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.

More info & videos about the Nissan ESCL defect are available over at

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.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
156,700 miles
Total Complaints:
5 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace electronic steering column lock (4 reports)
  2. reprogram or remove fuse (1 reports)
2009 Nissan Altima electrical problems

electrical problem

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2009 Nissan Altima Owner Comments

problem #5

Aug 192020

Altima SL 2.5L V4

  • CVT transmission
  • 160,000 miles


click to see larger images

anti theft lock out

This is ridiculous. Drive the car the night before with my kids and then the next morning when I have to go to work... nothing happens?!! Seriously. This is about the 4th major thing to go wrong with this car. Nissan makes complete junk... and I don't think I will ever buy another one and I certainly advise others to "steer" clear of this manufacturer. Absolute money pit of a car!

- Mark T., Western Springs, IL, US

problem #4

Jan 162021


  • CVT transmission
  • 220,000 miles

For a known issue specific to this model year for the Altima, Nissan is pathetic for letting this happen. I was stranded out in the middle of nowhere and I was so lucky that a coworker of mine happened to be in the area so he could give me a ride home (about an hour drive). Towed to the dealership and it's costing me over 1k to get this fixed.

- mannings, Knoxville, US

problem #3

Jan 042020

Altima SL 2.5Lⁿ

  • Automatic transmission
  • 136,312 miles

This is the second time we had to replace the steering lock. Bought the car used about 5 years ago, and it happened almost immediately. Luckily it was still under warranty the first time. I didn't realize that this would be a CONTINUOUS problem for the rest of the life of the car. I guess I just have to be ok with spending another $1000 every five years to fix this? Ridiculous. This last time I seriously could have died. I was stuck on the side of the road with no cell reception, in 20F degree weather. How is this not considered a safety issue? I've was starting to show signs of hypothermia when I finally was picked up by a RANDOM STRANGER! I was so good that I was having trouble forming sentences, I had actually stopped shivering after about 40 minutes in the food which is really not good. Your body has started to shut down at this stage. I'm grateful that I didn't get into a car with a serial killer all because Nissan won't acknowledge their failure of this stupid little part.

- Tracy B., Saint Charles, US

problem #2

May 182018

Altima S5 V4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 157,000 miles

Nissan will not start. With or without key. Found out the ESCL is broken and this is a common problem with this car. Part alone is $582 . Labor is more and this is a common problem. It is so aggravating. Too much money for a known problem and is not on the recall list. Unfair to customer that love the car otherwise.

- Bonnie W., Jackson, MS, US

problem #1

Jan 052017

Altima SL V6

  • CVT transmission
  • 110,000 miles

My car was locked out for 6 months due to it being locked out from anti theft device malfunctioning. While Nissan said it would be thousands to fix my computer, my guy eventually found a way to just remove the fuse so the car thinks its always off. For this problem, my boyfriend had to trick my car into thinking something different than it should. Or I could of paid 3k to Nissan to fix it. Insane

So that happened and my floor below driver side feet is soaking wet when it rains, there are wet stains on my interior and my floorboard under driver side is eating a hole in it, which I assume will soon turn to rusted hole in floorboard.

Finally my service engine soon light came on and error code P1778 is the issue. Car stalls before going into gear like thinking about it, I'm terrified I will need a new transmission. Seems completely unfair

- Kelly-Anne H., Glen Burnie, MD, US

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