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:
2 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
1 / 0
Average Mileage:
94,362 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 exhaust system problems

exhaust system problem

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2003 Nissan Altima Owner Comments (Page 2 of 2)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #20

Sep 152009


  • 74,000 miles


My car shut of on me while driving at night which was hard to see because the headlamps didn't give much light and both airbags deployed and my seat belts don't work either...I own a 2003 Nissan Altima...the car would usually turn of on me like that but not a higher speeds...the car's engine has been making a loud noise it had 3 recalls for it( headlamp recall, engine exhaust recall, & engine cooling recall) before I had this done I had a service engine light on which came out as P0420, P0240, and had 3 P0335...after I had the "recall done"...a week later my car "blew a head gasket" and I had a code P0300...I immediately got it fixed for like $1300...after that...2 weeks later I got a service engine light on which came out as P0335, P0240, & P0420...I've also been in contact with Nissan Consumer Affairs...I've been in touch with a regional specialist which can't really help me at all...Nissan dealer like to take money for diagnosis and tells me the car is unsafe to car still shuts off and sometimes it doesn't even start...when the car start up it makes a loud engine right now my car shuts off at any speed rate now just low speeds, I don't have airbags in the car, engine makes a loud noise, sounds like there's something like a rock in the catalytic converter, and my car's seat belts don't work.

- Huntington Park, CA, USA

problem #19

Aug 152009


  • 82,000 miles
The car started using oil around 30K. I noticed that I had to add some between oil changes this became worse over time and around 79K it became bad as in my wife called me about the engine oil warning light coming on when she was far away from home, we had to start checking the oil every day. The vehicle had always been well maintained and we got over 170K out of our last Altima before we bought this one, that one never used oil" I did some research on-line and found that there was a problem with the pre-cat breaking down and being drawn in through the egr causing failure of the engine. We took the car to Nissan and had it checked and sure enough that is what was wrong with ours also. We had exceeded the mileage for replacement by a few thousand miles. Had we'd been notified of this possible problem years ago, that would have explained our oil consumption and we could have had the problem resolved by Nissan. We fully intended to purchase another new Altima in the near future that would have been our third. I rely on the vehicle my wife drives as she also Transport our children and grandchildren and if she hadn't called and asked about the red light on the dash, I believe the engine would have seized and left her stranded with my family several hours away from home possibly putting them in danger. How many complaints, or worse, are needed to admit there is a problem?? is Nissan hoping this will just go away??. if an emissions component failure is proven to cause premature engine failure isn't it the manufacturers responsibility to correct it other than reducing the time the egr is open to lessen the amount of defective catalyst drawn in the engine. In my opinion a way to delay failure of the engine until the fed 80K warranty expires for the cat, that?S all the previous recall did. Also the tsb is deceptive it starts with the external converter shield then much later mentions internal cat failure, were they hiding it" sounds like two separate issues to me.

- Pine Forge, PA, USA

problem #18

Aug 212009


  • 79,868 miles
I bought a 2003 Nissan Altima in Jan, 2008. It had 53,000 mi. At 78,000 mi the service engine soon light came on. I took it to my mechanic it was diagnosed that there was a blown head gasket. I had him replace the gasket. At about 79,000 mi. There was a burning smell coming from under the car. I thought it was on fire so I pulled over but there was no fire. When I went to accelerate there was no power. The ses light was on so I took it to the dealer in Ontario, ca it was the catalytic converter(it was clogged) they replaced it free because of the federal emission warranty. Then they told me that I was burning oil and that the probable cause was the converter, but told me that they would not replace the engine because someone else had worked on it. They said that if I had brought the car to them they would have replaced it. There was no notice about engine replacement when the gasket goes bad (which they said was also caused by the converter getting clogged up) some one needs to force Nissan of North America to recall the 2003 Altima and fix the engine and converter design. There could be a catastrophic engine failure that could cause an accident at high speeds.

- Pomona, CA, USA

problem #17

Aug 172009


  • 95,000 miles


I took my car to a mechanic because I had an engine service light on and I felt that something was wrong with the way my car was behaving. After inspecting my car, the mechanic found that a catalytic converter has failed, which created potential for a fire. The mechanic told me that there was a recall for catalytic converters for Altima 2002/2003 and that my car should qualify for it based on its VIN number ( I have a printout from my mechanic that includes eligibility of my car based on VIN#). however, when I called Nissan manufacture I was told that my car no longer has warranty and that there were no open recalls on my car at that time. I took my car to a Nissan dealership and received the same information. My on-line research showed that there was a recall on catalytic converters in Canada and usa and also a lot of people here in us had experienced the same problem as I did after the warranty expiration and Nissan was not helpful. Also, I found out that it is hard to diagnose this problem at the very beginning as engine service light can be on for a lot of reasons. My mechanic was able to diagnose this problem, as he was familiar with catalytic converters' failures in Altima because a lot of his customers who own Altima took their cars to him to be fixed. I did take my car to a Nissan dealership, but I couldn't afford their prices, so I ended up going back to my mechanic. A representative from Nissan manufacture asked me if I received any letter from them confirming my eligibility for a catalytic converter recall, but I am not the first owner of my car, so there was no way for me to receive it. Perhaps I bought this car with a damaged converter and had no idea about it.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #16

