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:
118,300 miles
Total Complaints:
22 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. brand new engine (17 reports)
  2. not sure (3 reports)
  3. head gasket replaced (1 reports)
  4. timing chain replaced (1 reports)
2003 Nissan Altima engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Nissan Altima Owner Comments (Page 1 of 2)

problem #22

Dec 172015

Altima SL 2.8L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 235,000 miles


This is only part of the bigger problem. I read that the engine designer for this model engine QR25DE wanted to make the engine lighter, so they shaved off some weight from their original design. According to the QR25’s lead engineer, Shunichi Inamijima. "The rest of the engine may fly apart, but the balance shafts would be fine". I'm glad he was really concerned about the balance shaft. And he designed the engine to do just what he said it would do, fly apart. Well, maybe not fly apart, but warp, twist and bend.

In one article, it is quoted "Lightness was achieved by using a thin-wall die-cast aluminum block" ( And I believe it. I think they also lost some integral reinforcement in the engine that contributes to other problems (Daisey chain of events). The car is a nice design, roomy and sporty. but it has one flaw, the engine. Take a look online of what the engine looks like with the head removed, you'll be surprised how thin the cylinder walls are, Then compare it to other engines, unbelievable. Check it out at this link,


Nissan has lost me for a customer forever. They don't even acknowledge these SERIOUS flaws. Yes they would lose a ton of money making things right, but instead they have lost many more returning customers. They have lost the reputation that the QR20DE built up, only to be torn down by the QR25DE engine. Shame on you Shunichi Inamijima, I hope you own one of these gems. He probably drives a Buick to make it safely home each night.

But unfortunately, I own one of these gems.

- uptohere , Fairfield, CA, US

problem #21

Mar 292016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 100,000 miles

click to see larger images

engine failure

We bought a used 2003 Altima a couple months ago. Since then we have had to replace the engine. Of course, I did not check on recalls before purchasing. Three days ago, the front light went out. Found out about a recall on the light and problems with short engine life. Yesterday the car blew up, yes I said blew up. We are currently investigating the issue but it seems to be related to both the engine and front light. If anyone has any similar issues, I would like to know. My son was slightly injured as a result.

- Stacey P., Newburgh, US

problem #20

Apr 212015

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

I'll probably never buy another Nissan. I bought this car used with about 110,000 and expected it to be a reliable vehicle with plenty of life left. Unfortunately that is not the case. I ALWAYS have to have oil with me in my car, because it leaks/looses oil like crazy. Was told the motor had to be replaced and there is nothing I could do about it. Basically, these motors suck and without a replacement engine this car isn't worth 99 cents.

- Kevin M., Bridgeport, CT, US

problem #19

Jul 032014

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 69,000 miles


I have changed throttle body to fix high idle, didn't fix it. Next went to shop, they stopped high idle, next changed cam & crank sensor, didn't fix it for long, SES light back on. Misfired so replaced coil pack 1& 3, didn't fix it. SES back on, misfire still reported. This time valve cover to stop misfire still not fixed.

Tomorrow I am pushing this car off a cliff, then I going to the car lot to buy a car. Let me tell you this, I will tell everyone I know and even strangers, I WILL NEVER BUY A NISSAN AGAIN. Which is sad, I bought a 95 truck, great service, I still have it, runs, but at 250,00 it is worn out. 69,000 Nissan Altima with blown engine. Nissan could have a loyal customer but now I know their cars are all junk. I get mad when I see them on TV, they should not be showing Nissan cars on TV, they do not stand behind their product.

I called Nissan North America, they laughed at me. Screw you Nissan. Pass on the word, I will never BUY A NISSAN EVER AGAIN!!!! And if you buy one, I feel sorry for you, because Nissan got you to..

