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 16 of 20)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #88

Jan 282013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 44,221 miles


Electronic steering lock assembly failed preventing the car from powering on or starting. It took almost two weeks for the dealership to receive the replacement part. From my research, it appears that many other people have experienced the same part failure. The part was not covered under the power-train warranty and was almost $900 to get repaired. Nissan recommended we report the issue for a possible future recall.

- Antelope, CA, USA

problem #87

Mar 202012

Altima 4-cyl

  • 60,196 miles
2009, Nissan Altima 2.5S. Would not start, yellow illuminating key in left hand corner. Towed to dealership said could be one of 3 things. I told him I looked online and it was the steering wheel lock mechanism. He called me the next day and confirmed the problem. Cost would be 900 which included a freight fee of $50.67. First time ever for a shipping fee at a car dealership. Mileage is 60,149.

- Severn, MD, USA

problem #86

Feb 042013


  • 89,000 miles
Last Monday Feb 4 I went out to start my car an go to work. Nothing happened. It didn't even recognize my keyfob. The key light was lit up on dash. I had my battery in my car replaced and my keyfob battery replaced. After further research I found that its the steering control lock that was failing. I called my local Nissan dealer in owensboro ky and they said the part was on back order and didn't know when it would be in" I have been without a car for over a week. [xxx] at Nissan in owesboro said no rental cars where available. I have a small child and I work so I need my vehicle in working order. I called Nissan customer service and she said I would only be refunded if the part was recalled which it isn't. so I have to pay out of pocket for the part, labor, and $90 to have it towed 22 miles to owensboro to be fixed. Im sorry but in my opinion its not my fault it failed. I paid over $12,000 for the car now I have to pay another $800 to be fixed" that's unacceptable! something needs to be done! information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Mchenry, KY, USA

problem #85

Feb 202013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 48,000 miles


Had stopped to get breakfast. Locked my car and upon returning unlocked the car and tried to start vehicle with no success. There was no response from my car. When the tow truck arrived I then learned that the brakes were stiff and steering wheel did not want to turn. We had it towed to Nissan dealer. After leaving it there I did some investigating online about potential problems. Was shocked to see how many people had the same problem as me presently and past. Apparently, several people found themselves in similar situations with getting no help from Nissan of North America with replacement of the steering lock mechanism. I had yet to hear if this was my problem but was given the sad/expensive news a day later that indeed I would be included in the growing number of Nissan owners who would have to pay to have this faulty part replaced. But the fun didn't stop there. The part is on backorder (because so many are needed) until further notice and there are recalls on my car that no one bothered to tell me about. I called Nissan and left a message with a customer service rep who was going to forward my concern onto a regional concern specialist. When she called me back two days later she informed me that it is not Nissan job to let their owners/drivers know about recalls but the dealers job. In addition, she's pretty sure that no help will be given to replace the part that will cost me 700 dollars. But she would ask and call me back three days later. She is supposed to call me tomorrow with the answer. Shocked is the only word that comes to mind about my situation. I can't believe that this part has caused so many people so many problems but it is not on a recall list somewhere. Is there nothing to be done for it? even the service tech at the dealer has told me that they have replaced several. My car was parked when it quit responding but someone could be driving. Help!

- Canmer, KY, USA

problem #84

Feb 262013

Altima 4-cyl

  • miles
After I was finished working I got in my car to go home. I put my foot on the brake and pushed the start button. Nothing happened. I saw an icon of a key in the upper left hand corner of the dash. I took out my owners manual to see what that meant. I read that the remote battery might need to be replaced. I went into the home depot where I work and bought new batteries. I replaced the battery but now I was getting a no key icon. I called the Nissan dealer where I bought my car for some advice. They said maybe the remote lost its memory so I called my husband to bring me the extra key. He came.we tried again but it did not start. The no key came up again. After trying for two hours I called aaa for a tow to my mechanic. The next day I went to my Nissan dealer.I told him what happened and he said it is the steering lock computer. It would cost about $850. He also said this is a problem with this car. This problem should be recalled by Nissan.

- Little Falls, NJ, USA

problem #83

Feb 262013


  • 50,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle failed to start and the ignition warning lamp illuminated. The vehicle was not taken to the dealer. 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 50,000.

- Philadelphia , PA, USA

problem #82

Feb 232013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 57,000 miles


Parked can in front of store and attmpted to start it but it would not start. Yellow "key missing" light comes on but it won't start. Key battery is new, car battery is new, won't jump start. Car is dead. Turns out to be the steering lock mechanism. Only 57, 000 miles and this is only one of many issues we have had with this car. New battery (2) new brake switch new alternator new A/C pump new front rotor.