May 242009


  • 104,450 miles
Well as usually I took my 2003 Nissan Altima 2.5S into the shop and for regular work. I have proof that my car is up to date on tuneup, coolant change, transmission change, and oil change. Tires are in good condition. I took a trip to Texas and the car was fine for the 2 1/2 weeks I was down there. Three days before leaving the ses light come on, but I thought it was a minor issue being the fact that they look at my car weekend before going on my trip. When I hit Louisiana I experienced a jerking back and forth motion when I was using the gas. Only things kept getting worse when I start seeing the lost of gas, lost power in my car, and hearing metallic noises coming from the engine. Lucky, I made it to my sister's house in augusta. I didn't want to cause anymore damage driving it back to columbia, SC so I had tow truck come and pick it up $190. So they look at the car and called me telling that one of the power valve screws came loose and damage two spark plugs. Now they want to replace the manifold and my catalytic converter is crack and needs to be replace. The cost of it would be around $1350. I know this is defect issue and Nissan should take care of this issue. I hope all the information helps for current and future Nissan buyers. I will never in my life buy another Nissan again.

- Columbia, SC, USA

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problem #15

Apr 272009


  • 82,000 miles
I purchased a 2003 Nissan Altima 2.5L car in July of 2007. The vehicle had approximately 51,000 miles on it and had no issues. Approximately 3 weeks ago I was driving my 13 year old son home from tae kwon do and was crossing a freeway to a side street when my car bucked and stalled. Luckily I had some speed and was able to "barely" get through the intersection before 55+ mph traffic smashed into me. The ses light came on and I was able to start the car and make it home and then to my mechanic the next day. My mechanic informed me that the code read "crankshaft position sensor". he replaced it with a Nissan part, I picked up the car and the vehicle stalled just before a very high, narrow, two-lane bridge in solomons Maryland. I limped back to the auto shop and my mechanic read the code and it said "crankshaft sensor" again. I called Nissan who informed me I had 3 recalls on my vehicle. I took the vehicle to sheehy Nissan in waldorf md at 0730. I received a call from them at 1330 and they told me I needed a new engine due to the pre-catalytic converter substrate disintegrating and being ingested in the engine. After researching my VIN, I discovered that this problem was a recall that was completed on my car in 2004. I contacted Nissan Consumer Affairs to lodge a complaint in that a "known" defective part failed "after" a recall and damaged my engine and came very close to causing a possibly severe accident. They denied my claim because my car was at 82,000 mi. I was told that if it happened before 80,000 mi., which I found out later was because of the federal emissions warranty act, they would have probably replaced the engine for free. It is my contention that the failure of a part that has "no maintenance" requirements, that had been previously recalled because of "known" deficiencies should be the responsibility of the manufacturer. I also contend that this defect could cause loss of power and cause a serious accident, possibly resulting in death.

- Lusby, MD, USA

problem #14

Apr 132009


  • 148,000 miles


My 2003 Nissan Altima uses 4 quarters of oil in less than 50 miles of highway driving. The dealer service rep. Said that the engine is damage by the cat. Filter material. However, there is water on the oil cap of the engine as if the head is cracked or head is warped. I feel that is a design defect and something needs to be done about this product.

- Camden, SC, USA

problem #13

Sep 282008


  • 66,000 miles
I bought a 2003 Nissan Altima with 66K miles on it 6 months ago from wilsonville Nissan. They promised this car was in perfect running order, even after the check engine light came on during the test drive, but the technicians there insisted that they just forgot to reset the computer after they performed an oil change. As I have come to find out, ses lights do not illuminate on Altima for this reason, but after I bought the vehicle and multiple problems arose, we ran diagnostics and cylinder 1 was misfiring. There are many more issues with this vehicle now, including problems with the head gasket, consuming 3 quarts of oil every 400 miles, and running terribly rough. There hundreds of thousands of people complaining of these same pre-cat related issues in their 02-06 Altima. The precat deteriorates and is sucked up into the engine, scorching the cylinders, causing massive oil consumption, and then followed by the engine running rough and then dying. We took the vehicle back to wilsonville Nissan and they refused to give the precat a visual inspection. They claimed that since the computer did not throw a code concerning the precat, they had no reason to look at it. Instead, they charged us $110 to tell us that the computer was giving a cylinder 1 misfire code. We already knew that and we told them that before they took the car in. Under the federal emissions warranty, Nissan has to pay for all costs to diagnose, repair, and replace all parts that are ruined by any faulty emissions part under 80,000 miles. The precat falls under this category, and the engine should also be replaced by Nissan as its problems are a direct result from the precat falling apart and getting sucked into the engine. Recall id# 5450 requires them to test and look at the pre-cat, and if there is any damage to the cat, then the engine must be replaced, free of charge. Nissan will not cooperate and will not even look at the precat. Please help.