- Robert H., Willow Spring, NC, US

problem #18

Feb 052013

Altima ES 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 81,475 miles

There is definitely a documented problem with this year and others with this vehicle. The pre-catalytic converter is designed poorly and too close to the major parts of the engine. Designing something to help the air quality is great but when it destroys the very investment you made to make a living and live your daily life and one of the top investments you make in life. You don't very well think if you take care of your vehicle, change the oil, do proper servicing, your car is just going to have a ruined motor one day. You don't see any oil leaking at first, you don't notice any loss of power or any smoking, but you soon notice your going through oil. By the time you figure out that the catalytic material has entered your cylinder bores it's already too late. Compression dry test of all cylinders was around 130, the wet test in all cylinders went from 130 to 160 indicating cylinder compression ring damage. NEW MOTOR, NEW EXHAUST MANIFOLD, NEW Everything

- dunngee, Beech Grove, IN, US

problem #17

Jul 142011

Altima SE 3.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,402 miles

I had to replace the timing chain of my vehicle along with other parts. My vehicle ran for two weeks, and stopped again. I had to have it towed to several places to find out what was wrong with it. It was determined that the chain had come off, and damaged the motor, so I now need a new motor. I can't afford to put in a new motor, so it has not been inoperative since.

- Callie A., Huntsville, AL, US

problem #16

Sep 112012

Altima SE 3.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles


Just changed oil myself one month earlier on this car when the engine went dead. was looking for a new engine when i came across this site and read the complaints. seeing as how this problem is common i now have decided to just junk the car and get myself an american car. was a nice car before the engine blew!! all the bells and whistles make it really hard to let go. Shame Nissan wont stand by their product and offer some type of compensation.

- Ed B., Chicago, IL, US

problem #15

May 212012


  • Automatic transmission
  • 153,000 miles

There was a recall six years ago, when the car was only three years old. Since there was no problem at that time, Nissan washed their hands of the issue and it is now considered 100% our responsibility, even though the dealer admits there was an engine design flaw that cause 2003 Nissans to wear out prematurely.

- fjarvis, Boise, ID, US

problem #14

Jul 272011

Altima ES 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 116,000 miles

I bought a 2003 Altima June 2010. 5 weeks later the engine blew. There was no oil in the car at the time, but no sensors and warning lights had come on and it was just serviced at time of purchase. Replaced engine , crankshaft, starter, etc. Dealer only paid 1/2.

6 months later the transmission was gone. The transmission shop said it was because of the way the engine had been installed. Now, this week the engine has blown again. This time there was oil because we had been watching it like a hawk. There was no sign of it coming out anywhere until this week. Now we have to replace the engine again.

This is not fair. The Nissan dealer won't take any responsibility or offer any help. I still owe a few thousand on a car that is a total piece of crap. Where is the justice?

- Patti F., Oklahoma City, OK, US

problem #13

May 052009

Altima 3.5L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

screw came loose from the butterly valve and blew through the engine blowing it. I was about to leave for the military and set it up to be repaired while I was gone. finally got it repaired and got back drove it for 4 months and now it appears to have a blown head gasket and is burning oil and coolant!!! This car is NOTHING BUT TROUBLE!!! I contacted nissan when the original engine blew and they completely ignored my requests for this to be covered under warranty since the screw coming off the butterfly valve is a KNOWN ISSUE on these vehicles... absolutely terrible customer service.

- Sandy L., Apo, AE, US

problem #12

Dec 312010

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 160,847 miles


I have never seen so many complaints about the same make and model car. I purchased a 2003 Nissan Altima for my daughters' 16th birthday. It had 78k miles at the time we drove it off the used car lot. The car looked and performed great for the first three years. Then the problems began. The cam sensor had to be replaced. The check engine light came on again and the crank sensor was replaced. Oil began to evaporate/disappear/vanish. Then the car began to cut off while driving and almost impossible to restart. At this point it had become too dangerous for my daughter to drive. I would also like to mention at this time that I have been performing service work on vehicles since I was a teenager. Tune ups and oil changes occurred on more than a "recommended" basis. While I was driving on the Interstate the check engine light came on followed by the oil light. The engine vibrated for a moment and shut off. Their was no oil in the crankcase and could not be restarted. After being towed to the nearest Nissan dealer and having it looked at, I was told like so many others the following "Engine has very little compression, needs engine and catalyst replaced".A verbal estimate for a rebuilt engine and converter was in the four to five thousand dollar range. Now they did offer to give me five hundred to one thousand dollars for it. I would have taken their offer if I hadn't still owed two thousand dollars to the credit union. I have concluded that the most viable solution will be to make no repairs, pay off the note, cut my losses, take whatever I can get for it and have this heap of junk removed from my driveway! There is obviously no value in investing one more cent in this car.

