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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
105,249 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Nissan Altima Owner Comments (Page 2 of 5)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #72

Jan 032015


  • 97,496 miles


This Nissan is burning oil like crazy. It started in Jan, 2015, engine was making terrible noise, oil level checked, completely empty. I took it to Nissan who said it wasn't a problem and did oil change. Then, just this Saturday, June 27th the car was hard to start and sounded like metal so I turned it off and checked the oil- completely empty again. We had to pour 4 quarts in!!! it does not have a leak, nothing is ever seen where it has been parked. It is just burning oil like crazy due to some type of defect from Nissan that hundreds and hundreds have complained about on line if you google Nissan burning oil... and dangerous situations that have occurred. I do not want to wait for an accident, please, please, listen to all of us and get Nissan to address this failure with their vehicles. This vehicle only has 100,000 on it and I have changed the oil every 3500 miles without fail. I did nothing to cause this along with the other hundreds to thousands of other Nissan owners that have complained about this. I have called Nissan in the past on my other Altima about their ac that fails due to it always running with defroster and it doesn't turn off then so it's always running. Also, I see many other rusted out floorboards, causing the passenger seat to not be bolted down in this same year that I had happen to me 2 years ago and had to spend $2000 to fix that they said the same, sorry, this is not our problem. What would have happened in an accident, the passenger would've not been protected when their seat flew off. Please, please go after them....they are terrible.

- Hartland, WI, USA

problem #71

Jun 192015


  • 28,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Nissan Altima. While driving approximately 20 mph, the vehicle shook and rattled. In addition, the vehicle stalled and the check engine warning light illuminated. The vehicle was restarted. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic where it was diagnosed that the crank shift position sensor needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified. The VIN was not included in NHTSA campaign number: 03V455000 (engine and engine cooling). The failure mileage was 28,000.

- Parkville, MD, USA

problem #70

Oct 012013


  • miles
Engine oil excessively being consumed/burning. Exhaust leakage. There is a recall that addresses this (NHTSA campaign number: 03V084000 ) and it covers my model year, but it would not come up on the dealer's computer so they did not fix the issue.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #69

Mar 062012


  • 134,023 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Nissan Altima. While driving various speeds, the vehicle stalled without warning. The vehicle failed to restart and was towed to an independent mechanic where the crank shaft sensor was replaced. The VIN was not included in NHTSA campaign number: 03V455000 (engine and engine cooling). The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 134,023.

- North Babylon , NY, USA

problem #68

Apr 202012

Altima 6-cyl

  • 160,000 miles
Car began to idle roughly and was hard to start. Replaced oxygen sensors which did not cure symptoms. Was told that the 2 pre-cats (catalytic converters) needed replaced. Motor mounts also recommended. Replaced and problem persisted. Hard to start, runs rough now shutting down while driving. Ran codes myself with obd-II tool and found crankshaft and camshaft position sensors to be faulty. I heard of a recall for this very issue; even described my symptoms exactly. Even though my year model and car was recalled the Nissan of fort worth service desk told me my VIN # was not covered. My car has the exact same engine as all of the other Nissan made in this year range and the same faulty crankshaft and camshaft sensors but for some unknown reason mine are not covered by this. How is this even possible. I have replaced a lot of pricey parts all which may have been avoided by replacing the sensors. Even if I had to pay for the crank and camshaft sensors it would not have been bad if I had not paid over $3000 in repairs to other stuff that may not have needed replacing.

- Fort Worth, TX, USA

problem #67

Jun 192013


  • 46,467 miles
In the past 2.5 years I've had to replace 2 coils on 2 different cylinders, and 2 different crankshaft position sensors as well. Each time it's cost me upwards of $300 each incident. A review of the internet website for complaints from Nissan drivers of the same vehicle make/model/year indicates that others have also run into these issues without any recompense. Some even had their cars stalling out while driving, which is obviously a safety concern. "luckily" (and note that I use the term in quotes), my experience has been that the engine starts running rough, feeling like on just 3 of its 4 cylinders, then the "service engine soon" light comes on. It was then always obvious something was really wrong. Q: why wasn't this a recall item for the Nissan engine? P.S. I have less than 60K miles on my car and it's in pristine condition and always garaged.

