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 14 of 20)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #128

Feb 052014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 55,000 miles


On Wednesday, February 5th at approximately 7:00pm I tried to start my car (which was parked on my driveway) via push start and a lock and key symbol appeared and my vehicle would not start. I looked up the symbols in my manual and it stated that this was an electrical problem with the start. I called the Nissan dealer in my area here in pa and explained what was happening to the car. They told me to have it towed in to be diagnosed. Which I will be doing today 02/06/14.

- Scotrun, PA, USA

problem #127

Feb 052014


  • 60,000 miles
2009 Altima sedan would not recognize my key this morning and the steering wheel was locked up. The anti-theft immobilizer system was engaged and the car was rendered useless. After contact with the dealer, there are many people with similar issues, the part is on back order and "they will contact me the part becomes available and when Nissan corporate determines how they are going to handle this problem". meanwhile the consumer is without a vehicle. I purchased this vehicle new and it has been excellent up until this point with no mechanical issues but this is something Nissan should take care of immediately. Huge inconvenience!

- Saint Cloud, FL, USA

problem #126

Feb 012014


  • 63,200 miles
My 2009 Nissan Altima coupe with 63,200 miles would not start last Saturday, 2/1. the steering column was locked, the brakes were locked, and the push to start button would not light up or start the car. The red light for the key was flashing and the car could never be started. My vehicle was towed to leith Nissan in cary, nc where service members there said this was a common problem and currently have two other vehicles in line for the same part. The electrical part for the start button is on serious backorder and the company has such a high demand for it that even Nissan corporate is saying it will be a few weeks to get the part in. The service staff at leith Nissan in cary, nc said this problem has been common and that Nissan was not recalling this part though they have knowledge this a serious issue affecting many Nissan car owners for a some time now. Leith Nissan told me to call corporate and anyone else I could to raise this concern and that maybe something would be done. Hundreds of other Nissan owners have posted this exact problem online and filed claims as well. Nissan needs to recall the part and reimburse those affected for rental cars and other expenses. I called the Nissan corporate office demanding reimbursement for rental car fees. The NHTSA needs to put a stop to this and enforce Nissan to recall this part on all Altima's. apparently this exact part has already been recalled on other Nissan vehicles.

- Apex, NC, USA

problem #125

Jan 212014


  • 95,000 miles


Would not start, electronic locking mech malfunction....pregnant wife got stranded without warning in negative degree issue.....not to mention, tow bill, time lost from work, and making arrangements, obtaining, paying for alternate transportation, while the part is currently on back order for going on 2 weeks now......luckily wife was only 30 minutes from home or could have been worse but was still potentially very dangerous getting stranded in negative degree weather.

- Corbin, KY, USA

problem #124

Feb 012014


  • 37,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the engine would not start. The contact had an independent mechanic inspect the vehicle but he was unable to diagnose the cause of failure. The vehicle was not taken to the dealer. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 37,000.

- Braintree, MA, USA

problem #123

Jan 312014


  • 73,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. While attempting to start the vehicle on it failed to start despite the contact engaging the push to start engine button. The vehicle was not taken to the dealer for inspection or diagnostic testing. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the incident. The approximate failure mileage was 73,000.

- Clifton, NJ, USA

problem #122

Jan 292014


  • 52,315 miles


Won't start. Warning indicator lights: 1) Nissan intelligent key warning light; 2) security indicator light. Car was at Chevy dealership when fault occurred. I paid for towing to Nissan dealership. Both dealerships owned by same owner. Told that this is a common known defect in the 2009 Altima and parts are hard to get due to many cars having the same problem. I was told that it may take a week or more to get a replacement part. I was told that the part would be replaced under a Nissan "extended warranty, " not under a recall. I have read other similar complaints stating that Nissan did not reimburse for towing, so I guess I am out $90 for a known 2009 Nissan Altima defect in manufacture.

- Wausau, WI, USA

problem #121

Jan 242014


  • miles
Car had been showing the intelligent key warning light for a few days, but just thought the fob needed new battery. About a week later the car wouldn't start and lit up "lock" above the push start button. Tried replacing the battery in the fob, stuck the fob into the little port hole, and nothing. Looked in the manual and it said it could be a malfunction of the electrical steering lock system or the intelligent key system. Called Nissan dealership and told me to try everything I had already tried to get it to start. They said it was the electrical steering lock system (which a lot of people have had the same problem) and I needed to bring it in. Said there was a recall they extended the warranty on this part and they would fix it for no charge (why didn't I get a letter or something about this "recall?"). they would send a wrecker to come get it for a fee of course, so instead borrowed someone's trailer and hauled it up to the dealership (which is 50 miles from where I live). (fyi:to get it out of park into neutral, there's a thing you pop off next to the shifter and you have to push something down into that hole.) once we got it to the dealership, they had no ramps we could use to get the car off the trailer so we had to use flimsy four-wheeler ramps we had. They called me after having my car there about an hour and a half just to tell me that they would have to order the part and I would have to leave the car there for up to a week. This was on Tuesday and I had called that previous Friday, so they knew what the problem was and had my VIN number. I don't understand why they couldn't have ordered the part after I called that Friday. I asked if they had a loaner car I could drive until I got my car back, they said all the loaner cars were out (which means they're working on a lot of vehicles). All in all, I'm pretty ticked off at Nissan.

