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.


definitely annoying
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
26,295 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.

2003 Nissan Altima cooling system problems

cooling system problem

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2003 Nissan Altima Owner Comments

problem #12

Nov 282006


  • 39,000 miles


I bought this car with 39,578 miles on it on September 9, 2006. After owning the car for 3 months, the radiator started to leak from the top. I took it to a radiator shop and they fixed it while saying that Nissan had used cheap parts. A car that has less than 50,000 miles on it should not have these types of problems. Less than a year later, the service engine light came on so I took it to auto zone to get the diagnosis of the problem. The crank shaft sensor was bad and had to be replaced. It caused the car to stall when cranking/starting and left me stranded at some points and times because it would not start. After replacing this sensor, later to find out there was a recall on the sensor and was told my car was not included in this recall eventhough I assume the same parts are used on all models of the same kind, another sensor is now causing my car to idle high when in park or neutral. This type of behavior in the car causes more gas consuming which in today's economic battle with fuel prices, is not favorable. Now that I have read many other complaints from other people, I have noticed that this is a widespread problem on 2002-2005 Altima models. If the crankshaft sensor had not been replaced sooner, the car could have stopped running in traffic, which is why it was recalled, and caused a serious accident maybe even death. I bought this car in confidence that it would be dependable for myself and my child but since I have called to log a complaint with Nissan North America they informed me that the car has three other recalls that were stated as " serious to my safety".

- Benton, KY, USA

problem #11

Jul 032008


  • 32,955 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Nissan Altima. On July 3, 2008, while driving 40 mph, the vehicle began moving slowly and the check engine light illuminated. The contact took the vehicle to the dealer for a diagnostic and they identified the cause of the failure as the crankshaft position sensor. There is no recall available; therefore, the crankshaft sensor and radiator will be replaced at the cost of $815. The current and failure mileages were 32,955. Updated 09/10/08 updated 09/19/08.

- Waterbury, CT, USA

problem #10

Oct 172003

Altima 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 7,435 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Nissan Altima. In 2003, the vehicle began jerking and would come to a complete stop without warning. The vehicle was taken to two dealers and the radiator and crank sensor were replaced. The manufacturer was notified and a report was taken. The investigation concluded that the vehicle could not be replaced under the lemon law because the time had expired. The speed and powertrain were unknown. The current mileage was 55,000 and failure mileage was 7,435. Updated 02/12/08. The consumer stated the vehicle stalls and then shoots forward. Updated 02/12/08

- Atlanta , GA, USA

problem #9

Jul 062006

Altima 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 59,000 miles


Purchased new 2003 Nissan Altima 2.5S in July 2003. Car taken to dealer for routine checks and oil changes. At 59K, dealer advised that radiator had corroded and needed replacing. Dealer attributed problem to being in a "salt" state. However, Nissan recalled other parts because I live in a salt state, but not this one. After several phone calls, filed complaint with Nissan because I felt this was a part that should be replaced due to technical bulletins published regarding radiator cap replacement and why would a radiator need replacing after only 3 years? Nissan advised to take to another dealership. Second dealership performed pressure test, found a leak in the radiator. Clamps also corroded. This dealership advised that radiator caps should be replaced on Nissan every 30K. Nissan customer service claims that they are not responsible, they will not replace at their cost. Very disappointed in Nissan customer service, they do not stand behind their product. Nissan customer service also bad at returning calls, not forwarding your calls and have to repeat every thing you say multiple times, and condescending towards customer. Will never buy another Nissan again and will tell everyone I know of the problems. Replaced radiator with after market part, cost $600 out of pocket. Shop that replaced part advised that Nissan radiators are on national backorder and that he gets numerous calls to replace this part on Nissan. Every shop that I call was surprised that I wanted to replace the radiator since the car was so new.

- Clinton Township, MI, USA

problem #8

May 062006

Altima 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 43,000 miles
Radiator leak was discovered by technician while performing a diagnostic inspection on my Altima for some engine problems I was experiencing. At that time my car had 43K miles. I was informed that I had a radiator leak and the coolant reservoir was empty. They filled it with coolant, but I did not replace the radiator. Four days later, my car stalled on the highway and had to get it towed. I towed it to a different place than where I had been 4 days ago. I was informed a second time that my radiator was leaking and that it was about 1/2 empty. He filled up the reservoir. Just to note, my vehicle stalled because of 2 sensors that had gone bad. During second diagnostic inspection I was informed of the radiator again. On May 17th I took my car to the Nissan dealership in an effort to get my radiator replaced by goodwill that dealerships extend. Nissan checked the radiator and confirmed it was leaking and needed to be replaced very soon, but would not use the goodwill to pay for the replacement. I have not replaced the radiator to date. I've been filling it with coolant as the reservoir gets low. I've been trying to work with Nissan Consumer Affairs to have this replaced at no cost. I was told that this is part of normal wear and tear, but I absolutely don't agree. Four other people I know that have the same model and year had to get their radiators replaced while under the 36K mile warranty. I believe that is enough proof to show that the radiators Nissan is installing in its new Altima are low quality.

