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 15 of 20)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #108

Oct 032013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 82,820 miles


When I tried to turn on my 2009 Altima which is 4 years old and purchased by me new from the dealer, the car would not start. The vehicle starts by depressing the brake while pushing the start switch. After trying several times to start the car, I had the vehicle towed to the dealership. The vehicle was diagnosed with brake switch failure. According the serviced rep at Nissan and the tow truck driver, this issue has been occurring more and more. The charge to repair the problem was $526.81. Per the invoice from the dealership, the sub-harness, the switch assembly, and the band hose had to be replaced.

- Descanso, CA, USA

problem #107

Sep 142013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 87,003 miles
Went to start my car after a day of has the push button start, pushed it, with my foot on the brake the car did not start so I proceeded to follow the instructions in the manual to start the car when their are issues, still could not get the car started so I had it towed to a local Nissan dealer.this happened on a Saturday they wouldn't be able to look at it till Monday to make a long story short the steering lock control unit had gone bad $750 to fix it.after doing some digging on the internet I see that this is a problem that has affected thousands of consumers on several different Nissan models with different model years.with varying miles.I believe that this is a faulty part that Nissan has used, shouldn't this part be a recall and the consumer not have to pay for Nissan bad design.

- Meridian, ID, USA

problem #106

Aug 292013


  • 60,000 miles
The car failed to start; I see lots of complains where the steering wheel locks in place and so does the brake and the car fails to start. I had the same problem twice already and the dealer told me to replace the key less switch however, the problem continues and I see that the problem was not the key. As I can see others are having similar issues of the car locking in place and the problem is more than just the key problem.. this should be definitely recalled.

- Piscataway, NJ, USA

problem #105

May 162013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 24,300 miles


Nissan North America has sent me a letter informing me that our vehicle is equipped with a 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. The only thing that they are willing to do is they are extending the warranty from 3 years/ 36,000 to 6 years unlimited miles. They do not know which vehicles has this defective escl. My argument is that what if myself or both of us are on a trip and whether we are one mile or 500 from out home we are stranded this could become a very dangerous situation for us or if we have sold the vehicle to another party out in no where. We do not own a sell phone. Since they cannot tell us if our vehicle is one that might have the defective escl they should be responsible for replacing the current escl in our Nissan.

- Point Pleasant, WV, USA

problem #104

May 102013


  • 90,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that while attempting to start the vehicle, the anti-theft system engaged erroneously. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where the technician diagnosed that the steering lock mechanism was defective and needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The VIN was not available. The failure and current mileage was 90,000.

- Acworth, GA, USA

problem #103

Apr 242013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 40,100 miles
My vehicle was starting and driving appropriately all day until around 5pm on April 24 2013, when I entered my vehicle to drive it was not responsive. It did cycle from acc to on but would not start. All electrical was working with no warning lights of any kind being displayed. I purchased new batteries and replaced them in both of the key remotes, this did not solve the problem. After repeated attempts of starting my vehicle finally started.

- Montclair, NJ, USA

problem #102

Apr 232013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 46,711 miles


After arriving home, I parked my car and went into the house. When I attempted to re-enter my car approximately 1 hour later, I pressed the brake and pushed the start button as I have done since purchasing my car approx. 4 months ago. The car would not start. The push brake sign was still illuminated and the steering wheel would not move. The brake was very hard. I left the car alone and said I would try again in the morning. I went to my vehicle at about 8:30am in the morning and problem occurred again; however, the engine finally started about 5 minutes later. I drove the car to the dealership and they diagnosed the issue to be a faulty break switch. Since the car was no longer under warranty (36 months/ 36000 miles) I had to pay $173 to fix this issue which would have been more if I had not complained that the dealership was charging 2 hours labor and diagnosis for a 1 hour job. After researching the issue online I have found several other owners experiencing the same issue with their 2009 Nissan Altima. Nissan needs to address this issue as I could have been stranded in a remote location or overnight.

- Riverdale , GA, USA

problem #101

Apr 202013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 93,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the push button ignition would not start the vehicle. The contact spoke with the dealer and was told that the intelligent key was locked and it would not allow the vehicle to start. The vehicle had not been repaired. The failure and current mileages were 93,000.

