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 2 of 20)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #368

Nov 262016


  • 60,000 miles


The car doesnt start because the car's starting system is faulty. It is called electronic steering column lock (escl) failure. Only Nissan dealers can fix this issue and they charge exorbitant amount of money for replacing a small part and for labor. This is not caused by a user error but because of a defect with this model itself. There are many such complains online and happens to people randomly. This is a severe health and life hazard. Me and my wife were about to leave for remote places when this issue happened and if that would have happened, we would have been in a huge mess! Nissan does not even have the courtesy to reimburse the full repair amount. I didn't even ask for the hotel and trip cancellation reimbursement but still they are not ready to budge. I escalated it to three levels but to no effect. This is sad. There must be a recall on this model. My car just has 60K miles on it and I feel cheated to have to pay $1100 for Nissan's fault just for the repair, let alone additional expenses I had to incur to book hotel last minute for two days and incur charges for the hotel stays for the rest of my trip. My honeymoon trip was screwed up because of Nissan and they are saying they can only reimburse me for the part which is only half the cost. I will sell this car as soon as I can and will never ever buy a Nissan car again. But, I would like to see this car recalled asap before it leads to someone's death.

- Union City, CA, USA

problem #367

Dec 042016


  • 78,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the push to start feature failed to start the vehicle. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the steering lock mechanism failed and would need to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 78,000.

- Lowell, MA, USA

problem #366

Dec 072016


  • 107,000 miles
The date was 12/7/2016. My 2009 Nissan Altima failed to start at the end of my shift at work. After some research I found that what I had was a faulty escl. I found that this is a very common problem for this model car. The car fails to even turn on the to the acc mode. Nissan knows that this is a problem and extended the warranty for only 72 months and has refused to make a recall since it involves a parked car. The temperature for today was 26 degrees and had I been somewhere far from home where my father couldn't pick me up then I'd be stranded in the cold to freeze. This is also a safety concern because the car may fail to start in an unsafe neighborhood or other unsafe conditions. Nissan needs to either recall or extend their warranty on the escl.

- Lansing, IL, USA

problem #365

Dec 062016


  • 118,000 miles


The escl died today, at night here in Maine. Searching the for this problem, it seems that this is a known issue with Nissan, which did nothing to prevent my teenager from being stranded, at night. I see the part is on amazon for only $400, and takes about 30 minutes to install. Why does a dealer want $1000 for a repair of this sort? this is crazy - considering that Nissan even extended the warranty on this part to 6 years - I just missed the deadline.

- Brunswick, ME, USA

problem #364

Dec 012016


  • miles
I got in my car the other day to run to the store and the cars push button ignition would not start the car, the llght on the dash suggests that the steering wheel is not locked, but it is locked. Vehicle is parked in my driveway

- Franklin, LA, USA

problem #363

Nov 212016


  • 115,000 miles
Electronic steering control lock failed, leaving me stranded on the side of the road, apparently a common problem with 09 Nissan, contacted Nissan and opened a case, they called back and refused to help, with anything. What a joke Nissan is turning out to be. There are literally thousands of posts on this problem, and Nissan gives an unlimited mileage replacement that ended in 2014, I offered to pay for the labor if they would replace the part, obviously they have no interest in my future business.

- Mohave Valley, AZ, USA

problem #362

Nov 282016


  • 109,000 miles


Electronic steering column lock (escl) failed and was sticks and stranded. I am a full time student as well as working full time. Had to get my 09 Altima towed to the dealship and lost out on work and made my daily life a financial hardship. It is going to cost me $1100 just for the part and labor. This is a known issue with 2009 Altima's and needs to be recalled until Nissan fixes the issue. This is very dangerous situation to be in, if I was camping and had no cell phone service my life could seriously be in danger. Please issue a recall for this part.

