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.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
116,873 miles
Total Complaints:
63 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (31 reports)
  2. replace engine and cat. converter (30 reports)
  3. remove the pre cat (2 reports)
2003 Nissan Altima engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Nissan Altima Owner Comments (Page 3 of 4)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #23

Aug 312010

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 139,000 miles


We bought my teenager a 2003 Nissan Altima with 130,000 miles on it...we have had one problem after the next that have been what i consider minor. Until the other day....She called to say her car would not go over 40mph. When she would push the gas the low oil light would flash on for a sec and go off. We checked the oil and it was bone dry and it was not time for another oil change. We added 3 quarts and it drives fine again. I am really worried about it though after reading all the reports on here. We had to change the cam shaft sensor the day after we bought it and we have had to replace the alternator as well. The car does not smoke and we can not find a leak. I really hope it is not going to start drinking oil...We have only had the car since May and we paid $5700 for it...we bought from an individual who would never return our calls....we called bc the next day the car died while driving due to the cam shaft sensor.

- , Morrilton, AR, USA

problem #22

Jun 202010

Altima SL 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 161,000 miles

Bought my nissan altima 2.5 SL 2002 of Nov. I will agree that it was very nice when it was brand new. I am very amazed on how much it takes to keep it running, its a freaking 4 cylinder car, not a sports car! Only after 2-3 years I had to get the whole throttle body system replaced and the A/C fuel pipes, which was fine since it was covered under warranty. But heres when they get you, those mother f*king people from the nissan dealership won't let ya know the big problems until ya not covered anymore. My car has trouble starting now, burns oil like gas, makes alot of bad engine noises, engine tends to shake or accelerate poorly, and stall out when I come to a complete stop sometimes. Not to mention the A/C and heater don't function properly unless I am stepping on the gas.

First went to a friends mechanic shop who helped me replace my battery, spark plugs, rear/downstream O2 sensor, fully cleaned air filter (twice), and most engine related fluids, which cost me around $500 for parts only. Turns out to be engine related, and went to the dealership, since most mechanics are not experienced with altima engines. Had to replace crank sensor, camp/crank shaft, upstream heat O2 sensor, front engine mount, and all this costing me around $1200. Still runs shtty, and now they tell me I got to replace my manifold catalytic converter, which will cost me $600 just for the part and more than 3 hours. Then tells me I need to replace my engine which will cost me $5000, which is ridiculous since my car only worths around $3500 now.

I wish I knew that I was buying a very defective engine in the altima, will never buy from nissan ever again, i swear to that!

- , Potomac, MD, USA

problem #21

May 172010

Altima 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

We have a 2003 nissan altima it was used when we bought it, but now they tell us that the engine is out and we have to replace it I still owe five thousand dollars on this crap sorry but this is what it has turn out to be the first thing we tried to fix was the catalytic converter not sure if I spell it right and was told that the engine was out so what we didnt realize is that this was our problem that it was burning oil this is not right that now we are out of five thousand dollars I'm just afraid that is going to burn down like the one in the picture that is ther with the other complaints someone has to help us on this...its not fair...

- , League City, TX, USA

problem #20

Jul 052010

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 124,000 miles


I had to replace the catalytic converter and now there is smoke coming from the exhaust and it's burning oil. I just changed it like 2 weeks ago and today I check and had nothing. Had to add more. I'm being told to change the head gasket. The doesn't have power when I accelerate from a complete stop. I've already spent about $800 on the cat replacement, should I spend more on replacing the head gasket? Please help. I could spend on the head gasket but would hate for something else to come up after that.

Thank you in advance for any advise.

- , Hayward, CA, USA

problem #19

May 012010

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

Car consumes a LOT of oil. I keep up on my oil changes and the past change I noticed that the oil was completely gone! I have never had this problem with any other car I owed.

- , Middletown, RI, USA

problem #18

Apr 052010

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 114,000 miles

I was happy with my Altima until this year when everything went downhill. Heat only worked when the car was moving and the oil light came on once a month but it wasn't leaking. After fixing my transmission, replacing the O2 sensors, spark plugs, and a bunch of other stuff i realize the car is burning oil like it burns gas....And then I wound this site where I see almost 200 ppl with the same set of issues.....I'm not prepared to replace the engine after only 115000 miles!! Does anyone know if Nissan owns up to this issue and is there a recall? I pissed!!!

