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:
102,496 miles
Total Complaints:
131 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace engine (36 reports)
  2. replace catalytic converter (27 reports)
  3. replace engine and catalytic converter (25 reports)
  4. not sure (20 reports)
  5. replace pre-cat with heat shield and replace engine if bad (10 reports)
  6. new cat/ new sensors (8 reports)
2002 Nissan Altima exhaust system problems

exhaust system problem

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2002 Nissan Altima Owner Comments (Page 3 of 7)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #91

Jun 212010

Altima LS 2.5L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles


I know its no help with the actual problems, but its been my experience that it is always better to be educated about problems I am trying to solve, hence here it is:

The problems with 2002 Altimas (and I am talking about 2.5L i4, and I am not sure that it applies to the V6, but it is possible that it can) are NOT bad engines. Failed engine is a result of a failure of pre-catalytic converters. Here what happens.

There are two converters in the car, one is the a combination of exhaust manifold and a catalytic converter, which is bolted the cylinder head in the front of the engine (2.5L i4, V6 may be different). The catalytic converter is filled with the honeycomb structure which suppose to burn off remaining hydrocarbons. It is a component of the emissions system. The problem with this particular design is that honeycomb material in these converters have tendency to crack, and break apart. Another component of the emissions control system in the modern cars is Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) system, where portion of exhaust gases is diverted back into intake manifold and recycled in the engine. In Altimas (and possibly other Nissan vehicles with two catalytic converters) pieces of honeycomb lattice from the pre converter are sucked into intake manifold through EGR valve/passages, and end up being sucked inside cylinders. When this happens these pieces will rattle inside cylinders until they either burned by exploding gases, or blown out the exhaust valve, but while they are inside the cylinder they scratch/score the cylinder walls, which causes damage to the rings, which causes decreased compression, and at that point engine usually begins consuming oil.

When I bought my 2002 Altima in 2005 with 24K miles, it was still under manufacturer's warranty. Upon my first visit to the Service Department of my local Nissan dealership they told me that there are seven (!!!!!) outstanding recalls on my car. They have done all of them, including Recall ID # 03V084000, which calls for replacement of the catalytic converter and some other parts. The same recall mandates that under certain conditions the engine has to be replaced.

I would recommend for anyone who has this year and model Nissan to download and read the recall, then visit your local dealership and ask them to check if all of the recalls have been done on your car. If not, then have them check your catalytic converter for cracking. If you do this right, you may get your engine replaced at the expense of Nissan.

- , Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA

problem #90

May 282010

Altima 2.5se

  • Automatic transmission
  • 42,253 miles

If Anyone in Canada is facing issue with the Catalyst Converter damaging the engine in Nissan Altima 2002-2003 Model Please raise a complaint with Tranport Canada. They are actively trying to build a case depending on the number of people affected by the issue.

- , Toronto, ON, Canada

problem #89

Feb 112009

Altima S 2.5L V4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

car would smoke a lot... and wouldn't stop for a long time. then i wouldn't drive the car. Because if I would drive police could stop me for.had to change that when was changing the engine. Costed about 350$....

- , Takoma Park, MD, USA

problem #88

Sep 012009

Altima 2.5L

  • Manual transmission
  • 94,000 miles


This engine started using oil and I got the famous catalytic converter efficiency code. The engine sounds like a bucket of bolts and it vibrates so bad you can feel it through the floorboard. I have changed the oil and filter EVERY 3000 miles and now find out the engine is total junk. Nissan refuses to honor their engine despite a catastrophic design flaw that causes premature engine failure. DO NOT BUY A NISSAN, THEY DON"T HONOR THEIR MISTAKES!!!! Then I also have the famous clutch pedal slave cylinder failure issue as well.

I will NEVER buy another Nissan and I tell everyone I know about Nissans problems and their lack of support.

- , Deering, NH, USA

problem #87

Dec 152005

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 84,500 miles

Like everyone else, this car the precatalytic converter failed, caused the engine to be ruined, i have all documentation from the motor being replaced by the prior owner, no wonder she got rid of this car after this repair, right after the car turned 100,100 miles, nissan yet told me the motor needed replaced again, i have 130,250 miles on it now. burns oil, so im sure this motor is junk just like the orignial motor.

i would be glad to join a law suit against nissan for the defected motors. This will be the last nissan I will purchase, my 2000 altima caught on fire. so im done with buying cars from this company. my email is, if you have any questions i have no issues providing them, just request hummels nissan do not contact me. My solution is nissan should be forced to buy back this car, plus all the money ive put into this, lets just say ive put in the ball park of $7k in repairs into a car I only paid $10k for. also if you dont already know check the undercarriage of your nissan i bet you dont know your pans are rusted out with big holes in them. thats a defect in the sheet metal on the floors, This car is a piece of junk. I dont reccommend anyone to buy a nissan.

thank you.

- , Des Moines, IA, USA

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problem #86

Nov 252004

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,000 miles


- , Nashville, TN, US

problem #85

Mar 222010

Altima 2.5S V4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 76,100 miles


Same story as everyone else: First the head gasket needed to be replaced, next I was informed that the whole engine needs to be replaced because the catalytic converter went bad and the engine started eating too much oil and ran out of oil. All this when the car has only 76k miles on it (7.5 years). KBB says that the car in "good" condition is worth 6k, and I have to spend 4k just to get it fixed. That is ridiculous. God knows what else will break after the engine is replaced.