- Waldron, AR, USA

problem #120

Jan 232014


  • 116,000 miles
Car will not start. This model uses the intelligent key system with push button start. The key is actually detected by the vehicle and the steering wheel unlocks. But the start button is not enabled and the car does nothing when trying to start. Lights, electrical and battery tested fine. Towed car to dealership and they found the steering lock module had failed. This is a known problem with this part and was covered by warranty which was extended for unlimited miles for this part only. Currently, the part is not available due to high level of failures across the us. Part is susceptible to higher failure in extreme cold weather. Eta for part delivery is unknown and dealership explained they would get back to me again in 2 weeks! Nissan did provide a rental car due to the part shortage. My vehicle is a 2009 model year but this part has a problem also in the 2010 and 2011 model years for all Nissan vehicles per the local dealership.

- Locust Dale, VA, USA

problem #119

Jan 252014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 73,000 miles
Car would not start. Equipped with remote electronic key. Evidently Nissan has extended the warranty to cover this, but I was not made aware of it. Lots of complaints on line for same problem. Needs to have a recall. Dangerous from safety standpoint because we are older and it was cold outside, middle of winter. Had to have car towed. Dealer was not aware of problem fix over the phone.

- Decatur , IL, USA

problem #118

Jan 202014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 62,500 miles


Car would not start due to failure of the steering lock device.

- Greenwich, CT, USA

problem #117

Jan 102014


  • 42,000 miles
The car is equipped with a "smart" key-locking system as well as a "smart" ignition system. The key for the car is a wireless fob that when around the vehicle will allow the car to be unlocked and started. The key will allow the car to start, when the key is detected inside the vehicle. The issue that arose was due to a malfunctioning part, the part was an: Electronic steering column lock. The part failed during a spell of cold days that affected my state. During the first few days before the part ultimately malfunctioned the car began showing error lights for many systems. The car indicated that doors were open, that the emergency brakes were applied (when they clearly were not), the interior lights in the car would randomly come on when driving (as if doors were opening) and finally the indicated that the smart key system was malfunctioning. The car ultimately failed on a cold night. I was able to enter the car, but that was it. The car did not recognize my key and the car was rendered useless. I was unable to turn the car on, or even switch it to any standby mode. Because the car doesn't have a traditional key you are unable to unlock the steering wheel and push it in neutral. The steering wheel locks up, and depending on how the tires were locked initially determines the only direction that the car will move. When I contacted Nissan about the issue I was told that they have issued a "warranty extension" on that specific part only. It is obvious that they know a problem exists. I would also like to note that I was also told by Nissan that the part is on backorder and on restricted release. They have so many problems that they cannot keep up with the demand. This issue is very real and dangerous. People will be left stranded in their car. Unless the part fails there is no indication that the part will go wrong.

- Westport, MA, USA

problem #116

Jan 152014


  • 68,000 miles
Attempted to start car, and received "steering wheel lock" light - despite trying with both fobs (it was not a faulty fob). After half hour of trying, still can not turn car on due to locked steering wheel. Engine won't turn, electrical system will not turn on, and car is stuck. Have yet to contact dealer.

- Herndon, VA, USA

problem #115

Jan 042014


  • 83,000 miles
Drove my car early this am with no problem. When I returned about 3 hours later it would not start. The brake was very hard. The interior lights works, horn, and headlights. However only the key fob indicator and push brake indicator lights in dash. Dealer said it was a bad fob. I had it towed to Nissan and the fob was not bad. Now they say it's the main computer. They will not be able to do any more research until Monday. I am seeing a lot of this same problem in here. I am very nervous.

- Daphne, AL, USA

problem #114

Jan 032014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 85,000 miles
Got home turned my car off went inside to get gift cards came back outside trying to start my car, but it wouldn't start, all I saw was a yellow key light. Lights worked fine I tried moving the steering wheel and putting in neutral and trying to start but nothing.

- Bristow , VA, USA

problem #113

Jan 032014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 91,000 miles
When I got into my car this morning, the steering column was locked up and breaks were hard to push. After trying a few times to start the vehicle, I noticed that the auto-theft must be on. I tried to put the fob in the manual ignition, but the fob got stuck and would not release. After several tries, the fob finally came out. The car still does not start and the auto-theft is still on. The battery is not bad because the car beeps when the door is open and the lights work. I am going to have to tow the vehicle in to get it repaired. There should be a recall on this problem.

- Blue Mound, IL, USA

problem #112

Dec 142013


  • miles
I went to the supermarket yesterday. When I came out, I was able to unlock my doors and pop the trunk with the remote. My car would not start and the electrical icons appeared on my dashboard. I called aaa and they stated they believe it's an electrical problem. My car lights, horn, windows and doors work I just cannot start my car.

- Pennsburg, PA, USA

problem #111

Dec 092013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 110,200 miles
I was driving on the freeway and my car shutdown. I pulled over and tried to restart my car but it would not turn on.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #110

Nov 272013


  • 55,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the key fob failed to start the vehicle. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was not contacted about the failure. The failure mileage was 55,000.

- Richardson, TX, USA

problem #109

Oct 272013

Altima 4-cyl

  • miles
When I got into the car there were no lights illuminated on the instrument panel except for the intelligent key and security indicator lights. I attempted to start the car but it would not even start to turn over. I noticed all of the locks and headlights still worked so I knew it was not an electrical issue my 2009 Nissan Altima would not start due to key error message. After my research come to find out this has been happening to lots of Altima owners. I got in my car after a short stop and the key message was on and nothing. It would not start. My windows were down and they would not go up. I tried everything. Disconnected my batter, did the neutral thing. Shook steering wheel. Etc...of course it happens on a Sunday when everything is closed.

- Washington, DC, USA

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