- William W., Pell City, AL, US

problem #11

Nov 152010

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 160,000 miles

It was bad. I can't believe these cars are not recall and replace. Nissan is risking people lives. I am thinking about taking legal action against them. My engine fail because of it having no oil. I just had a oil change not 3 months before. Nissan put my family at risk. No one does that. I "shake my head and wag my finger at Nissan" I will not sit here and just allow lives to be at risk. I will be writing a letter to my senators and Nissan and look into taking legal action if the problem is not fix. Nissan should be more than aware of this problem. I call them and the lady was really disrespectful. People lives should be more their profits. People write you senators ans report Nissan ASAP! Don't support Nissan no more.

- Dontay P., Ocala, FL, US

problem #10

Jan 202010

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 175,000 miles

While driving to work my car turned off. I could hardly get it to the side of a major interstate. After having it towed I was told that it was low on oil and would need a new engine for $2,500-$3,500 (best case). I did not understand how it could be an oil problem since I had the oil changed 1,000 miles ago and my oil light had only come on the night before. I was planning on taking it to have the oil changed (that day) and ask questions but never made it. I always liked Nissan but I don't think I will ever buy another. After reading other's complaints I feel this if a major issue that Nissan is not dealing with since the problem does not appear until later in the cars life. It does hurt their reputation. Everyone I work with and know will see what has happened to me and not buy a Nissan. I was planning on driving this car until it dropped, but I was thinking it would be another 2-3 years.

- Michael C., Fishers, IN, US

problem #9

Dec 012009

Altima S 2.5L 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 145,000 miles


First BOTH catalytic converters went bad AND THEN this thing is OUT of oil, and the engine is dead! Doesn't drip in my driveway, 2,200 miles since the last oil change, I just need to fix it and then UNLOAD this thing!

I will NEVER buy another Nissan car. I will likely go back to Toyota (I own 2 Toyotas now), or even take a look at the Big 3 which I have not owned for the last 5 years...

- Terry D., Kettering, OH, US

problem #8

Oct 202009

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,000 miles

No exaggeration, I have the documentation in front of me. Since 5/6/09, I've had my car towed in 6 times and driven it in 2 times. It has a new engine in it and the new radiator (that they just put in August) broke again! The coolant is flooding the cylinders of the engine and it has made my car break down, begin smoking and almost catch fire 6 times on the busy interstates of Los Angeles! Don't EVER let your friends buy a Nissan product. The product is horrible and the company REFUSES to give even fair market value for their horrible deathtrap of a car! Here is the kicker, it only has 71,000 miles and is only barely 6 years old!

- hughes745, Encino, CA, US

problem #7

Aug 042009

Altima S 2.5L

  • Manual transmission
  • 143,000 miles

This car has had at least 4 recalls, maybe 5. Each taking the car away from me for a full day. Last year the steering was a mess. Costly to repair. Once the drivers side window dropped and shattered. The brakes wear down so quickly, and I mostly drive the pike--early with little traffic. Past couple months the car has been burning oil, and yesterday I had complete engine failure. (143,000 miles) The engine needs full replacement. This car is a huge disappointment---I will not purchase Nissan again. I HOPE that many many many many people read this and realize what a piece of garbage this car is. I had hoped to drive it well over 200k, but now its done. There is no sense replacing the engine for $4000, because there are bound to be standard other repairs coming due because of its mileage-----too costly. You think the engine will last, but no. In a few days I will purchase a Toyota Corolla, I already own one and owned one years ago, too. Never should have bought the Altima.