- Port Washington, NY, USA

problem #66

Feb 262015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 105,000 miles


2.5L engine S model Nissan Altima. 2002-2003 has well documented blogs and complaints of excessive oil use. Causes are any thing to poor design valve seals to dust kick back from overheated catalytic convertor into piston/cylinder area causeing ring failures as well. This current vehicle has to been diagnoisised by a Nissan dealer. It burns 2 quarts of oil per 160miles. The dealer recommends a new engine and new catalytic convertor. The regional Nissan manager chris states Nissan will not assist in any way to replace/repair these items because we have not owned the vehicle long enough. The car is worth $3800. The engine +convertor+ labor is over the value of the car. Some one high up somewhere dropped the royal ball on recalling this engine.

- Holt, MO, USA

problem #65

Apr 092015

Altima 6-cyl

  • 159,000 miles
Car stalled two times within 20 minutes when slowing car down to make a turn. Meineke and paul miller Nissan of fairfield, ct identified that parts 23731-al61A (crankshaft/camshaft sensor) and 23731-6J90B (camshaft position sensor) need to be replaced. These sensors were part a recall for the same make, year and model of car that I own. Nissan N.a. claims that my VIN was not a part of the recall. 630,000+ vehicles were affected by this recall but my vehicle does not apply. On line complaints suggests that the exact same complaint keeps recurring but Nissan has not expanded there VIN registry to include all cars that are affected. Spoke with Nissan N.a. case expediter who stated my vehicle VIN was not on the affected list although my complaint was the same as those vehicles on the list. Nissan representative would not tell me where my part was made and where the defective parts were in fact made. Claimed that this was internal Nissan information that they had no obligation to give me.

- Fairfield, NN, USA

problem #64

Mar 112015


  • 130,000 miles
Service engine soon lite came on, car runs sluggish, stalls while running at slow speed, put on computer stated cam shaft ignitors/sensors.

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #63

Feb 272015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 105,000 miles
We purchased the vehicle from a private individual. It had 105000 miles on the odometer, it is a 2003 Nissan Altima with a 2.5L (4 cylinder engine) shortly after purchase.. we noticed a very foul smell coming from the exhaust and into the passenger cabin. Also the engine consumed 1 quart of oil per 50 to 60 miles. No exaggeration ! I discovered a recall on the Altima concerning it's precat/catalytic converter could over heat, break into pieces and some of the pieces could be sucked back into the engine, scoring the cyclinder walls and causing excessive oil consumption. I emailed Nissan with my concerns. They assigned a case # to my concern. They asked for a Nissan dealer to evaluate the problems and give them a formal diagnostic of the issues. The Altima had a new catalytic converter installed in 2007. A oil consumption test was done on the car and the oil topped off and we were told to come back in 250miles so they could check the oil. In 160miles we returned and there was no oil on the dip stick! also the check engine light was on and a code for "catalyst" problems was in the computer. This was all sent to Nissan via email. Now instead of a rep. Handling the issues.. they have sent it to a regional rep. And we are awaiting their "goodwill" decision. That year Altima and engine has repeat issues even after recall repair. Tpart of the recall states that if the owner does not check the oil often and ignores engine noises that it could result in a fire! supposedly a exhaust hanger catchs debris and causes the fire"?? lol who are they kidding"

- Holt, MO, USA

problem #62

Jan 052015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 88,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Nissan Altima. While driving at various speeds, the vehicle decelerated and the check engine warning light illuminated. The failure recurred numerous times. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic, where it was diagnosed that the crank position sensor or cam position sensor failed and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure and stated that the VIN was not included in NHTSA campaign number 03V455000: (engine, engine cooling). The failure mileage was 88,000. Updated 03/30/15 updated 6/22/2015

- Muncie, IN, USA

problem #61

Jan 022015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 156,000 miles
The code is for crankshaft positioning sensor failure. The vehicle lost power during driving. The vehicle was not able to be started right after. Only pumping gas pedal while turning the key in ignition was able to start the vehicle.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #60

Oct 012014


  • 200,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that while driving 35 mph, the vehicle decelerated independently and failed to accelerate. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the crank sensor needed to be repaired. The vehicle was not repaired. The VIN was not included in NHTSA campaign number: 03V455000 (engine and engine cooling) and NHTSA campaign number: 06V242000 (engine and engine cooling). The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 200,000.

- Azusa, CA, USA

problem #59

Oct 052014


  • 75,358 miles
Malfunction indicator light is on. Drove to a repair shop to get a diagnostic analysis on the engine. I was told the reason for the indicator light was because I had a bad crank sensor. There is a recall for that so, I called the dealership and they ran my VIN number and told me there was no recall for my car and I explained the situation to him they still wasn't going to fix it. Then I called the Nissan recall place and she said the same thing. So now what do I suppose to do now.

