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


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
2 / 1
Injuries / Deaths:
2 / 0
Average Mileage:
69,392 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 electrical problems

electrical problem

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2009 Nissan Altima Owner Comments (Page 11 of 20)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #188

Feb 242015


  • 26,466 miles


Electronic steering column lock (escl) failed while car was parked. This could certainly be a safety issue if it occurred late at night or in a dangerous area. The dealer said there was a short in this. Could this have caused a fire" could they have fixed the short without charging me $993.65 because it was 3 months past the 6 year extended warranty" car has only 26466 miles on it. The starting mechanism which senses the brake being depressed had failed previously, and fixed under warranty, when I was far from home at a lakeside. Two electrical starting failures on the same vehicle. From their web site: Your Nissan vehicle is equipped with an electronic steering column lock (escl) unit that locks the steering wheel when the vehicle is parked and the ignition is turned off to help prevent theft. On some vehicles, due to a manufacturing irregularity that has since been corrected, the escl may malfunction after the vehicle is locked and could prevent the engine from starting. This condition, should it occur, will only occur when attempting to start the vehicle, and not while driving. Although Nissan believes the majority of owners will never experience this unique condition, to assure your continued satisfaction and confidence in your vehicle, Nissan has decided to extend the Nissan new vehicle limited warranty, as it applies to the escl unit, from 3 years / 36,000 miles to 6 years / unlimited miles, whichever comes first. Access to complete information and instructions including a reimbursement claim form will be available at on April 1, 2013.

- Bloomington , IN, USA

problem #187

Feb 252015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 100,000 miles
My daughter, age 24, stopped by a local walgreens after working as a personal trainer. It was late evening and the temperature was 15 degrees. She went to start her car (push button start) and it wouldn't start. She waited for 2 hours before someone could come help. This is an issue Nissan is well aware of and has admitted is due to a "manufacturing irregularity". it's not a matter of if the part will fail but when the part will fail. While the car may be stationary, it none the less puts the driver at risk.

- Nashville, TN, USA

problem #186

Feb 242015


  • 58,690 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. While parking the vehicle, the theft system locked without warning and prevented the vehicle from starting. The vehicle was towed to the dealer. The technician diagnosed that the theft system needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 58,690.

- Waxsaw, NC, USA

problem #185

Feb 202015


  • 51,300 miles


On a very cold day (O degrees F), the steering lock control unit failed and car could not be started. Car needed to be towed to dealership and the steering lock control unit replaced at a total cost of $1106.98.

- Milwaukee, WI, USA

problem #184

Nov 032014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 83,000 miles
My vehicle begin to not start properly around November 2014. It has since got to the point that it will not start, due to a malfunction of the electronic steering control lock. I found this out after some trouble shooting and research. I also found that this is a known issue with this vehicle and yet a full recall was never made, due to it being labeled as not a safety issue. My wife and 18 month old son were stranded in 14 degree weather for over 3 hours today and the wind chill was below zero. I do not understand how a company like Nissan can get away with saying this malfunction is not a safety issue. Nissan has acknowledged the issue, but claims it will not be covered as our car is out of warranty. We never received anything stating that there was possibly a defective part on our car. There are numerous complaints about this online and I'm sure several have already filed complaints here as well. Nissan now wants us to pay out of pocket for an authorized dealership to diagnose the problem that we have already diagnosed, I find this to be an unacceptable business practice, which indicates they are more concerned with money then the welfare of their customers. I have had several vehicles that had recalls and never once was I required to pay to have it checked out.

- Odenton, MD, USA

problem #183

Feb 162015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 40,000 miles
After moving my car to shovel snow, I parked it. I came out 2 hours later and the car would not start. Electronic key worked, interior lights worked, horn worked, alarm worked but it would not start. I pressed the start button and nothing. We tried to jump start it thinking the battery might be a little weak but nothing!!! now after 2 days of research and missed work the problem is in the lock steering column. I now have to tow the car to the dealership and god knows how much this will cost me. Thank heaven the car just didn't die while I was driving it! the car isn't even paid off yet and has only 40,000 miles...I hope your Agency will do something for all the people out there like myself, that pay good hard earned money for something, only to buy a defective piece of junk.if it was only me, I'd suck it up and move on but its hundreds of us and if other Altima owners aren't complain now, don't worry they will!!!