- Little Rock, AR, USA

problem #100

Apr 212013


  • 105,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated while driving various speeds he pulled to the side of the road for personal health issues. The contact attempted to restart the push-button start but the engine failed to operate. The gear lever was shifted into neutral in order for the contact to coast to a safe location. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the problem and informed the contact that the vehicle was ineligible for service under a manufacturer's service warranty extension. The approximate failure mileage was 105,000.

- South Gate, CA, USA

problem #99

Mar 012013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 94,430 miles
The electronic steering control lock malfunctioned and would not allow me to turn the vehicle off. A certified mechanic had to pull the fuel pump fuse to stop the engine. Dangerous. Could not start the vehicle after shut down. Nearly $1000 in repairs.

- Greenville, MI, USA

problem #98

Dec 252012


  • 84,000 miles


The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that he engaged the automatic push-to-start button however, the engine failed to operate. The vehicle was towed to an authorized dealer where the contact was advised that the steering key lock would require replacement. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the defect. The approximate failure mileage was 84,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Buddlake, NJ, USA

problem #97

Mar 202013


  • 71,000 miles
Include my 2009 Altima 2.5sl to the growing list of steering column electrical short problems. I too had just turned off the car and 20 minutes later returned to find it would not start. Brake felt depressed when I first put my foot on it. Pushed the button and nothing happened. Tried the key in the dash slot, and nothing. Called dealer, he told me to try and jump start with cables and that didn't work. Had to have it towed to dealer. Was told it was the very common electrical steering column short, and the fix was $1100. Luckily I had purchased a service contract when I bought the car in 2011. Paid deductible of $100. This absolutely should be a Nissan recall. Dealer told me the problem is on the recall list for the 370Z, but had not made it yet for Altima. I did see through research and a friend who works for Nissan, that they changed that wiring in the model years that followed.

- Bel Air, MD, USA

problem #96

Mar 232013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 36,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the electronic key light illuminated and the push to start button failed to function. The contact was unable to start the engine. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage was 36,000. Updated 5/7/13 updated 05/22/2013

- Brooklyn , NJ, USA

problem #95

Feb 062013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 46,683 miles
I left work on February 6th and went to drive home, but my car would not start. My car is push button start and it did detect my key as I was able to unlock my car. When I pushed down on the brake to start my car it was very hard to push. My car would not start and a key warning light came on. The local Nissan dealership came to my work and had to disengage the steering wheel lock control unit in order to drive it back to their shop. They said that the car was unsafe to drive, except back to the dealership. They determined that it was a failed steering lock. This is an anti theft component of the car. My estimate was $662. The part was on back order at that time and they did not know when it would be in. Nissan did not offer me a rental car and I was without a car for a week. The part came in a week later and the car was fixed that day. My bill was $662.03. This steering wheel lock defect is a safety hazard as it could have happened while driving the car. There is no guarantee that it will not happen again either. After doing some research I found that Nissan changed this part of the Altima when making the 2010 models. I noticed a lot of people with the same issue after researching. This malfunction should be looked into further by Nissan and in my opinion it needs to be a recall. It's understandable when normal wear and tear issues happen to your car, but an issue like this is a defect and needs to be paid for by Nissan. My car is of course out of warranty at this time. Below is a website that I came across when doing research and found a lot of other people with the same issue:

- Carey, OH, USA

problem #94

Mar 142013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 88,150 miles
Drove my car to location, turned car off, returned to car 5 minutes later would not start. Thought it was battery, fuse, or dead key fob battery. Called dealership service manager stated other people have had same issue. He instructed me to turn steering wheel and push ignition button...didn't work. On my dash panel I noticed the key light symbol was lit up, when I tried to start car with the keyfob that didn't work either. Had to have car towed and at dealership to change the steering lock. It malfunctioned and cannot be repaired needs to be replaced. Part has been ordered and should be replaced on 03/21/2013. Estimate is $914.