- Brush Prairie, WA, USA

problem #12

Apr 132009


  • 148,246 miles
The 148,246 miles engine in the Nissan Altima is blowing oil out the exhaust at a rate of 4 quarts with in 20-40 miles of driving. I was told the cat. Filter came apart and the material was sucked into the intake of the cylinder causing damage to the cylinder wall to the degree where as an engine and cat. Filter need to be replaced.

- Camden, SC, USA

problem #11

Dec 032008


  • 117,000 miles
I own a 2003 Nissan Altima 2.5L. This car is affected by recall # ntb03-070C, potential engine compartment fire. This recall has been modified several times. The "flash" programming alone has been modified by Nissan six times. The recall was performed on my vehicle in 2004, under campaign id R3007. This was the first version of the recall and programming released by Nissan. The recall "corrects" a problem of too much raw fuel being dumped into the precatalyst on deceleration. This extra fuel in the catalyst causes deterioration of the precatalyst causing it to fail, clog up, and release catalyst substrate into the motor (it gets sucked back into combustion chamber on deceleration) once the catalyst particles are sucked into the combustion chamber, the cylinder walls are scored, causing significant oil consumption. You can verify all of this by reviewing the recall. My car has been impeccably maintained. I am ase master L1 certified. The car has suffered this exact loss. The precatalyst has failed and is plugged up, the catalyst substrate was sucked into the motor scoring the cylinder walls, and the car immediately started burning oil. I took my car to Nissan of mckinney, tx for confirmation and recall work. The dealership informed me that the recall work had been done by trophy Nissan in 2004. I spoke to Nissan North America. They informed me that since the recall work has already been performed, my car was no longer eligible to be fixed under the recall even though it is the same failure for which Nissan issued the recall. I told Nissan North America that obviously if the first version of software that they issued under campaign id R 3007 was sufficient, then they would not have changed the "flash" six times. They did not agree with me. I would like to propose that the fix that Nissan North America is performing regarding this recall is not sufficient. I would like to request a hearing with the NHTSA to prove my case.

- Anna, TX, USA

problem #10

Jul 152008


  • 124,000 miles


I have a 2003 Altima. The cars engine light was on and the car was running rough. I took it to the dealership and was told $850 for cat converter. I then towed it to my garage when the Nissan Corp. Would not help pay. My mechanic after he took it apart said all the insides of the cat came out and more than likely had gotten in the engine. He said he knew it needed a new engine. He put the car back together without replacing the cat because I didn't have enough money to replace the engine. The car would run now because the cat converter guts was out. We topped it off with oil so I could drive it home and by the time I got home 15 miles later and alot of smoke the oil was empty. I've read on several sites that thousand are having the same problem and Nissan is not helping. This is a major problem with 2002/2003 Nissan Altima's and the corporation is doing nothing.,000miles-I-w/page10.html the average person can't afford to buy a new engine at 124,000 miles.

- Mocksville, NC, USA

problem #9

Sep 222008


  • 107,829 miles
Car was been driven and shut off on highway and would not restart. Car was towed to auto max in apple valley and determined the catalytic converter had caused the engine to be replaced because of debris from the converter been sucked in the engine. Total cost of engine replacement was $4226.62. Under further investigation I found that in Canada, the Canadian government has order Nissan to replace the engine based upon the catalytic converter failure. If you go on line, there are numerous people in the same boat as me and Nissan tries to play ignorant. I have also talked with a dealer in St. Cloud, mn where the service manger got a few engines replaced for customers as a result of this problem.

- Apple Valley, MN, USA

problem #8

Oct 312006


  • 112,000 miles
I have a 2003 Nissan Altima and the engine is dying. I have talked and researched others and they have the same problem. Is NHTSA aware of this problem?