- , Piscataway, NJ, USA

problem #17

Oct 012009

Altima 2.5 V6

  • Manual transmission
  • 174,000 miles


I have a 2003 Nissan Altima 2.5, I thought this was the the absolutely BEST car on earth.Living in Atlanta, Ga most of us have to commute to work, my daily ride was 90 miles round trip. This car was excellent on gas. I had no problems until about 7 months ago, when I started to notice the oil was constantly running low or running out! Yet, I never saw any oil drippings in my garage or drive way! It was driving (no pun intended) me crazy. I just had an oil change last Saturday and today, Thursday, my CHECK ENGINE light came on. I popped the hood, checked the oil and it was BONE DRY!!!! Out of desperation, I sat at my computer and typed in the question: WHY DOES MY 2003 NISSAN ALTIMA KEEP RUNNING LOW ON GAS? This website appeared confirming, I am not losing my mind! Now that I know I'm not crazy, I'm pissed off! This probably explains when I am running the heater, why it will start blowing cold air all of a sudden! I was so planning on purchasing another Nissan, but now, I will be looking at a Honda. NISSAN you are such a disappointment to me! I could not stop singing your praises about this car, NOW, I will make it my mission to tell everyone I know about your faulty oil issue, starting with my company intranet website, and I work for one of the LARGEST telecommunication company in the world!! Your company needs to make this right!! At this point, your name might has well be TOYOTA!!!

- , Roswell, GA, USA

problem #16

Mar 132010

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 125,000 miles

click to see larger images

engine burns oil engine burns oil engine burns oil engine burns oil

I had a similar, yet extreme experience. I took my car in to get the oil changed at a local Chevy dealership (it was cheap.) When I went to pick up my car, the technician told me that he pulled less than a 8 oz. of oil from the engine. He said he couldn't find any leaks, but to keep an eye on the oil everyday. I left the dealership and decided to take the car for a drive to "reoil" the engine. The engine had been running a bit funny: not starting right away, trouble shifting for about 48 hours. I got about five miles at ~55 mph, and while accelerating from a left turn, heard something fall out of the engine. After that, white smoke started pouring out the exhaust. I knew the engine blew. The steering and brakes went out, and I got it to the side of the road (somehow.) The black smoke started pouring in from the vents. I don't remember stopping or getting out, but I remember turning around and seeing flames out the driver's side of the engine. The insurance company paid me off, no problem, but never was a cause determined. I attached photos,

- , Des Moines, IA, USA

problem #15

Mar 012010

Altima 4 cyl

  • Manual transmission
  • 190,000 miles

Like most of us now a days, I just don't have an extra $5000 to replace an engine in a vehicle that has not shown reliability and I don't have the money to buy a new vehicle so I had to put a used engine in the vehicle at a personal cost to me of $2000.

Catalytic converter blew the 2nd engine which lasted much longer than the 1st engine. Also had replaced the Electronic Control Module about 5 months ago. I have to replace the Console boot also for the gear shifter, it was broken at the dealers during the 1st engine replacement but I couldn't prove it and they were unwilling to accept responsibility for it. Wheel bearings have been replaced on two different occasions. I managed to convince a friend to not buy a Nissan product.

Nissan Motor Corp could not give me a Nissan, I wouldn't take it as I have not respect or confidence in their products or the Service and support of their products. If you want to save yourself from these issues DO NOT BUY A NISSAN!

- , San Diego, CA, USA

problem #14

Feb 262010

Altima SE 2.5L V4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 79,000 miles

Well please add me to the long list of folks who have written about their 2002 or 2003 2.5 liter engines eating oil like gas. Took to dealer; they had to replace the catalytic converter because it was still under federal recall--however even with them telling me that it clogging caused the engine to go they refuse to fix or assist.

Why won't Nissan look at all of these complaints and own up that they have put in these vehilces defective parts....with so many ppl saying the same thing; really you don't feel you should be held responsible and help people.

- , Henderson, NV, USA

problem #13

Jan 012009

Altima SL 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 178,000 miles


I bought this Altima brand new in 2003 and it is paid off. It has been a pretty good car up until the last 2years. It is burning alot of oil and it isnt leaking or smoking at all. I dont know where it is going. I put in a quart of oil every week and half. I also had the catalytic converter replace last year and it cost me 900.00. I really liked this car and cant afford to buy a new one at the moment. There has got to be a defect in the engine to cause this problem. Does any body have any ideas on how we can get Nissan to fix this problem? I will never buy another Nissan if they dont fix this as long as I live.

- , Christiansburg, VA, USA

problem #12

Jun 012009

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 133,000 miles

I have had this car for about five years-2003 Nissan Altima.Already had one engine replaced from this same repeating problem...the oil seems to simply disappear from the crankcase.My vehicle does not smoke a bit at any time,it doesn't leak the oil out on my clean concrete driveway either.There has got to be something shady going on not to be a recall on these engines.Everything else seems to be ok.I mean wow what is it?Does Nissan have its own Oil Fairy or something?I know just by reading these complaints that this is a problem that deserves a solution.Just in case anyone with any kind of clout is reading this...Do something for Nissan Owners and help us out ! OIL PRICES ARE HIGH ENOUGH AS IT IS...Gas is one thing ,but when you have to keep a five quart "JUG" in your trunk to keep your car running something has got to give.I do love my car but it's beginning to be a pain...Please get help!!!

- , Mebane, NC, USA

problem #11

Jul 012006

Altima SE 3.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 52,000 miles

We were told that the piston rings are bad and that this is the reason the oil is burning up so quickly. The car gets this annoying like tapping coming from the engine, especially when the oil is low. We're not sure if changing the engine is the right plan because there are so many complaints about the 3.5l, whats to say the same problem won't occur with the new engine. A short term remedy I've found that allows the oil to burn slower is the oil stabilizer from Lucas. Use it at every oil change. Good Luck!