- Napoleonville, LA, USA

problem #93

Mar 132013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 63,000 miles
On 3/13/2013 I drove my vehicle to work at approximately 8:55am and parked everything in car was fully operational and functioned properly. At 6:30pm I approached my vehicle unlocked the door using my key fob, entered the vehicle and proceeded to press the ignition button and nothing happens. After switching on the headlights and noticing no power issues I noticed a flashing indicator light in the dash that said no key present. After being the only car left in the dark secluded parking lot I started off on a journey to purchase a battery for the key fob and it did not solve the phenomenon. I had the vehicle towed to the nearest dealership which is about 60 miles away from my home. The dealer after investigating for a matter of minutes were quickly able to diagnose the problem which was a steering lock module that was very costly. Upon further research, I found that there are a great number of Altima's and other Nissan vehicle that are infected with the same defective steering lock devices that causes you to randomly be stranded in secluded areas without prior notice. This I find highly unethical for Nissan to be totally aware of such defective equipment and not have any concern for the welfare of it's customers nor their children. Im hoping that the NHTSA can protect consumers from bullies like Nissan and help us get the recall we deserve. All we want is a reliable product that can perform the way it was intended to perform. So let's do what is necessary to hold Nissan up to the american standard of putting out quality reliable products and not ripping off consumers.

- Powder Springs, GA, USA

problem #92

Feb 082013


  • 41,000 miles
As with dozens of other complaints online, when I attempted to start my 2009 Nissan Altima (which had been sitting with its engine off for no more than five minutes), the key illuminated on the dashboard, the steering and brakes felt unresponsive, and the car would not start. Late, cold, and rainy the night of the incident, the car was towed to the dealership the next morning. The dealership diagnosed the problem as a failed steering lock unit--a result that is unsurprising to anyone who types those symptoms into a google search. For the small fee of $900, my car was back on the road two days after the incident. Given the frequency with which this appears to be happening to other owners, there is little doubt that this a manufacturing defect that presents a significant risk of injury should the car not start in a remote area or in the path of traffic.

- Kennett Square, PA, USA

problem #91

Mar 112013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 71,000 miles
Drove car to work. After work went out to vehicle and it would not start. After extensive research learned this has happen to many Nissan Altima owners. There is no warning. Once the car is turned off the steering lock control unit has been failing leaving people stranded - I am one of them. The part can only be purchased at a Nissan dealer. The cost is $1000. No warning. The safety issue is I live in mn. We have extremely cold winter. If I went ice fishing in the middle of no where and came back to my vehicle I would have been stranded with no source of heat. My only hope would be a cell phone, providing I have one. The second part is a local garage wouldn't even be able to repair the vehicle. It can only be repaired by Nissan. I hope you recognize my concern.

- Burnsville, MN, USA

problem #90

Feb 102013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 34,900 miles
I would like to add my 2009 Nissan Altima to the growing list of owners who've experienced the illuminated key of death. I've had the car for 4 1/2 months and the vehicle had 34,900 miles on it. Noticed the illuminated key on Friday, researched it and saw it said call the dealer in the manual. Saturday the light was off so I figured I was good. Had a major snowstorm Saturday. Sunday, went to the shopping center, parked and went inside. Came out an it was dead. I knew exactly what it was from reading the hundreds of reports on it. Had it towed to the dealer on Monday. He had the parts and back on the road later that evening. Only $950 poorer and aggravated that I only purchased this "reliable" vehicle 4 months earlier. This is definitely my first and last Nissan. When you see that key, or even if you don't, its not a matter of if you'll break down, but when and where. Nissan, you suck! step up to the plate and at the very least, cover the repairs and towing. I know you don't give a rat's [xxx] about your customers but do the right thing. A Nissan will never be in my driveway. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Trenton, NJ, USA

problem #89

Feb 262013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 59,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the steering lock failed and would not allow the contact tom move the steering wheel to start the vehicle. In addition, the anti-theft system engaged erroneously. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where the technician diagnosed that the steering lock unit malfunctioned and needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure but did not offer any assistance because the vehicle was not included in any recalls. The vehicle was repaired. The failure mileage was 59,000 and the current mileage was 59,050.

- North Little Rock , AR, USA

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