- Union City, CA, USA

problem #361

Nov 282016


  • 106,000 miles
My car would not start and I was forced to sit in my car for hours as the stores had closed and it took over a hour to have my car towed. This left me in a situation in which I could have been harmed as a young woman in vulnerable situation. Nissan states that this is a manufacturer irregularity which means this is something that shouldn't be happening and is a manufacture issue. After getting it diagnosed by a certified Nissan dealer, I was told it was my escl. Nissan should honor their word and fix the issue at no cost since it's a manufacture malfunctioning issue in which the customer has no control over.

- Richmond, VA, USA

problem #360

Nov 272016


  • 94,420 miles
Luckily the car was parked and wouldn't start for this incident. After having it towed they needed to replace the steering lock mechanism. We're glad it wasn't being driven on the highway at the time it failed and possibly locked up the steering column. That could have been deadly. The replacement cost of this part is outrageous and should have been covered or replaced by Nissan. They've had a history of issues with this and should refund us the $1000 it cost just for the repair bill. It's ridiculous that people keep getting taken for something like this. Something needs to be done to remedy this situation.

- Mankato, MN, USA

problem #359

Nov 232016


  • 0 miles
Car won't start do to a defective escl electronic steering column lock. The car left me stranded after work at midnight. The car is useless it does not start. I was never informed by the dealership of any problems with the escl.

- Brawley, CA, USA

problem #358

Nov 142016


  • 119,000 miles


I was driving on highway when "intelligent key" warning light flashed on dashboard. I continued to my work place. When I attempted to leave my place of employment, the steering wheel locked, ignition self start would not work and I had to contact aaa to bring car to dealer. I was told that when this warning light is on, the car may lock up at anytime. I was told that I ought be driving since the steering wheel would lock up in the middle of traffic. One of the representatives at the dealer indicated that many people with this car had similar problems, in fact that day there were three 2009 Altima in the same area going to the same dealer with the "smart key" locking the car. Nissan is going to reimburse $800+ dollars because I believe they know this is a problem, yet they have not announced an official recall. This is very concerning for all of those people driving this vehicle with the risk of having the car lock while in motion.

- Concord, NC, USA

problem #357

Sep 152016


  • 66,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the air bag warning indicator illuminated consistently without warning. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the sensor failed on the passenger side of the vehicle. The seat bottom assembly needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The VIN was unknown. The approximate failure mileage was 66,000.

- Melbourne, FL, USA

problem #356

Nov 182016


  • 56,000 miles
My daughter was stranded in a not so great area when her car would not start due to a well known issue with Nissan Altima's electronic steering column lock (escl). Nissan did not issue a recall on this dangerous issue, but instead offered an extended warranty if the part failed, without notifying consumers. This is shameful on Nissan's part to allow people to be stranded in possibly dangerous situations. The repair will now cost her between $1000 and $1200

- Aston, PA, USA

problem #355

Nov 152016


  • 85,000 miles
Vehicle would not crank after steering mechanism malfunction.

- Greenville, AL, USA

problem #354

Nov 142016


  • miles
Steering lock controler is broken and its a common problem on all Altima and Nissan doesn't take risponsibility

- Huntington Beach, CA, USA

problem #353

Nov 102016


  • miles
Car stalled twice both parked in a parking lot. Battery works and key fob works with doors. But engine wont start with push button start. Electronic steering column lock defect.

- West Nyack, NY, USA

problem #352

Nov 102016


  • 160,000 miles
The electronic steering lock has malfunctioned. The car would not start, leaving myself and two children stranded.

- Columbia, IL, USA

problem #351

Nov 012016


  • 135,000 miles
Electronic steering column lock failure. Leaves car disabled where ever you are. Car will not start. Must be towed. Nissan had an earlier recall but never published it to 2009 Altima owners.

- Auburn, MA, USA

problem #350

Oct 212016


  • 120,000 miles
Escl replaced after failing to allow push button start and failed again a few months later.

- Berryton, KS, USA

problem #349

Nov 012016


  • 136,000 miles
The electronic steering column lock (escl) has broken without any warning and my car has become a giant brick and I can't even place the car in neutral to move it. I walked out to start my car for work one day and I found out my car was dead.

- Greenville, SC, USA

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