- , Far Rockaway, NY, USA

problem #10

Nov 232009

Altima SE 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 112,000 miles

Another p.o.s. 2003 Altima! My sister's car was bought in Little Rock, AR. She is having the same issues that I'm reading on the other posts...guzzling oil/catalytic converter/sensor. Her check engine light has been on numerous times, each time just as aggravating as the other. She was eventually told to replace the catalytic converter, which she did about one month ago (10/2009). That was $800! Now, the car will hardly run and the mechanic is now telling her she needs a new engine ($4,000). Plus, they are not wanting to cover the brand new converter because it was the fault of the engine! She is single and has no other vehicle to fall back on. The dealership is a sorry pile of sh*t. When I get the name, I will post it plus, the final outcome of her dilema

- , Ooltewah, TN, USA

problem #9

Nov 022009

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 102,000 miles

I bought this car last year , and recently started to burn oil a lot , i have to add oil almost once a week. until it started making weird noise comming from the engine . After reading all the complaints regarding the same problem with a lot of nissan , i will never buy another nissan , and i will encourage people not to buy one

- , Alpharetta, GA, USA

problem #8

Jun 252009

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 122,000 miles

Car ran fine until 122,000 miles, I had the oil changed and within a week, no oil on dip stick, motor knocking because it had thrown a rod....A used motor installed June 22, 2009 with only 44,000 miles on it and shortly after that, the catalytic converter needed replaced which was done. THEN on Friday, September 18, 2009, I was driving on a highway and when I accelerated, I heard a loud POP & there was smoke bellowing out from under the hood and the car just quit! There was oil everywhere....all under the hood and there was a huge puddle on the side of the road so now needless to to say, it is in the shop for a 3rd motor!! I am really sick of this car and I am going to have my attorney draft a letter to send to Nissan and I am going to join in with the CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT like it was suggested by tylerrose from Tyler, TX!

- , Bethalto, IL, USA

problem #7

Aug 052009

Altima ES 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,992 miles

Sherway Nissan in Toronto told us the catalytic converter was shot at 140,000 Kilometers (about 80K miles) so we had it replaced in May. Ok expensive but thats life. Car started burning oil fast in July. Took it in this week, Needs a new motor. Why? Because of the way the old converter dies it crumbled and sand was sucked from the converter into the motor and it must be replaced total write off $5000 plus. No kidding. Any general warning to all owners? No. DONT let your converter get old it can wipe out your motor. We paid $2,000 for an extended warranty why bother? Too Bad so sad pay up. Why get an extended warranty if a Nissan part or its Nissan replacement causes the damage we are screwed. We called Nissan as the dealer can not do anything so far a very polite drop dead. I've been through a lot of muffers and converters over my life but this is new, an old one for which there is no test, we keep the car serviced and blow up the engine!!!

This is unbelieveable. Stay tuned. Going to try You Tube next.

- , Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

problem #6

Jul 012009

Altima V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 58,000 miles

I have a 2003 Altima with 58,000 miles. The engine started knocking, bought the car in thinking possible oil change. Was told not a drop of oil in the engine. Had the oil change done, no more knocking sound. One month later, same noise started!! Checked the oil,... bone dry. From reading this blog, this problem is not uncommon. How is Nissan getting away with this!! By the way my oil light flashed on and off once!! Now I have a big problem and just made the last payment on my car loan!

- , East Northport, NY, USA

problem #5

May 012009

Altima SL 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 99,000 miles

click to see larger images

engine burns oil

i'll get a oil change and 3 weeks later i have to put more oil in. it has a crack manifold ,crankshaft sensor problem before too. Well this is the last one i will buy. i have a warranty for a 100000 mil and i have 99000 or so on it. yep on its way to the shop got two years left to pay on it - owe 7G's on it. if i ever get another car I'll get extended warranty on it BOY i'm HAPPY : O) .

- , chicago, il, USA

problem #4

Nov 012005

Altima SE 3.5L V6

  • Manual transmission
  • 24,855 miles

Consumes about 1L per 1000 km. So that means I add more oil BETWEEN oil changes than I do when the oil is changed.

Nissan will not help you with this problem, despite postings all over the net about Maximas/Altimas/350Z etc consuming oil.

They will tell you it is in the "normal" range and deny you until your warranty is up.

Will not buy another Nissan. Will not recommend one to anyone. Will suggest to anyone to pay a bit extra and get a Honda/Toyota. My 95 Civic does not consume a drop of oil between changes and has not had one interior piece of trim break/fall off like the Altima but thats another complaint

Nissan will learn like GM/Ford/Chrysler that once you get a reputation for building $@%, that reputation will stick to you like %%$@#

Shame because the car looks and drives great but thats not much consolation

- , Toronto, ON, Canada

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