- Woodbridge, NJ, USA

problem #182

Feb 162015


  • 70,000 miles


Went out this morning, started my car, drove it to the supermarket, came out and the car won"T start. According to the intelligent key warning light information in the manual, it says I have to contact the dealer. Looking at other posts here and other sites, this is a known problem that Nissan doesn't recognize as a recall problem. I just hope I don"T get ripped off too much for the repair.

- Glenmont, NY, USA

problem #181

Feb 022015


  • 75,049 miles
The electronic steering column lock suddenly failed, resulting in the inability to start the car. I had to tow the car to the dealership to find out that the issue is out of warranty and would cost be $900+. after researching the issue, I found thousands of similar experiences with the 2009 Altima and it is clear that Nissan is well aware of this issue and they have not issued a recall. I was stranded, away from home, and had to rearrange my entire day while coming out of pocket a large sum of money which I, quite frankly, do not have. I submitted a warranty extension reimbursement form to Nissan who turned around and told me that I was out of luck. I was referred to the Nissan Consumer Affairs who confirmed that I was out of luck. I never received any notice that there was a recurring issue with the 2009 Nissan Altima, otherwise, I would have taken the car in to correct the problem before it became a problem. I am only 3 months outside of their extended warranty to be eligible for a reimbursement. It appears to me that Nissan is aware of this problem but refuses to stand by their product.

- Henderson, NV, USA

problem #180

Feb 102015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 30,000 miles
Went out to start car, and would not start. Key fob allows me to open and lock car, but I am unable to get my car started. I am being told that this is a common issue for the 2009 Altima, what with the steering column locking, and not being able to start. Nissan has been aware of this problem, and still no recall. I will have to pay to have this vehicle towed, and possibly have to pay over $1000 to have repaired. This issue usually occurs after 55,000 miles, but I am just at 33,000. Please wont you help those of us with this issue with a recall ! [xxx] information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Peoria, IL, USA

problem #179

Feb 082015


  • 83,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the engine stalled and the vehicle failed to start with the push to start button function. The failure recurred numerous times. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where the starter, the fuel line, and the steering column were replaced, but failed to repair the vehicle. The vehicle was taken back to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the wiring harness needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 83,000.

- Midlothian , VA, USA

problem #178

Dec 012014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 130,000 miles


Nissan Altima 2009 escl (electronic steering column lock) part is faulty and failing on the Nissan Altima 2009. Nissan is aware of this problem and the fix and has documented more information here: They state "Nissan has determined that on a small number of vehicles, due to a manufacturing irregularity that has since been corrected, the escl may malfunction after the steering column is locked and could prevent the engine from starting." A petition on ( has received 409 supporters before it was closed. Additionally, further information has been collated here: hundreds of people are affected, unhappy customers. Nissan is being uncooperative now that the warranty extension which is warranted up to 6 years from the purchase date is expiring. In my case, I bought a 2009 Nissan Altima from a Nissan dealer and had no idea about this problem until I got stranded three separate times between December 2014 and January 2015. Please demonstrate your respect for customer safety and recall the 2009 Nissan Altima to replace the defective steering lock system which is leaving Nissan customers stranded.

- Murfreesboro, TN, USA

problem #177

Jan 302015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 90,000 miles
The steering wheel lock is defective in cold weather for a number of the 2009 Altima. I had no warning or idea this was an issue until I was stranded with my car not starting due to a known issue with the cars. Nissan will not pay for the repair as I am 3 months outside the extended warranty. This issues is very troublesome as you can not use the car, it has become a pile of scrap. This needs to be a recalled by Nissan and fixed at their expense. The two truck driver told me this was the 3rd one this month with the same issue.

- Yardley, PA, USA

problem #176

Feb 262014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 118,000 miles
The steering lock control unit is jammed and is causing the car not to start. Nissan will not assist with the fix. This is a common and known issue with this vehicle.