- , Mountain View, CA, USA

problem #84

Jan 042010

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 150,000 miles

Bought my Nissan used a couple of years ago with only 60,000 miles. I use this car for both work and personal travel with no other vehicle available. I was informed by the garage themselves that this was a common problem with the 2002 make and model. They quoted me over $1200 to replace both catalytic converters and the mechanic there said the engine would likely need replaced after this issue was resolved--additional thousands of dollars later of course. And yes, the car was consuming oil like a beast prior to the converters crashing so engine damage again likely. Very frustrating when I am a single dad with a mortgage, bills, and now transportation issues hanging over my head. I still owe on this "lemon" and now have to purchase a high mileage used car as I cannot afford the repair costs. As so many others have stated, it is certainly shameful when a manufacturer cares so little about their customers satisfaction and seem willing to turn a blind eye to the personal hardships and devastating effects caused by their faulty machinery. Even though I realize Nissan may not have intentionally distributed such a poor product, making amends for their error is the right thing to do. Apparently then, Nissan has sided with the wrong and I will never purchase another vehicle from this manufacturer.

- , Maysville, KY, USA

problem #83

Mar 152010

Altima 2.5S 2.5L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

Used to think nissan produced a great car until mine fell apart because of poor quality parts and nissan won't fess up to it. they have already took me for 2000 dollars to fix a problem that they knew had already caused major problems with the engine!!! 2 days later and less than a hundred miles driven after the repair my engine blows, no check engine lights, no nothing to warn the severe problems were happening. the cat went bad which I found out that is a common problem with this year and the engine sucked the material in and caused the engine to blow. nissan told me to bad and its gonna cost you 3500 dollars to replace the motor.knowing that their defective car is really to blame.the car is a 2002 was well maintained and still looks new. now its a useless paperweight!!!! I'm so pissed!!!!!!

- , Ventura, CA, USA

problem #82

Nov 012009

Altima SE 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,000 miles

I purchased this 2002 nissan Altima in 2006 with the extended warranty. The Warranty ran out in Feb 2009. In November 2009 the catalytic Converter had problems and sucked something up into the motor. Also check engine light started coming on. Drove the car for 2 months puting in oil the whole time so I can be driving it. Now it will not run at alll, and still making the payments on this car. Guess Nissan got over on us too. We will not buy another Nissan ever again with this kind of service and help. Now my family has to get buy the best way they can with no car to drive to work, or to be able to pick child up when needed. This is pretty sorry!!!!!!! This complaint has even been on the news, and Nissan still refuses to repair it's own defects. What a way to do Business!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- , Warner Robins, GA, USA

problem #81

Feb 192010

Altima 2.5S 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 107,898 miles


I am a single mom with two kids, my oldest is disabled. I don't make a lot of money and I bought this car thinking that I would finally have a good dependable car. HA the jokes on me. Eight months after owning this car water had got into the pistons and $1200, I can drive it again. now Ive had the car 2 yrs and it is using as much oil as gas and is smoking out the back the oil is drowning out the spark plugs and causing it to miss fire a studder, and lets not forget that the catalytic converters are both clogged. Looking at cost of a new engine but this is Nissan fault shouldn't they be responsible?

- , Clearwater, FL, USA

problem #80

Mar 012010

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 151,000 miles

I'm at 151,000 and have been having the same problems. Heavy oil consumption, antifreeze consumption. I'm adding oil weekly. The check engine light has been on for some time. The codes that I have received: P0217 Engine Overtemp Condition; as a result the technician removed and installed a coolant temp sensor. The engine went off for a short time and came back on; this time the code was P0420 which means Catalytic efficiency low. The mechanic cleared the codes and road tested and the O2 sensors switch position was fast. The light contined to come on, I returned to the shop and once again the diagnosis was P0420: Needs at least exhaust manifold/cat converter replaced with new gaskets.

I called Nissan Computer Complaints and they told me to take it to a Nissan Dealer for a diagnosis; I had been taking it to a non-Nissan mechanic. Anyway I did get a reference number for when I call back after having paid for another diagnosis.

- , Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #79

Feb 052010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 107,000 miles

I've had my Altima for 3 years and have had nothing but problems. The problems range from excessive oil consumption, excessive coolant consumption, 2 replaced catalytic converters, replaced water pump, and both o2 sensors replaced. I'm now afraid to drive the car. I will never ever buy another Nissan again.

- , Redlands, CA, US

problem #78

Jan 162009

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 136,702 miles

The "check engine" light is on and 2 Nissan dealerships and an independent shop said that the catalytic converter is being eaten up by the engine and that I would need a new engine and cat. $5-6000. After reading everyone else's beef on "cat" problems this seems to be a common problem with the 02 Altima. Is a new engine the answer? Will I have the same problem again? The car is probably only worth $5-6000 without all these problems. I also have the infamous heater and a/c problem with cold air from the heater and hot from the a/c unless the accelerator is being pressed down, loosing coolant and misfirring every once and a while on start up. Mechanics say a head gasket or cracked head could be the problem but with the CAT problem what is the point in fixing it?

