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:
4 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
72,438 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 13)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #234

Jan 202010

Altima 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 117,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the check engine warning lamp illuminated. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who diagnosed that the timing chain was defective and needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure who did not offer any assistance. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and the current mileage was 117,000. Updated 7/10/13 the radiator, timing chain, power steering pump, power steering hose, water pump, valve cover gasket, engine insulator, crankshaft sensor and motor mount were all replaced. Updated 07/18/13

- Huntsville , AL, USA

problem #233

Feb 042012

Altima 4-cyl

  • miles
I have a 2003 Nissan Altima equipped with a 2.5 liter engine. The service engine soon light came on around 4 February 2012. I took the vehicle to a local mechanic who advised the obd-II code indicated a problem with the crank position sensor and that Nissan has had multiple recalls on some 2003 and 2004 Altima with a 2.5 liter engine for this problem. The mechanic advised me to take the vehicle to my local Nissan dealer to have them fix the issue due to the recall notices. On 6 February 2012 I went to my local Nissan dealer. The dealer advised me the vehicle identification number did not fall under any of the recall notices and therefore would not be able to perform any recall work. They did advise I could schedule an appointment and they would be happy to service the vehicle at their listed rates. I declined. On 6 February 2012 I took the vehicle back to my local mechanic and he performed the necessary work. The mechanic advised me he called Nissan to discuss the issue of replacing the crank position sensor and the dealer advised him it was a known problem with 2003 Altima with the 2.5 liter engine and both the crank position sensor and the cam position sensor should be replaced. The mechanic followed the dealers advice and replaced both sensors. In researching the issue I have found at least two recall notices on the website indicating crank position sensor problems with 2003 Nissan Altima equipped with a 2.5 liter engine. These are NHTSA campaign numbers 03V455000 and 06V242000. Since my vehicle exhibited the exact symptoms of the recall notices listed above; and since my vehicle is of the same make, model and equipped with the same engine as those in the recall campaigns listed above; I believe Nissan should have replaced the sensors on my vehicle free of charge.

- Dumfries, VA, USA

problem #232

Feb 032012


  • 109,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that while driving 70 mph, the check engine light illuminated and the engine stalled. The vehicle was taken to the dealer. The dealer confirmed spark plugs needed to be replaced along with the engine. The manufacturer was contacted and advised the contact that the VIN failed to qualify for repairs under NHTSA campaign id number:03V084000 ( engine and engine cooling:exhaust system:manifold/header/muffler/tail pipe). The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 109,000 and the current mileage was 110,000.

- Bobina, TX, USA

problem #231

Apr 142010


  • 107,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle stalled without warning while sitting at a traffic stop. The vehicle was taken to a local mechanic who diagnosed that the crank shaft sensor was defective and needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure who did not offer any assistance since the vehicle was not included in NHTSA campaign id number: 03V455000 (engine and engine cooling). The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and the current mileage was 107,000.

- Twentynine Palms, CA, USA

problem #230

Jan 262012

Altima 4-cyl

  • 174,000 miles
Car engine light came on, had checked, it was a 335 code camshaft sensor, took to mechanic, he checked for my Nissan model recalls and found one on this exact code. My Nissan dealership says its voluntary and they will charge me up to $300. The car keeps cutting off on me when driving almost causing me to wreck.

- Marshville, NC, USA

problem #229

Oct 092007


  • 91,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle was repaired in 2007 under NHTSA campaign id number 03V455000 (engine and engine cooling) and the ECM was reprogrammed. The crank shaft sensor and cam shaft sensor were not replaced as mentioned in the recall. The manufacturer and dealer were notified but provided no further assistance to the contact. The approximate failure mileage was 91,000.

- Kennewick, WA, USA

problem #228

Feb 012012


  • miles


2003 Nissan Altima. Consumer states engine stopped while driving the consumer stated his wife was driving over railroad tracks, when the vehicle suddenly stalled. She was almost rear ended, but was able to maintain control of the vehicle. The consumer would like for Nissan to replace the part(s) under previous recall 06V242000 and admit the presence of an ongoing safety hazard.