- Cambridge, MA, USA

problem #7

Oct 042008


  • 95,000 miles
I am the original owner of a 2003 Nissan Altima with about 95,000 miles. On 9/19, I took the vehicle to my local Nissan dealer for service because the "check engine" light was on, the engine was running a little rough and had a slight rattle, and my oil light started blinking on occasionally. The dealer flushed and replaced the oil, and also replaced the catalytic converter and two oxygen sensors, at a total cost of $1700. The car was returned to me on 9/23. I was away 9/26-9/29 and did not drive the car. On weekdays, I typically drive about 10 miles to and from work each way. The next weekend I drove the car approx. 150 miles, at which time I noticed the rattle had not subsided and that my oil light had started to blink on again, especially as I drove uphill. I added 2 quarts to the engine on 10/4 and took the car to a jiffy lube on 10/8. the jl tech that replaced the oil told me that my oil was very low, so I brought the car back to the Nissan dealer on 10/13. The dealer diagnosed the rattle as "internal engine failure" and recommended a new engine for $5000. My conversation with the dealer mechanic led me to believe that the car was burning oil due to a leaky cylinder, most likely caused by failure of the pre-catalyst. The pre-catalyst or ¿pre-cat¿ filters exhaust before it gets to the catalytic converter. The pre-cat is closer to the engine than the cat converter, so it tends to get overheated. When it does, it can break down, and little pieces of it can get sucked back up the exhaust system the wrong way, back into the cylinders, which damages the cylinders & allows oil to leak into the engine. Because of the massive oil consumption, I was unknowingly driving without enough oil, and permanently damaged the engine. I park my car in my garage & have never noticed an oil leak or smoke from the tailpipe. I have never gone more than 5,500 miles without an oil change, and I have a receipt from every oil change I've ever had. The car has no outstanding safety recalls.

- Morris Plains, NJ, USA

problem #6

Sep 292008


  • 88,523 miles
I was traveling southbound on 1-95 and was going with the flow of traffic at approximately 55 mph in the fast lane on Monday, September 29, 2008. Suddenly with no warning, my car stopped moving. It would not accelerate at all. I could not get out of the flow of traffic. Fortunately, my car was not hit as a result of this. My mechanic claims there was a problem with the drive by wire throttle motor. The dealer claims it is a problem with the catalytic converter. The car has been sitting in the dealers lot with no resolution since September 30th.

- Fairfield, CT, USA

problem #5

Sep 102008


  • 127,000 miles
I have had many problems with my 2003 Nissan Altima 2.5S. Currently excessive oil consumption code P0422 - replaced catalytic converter and pre-cat.

- Wilson, PA, USA

problem #4

Mar 232008


  • 96,500 miles
2003 Nissan Altima - failure of catalytic converter at 96K miles. Resulting failure has caused complete engine failure and will result in complete engine replacement. I was thankfully not on the road when the engine completely failed. Nissan is claiming no responsibility at this point - repair will cost $4500.

- Woodbury, MN, USA

problem #3

Feb 262005

Altima 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
2003 Nissan Altima exhaust leak positive for carbon D in my blood many problems with engine light coming on with the first year of owning my car it started with instructions on how to screw a gas cap on to after years of attempts trying to convince them it caused damage to my lymph nodes in my lungs when it was too late and they saw visible signs inside my car like black soot and a strong smell they laughed and said hey lady you have a leak they replaced the catalytic converter and the O2 sensor within 6-8 months I started to have symptoms again nausea, headaches, heavy legs, wheezing & inability to concentrate. Then I knew once the smell started the damage was done I did not have the mental strength to fight with them about it anymore so I traded it in this week I kept all the reports from the dealer when I took it in but of course they did not type in all that I had concerns about.

- Raymond, WA, USA

problem #2

May 312005

Altima 6-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 25,400 miles
I brought a brand new 2003 Nissan Altima 3.5 from len stoler Nissan. We noticed a light mist of smoke from the tailpipe in the summer time. I called to the dealer the dealer stated that was normal. The car started blowing light white smoke, the dealer stated change my gas to supreme octane. At just over 25,000 miles the car started blowing heavy white smoke, we heard a water sound under the car, the oil light would come and go off, and it started losing power. I took it in to the dealer they told us we had sludge in the engine. We turned in all service records showing that the maintenance was keep up on the car. The dealer and Nissan manufacturer stated that sludge only comes from lack of maintenance and sludge do not come from nothing else and refused to honor the warranty. The dealer said for $700. They'll call the Nissan rep. Back out; look past the oil crank case opening and look in the bottom of the oil pan. I refused took it to nationwide Nissan they opened my oil pan took my money, did not let me see when it was open just claimed my pan was full of sludge. They did take a picture, shared it with the other dealer, and told me the same thing but they also said that the Nissan rep this time told them over the phone that Nissan will not fix the car. Where is the customer service" that shows how Nissan sticks together! so what now" I know I will not buy another Nissan and is telling everybody else also! these dealers/Nissan will sell U a car but will not honor there warranty!

- Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #1

Mar 072003


  • miles
Defect report submitted 2002-2003 Nissan Altima exhaust pipe hanger pin may catch debris from the road which could be ignited by contact with the main catalyst.

- Gardena, CA, USA

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