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 3 of 20)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #348

Oct 122016


  • 91,000 miles


The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. When the contact attempted to start the vehicle, it failed to start and the steering wheel locked up without warning. The contact received an email that informed her of the failure; however, the VIN was excluded from the recall. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the steering wheel locked. The push to start button failed and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The NHTSA campaign number was unknown. The failure mileage was 91,000.

- Smithville, NJ, USA

problem #347

Apr 012016


  • miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle failed to start, both with the push to start button and the emergency key slot. The vehicle was towed to an independent mechanic who diagnosed that the steering column needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired; however, the failure recurred. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage and VIN were unknown.

- Opp, AL, USA

problem #346

Oct 202016


  • 124,000 miles
Parked in garage, wouldn't start, steering lock system was not working so the engine didn't recognize the push button start, had to have it towed to auto mechanic to have the part replaced for $1,000 plus towing! Nissan stopped using this part in 2010 so they must know it was a bad part. I could have been anywhere when this happened and been stranded.

- Winchester Bay, OR, USA

problem #345

Oct 262016


  • 50,000 miles


The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. While in park, the vehicle failed to start and "key fob" was displayed across the message board. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was notified and stated that there was an extended warranty for the electronic steering column lock (escl); however, the warranty was expired. The failure mileage was 50,000.

- Sunnyside, NY, USA

problem #344

Oct 162016


  • 149,500 miles
Today the steering wheel control lock went out. After doing some research I found that this is a common problem and there is not a recall to cover this defective part. Clearly Nissan has acknowledged this is a problem as they have had recalls that expired. This is not a maintenance issue that an owner should have to pay for. This is strictly a defect in electronics system. What would happen if my wife and 4 year old were stranded on days where the heat in memphis can reach indexes of 115 and it can get as cold as 10 degrees?

- Germantown, TN, USA

problem #343

Oct 032016


  • 67,000 miles
Electric steering column lock (escl) failed and left me stranded at work. Had to wait 2 hours for someone to come get me.

- Fargo, ND, USA

problem #342

Oct 032016


  • 12 miles


The push button start will not recognize the key "fob". I can still unlock and lock my doors with the fob, pop open my trunk, but the system that is supposed to recognize my key and unlock my steering wheel is faulty. Reading up this has been a problem for many '09 Altima and Nissan even extended a warranty on this part, unfortunately that warranty is expired and my car now has the problem.

- Olathe, KS, USA

problem #341

Oct 022016


  • 96,000 miles
The electrical steering column lock (escl) failure which wouldn't allow the car to start is the most stupid thing I've ever heard. And that Nissan wouldn't recall it is a big shame on the manufacturer. On top of that, they charge ridiculously expensive to have the part replaced ($600+labor)"?!! this is super unsafe for drivers in the northeast as we may get stuck in a cold winter freezing to death for what? there is even no mechanic problem with the car. Just a little wedge-like thing that wouldn't drop to where it's supposed to be???" ridiculous!!

- Plattsburgh, NY, USA

problem #340

Sep 272016


  • 90,000 miles
We are currently experiencing what so many Nissan owners have noted online... the steering lock mechanism has malfunctioned. (the key light is on, the steering wheel won't lock, doors still lock/ unlock). This is a widespread problem in the electrical system, and many people have expressed frustration online. It is electrical, so all our proper maintenance performed means nothing. Our situation was the 90 year old grandfather stranded at the grocery store parking lot for 2.5 hours. Once he returned to the car, it would not crank. The car is just now to 90,000 miles, and now we learn that Nissan was aware and extended the warranty for a time, and now it has expired. There was no notice sent out nor was there an official recall. Our $1000 repair bill for a common problem spanning several years and several models is not acceptable. Please force them to do a recall!!! it's a widespread, known issue that they are already aware of.

- Ringgold, GA, USA

problem #339

Sep 162016


  • miles
Ecsl went out and my high school daughter was driving the car at the time as we were out of town, this could really be a hazard and definitely was costly as far as towing, thank god we have an extra vehicle but she had to find transportation, had the stress being 17 and not really knowing what to do, the car sat until we got home to have to towed to dealership, missed some of school. This part definitely should be recalled and put back out there indefinitely to be warrantied. I had heard nothing prior but good things about this vehicle and then after reading about the same year and model of vehicle I am praying after the fix this will be the only time it happens!

- Helena, MT, USA

problem #338

Sep 142016


  • 68,000 miles


The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. When the contact parked the vehicle and locked it with the fob, it failed to start upon her return. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the ESC needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was made aware of the issue. The vehicle was repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 68,000. Updated 12/23/16

- Paso Robles, CA, USA

problem #337

Sep 152016


  • miles
While I was at work and done with my shift I went out to my car and press the break and push the push start button it did not start it turns out that the electronic steering control lock is defective I could've been hurt or killed or put it in a dangerous situation if I had no one around me to help me out. My life was put at risk with a car that would not start. The car was stationary when this happened and it happened in a rule area of California which is the searne valley which is almost all desert. I was able to have the car towed to the valleyhigh Nissan in victorville California and they are quoting me $947 to have this part replaced.

