was told that I need to deal with the Nissan Service outlet. I then left a message for the manager of the Service Department and am now waiting for return call. LIMBO LAND.

Update from Feb 22, 2013: Apparently, this is a major problem in the US with a class action lawsuit going forward. Please check the link:

- , Winnipeg, Manitoba, canada

problem #7

Dec 072010

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,900 miles

Always love nissan, but after the 2002 nissan maxima they can kiss my ass. The investment level for this 4 cyclinder car is ridiculous. I had a 6 cyclinder lexus and it gave less problems. After hearing the knocking noises, the always changing the oil, and now car shutting off, why must I subject my self to paying 1000-2000 for the car to do the same sh*t to me. Toyota I am coming back to you.

- , Jamaica, NY, USA

problem #6

Aug 242009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 49,000 miles

Bought this car and the next day it had problems starting. Took to the shop and they said it has NO OIL in it. According to the service records, the oil had been changed only 1000 miles ago. This continued to happen. Read similar complaints and I found that Nissan does not acknowledge this problem. Finally traded the car. No more Nissans for me! JUNK!

- , Maryville, TN, USA

problem #5

Feb 132009

Altima S 2.5s

  • Automatic transmission
  • 114,000 miles


The 2002 Nissan Altima has great looks only! The engine was poorly built and Nissan knows it. My engine has made noise since about 60,00 miles. It only got worse as the car got older. Now it completely needs a new engine that will cost about $4500. This is a situation Nissan needs to step to the plate about. There are many complaints from customers about the engine and there should be a major recall to replace the engines.

- , Richmond, VA, USA

problem #4

Feb 202009

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 108,000 miles

Hi my Nissan altima 2.5 S 2002 first it started to lose power, then it did not want to start ,then it started to make a noise and it turned off , now it has a leak and it sounds like a piston rod got mess up. I took the car to the dealer and the only ting they said they could do is fix the computer program , and nothing more. the problem is still there they said I have to change the engine and it would cost $4,200 for replacement. I don't know what to do its a pain just thinking about that car and the dealer that it won't do nothing about it .

- , Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #3

Jun 162009

Altima 2.5L Sl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

I purchased this vehicle brand new on Dec 23, 2001, it was a Christmas gift. I am the only owner of this vehicle and I have put about $5000 in getting this car fixed. It has been a headache for me, Crank sensor, engine, engine mounts, front axle, you name it--It's been done. Now the oil needs to be changed every week. The engine makes a loud noise and it is very frustrating to hear. Smoke also comes out of my tail pipe at a rapid pace and my car stalls and then jumps when it reaches 20 mph. I am frustrated with Nissan and they need to fix this problem.

- , Miami, FL, US

problem #2

May 082009

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 141,000 miles

I have put so much money into this car getting it repaired and then to find out so many other people are having the same problems with their 2002 Nissan Altimas as I am having. It is extremely disturbing.

- , Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #1

Jun 272008

Altima 3.5SE Vq35de

  • Manual transmission
  • 77,000 miles

Problems I have ran into that have been covered either basic or extended warranty! 1. Wheel Hub & bearing assembly completely destroyed 2. Clutch Master &Slave cylinder defective (manual transmission only) 3. Rack & Pinion assembly 4. Valve Cover Gasket O-Ring

Problem 1. Really my fault, I avoided a 3 car pile up crash at over 70 mph and my car spun out of control about 6 times and the wheel hubs couldn't tis kind of stress, but if you hear excessive noise coming from your wheels then (it will be real noticeable) take it in the shop Yesterday!

Problem 2. This is for all you auto enthusiast driving the right way! If you lose clutch pedal pressure and the pedal falls to the floor, Either the master or slave clutch cylinder is going bad. The pedal may work most of the time except when the car has been running hard. If still under warranty let them know it a problem. Its being caused by hot Hydraulic seeping out the the master cylinder or excessive air build up in the slave.

Problem 3 i first noticed this problem after a new set a tires put on! If your steering wheel shakes at various speeds and it feels like you are chasing the car around , or the steering feels not nearly as tight as it should be. Have the rack &pinion seals checked out. They are probably worn and cracked.

Problem 4 If your car is making a really nasty knocking sound. More than likely the sound is coming from one of the spark plug chambers. My friend and I brought our cars (Same motor) into the dealership for minor tune ups and both mechanics noticed a little oil in the 5 and 6 spark chambers. (The back middle and right chambers of the engine). This is caused by an O-Ring that had failed on the valve cover gasket. The part is about $20 however a new valve cover assembly is recommended! $180 on the low end.

My recommendations to keep your car away from the mechanic are simple! Buy Chemtool B12, 104-108 Octane booster and Techron; found at any place that sells various fuel cleaners and add all of it to your car with less than a half a tank Repeat this process right after every two oil changes. This will keep debris and other foreign crap out of your car. This combo really does the trick., Buy Slick 50 at least once a year, its a Teflon based substance that repairs all internal soft parts within the engine. If you really want to improve your gas mileage, research your make and model for an after market air intake system. You will easily gain 4-8 miles to the gallon. Most import and German models have air intakes available. Make sure you find one that can accommodate your mass air flow sensor! Very important! For nissans I recommend Injen!

From what i have read and noticed, most car repairs are cause by operator neglect, however there are defects with every manufacturer. I do not have a gripe to report because I have educated myself on what to look for as I continue to own my car. Most cars will continue to serve the A to B purpose for an extended period of time. I will say this though, If you notice a problem more than likely its already time to get it repaired. The mechanics will spot the problem before it worsens. Not all mechanics are out to screw you. Educate your self and ask questions like The time vs. labor both in the books and actual mechanic wrench time. Ask to see the old part and the new part, and have the mechanic explain to you what call, will happen. If the repairs sound really bogus( in excess of $3000 for any non power train repairs) then shop around. Anything regarding power train such as transmission rebuilds. Have done through your dealer! Believe me you dont want that kind of headache.