Update from Feb 5, 2010: My mechanic said that to run the car for a while longer to see if the vehicle burns any oil or starts to deteriorate further and if everything seems to stay the same then the car would just need a new cat.

- , Vancouver, BC, Canada

problem #77

Dec 152009

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 126,845 miles

The car had a bad catalytic converter. the main one on the manifold replaced @ 84,500 miles along with the motor, the cat went bad again at 126k miles, my solution put an after market header on, bypassing the main cat, problem has been solved!

- , n/a, IA, USA

problem #76

Nov 152009

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 117,568 miles

Bought a used 2002 Altima at 98500 miles. Looked good, had leather interior and bose speakers and worked great for a little bit. Then i started having problems with the heating and air conditioning which required several trips to my mechanic and finally the dealer to get it fixed. Currently it is not working again. Then about a year after getting i had to replace the alternator. Shortly after this i realized i was losing coolant fluid at an accelerated rate. Just kept filling it without worrying about it until eventually it wouldn't start (of course it happened at the worst possible time). Took it to the dealer and 1500 dollars later the had replaced the head gasket and changed the oil and i was on my way. Almost two weeks after this i noticed i had no oil! which was strange because i had just got it changed. Figured i would throw two quarts in and not worry about it. Low and behold two weeks later i was out of oil again. So i kept filling it until i finally had to take it to get my inspection but of course i failed because my service engine light was on due to a P4020( that mite not be the right code) error which the guy informed me was from my catalytic converter. Took it to my mechanic who basically said the converter has burned up and gone into the engine causing scarring on the piston oil rings. Replace the rings?? No he informed me that to fix the problem i would have to replace the engine and the cat. He also informed me based of all the online complaints that this may only be a temporary fix. Essentially the repairs would cost probably twice what the car is worth so i don't know what im going to do. I filled out the lawsuit form from the link posted by those below and i suggest anyone else having this problem should do the same. The amount of money ive had to do after only putting on 20,000 miles is around 3 grand which is just ridiculous.

- , Charlotte, NC, USA

problem #75

Aug 192009

Altima S 2,5

  • Automatic transmission
  • 156,000 miles

I bought this car off my daughter as she went to Japan, I have never had any problems. Then the crankshaft sensor went out and after I had that fixed (at a Nissan Dealer) it started using oil like crazy and the SE lights came back on.. I called them and they gave me this song and dance about the catalytic converter and the engine but I did not believe them. I took it to another automotive place and in the end came to find out there had been a recall involving this but ai never received it and besides the car is out of warranty. In my mind if there is a problem this big, it should not matter how many miles the car has. I live on a very small income and could not afford to stock $5000 in this car and then maybe not really solve the problem. I traded it in and received virtually nothing for this car. I wish there was some way to sue these people over this.

- , Batesville, IN, USA

problem #74

Oct 012009


  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,565 miles

i just found out about this web site and this is some serious B.S. I haven't had this car for 2 years yet and its already parked in my drive way unable to be driven. its bad enough that we have to live check to check then we have to be bothered with this. Nissan needs to step up and fix this sh*t. Every morning i had to go outside at least 20mins ahead of time and crank my car up and let it run because the smoke that was coming out of the tail pipe would be so bad that there was no way i could drive it before it did this. the SES light stayed on no matter how many times i took this car to get serviced it never helped. im so frustrated with this because now im having to pay car payments on a car that i cant even drive. Nissan WILL NOT get away with this. i liked the idea of everybody getting together and taking money out of NISSAN"S pocket the same way they have taken it out of ours. im in the process of looking into what can be done leagally about this situation. Nissan has not so much as sent a letter out letting their customers know that others with the same model car has been having the same type problems. but each month they make sure to send me a letter when im late on a car payment. so each month i've been sending them the different material that i've printed off the internet letting them know what kinda B.S. we have to deal with on a daily basis. now that i know about this website im going to post my thoughts weekly if not daily.

- , Clover, SC, USA

problem #73

Feb 012007

Altima SE 2.5L

  • Manual transmission
  • 90,000 miles

Nissan is the culprit and all of your posts are the same issue I'm having and or have had. I want to file a class action suit against nissan - already have attys jacksonville nc 910-382-1195 to ALL INTERESTED IN GETTIING YOUR $$$$ BACK!!!!!!! CMARTINS

- , Jacksonville, NC, US

problem #72

Sep 192009

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 136,000 miles

Well another Nissan engine bites the DUST.............I bought this car 2.5 years ago. It has always burnt a quart of oil between every oil change, Well I just heard back from my mechanic today. I need a new motor and catalytic converter. THIS IS ABSOLUTE B.S.. I just paid this car off a month ago now its going to cost me $3600.00 to get it repaired. I really don't know if it's worth putting that kind of money into it from what I've read. Something really does need to be done. WE NEED SOME HELP NISSAN!!!!!!!!!! This is my first Nissan crap and with out a doubt will be my last.

- , Pace, FL, USA

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