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 4 of 20)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #328

Aug 032016


  • 120,000 miles


The brake switch on the Altima has needed to be replaced three times since new. The first part was replaced in June of 2015 due to the car not starting, and the vehicle not recognizing the brake was depressed (requirement for key less start). Upon dealer inspection, I was charged a very hefty fee for a small part and labor. Part: 25320-ax00C showed to be at fault. At second time, August 2016, the same problems persisted. This time, there was a burning smell. I found the part that was replaced, opened it up, and found the inside connectors frozen to the contacts and what look liked a small flash or burn had occurred. The contacts were separated and the car started again. Shortly thereafter, the burning smell reappeared and the part was noted to have possibly started on fire very briefly, or been subject to a significant amount of heat. Part has been retained. Part was replaced with aftermarket part, and car now starts without any smells. Dealership deny's problem with brake switch, despite widespread internet chatter about same issue happening to other owners of key less start Nissan vehicles.

- Gilbert, AZ, USA

problem #327

Aug 012016


  • 127,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. While attempting to start the vehicle, it failed to start. The key failure and security warning lights illuminated. The vehicle was taken to the dealer to be diagnosed. The contact was informed that the steering lock mechanism needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 127,000.

- Boardman, OH, USA

problem #326

Mar 282016


  • 72,554 miles
My car would not start after I parked it on a city street, I was stranded at night! after thankfully being able to safely get a ride and leaving my car, I had to go back to my car the next day. I had changed the key battery thinking that could be reason, but the car still would not start. I had to call a tow company to bring my car to a Nissan dealership. I learned that there had been an extended warranty for 2009 Altima, because the electronic steering column lock had failed. I never was notified and had no choice but to have it fixed. This was a baffling and frightening experience and I was lucky that I was not stranded in the middle of nowhere!

- Braintree, MA, USA

problem #325

Jul 202016


  • miles


The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that ignition key failed to turn to the on position, the vehicle failed to start, and an unknown key symbol illuminated. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic, but the diagnosis was unavailable. The vehicle was repaired, but the failure recurred. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was unknown.

- Wrightsville, GA, USA

problem #324

Jul 012016

Altima 4-cyl

  • 70,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that after pressing the push to start button, the vehicle failed to start. In addition, the passenger side air bag warning light flickered. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The failure mileage was 70,000. Updated 09/06/16 updated 09/08/16.

- Miami, FL, USA

problem #323

May 182016


  • 900,000 miles
Steering wheel lock causing the car to stall completely.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #322

Dec 242015


  • 83,600 miles


Electronic steering column lock failure. Thankfully I was at work when this happened, so I was in a lit parking lot. However, this would have been very dangerous if I was stranded, as the car is completely inoperable once this occurs.

- Olathe, KS, USA

problem #321

Jul 052016


  • 0 miles
Electronic ignition wont start the car will not recognize the key. My friend had same issue cost him almost 1000K to repair the car. They told him that a common issue all cars have because its one manufacture who makes this key start

- Vancouver, WA, USA

problem #320

Jun 102016


  • 134,000 miles
My 2009 Nissan Altima had a defective steering lock that caused me to be stranded alone late at night on June 10, 2016 - not able to start my car. My car had to be towed to a dealer the next day. This is a very dangerous situation to be in because I had no warning that this was going to happen and this time it was not too cold. I was able to use my cellphone to call a friend to help. I had to get a ride back to my car the next day and wait for a tow truck. I was without my vehicle for 3 days waiting for it to be serviced. This cost me $900 to fix. This is a defective part in the 2009 Nissan Altima and there is no way to know if it will happen again and should be covered by a recall for the life of the car.

- East Providence, RI, USA

problem #319

Jun 122016


  • 90,000 miles
I was parked in the driveway at a relatives, had to move my vehicle from the driveway to the streets. When I came back out to start my vehicle to go home six hours later, it would not start. I contacted triple a, they wasn't successful getting my vehicle started, so I had the vehicle towed to pep boys which was unsuccessful, then I had the vehicle towed to the dealership.

- Avondale, AZ, USA

problem #318

Jun 042016


  • 89,000 miles


Drove to work on 6-4-2016. Went out to move my car and it wouldn't start. Lights were working, alarm was working but car would not start. I noticed a tiny key emblem on the dash that I had never seen before, come to find out it is the steering lock which there was a recall on. Called Nissan dealership to fix it and was told the recall expired in July 2015 and it would cost me approximately $900 to fix. I cannot afford 900 dollars for something that they should be fixing for free as it is a Nissan induced issue and nothing personal. I have been without a car for almost a week, having to beg rides from people just so I can support my family with the (2) jobs that im working.