- Fort Hood, TX, USA

problem #58

Dec 022013


  • 73,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Nissan Altima. While driving various speeds, the check engine warning light remained illuminated and the vehicle stalled. In addition, the vehicle failed to start on the first attempt and the contact had to wait to try again. The vehicle was towed to an independent mechanic. The technician diagnosed that the ignition coils needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired, but the failure persisted. The vehicle was returned to the independent mechanic who replaced the camshaft sensor. The failure recurred. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 73,000.

- Elkhorn , WI, USA

problem #57

Oct 142010

Altima 4-cyl

  • 151,000 miles
I had just bought my vehicle in March 2010 for $4200. A few weeks after I started to notice that the vehicle was burning through oil every few days. I took it to my mechanic and he stated it needed a tune up. A few days after the tune up I noticed it started to run rough on the highway on my way to work. While on the highway the car stopped running everything shut down, no power steering. I had to glide to the breakdown lane hoping and praying I would make it and not get hit. So I had the car towed to the mechanic who then told me that the motor was blown. I didn't have the money to fix it seeing as I had just bought the vehicle 6 months earlier. So I then parked the car in my driveway until I had the money to replace it($2000). Once I was able to replace the engine 2 months later the check engine light come on again. I take it back into the mechanic and he tells me its the radiator. I replace the radiator ($200). A few weeks later the check engine light comes on again. The mechanic tells me its the catalytic converter and that he's done atleast three Nissan in the past month with the same problem and that there is a recall and to contact Nissan. He also told me that if I to drive the vehicle like that it would blow the motor again because that is what caused it to blow initially. After taking it to a Nissan dealer they told me that there is not "open" recall on the catalytic converter just an ECM reset and the halogen light recall. They did tell me the catalytic gone due to a cylinder 2 misfire but that was not covered by them. I then called Nissan directly and they told me that there was a recall previous for the engine and catalytic converter but it was not an open recall and they were not allowed to send me that information. If I wanted that information I would have to go through car fax. This was from their upper management.

- Tiverton, RI, USA

problem #56

Aug 042014


  • 150,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle stalled on numerous occasions. The dealer stated that the camshaft position sensor, crank position sensor, and the timing kit needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired, but the failure recurred. The vehicle was not included in NHTSA campaign number: 06V242000 (engine and engine cooling) and NHTSA campaign number: 03V455000 (engine and engine cooling). The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 150,000. Updated 12/2/14

- Columbus, OH, USA

problem #55

Feb 152012


  • 190,000 miles
Driving legal speed on interstate highway 59 South from meridian ms to slidell Louisiana. Car started using oil every 20 miles. I have taken vehicle to Nissan dealer on 3 different occasions. It ws determined that the engine and catalytic converter is bad. I have contacted Nissan North America to ask for them to repair under recall #03V084000. This recall states that the catalytic converter will cause engine damage. Nissan declined to fix my car. I contacted the better business bureau and they did not help. I don't know what to do next.

- Meridian, MS, USA

problem #54

Sep 252014

Altima 4WD 6-cyl

  • 168,365 miles
Was driving 45mph when the engine shut off, steering wheel got stiff, and I had to maneuver to safety. Tried repeatedly to turn on the car, but it didn't work. I came to a complete stop, waited a few minutes, and then the car turned on normally. I have a family of Nissan owners and this was the first incident of this ever happening. I just want Nissan to help fix this, or risk loosing a valued customer to another car brand. Considering infinity just lost 2 CEO's to other brands makes me (as a consumer) uncertain about this brands future.

- Puyallup, WA, USA

problem #53

Jun 292014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 116,000 miles
On Jun 29, 2014 our family of four (along with my wife and 2 kids) were in this 2003 Nissan Altima driving on the expressway at around 55mph. All of a sudden, without any warning, the engine stopped. Pressing on the accelerator did not do anything. Cars were all over the expressway, zipping through at a high speeds. A very scary situation. Somehow, we were able to pull over to the side of the expressway without any incident, but it could have been very fatal to my entire family. Once pulled over to the side, I called my insurance co. To send us a tow truck. While I was placed on hold, after a few mins we were able to restart the car and were able to drive home. Next day, I called Nissan company and told them about my incident and they said there are no recalls on my car and they suggested that I take it to a mechanic. I took it to a mechanic and they ran diagnostic test and found out that cam shaft sensor was bad and they replaced it at my cost. I'm very disappointed with Nissan as to how my car is not part of recall even though the engine just cut out with out any warning putting my family at great danger (possibility of severe injuries or even death) and Nissan does not want to take responsibility.

- Naperville, IL, USA

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