- Tom H., Westborough, MA, US

problem #6

Nov 262008

Altima Sedan 2.5L S

  • Automatic transmission
  • 11,300 miles

I think with the Nissan Altima /2003 should not have engine problems this bad,that you need a whole new engine in five years or less. I think with to days world now the company should stand bye their cars. They might end up like the other car company's out of business I will spread the word about these cars and the name. The repair shops already now about these cars,and the junk yards cant keep these engines in. Some one help !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- zirbser, Sewell, NJ, US

problem #5

Nov 012008

Altima 2.5 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 133,000 miles

2003 Nissan Altima 2.5, 130,000 miles, pre-cat / engine failure

We have had many many issues with this car. The rear brakes were a problem almost from new. Then the engine began stalling, sometimes while driving down the highway - very unsafe. Finally got that straightened out with the crank sensor / ECM reprogram. The rear subframe had to be replaced (recall). The cam sensor went out. And this weekend the engine wouldn't start. Towed it in to the local Nissan dealer, and they report that the pre-cat has failed, the engine has ingested part of the filter screen (?) and now needs a new engine. There were no warning signs - no check engine light, no problems with oil consumption, overheating, low power, etc. Nissan has been miserable to deal with through all of these problems, they have taken no responsibility, and I don't expect any different this time. The car has been in to the dealer probably a dozen times, this is apparently a known issue and yet no one ever recommended inspecting or replacing the pre-cat? Unbelievable. I guess I should feel lucky to have gotten 130,000 miles out of it. It sounds like this engine has a life expectancy of about 75,000 miles. Pretty pathetic.

- Matt Z., Seattle, WA, US

problem #4

Aug 012008

Altima 2.5S 2.5s

  • Automatic transmission
  • 72,500 miles

I have read the many, many problems on this website about the 02, 03 Altima's engine consuming excessive oil, then failing. The solution, so I hear, is a whole new engine. Well, this same exact thing has happened to me. Has anyone contacted Nissan Corporate Public Relations? How about the press? Cartalk? Edmunds? The Consumerist? Bloggers? They might be more effective than hiring a high priced lawyer for a class action lawsuit. If we could get the word out the public, and tarnish the reputation of this company, the corporate communications execs will have to pay attention. It is their job! So now I am going to contact the dealer and consumer affairs, get a case file started, although I am sure it will do no good.

- Robert W., Lakewood, OH, US

problem #3

Mar 232008

Altima SL 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 96,000 miles

I own a 2003 Altima and have loved the vehicle and Nissan until recently. I found out yesterday that my 5-year-old car needs a new engine. Apparently, 2002 and 2003 Altimas have a fatal flaw in their catalytic converters. Basically, the interior of the converter turns to dust between 80-100k miles, causing dust to get sucked into your engine and grinding it to a premature halt. This minor issue (it's been recalled in Canada) is being billed as a $4500 repair, which Nissan claims no responsibility for. This was the third time I have brought my vehicle in within the past three months, and the dealership (who is very aware of the issue) was unable to diagnose it until it was too late. It was my dealership that told me to call Nissan as there have been several people at their dealership alone that have had to deal with the issue. We are currently starting dialogue with Nissan that I expect to go nowhere. Oddly enough, I have a friend with a 2002 Altima that got lucky and had their converter fail, destroying their engine at 71k so that it was covered by warranty. The moral of the story is this - if your check engine light comes on, RUSH to get it worked on - but it's likely too late already. Apparently, Nissan is electing to wait until their are a few catalytic converter engine failure induced deaths before they'll deal with it. A vehicle in this day and age with less than 100k miles should not be facing complete engine failure - sounds like a recall to me.

- Casey A., Woodbury, MN, US

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