- Anaheim Hills, CA, USA

problem #81

Feb 202013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 49,230 miles
Electronic steering lock control board - car will not start and is illuminating the yellow key symbol. Had to have it towed to the dealership and they diagnosed it as a failing electronic steering lock control board. They told me that the part is around $500 and with labor the total is $779. Was told it has been happening a lot with this model and mileage. My car is less than 4 years old so I should not have to spend this much money to drive it. Please insist on them recalling this issue and reimbursing the full amount to me. If not, this will be my last Nissan.

- Hoover, AL, USA

problem #80

Feb 172013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 117,000 miles
When my daughter went out to start the vehicle, the security system for the steering column lock/unlock would not allow the car to be started due to it saying that the steering column was locked when it actually wasn't.this seems to be a very common problem in all of the 2008-2009 Nissan has been at the Nissan dealership for 5 days now, and they are telling me it will be another 5 days before they can get the part needed due to it being on backorder.these cars should be recalled by Nissan before someone gets stranded.the only thing that can be done when this relay quits is to have the car towed to the closet dealership.this repair costs around $1000 (labor, parts, towing),and that is if and when they can get the part.

- Georgetown, KY, USA

problem #79

Feb 212013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 85,000 miles
Car will not start and is illuminating the yellow key symbol. Had to have it towed to the dealership and they diagnosed it as a failing electronic steering lock control board. They told me that the part is around $500 and with labor the total is $950. Furthermore, the part is on back order and they do not know when the part will be available. They indicated possibly two weeks. Was also told that this is an issue that is going on with this part and that I should call Nissan to file a complaint with the Consumer Affairs department at 800-nissan1. It looks like there are tons of people having this issue, so if you are as well, please log your incident/complaint with Nissan at the number above as well entering it on this website.

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #78

Feb 192013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 44,000 miles


I purchased this used 2009 Nissan Altima from a dealer in my local town. When I bought the vehicle it had around 36-38,000 miles on it (can't remember at this time). Had the vehicle for a little over a year, I do regular maintenance on it and have had no problems. I drive this vehicle approx 100 miles a week, and when I went to leave work the other day the vehicle wouldn't turn on. The intelligence key battery was charged, the battery for the car was charge, I unhooked the battery and reset it, still nothing. The vehicle was in park and I couldn't do anything to get it to turn on. I towed it to the local dealership who ran a diagnostic and said it was the, "steering lock control unit" which would cost $717 for part and labor along with a $70 diagnostic fee. I was lucky I wasn't stranded in a bad area or without a way to reach someone. They need to recall this part, too many incidents with this part in Nissan vehicles.

- Leesburg, FL, USA

problem #77

Feb 122013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 51,000 miles
Walked out of work and the key indicator was illuminated on my dashboard and the car would not start. After replacing the key fob battery, checking the actual car battery, and trying my spare key fob, I had to have the car towed to the dealership. I was informed that the steering wheel lock needed to be replaced. This is a known issue and manufacturing defect for this model (can happen at any time regardless of mileage, wear and tear etc) and a casual google search returns countless issues of the very same thing. If Nissan cares about their customers, a recall should be in order.

- Cincinnati, OH, USA

problem #76

Feb 142013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 75,000 miles
Leaving work to go to lunch and my Altima wont start. Push button start not responding and will not move from lock position. Changed the battery to my car along with battery for key. Still nothing. After doing research on the internet I found that my problem is the steering lock control module, which seems to be a big problem for several other people as well. My brother was able to locate the steering control module and held in the start button, and the break and at the same time he tapped on the module and my car started. We were able to drive it home thankfully without calling a tow truck. 100% without a doubt that is the problem with my car and it will need replaced. I am scared to drive my car anywhere because I don't want to get stranded somewhere. I started my car the next morning and it did start, who knows how long it will last until the part fails again. I will need this replaced but really feel as through Nissan should be doing something about this problem due to the hundreds of people with the very same problem.

- Knoxville, TN, USA

problem #75

Feb 172013


  • 78,000 miles
Car was driving perfectly fine, parked at a friend's house for 2 hours and then got in it to leave and it wouldn't start. The key warning light was on, and the lights on the dash indicated that the key was not in the car even though it was in the ignition hole. After speaking with the technician, it is the steering lock mechanism and needs to be replaced. My issue is that there was no warning at all, it was below 30 degrees outside and I was unable to get my children home. Were I not at a friend's house, I would have been stranded somewhere with two small children in the middle of winter. There was no warning at all that this was going to happen, no warning lights, no signals to indicate to me that something needing replacing or fixing. And it's an $800 dollar fix with parts and labor... there needs to be a recall, this is ridiculous. Apparently this happens after about 2-3 years in this year make and model.

