Notes: You don't want to get 2009 and 2010 Altima owners started about their cars. That is, unless, you know how to start their cars.

These vehicles can suddenly become impossible to start thanks to a faulty electronic steering column lock (ESCL). Nissan dealers will gladly replace it, but that will run you $1000.

It's one of the many reasons this car was named CarTalk's Turd of the Week and given our Beware of this Clunker badge. Two dubious honors.

More info & videos are available over at


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
58,023 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.

2009 Nissan Altima brakes problems

brakes problem

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2009 Nissan Altima Owner Comments

problem #17

Dec 292016


  • 80,000 miles


Nissan Altima 2009 has a defective steering lock system. Suddenly this evening after work when I get back to the car, it just did not start. This is a dangerous situation if it would have happened any remote place and I would have been stranded. I see there have been several people complained about this on the internet but Nissan has not recalled this car. Please investigate and take appropriate steps. They should either replace the defective part of just replace the car.

- Wesley Chapel, FL, USA

problem #16

Dec 102016


  • 60,616 miles
I was parked in bank parking lot on 601. S clark St, Chicago, il when pushing the the start push button, the car would not start. The key symbol was illuminating. Tried to jump the battery and the car wouldn't start. Contaced Nissan dealership to try to troubleshoot. So, I had fmy boyfriend drive me to the dealership, bought a new battery for the remote transmitter, the car still wouldn't start. So the car was towed to the dealership the electronic steering lock module went out on this car. And the cost of repairs was 1,162.15

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #15

Oct 282016


  • 46,000 miles
The car will not start when I push on the brake and push the button for it to start. The dealer says it is the steering column lock module. It was in a stationary position but we were stranded and had to get the car towed.

- Elizabeth, PA, USA

problem #14

Oct 022016


  • 96,000 miles


The electrical steering column lock (escl) failure which wouldn't allow the car to start is the most stupid thing I've ever heard. And that Nissan wouldn't recall it is a big shame on the manufacturer. On top of that, they charge ridiculously expensive to have the part replaced ($600+labor)"?!! this is super unsafe for drivers in the northeast as we may get stuck in a cold winter freezing to death for what? there is even no mechanic problem with the car. Just a little wedge-like thing that wouldn't drop to where it's supposed to be???" ridiculous!!

- Plattsburgh, NY, USA

problem #13

Sep 142016


  • 68,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. When the contact parked the vehicle and locked it with the fob, it failed to start upon her return. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the ESC needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was made aware of the issue. The vehicle was repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 68,000. Updated 12/23/16

- Paso Robles, CA, USA

problem #12

Aug 042016


  • miles
My 2009 Nissan Altima is currently having issues with the defects in the electronic steering column lock (escl). The car just cut off on me as I was parking in a parking spot. Luckily I was able to force the gear in park. It disabled the push-button ignition on my car and locked my steering column. So, I was stranded! this is big safety issue because my car could've just continued to roll if I couldn't get it into the parked gear! it's unfair that as a consumer of Nissan, I have to experience this issue after the Nissan warranty on the escl expired in March 2015 and be posed with paying over $1000 in repair costs. Per Nissan, there was no specific mileage number that this defect could occur; so they should recall the escl systems in all affected cars instead of covering their own behinds and giving a warranty with unlimited miles and an end date of March 2015. Clearly Nissan is not concerned with its consumers safety. It's not fair to consumers that bought Nissan vehicles that experience the dangerous defect after March 2015. I am a very unhappy consumer at this time.

- Palestine, TX, USA

problem #11

Feb 152016


  • 90 miles


Having issues with car not starting frequently it seems a recall should be completed. Also searing at times is an issue.

- Nashville, TN, USA

problem #10

Apr 112016


  • 0 miles
Nissan Altima 2009 issue: Escl, steering wheel lock, engine won't start and key is in car.

- Camden, NJ, USA

problem #9

Mar 282016


  • 140,000 miles
"tamara recall" I'm a nurse and I was dressed and ready for work upon arrival to my car my fob allowed me to unlock my door but whom I got in and attempted to start my car I noticed I couldn't press my breaks they were tight and steering wheel was also locked. I pressed the push to start button but nothing happened I looked at the information center and only noticed a amber key light up and lock light on around the start button. I have no other way to work and its pass my clear call out time to work but I have to call my don crying because I can't get to work I don't know what's wrong with my car it won't do anything. I'm a nurse my patients depend upon me being there to help them a well as my fellow nurses and doctors!! I had to call a tow truck to take my car to the Nissan dealership and I was told it was the steering column lock. I asked him how much would it cost to repair he said 800 dollars. I'm a single mother with a son who is a senior in high school it's his spring break week, I have pictures, class rings, announcement, cap and gown, prom etc to pay for but I need my car to get to work!! I don't want favors, want what's right!! a 6yr/ unlimited mileage is a cheap way out. Nissan knew and knows about this manufacturer defect but still out these cars on the road not really caring or concern about what the results could be.. I've been a nurse for over 10 yrs, so does people have be stranded be it old or young with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or even someone who requires use of oxygen to breathe/live to die and family members sue Nissan before a recall is issued? prevention saves more lives and its a lot less expensive. Thank god for all these petitions pages with 100S and 1000 of signatures along with people sharing their stories about this unfair too off to people!! I expect a class action lawsuit soon.