- Lucerne Valley, CA, USA

problem #336

Sep 082016


  • miles
Nissan has refused to recall their faulty electronic steering lock unit that is needed to turn the vehicle on. If it does not lock the wheel in place it will not allow the push start ignition to start the vehicle, thus leaving their occupants stranded with no option other than to have their vehicles towed to a Nissan dealership and forced to pay upwards of $1200 for the replacement of a defective factory part. They offered a extended warranty to address this issue, but neglected to inform consumers of this. They are clearly trying to get out of paying for their mistakes and are passing the cost on to their unsuspecting customers.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #335

Sep 012016


  • 135,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle experienced a complete loss of power. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the key fobs were defective and needed to be reprogrammed. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was approximately 135,000.

- Nashport, OH, USA

problem #334

Aug 302016


  • 78,634 miles
I have a 2009 Nissan Altima that I purchased as a pre owned in 2012. Since that time I have brought the car to the dealer for oil changes and repairs on many occasions. At no times while the car was getting serviced was I informed that there was a potential problem with the steering wheel lock sensor and the car would ot start and because of that Nissan had extended the warranty to cover the repair or replacement of the part, earlier this week my car would not start and I had to have it towed 35 miles to my mechanic who diagnosed the problem as a steering lock sensor failure. The cost to repair the car was $725. I conducted some research the problem and found several articles on line concerning the problem and that Nissan had extended the warranty. Again, I was never notified in person while the car was being serviced or by mail by the dealer or Nissan. Based on my research I believe that the dealer or Nissan had the obligation to notify me of the potential problem. At the time that the sensor failed I was approximately 35 miles from home and had to have the car towed. At times I have my grandchildren with me and this could have been a more serious situation if they were with me.

- West Orange, NJ, USA

problem #333

Sep 012016


  • 82,377 miles
Car will not start. Steering lock mechanism malfunction. Car parked on street in front of our house. At least I'm not on a trip. Nissan won't fix under a recall. They had an extended warranty to cover this problem, but it expired. Owners of pre-owned cars were never notified.

- Greenville, TX, USA

problem #332

Sep 022016


  • 146,000 miles
Notice a key indicator light on dash... vehicle wouldn't start! I was in a very dark area by myself and didn't know what to do! I was scared for my life because I was alone and didn't know what would happen!!

- High Point, NC, USA

problem #331

Aug 202016


  • 65,000 miles
Car will not start due to steering lock on vehicle malfunctioned X 4. towed to dealership for diagnostic only to be told repair is $900. Contacted Nissan who is going back on their word to pay for repair. Car also has airbag lights that come on while driving. Car is always in parked positioned when there is a problem.

- Springfield, MA, USA

problem #330

Aug 192016


  • 65,000 miles
Car will not start with key fob. Called tow on three different occasions. Last tow was told to knock on steering lock box to start car. Car was towed due to inability to get car running. Unable to pay for diagnosis at dealership because of cost of 100. Unable to pay for tow because of 65 dollar cost. Stuck out in the middle of no where and now my car is useless. Will not be buying another Nissan or recommend to anyone. I am afraid I am going to lose my job because of no transportation thanks to Nissan.

- Springfield, MA, USA

problem #329

Jul 062016


  • 25,290 miles
Issue: Unintended acceleration conditions: 2pm/clear/parking lot while making U-turn to the right, brakes did not respond. Stepped again on brakes, more firmly, but did not slow car which continued to roll slowly forward about 7 mph. Suddenly, loud revving, car continued forward roll. Immediately, added left foot to brake, pressing with full weight. No response. About 2-3 second after revving/hard braking, the car opened full throttle and hurtled forward about 1-1/2 to 2 car lengths; slammed into wall. Airbag did not deploy my car had only 25290 miles (only about two years of normal usage) at the time the system failed. My left knee sustained small gash from the underside of the steering column when I was slammed back after impact threw me forward, forehead knocked the upper steering wheel. Note: About 1 month prior to accident, the audio controls on my steering wheel honked the horn instead. The next day, they were ok. The same thing happened when tested at the collision center after accident; it's on tape. The rep at the collision center was informed of the switch problem from the start. When I them tested days later, the audio controls worked properly. Also, an indicator on the dash went from showing the mpg with a bar as I accelerated or slowed, then switched to a digital report of 18 mpg/city. It kept shifting between these indicators without my interference. Finally, the airbag failed to deploy although impact clearly exceeded 15 mph. I believe there was a severe failure of the electrical system; the cvt system with its sensors, etc. Is dependent on it. My account parallels reports I have uncovered about sudden acceleration. I noted that often an event was precipitated by a slowing, and a turn. When I recently talked to a Nissan tech about the switches, airbag, indicator failures, he mentioned pinched harness could be a possibility.

- Laguna Woods, CA, USA

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