- Fairview Park, OH, USA

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problem #7

Apr 172006

Altima 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,850 miles
My 2003 Nissan Altima 2.5 S (75,000 miles) was brought in for routine maintenance. For a week or two the car has run roughly and had a strange odor in the drives compartment. It was discovered that the radiator has a cracked seal and it has been leaking fluid. It was below the minimum line when it was brought in. The fumes in the drivers compartment were the fumes from the anti freeze. No service engine warning light ever came on and the temperature gauge never moved. There was no indication that the car had a problem.

- Dracut, MA, USA

problem #6

Jan 112006

Altima 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,396 miles


Please be advised that on 1/11/06 I took my 2003 Nissan Altima to South Chicago Nissan for a recall on headlights. At this time I decided to purchase the 60,000 mile service package which included the draining and refilling of the cooling system or radiator. Afterwards, the radiator was leaking fluids. I took the car back, and the supervisor discovered the radiator was cracked. He informed me that they weren't liable, and it would cost me $749.60 for a new radiator. But, I explained to him that the radiator had to be okay for it to be serviced; otherwise, somebody would have said something. I appealed to the manager, but nothing changed. I believe South Chicago is liable but don't want to pay. Please investigate this matter and let me know what my options are because I don't have $750 to pay for a radiator. The name of the company is South Chicago Nissan, 7410 S. western, Chicago 60636. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #5

Jun 012005

Altima 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
Nissan Altima's radiators need to be recalled. I have a 2003 V6 and I do every maintence possible. The radiator leaked and caused extensive engine damaged. I contacted Nissan corporate office and noone seems to be concerned even though this happens quite frequently. I broke down on the innerstate and I could have been hit from the back by another car. The service manager jeff evans at hall Nissan in newportnews, va 757 369-6600 says he had to replace a radiator in one Altima three times. I don't know why no one has recalled this but I hope this message gets to as many people as possible. Let everyone know that the new Altima may look nice but that's about all it's worth. It's just eye candy and they obviously spent more time one the outside instead of what's most important "the inside". who wants to ride around in a car with their kids that is subject to break down? my car is still in the shop and it will cost my out of my pocket $2500. Please research this and get this message to everyone it may affect. Also I want to add that noone from Nissan wanted to take responsibility for the repairs even though they are aware of the problem. I think they don't want to recall the part because they are too busy trying to sell the new 2005 model. Thanks!

- Newportnews, VA, USA

problem #4

Apr 112005

Altima 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
After approximately 49,000 plus miles on my 2003 Nissan Altima, 3.5 SE, I noticed oolant leaking from the radiator. I took it to the Nissan dealership service department where I purchase the car from and I was told that the radiator needs to be replaced because it is not repairable. The dealership service personnel told me that the new type of radiators installed on these car models have plastic tops and once ruptured or damaged, cannot be repaired. I was just wondering how can this happen with my vehicle that has 49,000 plus miles in it. I had purchased the vehicle new. I was told the warranty for the radiator expired after 36,000 miles. I had the radiator replaced as suggested by the Nissan service representative and had to pay a hefty price for a new one plus labor.

- Bell Gardens, CA, USA

problem #3

Jan 232004

Altima 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 3,000 miles
In my new Nissan Altima 2003, the radiator has been replaced twice for developing a crack. The problem continues, but the dealer refuses to admit the radiator is defective and needs to be replaced again. They have many other customers having the same problem.

- Holland, PA, USA

problem #2

Oct 162003

Altima 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 3,900 miles
I have a 2003 Nissan Altima 2.5S and @ 3900 miles the radiator went bad, now @ 4800 miles the radiator is bad again. Dealer is very unhelpful of situation and acts like they don, T want to fix.germaine Nissan is 2 hours away from my home, only bought from them because I was told they were a respectable puts almost 150 miles on my car to drive it up ther and back, and they say I don, T qualify for a loaner car.

- Chillicothe, OH, USA

problem #1

Oct 202003

(reported on)


  • miles
Consumer was complaining about radiator leaks coming from the hose clamp area and the top of the radiator. Dealership had been informed; however, they told consumer that there was no problem.

- Chester, PA, USA

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