- Macon, GA, USA

problem #8

Feb 172016


  • 74,000 miles
Vehicle will not start due to faulty steering lock mechanism. I was in a parking lot with my two young children when my car would not start. Apparently, this issue has caused a lot of people to be stranded. Nissan is well aware of the problem and that their mechanism during '09 and '10 was faulty. How could any malfunction that leaves people stranded not be considered a safety issue! the part is very expensive and only carried through Nissan... that in itself should be suspicious.

- Destrehan, LA, USA

problem #7

Jan 062016


  • 93,000 miles


The electronic steering column lock module in my 2009 Altima locked leaving me stranded and unable to start my vehicle. This is a known issue. Nissan received so many complaints they extended the warranty for a limited time (to 2014). I purchased my vehicle prior to this date from a Nissan dealer where I've taken it for every service and was never made aware of the issue until I couldn't start my vehicle and had to have it towed to the dealership. I filed a claim with Nissan and they are refusing to reimburse me the $1076 I paid out of pocket stating that the previous owner of my vehicle was informed by mail of the issue (my car had just one previous owner who performed all maintenance at the same dealership). This information was never passed onto me. Nissan is saying that since they informed the last owner, they are no longer responsible and are refusing reimbursement. This is a serious issue and potentially dangerous defect that Nissan needs to address. This part should be recalled immediately or they should extend the warranty on this part indefinitely. Nissan should also be contacting their consumers to notify the current vehicle owners of these serious types of issues. Contacting a previous owner is not enough. This is our third Nissan but I absolutely refuse to purchase another with blatant disregard for their consumers in cases such as these. Have some respect for your customers safety and recall parts that you know are defective and could leave people in dangerous situations!!

- O'fallon, IL, USA

problem #6

Jul 032015


  • 83,500 miles
My car was not starting. It was indicated as no key. I called Nissan customer care. They told that my cars warrenty expired on March 2015. My cars first registration date is November 2009. I have heared that the ecsl of Nissan Altima is having 6 years of warrenty. But I am told by the Nissan authorised dealer - pinnacle Nissan scotsdate phoenix that my warrenty expired. My car have not completed its 6 year and I am wondering how the warrently would void. I have replaced the part from my pocket as well, I am really disappointed. It would be great if Nissan can refund the cost of replacing the part. Thanks, binu.

- Phoenix, AZ, USA

problem #5

Jan 082015


  • 60,000 miles
The car would not be started due to the steering lock system failure.

- Severna Park, MD, USA

problem #4

Nov 012010


  • 80,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. While driving 45 mph, the vehicle suddenly spun out of control into the median before coming to a stop independently. The failure recurred numerous times. The vehicle was towed away, but not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 80,000.

- Miami, FL, USA

problem #3

Dec 072013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 42,400 miles
Steering was locked and key indicator was coming on dashboard. It was a mechanical failure related to escl (emission steering control lock).

- Pittsburgh, PA, USA

problem #2

Feb 252013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 31,396 miles
Part 2 - confirmation number 10500119 part 1 --- I wanted to add that I purchased this car new in 2009. This will cost me out of pocket $685 and of course like a said previously the warranty of 3/36,000 being the years that expired first. I've only had this car 3 1/2 years you shouldn't have major problems like this with a car this early. This should be a big red flag to the Nissan company!.

- Roanoke, VA, USA

problem #1

Feb 252013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 31,396 miles
First problem started with a funny sound when the car would start and sometimes it would not start the first time with pushing the auto start. This was about 6 months ago and about 4 months ago I got the visual on the column that the smartkey was low and had them replace by the dealership and reprogrammed in both keys. This is when all the problems started delayed start not starting then I left home and arrived at work fine the morning of 02/25/13 and had to travel to another site and tried to start car and it wouldn't even attempt to start. I had a mechanic friend come look at it and then the illumination of the low key and the no key showed up but still would not start. We took smartkey out to dealership and replaced again tried this and it didn't start. We checked everything and called dealership back and they said we could put the smartkey in the slot to start car this didn't work either. I finally had it towed to the dealership and they said it's a steering lock mechanism and electric problems. I've had this car only 3 1/2 years and this is ridiculous and seems to be a big problem with numerous other Nissan. I've been told by the dealership they are using the same part to fix my car and it could happen again. What scares me and could put my life in danger is the steering could go out while I'm driving and could kill me. I have told my family if I'm in an accident to test my steering and if that's the reason for the accident or my death they are to sue Nissan. This should be a recall and fixed with dependable parts and if it happens again and again they should replace with no cost to the consumer parts or labor. Of course, my warranty has expired because of the 3 yr. Always the case. I want full reimbursement from Nissan because this definitely needs to be a recall!!!!!!!!

- Roanoke, VA, USA

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