- Belvidere, IL, USA

problem #175

Jan 022015

Altima 4-cyl

  • miles
After replacing the battery the vehicle will not start / tow vehicle to dealer and got an estimate of $1150 for the steering lock sensor. I am disappointed and ask if I had to take a certain procedure to replace the battery dealer service advisor respond no......what happened the? no answer.

- San Bernardino, CA, USA

problem #174

Jan 262015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 135,000 miles
Drove car to gas station and after filling with gas car would no longer start. Car did not recognize key fob. The steering lock is broken and requires $800 to repair. Spoke with tow truck driver who took car to dealer and they tow a lot of these to the shop each week with the same problem. Incident is not isolated.

- Appleton, WI, USA

problem #173

Jan 252015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 138,000 miles
Drove car to store. Leaving the store and started to start the car. The car would not start. It had a key light indicator on the dash board and a lock notice on the ignition switch. The car was completely locked down. The car has a keyless entry. The batteries were good in the vehicle and the font. Had to call a tow truck and take to the dealership. Very big inconvenience as wife uses the vehicle to go to work.

- Bloomingdale, GA, USA

problem #172

Jan 162015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 108,000 miles
Car won't start due to the electronic steering column lock being defective.

- Nettleton, MS, USA

problem #171

Dec 042014


  • miles
My original incident date was not correct and I did not include the VIN# of the vehicle so I am submitting an updated complaint date complaint filed: 12/08/2014 component(s): Electrical system, engine, steering date of incident: 11/27/2014 NHTSA id number: 10662919 as previously stated I drove my 2009 Nissan Altima 2.5S to work on 12/04, I drove my 2009 Nissan Altima 2.5 SE to work and it started up just fine. However, when I went to leave work for the day the car would not turn over. The keyless remote allowed me to lock and unlock my car, but the car did not start. Instead an error code shows that the electronic steering column lock (escl) mechanism was malfunctioning. Also, there is a yellow key icon on the left side of the dash that intermittently flashes no key. There were no prior warning that the part was about to fail including any lights on the dash panel. I was left stranded trying to find a way home. Due to being in a parking garage I had to leave my car for several days waiting for a tow truck with clearance to enter the garage. Since I cannot afford to pay the repairs at this time I have been a month with no car. Nissan is still refusing to repair my car indicating that it falls outside of the warranty extension period. Which is interesting considering there is a detailed letter explaining the warranty which clearly states, "Nissan has decided to extend the Nissan new vehicle limited warranty, as it applies to the escl unit, from 3 years / 36,000 miles to 6 years / unlimited miles, whichever comes first." - basic math shows that 6 years from 2009 would be 2015 not 2014. So I am still not certain as to how I am outside of the warranty period. Seeing as how my claim was originally filed in 2014 this should make me eligible for repairs under the covered warranty.

- Detroit, MI, USA

problem #170

Dec 282014


  • 60,000 miles
Upon arriving back to car after attending church it would not start. Steering wheel was not locked, ignition light would not come off of lock, battery was good. Had to have vehicle towed. Left us stranded. Talked to Nissan dealership in austin and said it was probably steering lock mechanism as have had several problems with 2009 Nissan. Said it was not under warranty and would cost around $1,000. Upon researching found this is a very common problem! why not a recall?

- West Point , TX, USA

problem #169

Nov 102014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 111,000 miles
I got into my 2009 Nissan Altima 2.5 S and I pushed the start ignition button and my car would not start. It was the steering column lock set that controls the entire vehicle's starting capabilities. I had to pay for a tow truck to come tow my car way across town to a auto-nation Nissan dealership in farmers branch, Texas on the corner of welch road and high way 635. They said that this should be covered on the extended warranty and it is not however this is a recall item that Nissan should cover the cost for all of their customer's who purchased this rotten vehicle in the first place with this built in obsolescence or designed to break down and shut down on the owner and "leave them stranded" why would you knowingly allow this defect on all of these million's of manufactured defected "junk" of a car why would you Nissan allow this piece of sh_ T vehicle to be made knowing that this would be a "huge inconvenience to the customer vehicle owner" I was told by Nissan autonation's [xxx] that the cost for repairing this piece of junk of a poorly and cheaply made car would cost me $849 plus tax. What the [xxx] is the matter with you people" are you out of your F mind!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Dallas, TX, USA

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