- Rochester, NY, USA

problem #317

Jun 092016


  • miles
My 2009 Nissan ultima was parked in my work parking lot and would not start keyless entry pad mount function and had the lock steering gave me problems and it would not start I felt endangered because everyone at work left and I was all alone waiting for a tow truck.

- Westport, MA, USA

problem #316

May 172016


  • miles
Not too long ago my car would not start in several ocassions I had my children with me ages 4 & 7 in the heat stranded because my car would not recognize my key... I have contacted Nissan consumers affairs at one point their was a recall but has expire in its June 2016 and my car just started doing this I made 1yr with my pre owned car still makin payments not once was I notified about this recall..I just felt scared and this vehicle is not safe for me and my could leave us stranded any time and its June I cannot risk it in this heat.... this is a safety issue... Nissan did state to me that their was a recall and their sorry but it has expired and im responsible for the part... this is a manufacture issue they knew their vechicles had a safety issue when they made them I believe they are responsible for this costly matter... I am a single mom of 2 still making payments on a car that wont unlock and read my key I need help please someone..... this part is $680+ labor=$1150!!!! I believe Nissan is responsible for this issue...

- Vineland, NJ, USA

problem #315

May 222016


  • 83,000 miles
Passenger occupant sensor has failed. The amber passenger occupant dashboard light always remains on. This means that even with the seat occupied by an appropriate sized adult, the light says the occupant is not being 'sensed'. also, the control panel above the steering wheel has a red flashing airbag light. The Nissan dealership says the error code indicates a failure in the passenger seat occupant airbag sensor. My cost is at least $2400 to replace the passenger seat. I am unable to pay that kind of money. I am hoping for a Nissan recall or technical bulletin on that make, model and year. I see many other years of this make and model had the issue and the manufacturer fixed them at no cost. That is what I am hoping for. This car has never had an accident. This just happened out of the blue.

- Davenport, IA, USA

problem #314

May 292016


  • 80,000 miles
Electronic steering column lock is defective and will not allow the car to start leaving me stranded with my family without any other way or form of starting my car. Nissan will not respond or fix the issue due to expired warranty with only 80K on the car.

- La Habra, CA, USA

problem #313

Jun 022016


  • 43,918 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle failed to start as the key warning light illuminated. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the electronic steering column lock needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 43,918.

- Marietta, GA, USA

problem #312

May 272016


  • miles
Steering lock malfunction and now I'm unable to start my car. Nissan knows about this and hasn't recalled and now my warranty is over and I have to pay $900 to get it fixed

- Greenwood, SC, USA

problem #311

May 192016


  • 89,406 miles
The electronic steering column lock failed after my son had parked his car at a convenience store. This left my son in a dangerous situation with no access to a functioning car in a neighborhood that I do not consider to be safe. The resolution was to call and wait for a tow truck to have the vehicle brought to the dealer where the issues was repaired. It is my understanding that this escl issue is a know problem for which Nissan initially issued a service bulletin and extended warrantee for that they have since withdrawn. I feel this issue should result N a recall for safety reasons as it can place a person in a dangerous situation without the ability to start the car.

- Plantsville, CT, USA

problem #310

May 232016


  • 147,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. While attempting to restart the vehicle, it failed to start. The vehicle was towed to the manufacturer where it was diagnosed that the steering wheel sensor lock malfunctioned. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure mileage was 147,000. The VIN was unknown.

- Bellows Falls, VT, USA

problem #309

May 222016


  • 114,500 miles
Takata recall. My complaint is regarding the 2009 Nissan Altima steering lock failure. My lock failure occurred on 05-22-16. I returned home after a day of spending time with some friends. I parked my car and later that evening, I decided to go to the store. Once I got in the car, I couldn't start it. The brake was really hard to push and yellow key light illuminated from my dashboard. The fob would allow me to unlock and close doors. The lights worked, but the engine would not start. I was lucky enough to have this situation occur in the parking lot of my apartment complex otherwise the car could have broken down somewhere really unsafe. My vehicle had to be towed to the nearest Nissan dealership where it was fixed for $939.38

- Pickens, MS, USA

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