- Bridgewater, MA, USA

problem #227

Dec 012011


  • 99,608 miles
We have a 2003 Nissan Altima, we had problems with the catalyic converter, we changed it, in Aug 2011, we learned about the problem on-line. What we did not read about is how the converter goes bad and throws parts of it into the engine and has the engine burn oil and eventually throw a rod. We took the car into the dealership for an oil change in Nov 2011, traveled 500 miles and the engine goes out we told the service advisor there was a knocking noise in the engine, he said this could be due to low oil, if the noise continues after oil change we will diagnose the noise. Well, the noise stopped, after the engine gave out, the dealership is telling us that we are at fault cause we did not get the diagnosis done on the vehicle. I asked them is the test would determine that a rod was going to blow, he said no, then why pay for the test. I have been reading on line and see there are several people who have had the same problem with the vehicle, and Nissan Corp will not do anything about this, people are talking about filing a class action law suit, but there is no record of anyone filing one. I recently talked to a friend, who's daughter has the same vehicle, they just went thru the same problem with the blown engine, we got estimates to replace the engine, $3500-$5500 for another engine and labor, this is crazy, I called several used or rebuilt engine places and this engine is hard to come by, guess lots of people are blowing the engines for the same reason, yet Nissan Corp can not file a recall or help out with the costs, especially where they knew about the bad catalyic converter and blowing debris back into the engine. That is a shame, Nissan is known for good strong dependable vehicles, and for them not wanting to help the consumers is going to hurt them in the long run. I honestly can say I would never purchase another Nissan again.

- Fairfiled, CA, USA

problem #226

Nov 012011

Altima 4-cyl

  • 84,000 miles
I own a 2003 Nissan Altima 2.5S. My vehicle's check engine light recently illuminated with a "P420" code. When I went to smog my vehicle, I was informed the vehicle would fail smog due to the check engine light. The mechanic at the smog station suggested I take my vehicle to the dealership. I followed his advice and called the dealership, who asked them to complete a diagnostic to determine the issue. After one business day, the dealer promptly contacted me, noting that "bits of my pre-catalytic converter had degraded and been sucked into my engine". this has resulted in a quoted cost at $2,944 for a long block + $790 down pipe + exhaust manifold $681 = $4,415 + labor (estimated at 20 hours at a rate of $130/hour) for a total cost of approximately $7,015. Apparently, as a result of a design flaw in the power valve screws, the catalytic converter is defective, breaks down, and is sucked into the engine, causing extensive damage to the engine. The vehicle code sensor reads a code of P420. This is a well documented problem on, forums, and from various other Nissan Altima owners. I can provide documentation for this at the investigating agents request, including those filed with the nhsta and Some relevant links: 1) 2) 3) 4) (search under 2003 Nissan  Altima  engine & engine cooling. There are 75 pages documenting this issue!).

- Santa Rosa, CA, USA

problem #225

May 162009

Altima 6-cyl

  • 65,000 miles
At 9:30pm, on November 16, 2011, a dark rainy night, I left a hs parking lot. After a short distance, the engine (3.5L) completely failed without warning. This caused the powersteering to also stop. The situation almost caused an accident. Cars behind me and on the otherside of the road almost hit my vehicle. It was terrifying and confusing. Twice before, going at low speeds, the engine completely stopped without warning. After my insistance, a Nissan dealership finally examined the car and found the cam position sensor was faulty. They replaced it with 23731-6J90B. It was paid for by my extended warranty. The company said that my vehicle was not part of any recalls. That was 08/04/09. From that date to 11/16/11, I had no problem. Then on 11/16/11 it happened again (see above).there is a basic design flaw in this vehicle which needs to be fixed. NHTSA's campaign # 03V455000 describes the problem. Also nvs-215 06V242 also describes the problem. No one should drive this car until it is properly fix. It should be part of the recall. The Nissan specialist at 800-343-6913 was very dismissive. This is not right.

- West Babylon, NY, USA

problem #224

Aug 012011


  • 89,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle would refuse to start and exhibited an abnormal clicking. The check engine light was also illuminated and the vehicle would stall at any time. The contact had the engine due to a defective timing chain defect. The dealer denied any assistance with repairs to the vehicle. The manufacturer offered to cover a portion of the repair costs due to the fact that the vehicle was not included in NHTSA campaign id number: 03V455000 (engine and engine cooling). The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 89,000 and the current mileage was 114,128.

- Temecula, CA, USA

problem #223

Oct 082009

Altima 4-cyl

  • miles
Engine dies and start back up.

- Southpittsburg , TN, USA

problem #222

Oct 112011

Altima 4-cyl

  • 55,000 miles
Recently while driving my ses light came on. I took my vehicle to the nearest service center and had them read the codes which were 0725 engine speed sensor and 0335 crank shaft position sensor. Upon looking into the problem I found that this is a common problem with many Nissan owners, particularly the Altima models. Nissan has issued a recall to reprogram the ECM free however this does not solve the problem. The problem is the crankshaft sensor, and Nissan should be responsible for replacing the defective part (the part has been modified from plastic to metal because of other complaints however they will not cover the replacement, ridiculous!) this is particularly dangerous due to the fact that I can cause the car to stall randomly while driving, which has happened to me on two occasions (luckily not in heavy traffic of on the highway! but it has happened in more serious situations to others).