- Cumming, GA, USA

problem #74

Feb 142013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 50,000 miles
The key warning light appeared on the dash; replaced batteries in both of the keys and the warning light disappeared. One week later, with no additional problems or warning, I parked the car to go to a doctor appointment and when I returned less than 1 hour later, I was able to get into the car, but the brake would not depress, the steering wheel would not lock, and the car would not start. Car will not go into accessory mode either nor does the other key start the car.

- San Mateo, CA, USA

problem #73

Feb 102013


  • 60,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the key less entry remote button seized in the locked position and caused the engine to not start. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The approximate failure and current mileage was 60,000.

- Windham , NH, USA

problem #72

Feb 112013


  • 60,000 miles
My husband went out to start the cars in the morning before work. The Nissan Altima would not start. The brake was firmly pushed and the brake lights came on. We have replaced the key fob batteries and the fuse for the engine starter. The key fob locks and unlocks the vehicle, but the car will not start. The desk shows a small yellow key symbol in the top left corner. We have contacted a mechanic about having the car towed. It seems several others have had this issue and Nissan is doing nothing about it. I will never, ever, ever purchase another Nissan.

- Mayslick, KY, USA

problem #71

Feb 092013

Altima 4-cyl

  • miles
On Saturday morning, my wife took my son to the library, the car started with no issues, when they left the library she could not start the car. She called me to come help her, we changed the batteries in the key fob, I tried to jump-start the car, I checked the fuses, but it would not start. I made sure the fob was still communicating with the car by pressing the buttons and everything seemed to be working fine. Finally, after trying everything I could, we called the Nissan dealership, and they had us tow the car to them, and said they would not get to it until Monday. Well Monday morning comes and they called my wife to tell her the steering lock unit failed, and it would cost ~$1000 to replace. Of course I am ticked so I decide to research this issue and realize it is very common in the 2009 Altima?S, which makes me even more ticked, because Nissan doesn't seem to care if they leave my wife and son stranded because they built their car using garbage parts. And yes they know because, more times than not, this part is out of stock and the newer cars don't use it. So this sounds like a very nasty scam by Nissan. I have sent letters to my state's attorney general, Nissan motor company, and this database...we need a recall. Stand behind your product!

- Arnold, MD, USA

problem #70

Jan 222013


  • 34,000 miles
Wife's 2009 Altima would not start. As others have stated, the little key light on the dash lit up. We had the car towed to our dealer, and they told us the steering lock control had failed. Having no choice, we then ordered the part, only then to find out that it was on back order and they could not estimate when the part would be available. The estimated repair bill was going to be about $750. When I got home that evening, I searched the internet and was amazed at how many cases exactly like ours are occurring. The next morning, I filed a formal complaint with Nissan of North America. They have put all owners of 2009's in jeopardy and obviously knew there was a problem as the part was changed out in late year 2010 cars built. Our final results are better than most of the others we have read about. Between Nissan and our dealer, they covered the repair which was done as the part did arrive, as well as our car rental while the dealer had the vehicle. My advise is to file a formal complaint like we did and to be persistent. An attorney I know said we should contact the state attorney general and/or the local tv stations trouble shooters, because publicity and legal action are exactly what Nissan doesn't want.

- Novelty, OH, USA

problem #69

Feb 052013


  • 26,200 miles
The vehicle had no problems driving into work in the morning. End of work day, return to the car to find out that it wouldn't start. The amber light with "intelligent key" logo had turned on and the vehicle was immobilized. Checked the battery of the intelligent key and it was perfectly operational. Check batter of the car, and it was working fine as well. Since the car wouldn't start, no other option but to call for towing service. Spent hours in the cold waiting for the truck. The following day Nissan service ran a diagnostic and determined there was electrical problem that triggered the vehicle immobilizer and needed steering lock unit replacement. Parts and labor and tow cost over $900. The Nissan mechanic hinted at the problem being a manufacturing defect, but refused to say it directly as it puts Nissan liable. Part is strategically not covered under warranty. Found out from the Nissan folks that numerous cars came in with the same problem. Got onto the internet and found so many more Nissan Altima owners with the same problem. Clearly a manufacturing defect and Nissan needs to recall the part and fix it for all affected users of the car. I am happy that this happened while my vehicle was stationary. I think this is very dangerous if it were to happening while driving. I request NHTSA to investigate this problem asap and help to issue a recall for several hundreds (maybe thousands) of user affected. Nobody wants to lose their hard earned money for no fault of theirs.

- Warminster, PA, USA

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