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:
100,450 miles
Total Complaints:
12 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (10 reports)
  2. bad cylinder (#3) replace valve cover and repair cylinder (1 reports)
  3. replace ignition coils on cylinders 3 and 4 (1 reports)
2003 Nissan Altima engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Nissan Altima Owner Comments

problem #12

Jul 092014

Altima S 2.5L, I4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 127,000 miles


One cold morning I started my car before heading off to work and noticed a violent shaking coming from under the hood. Thoughts of "Oh god, please don't let the transmission take a dump now!" raced through my mind. I immediate shut off the engine and started it again, the shaking had gone away. For the next 3 weeks, the shaking would occur intermittently and seemingly randomly while idling or while acceleration.

One hot afternoon, the shaking became worse than ever and just wouldn't stop! The Check Engine light finally came on (about time!) - My first clue!! I went home and hooked up my OBD II interface and checked the code. The computer was putting out a P0303, a misfiring 3rd Cylinder. I replaced the ignition coil, the code cleared, and the engine seemed fine.

Two days later, the vibrating starts again! I haul out my laptop and reader again and I had a P0304, a misfiring 4th cylinder! I replace the coil on this cylinder and have not had any misfires since. At last I hope it stays that way.

For a "modern" Nissan sedan with only 120k on the odometer, this felt way too early be running into this type of trouble. My previous car was a 1993 Acura Legend pushing 200k and was rock solid.

- canyonero, Los Angeles, CA, US

problem #11

May 132010


  • Automatic transmission
  • 9,321 miles

Took it to machanic and it was some code discription with Fuel Air is leaking or something. Not fuel but Air leaking from Fuel system and machanic doesn't know how to fix this problem. I will take to Nissan dealer to see what they have to say..

- idahelvi, Toronto, Ontario, canada

problem #10

Jun 152013


  • Automatic transmission
  • 107,000 miles

I have had sensor trouble with this car for years and I think I have replaced every sensor in the car and I still have the check engine light on and need a smog check in 7 days. It is so frustrating and disappointing.

- Myra G., Northridge, CA, US

problem #9

May 222012

Altima SE 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles



- Ray G., Wenonah, NJ, US

problem #8

Aug 012010

Altima 2.5S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90,000 miles

I bought this car in 2008 from Budget Car Sales in San Diego. They went out of business after we bought it. Budget also didn't disclose to us that this car had been in an accident. My mechanic doesn't know what's wrong with it.I don't have the money to take it to the dealer right now. It has been sitting in my driveway as I make $260 dollar a month payments on it. I've read an engine replacement is a possibility. I will never buy another Nissan. We bought a new Honda CRV and are happy. Honda would not take the Altima for a trade in. My 2003 Lincoln Navigator has been more reliable. I invite anyone from Budget or Nissan to make this right.

- Steve M., 92122, CA, US

problem #7

Jan 032011

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 129,245 miles

I have a nissan altima 2003 2.5S. It started shaking crazy suddenly last month. The engine starts shaking once in a while and service engine light starts blinking. I also smell some weird smoke out of silencer. I took it to mechanic and computer code is showing to change catalytic converter will cost me 400$. But I am not sure that will fix the issue or not? can anyone help whether it is ok to change manifold gasket? because on this site what i see is manifold intake gasket fixed most of the similar issues like mine. Your help would really be appreciated.



- Lalu K., Scarborough, ON, canada

problem #6

Nov 082010

Altima SE

  • Automatic transmission
  • 94,242 miles


My car suddenly started shaking just after adding gasoline to the engine. I thought I had gotten bad gas. When I took it in for repair, I was informed one of the cylinders was dead and the astronomical cost will not allow me to go on vacation at Christmas.

I am currently in a cast and on crutches, so mobility is an issue and having to get someone to drive me around with a knee scooter is very annoying.

- K G., Virginia Beach, VA, US

problem #5

Apr 132010

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

I do have an Altima 03 model which I bought from Faulkner preowned honda harrisburg six months back. it was running fine till last month but now I am facing the same problem like it start shaking like anything sometimes when I stop at signal or at stop sign.