- Rochester, NY, USA

problem #221

Sep 132011

Altima 4-cyl

  • 142,000 miles
While driving this vehicle the check engine light came on. Auto repair shop read code as a P0420. Took it to Nissan dealer to have fixed and was told it was the catalytic converter and both O2 sensors needed to be replaced and if not it could lead to particles getting into the engine and resulting in complete engine failure. After looking into this problem online to see what others were facing, it seems this is a very common and dangerous problem. Not all 2003 Nissan Altima are covered under recall or warranty, not sure why one type of 2003 Nissan Altima would be cover, but not another. Very frustrating and scary, especially as it can lead to a very dangerous crash even at low speeds. Nissan is not helpful or caring to this issue and becomes difficult to deal with when you even first mention it to them. Sounds like they have had lot of complaints, but will not and have not done anything to fix it.

- Ocala, FL, USA

problem #220

Jan 012011


  • 85,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that when attempting to turn at low speeds the vehicle would stall. The contact believed that the vehicle exhibited the same symptoms as those listed in NHTSA recall campaign id number: 06V242000 (engine and engine cooling), but the contact was informed by the dealer that the recall did not include the vehicle. A local mechanic replaced the crank sensor but the failure recurred. The manufacturer was contacted but denied any assistance with repairs to the vehicle. The failure mileage was 85,000 and the current mileage was 92,000.

- Massapequa, NY, USA

problem #219

Aug 012011

Altima 4-cyl

  • 160,485 miles
Catalytic convertor problem resurfaced. Originally fixed in 2004 during the Nissan recall campaign. Local Nissan dealer qouted a price of over $2000 to fix. They do not honor the warranty on their work. Car is unsafe to drive and burns through high amounts of oil. Local Nissan dealer denied any recall, even though a printout of the recall campaign was provided to them. Never, ever will I buy a Nissan car again. These cars are unsafe, and you will pay $$$ to get them fixed as Nissan will not honor any warranty. These cars are priced cheap at the dealerships because of the expensive fix for them. Buy a Toyota or Honda instead.

- Sacramento, CA, USA

problem #218

Aug 122011


  • 118,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Nissan Altima. While driving 50 mph, the vehicle suddenly decelerated and stalled without warning. The vehicle was taken to a private mechanic who informed the contact that the crankshaft and campshaft sensors were fractured and needed to be replaced. The mechanic performed the repairs on the vehicle. The dealer did not offer any assistance. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The current mileage was 117,000. The approximate failure mileage was 118,000.

- Kyle , TX, USA

problem #217

Aug 112011


  • 111,463 miles
As I was driving on the freeway during rush hour, my 2003 Nissan Altima began to jerk back and forth, as if it was misfiring. The check engine light came on and then started flashing. At the next exit I got off the freeway to drive to a safe place to stop the car. Getting off the freeway, my car stalled in a busy intersection (all red lights came on and there was no power to my car). I could not restart it and was stranded just past the busy intersection near the center divide. I put on my emergency lights and was almost hit several times, and I am very lucky to not have been hurt. After about 30 seconds I was able to restart the car, pull over to the side in a safer area and had my car towed by aaa straight to the Nissan dealership, who had performed an oil change on the car a day before. It took them 2 days to figure out that a power valve screw failed and was sucked up into the engine, causing irreversible damage to the engine -the piston top, cylinder walls, spark plugs, valves and catalyst. Nissan recommends a long block replacement with new exhaust manifold with converter ($4500). After much research and speaking with the Nissan service manager, I have found that this was an issue with all Altima (manufacturer's defect) until the screws were redesigned for the 2006 model year. I have also found that there was a recall for 2004 Nissan Sentra and 2004-2005 Altima with the 2.5 L engine for this reason. But the 2003, which has the same engine, was not part of this recall. I have been told by Nissan that since I am past the warranty period that this is not covered, even though it is a known defect. I am thankful I was not hurt, and I am very upset that Nissan knew about this defect and did nothing about it for my model year. I have seen other similar complaints on-line and hope that they will be analyzed as well for possible recall & compensation.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #216

Jul 232011


  • miles
The contact owns a 2003 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the mass air flow sensor was replaced a total of three times. The contact also stated that the vehicle would lose power and stall when the failure occurred. In addition, the vehicle would jerk and would not accelerate beyond 45 mph. The vehicle was taken to an authorized dealer after each failure, but after the final failure, the contact was informed that the part was not available. The dealer also stated that the mass air flow sensor for the 2004 infiniti I35 would correct the failure, but the manufacturer would not allow them to place that part on the 2003 Nissan Altima. The failure mileage was unknown and the current mileage was 55,000.

- Oklahoma City, OK, USA

problem #215

Jan 102011


  • 88,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that while parked, the vehicle would not start. After several attempts the contact was able to start the vehicle. The failure occurred intermittently. Also, the vehicle would stall while driving. The vehicle was towed to an authorized dealer, where the technicians stated that the cam shaft position sensor needed to be replaced. There was a recall under NHTSA campaign id number 03V455000 (engine and engine cooling) that may be related to the failure. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure and stated that the VIN was not included in the recall. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 88,000. The VIN was not available.

- Revere, MA, USA

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