Lastly Purchasing

1. Never take the first deal! The deal is always in great favor of the dealership. They may say its a great deal but in all reality this is the worst case scenario thrown in front of you. It is offered because they want to see how nieve and foolish you are. 2. Never buy a car at a dealership that buys cars at wholesale. Dealerships that buy cars at wholesale give little or no money for your trade. Dealerships make double sometimes triple the profit on the trades. 3. Never buy Gap insurance when Financing a car. Gap insurance is the insurance that covers the excess amount that your current Insurance company will not pay for. IE A Car worth $6000. State Farm, Allstate, USAA, Gieco, etc pays you 4200 to total it out and give you the check to purchase a new car. The gap insurance is designed to cover the other $1800. The problem is the gap insurance could cost you an extra $1000 in you initial purchase. Gap insurance is specifically designed for Lease agreements. 4. If a car has more than 50000 miles, the extended warranty is not worth it unless it cost you less than $500 on initial purchase. On new cars only! spend no more than $1200 for a 100000 mile warranty. Anything more you are pissing the money away. 5. Homework is very crucial in your purchase. Be prepared to spend anywhere from 8-36 hours for your next car. If you are trading a car in, make sure that you get both trade amounts from the internet from and Dealerships carry the NADA book for trade in information, and Use KBB for Retail. The fair amount and the happy median between retail and trade, This is done by taking the retail amount, subtract it from trade, divide sum by 2 and Add new total to trade. I.E. Retail $20500-Trade $17800= $2700 /2=1350 +17800= $19150 This median will work both with your current car that you are trading in and what you are negotiating on contract for new one. This math has helped me with many car deals. Anything over the median is unfair to you and in the dealerships favor. If the number is lower than the median make sure not to get below trade amount, because you are losing. 6. Shut up! about price until you see the figures on paper. Salesman get a little overzealous talking about the car you are interested in. What the salesman may say and what the sales manager says is never accurate. There has been a lot of questions asked about this. Remember your race,gender etc makes no difference to them. What they look for is stupidity. Cars are mass produced in large quantities to suit every bodies fancy. There are others that you are looking for. 7. For all you Fast and Furious wannabees out there. Remember every tuning product you put on the car means nothing to Dealerships. If you spent $15000 on the car and another $25000 supping it up to go faster your sh*t out of luck because the dealership is going to give you only $8000 if your lucky. Cars naturally depreciate unlike houses. If you want to tune your car make sure it is an investment that will last you beyond 20 years. wich brings up point 8 8. Insurance, Got to love those bastards. In the window shopping stage of cars you might want to call your current insurance company and find out how much it will cost to ensure a future purchase. Too many people today buy a car that they can not insure. Which forces you to buy a new car again or something that you are not completely satisfied with. 9. When financing a car never exceed 50% of your current home or apartment payment I.E. Rent $500 Car payment no more than $250. Remember You are going to pay at least $100 for insurance and $150 for gas for that month. If you cant afford it than get into an older car or a smaller car. 10. As stated before dont take the first deal! Send the salesman back as many times as possible to get what you want. Salesman spend close to 70 hours a week working to sell cars. If you occupy the whole day dealing with him. Who gives a sh*t! More than likely he would not be in the same situation twice in one day. Think of him as your personal secretary for the day, He is there to work for you. 11. During negotiation use math problem listed in point 5 for the new car as well. Never pay retail. Go online and find your current cars actual worth called invoice. The invoice is the maximum amount that the average dealership pays to throw on the lot for sale. Pay attention to this! A reputable dealership gets 3-8% holdback on the invoice. IE. Invoice price $25125 x .97 --.92 = total the dealership actually paid for the car you are looking at. They are making plenty of profit there. By using the math in point 5, you should stick to a price between the median and the invoice. Closer to the invoice is preferred to ensure a good deal. Dont worry You are not acting unreasonable. If you do this math correctly on all car purchases you should able to walk out with a good deal. Remember The median is 50% mark where the dealership and you are happy. If the dealership says your are being unreasonable their full of sh*t! 12. Financing- this is an area where you are on your own. Everybodys credit report is different. If you have a good credit score. A good finance rate should be rewarded. Good credit meaning 700+ , anything better than 700 should ensure you with a 5% or lower APR . Under 650 you are looking at anywhere from 8% or higher on the APR. If you have sh*tty credit like 580 expect 11%-34% in which case go find a beater because you are throwing your money away to the bank. 13. For Used cars make sure that everything has been fixed and maintained. If you are interested in a car that has not passed inspection from a certified dealership. Results can be disastrous. Dealerships usually advertise $1000 to $1500 above KBB. Those websites are there for a reason dammit! Use them Clean retail means there are no repairs needed and paint and body work is excellent. Many dealerships dont repair cars because they want to leave it up to the consumer to discover. Headaches will happen however as a certified dealer they are required by law to fix repairs and body work prior to sale. This can be a great negotiation tactic. Remember wholesale well the dealerships get holdback on parts as well. Make them fix the damn car before you sign the paperwork. There is nothing worse then buying a car financing it and turning around and having to pay for repairs.

Every car especially a redesigned model is going to have little bugs that need to be worked out. I especially drive harder than the average person. I have delivered pizzas in many cars, but non of them could take the abuse like a Nissan. Two things you should know about any car manufacturer. First never buy the bottom of the line trim (they are pressed through the assembly line alot quicker!) Second there are many companies, forums, etc that help you save time money and energy.

- , Las Cruces, NM, USA

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