I went to hoda servercie and they have change the spark plug but very next day same problem occured now after reading this site I know what is the issue. Nissan should recall this part if really want to keep their standards up. I thought of buying Nissan quest for my wife but now nor more nisaan and I would suggest the same to everybody.

- Anil C., Harrisburg, PA, US

problem #4

Aug 012009

Altima SL 2.4L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 65,000 miles

It started about 6 months ago. Right before going on a long road trip the check engine light started flashing and it felt like the engine was missing at idle. I immediately went to Advance Auto where the guy said it sounds like a sticky injector. I bought a can of Sea Foam injector cleaner and poured it in the tank. I went on my trip and had no problems. Since returning the check engine light comes on intermittently and the missing at idle returns. It will miss for 10 or 15 miles while the check engine light flashes then all of a sudden the light stays on and the missing goes away. The diagnostic code comes up P0304, misfire in cylinder 4. I have read all the complaints and sounds like the intake gasket needs replaced (friggin' great--$800.00). I am getting ready to buy my wife another car and was thinking Murano--I don't think so. Anyone with any info on a class action lawsuit against Nissan, I'm all in.

- Gig S., Huntington, WV, US

problem #3

Feb 012009

Altima SE 4 cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 103,000 miles

Problems started with horrible shaking/lurching -check engine light flickers on and off. Dealer could not find anything other than bad oxygen sensor (I was also told the fuel sending unit is bad and needs to be replaced at $575 - did not do this ). This issue has continued on and off for months. Two weeks ago Catalytic Converter blew. Then exhaust system back up from Catalytic Converter caused car to fail. Mechanic told me that day my oil was very low. I have had oil changed habitually every 3000-4000 miles since I bought the car new in '03. Two days ago my oil light came on and car made horrid noises - checked oil level and there wasn't a drop of oil in the engine. Put in 4.5 quarts and can see the blue smoke coming out the back as I drive. One of my co-workers owns a 2002 Altima now sitting in her driveway with a blown head gasket and catalytic converter.

Other than the numerous recalls over the years this car was stellar until I turned 100,000 miles and now it is a money pit. I am stunned at all of the same complaints on this engine and hope there is a class action suite against Nissan.

- anneky, Nicholasville, KY, US

problem #2

Apr 012008

Altima 2.5S 4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 188,000 miles

My 2003 Nissan Altima, how I love thee.....yeah right...I purchased it in 2005 with 30,000 miles on it, and it had been a pretty good car until last year. It began with the "check engine" light, which lead me to buy a couple of sensors; cam shaft and the crank sensor, it worked for a little while, then came the rough idling and stalling , and despite changing the sensors, the check engine light still comes on. Now, to top it off, I am also having problems getting it started, cranking for a long time ..and now, I have to go to the shop tomorrow and find out whether I am going to need a new engine put in (apparently there is radiator leak into the cylinder head). Wish me luck!

- Anthony G., Lake Elsinore, CA, US

problem #1

Jan 272009

Altima SE V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 92,000 miles

I JUST PURCHASED my 2003 nissan ALTIMA YESTERDAY!! AFTER A three week search I decided to purchase the alitma since my boyfriend had driven a 99 Altima and at 150000 miles never had any problems with it!! Today we actually drove it around for longer than 15 minutes. We drove to the city and back. Then as he was about to stop, around 2 mph the car started shaking and making weird cranking noises going "tick tick tick" as if it were about tot shut off. The check engine yellow light came on. I was went online and started searching what could be wrong with the car, since they it had passed inspection in January. Immediately I found this web site. I cannot believe I thought Altimas were a reliable car! I have a warranty. My boyfriend is on his way tot he dealership now to see if they will cover the problem. I already texted him to tell them to make sure the gasket isnt the problem since they may avoid fixing the car.


- sirol, Maspeth, NY, US

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