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 5 of 20)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #308

May 162016


  • miles


I own a 2009 Nissan Altima on May 16, 2016 I arrived home at 10:30 I parked the car in my drive way turned the car off an went inside my house. I prepared my dad's lunch and went back inside the vehicle when I attempted to start the car it would no longer start the a red car light with key was blinking and a orange key as well my windows are rolled down and won't roll up and its been raining please help I called Nissan they asked if without hurting myself could I jerk the brake and start the car they want me to pay for a diagnostic at Nissan this has happened to so many people

- Lodi, CA, USA

problem #307

May 142016


  • 118,000 miles
Steering lock failed stranding me with a non starting car 190 miles from home with a toddler with no heat or ac.... it is a common Nissan failure and Nissan will not assist

- Toano, VA, USA

problem #306

May 062016


  • 120,000 miles
Steering lock mechanism failed causing my wife to be stranded. This problem is effecting thousands of other owners of 2009 Nissan Altima. There needs to be a recall on this part.

- Knoxville, TN, USA

problem #305

May 032016


  • 143,000 miles


The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. When attempting to start the vehicle, it was unable to start. The "push to start" did not start the engine and the steering failed. The failure was included in an extended warranty; however, the contact was not sure if the vehicle would still be covered. The vehicle was not diagnosed nor repaired. The manufacturer was not made aware of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 143,000.

- Oklahoma City, OK, USA

problem #304

May 022016


  • miles
The car will not start. There is a yellow key light on the dash and a red car light that blinks. The battery in the key is fine and opens the car doors and locks them ok. I got into the car this morning and it will not start.

- New Hyde Park, NY, USA

problem #303

Apr 202016


  • 78,000 miles
April 20 got off of work went to my car and it wouldn't start. Thought it was the battery and had battery replaced. Vehicle still will not start. Looked on line and seems it is the steering lock system failure that is disabling my car. Called dealer and they said there is no recall on this part but yet every time I look something up online I see hundreds of complaints of people experiencing the same problem on the same year and model.

- Los Angeles, CA, USA

problem #302

Apr 232016


  • 75,000 miles


The escl wheel lock will not release to let the vehicle start

- Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #301

Apr 182016


  • 178,000 miles
Car will not start or turn on accessories. Steering lock mechanism failed. I was unable to do anything with the car until aaa can to tow it to the deal.

- Basom, NY, USA

problem #300

Apr 152016


  • miles
I was about to start my car at a gas station the vehicle was stationary and my car would not start leaving me stranded it is a known issue with Nissan and it was diagnosed as a steering lock control unit failure which prevents the vehicle from sensing your key fob which prevents you from starting the vehicle and you are stuck. There should be a recall for this defect leaving drivers stranded and the car useless. I could have been robbed or other. Nissan is aware of this issue and has done nothing to notify owners and replace stearing control unit.

- Lewisville, TX, USA

problem #299

Apr 132016


  • 107,000 miles
I can not start my car. When I press the brakes it will not trigger my automatic key to turn my car on. There have been several times I am not able to start my car. Now I have to fix the brake light and harness for 600$ at my local trustworthy repair shop. I called Nissan and they told me they have not heard of a harness issue. But I googles and found a bulletin and many 1000 of people with same complaint. My repair shop did the same too. This is a dangerous situation to have a car that will not start and the brake lights that do not work!!!!!

- Mandeville, LA, USA

problem #298

Apr 102016


  • 66,500 miles


Was going out of town and due to bad weather conditions on the area I was supposed to drive to, I did not go. However, on Sunday afternoon I got into vehicle, tried to start it and it would not start. Now, if I had of gone out of town like I was supposed to, I would have been stranded. I often have my small granddaughter with me. Glad she wasn't this time. Had to call tow service.

- Newark, OH, USA

problem #297

Apr 102016


  • 126,000 miles
The electric wheel lock system failed rendering my car non operational. After researching this issue online it is a well documented problem with this car and potentially dangerous. There is no warning that it will fail and is not due to maintenance neglect. When it fails it disables the ignition system to the car so you cannot even switch to the accessory function. It can also leave the steering wheel in the locked position making it very difficult to move the car. This occurs when the car is parked and try to start it.

- Simi Valley, CA, USA

problem #296

Apr 112016


  • 0 miles
Nissan Altima 2009 issue: Escl, steering wheel lock, engine won't start and key is in car.

- Camden, NJ, USA

problem #295

Jan 112016


  • 54,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the key lock mechanism failed and prevented him from starting the vehicle. The contact turned the key numerous times in the ignition. The vehicle also stalled numerous times due to the failure. The vehicle had to be towed more than once. In addition, the contact removed the plastic casing under the steering wheel to try to maneuver the vehicle. The manufacturer indicated that the coverage for a manufacturer extended warranty to address the repair expired for the VIN two weeks ago and they refused to provide a remedy. The dealer was contacted, but the vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 54,000.

- Peachtree Corners, GA, USA

problem #294

Mar 292016


  • 55,465 miles
I drove my Nissan Altima to work as I normally do, parked in the same spot I always park in. No problem at that point. At the end of my work day I got into my vehicle to drive home and it would not start. I noticed an icon showing on the instrument panel, it stated one word: Key. I called my husband who brought our spare key to see if that would start the vehicle: No. I left the vehicle parked at my place of work. The next morning I called the Nissan dealership only to be informed that I could not have an appt for at least 2 weeks and that the issue is known but not covered under a recall or warranty. I was very thankful that I was at work and not stranded in an unfamiliar area. I believe that Nissan needs to correct the faulty part. This is something that is happening with more than just the vehicle I own. A quick look on the internet brought up many complaints on the same issue in different models. Hopefully this will not result in a death before something is done forcing Nissan on the correction. I remember the GM ignition recall that did not take place until people died!

- Camas, WA, USA

problem #293

Jan 012016


  • 80,000 miles
I live in the country and was prepared to leave town to visit my sister. I pack my car and get ready to leave (my car was in perfect condition in my garage all night) I went to start my car and nothing! I assumed the battery at first but the lights would turn on. I called Nissan and I was told my steering wheel lock device needs replaced. I was told that I would have to tow my car in, pay for parts and labor. I ask Nissan, if this is so common then how was I not notified of this" I learn this device was put in place for protection against car theft and designed for the key fab to undo the lock up. My car was not in threat of being stolen, and my key fab would not allow the engine to start. I was left stranded for no reason and without warning. I start researching that I am not the only one. There are hundreds effected by this faulty device. I can't believe Nissan has not recalled or set out notice to warn people, or offer an extended warranty. I watch a video on how to trick start the engine. You pull down the bottom of steering wheel and tap the metal lock device with a hammer. This allows my car to start some times. I've been stranded out of town, at a grocery store, and in the middle of no where all due to this defective device. What if it goes out while driving and causes an accident and/or death" I'm scared and upset until Nissan does the right thing to fix this

- Hutchinson, KS, USA

problem #292

Mar 302016


  • miles
My Nissan Altima would not start. A yellow key shows up on the dash board that prevent it from starting. This problem prevented me from going to work and would cost me over a 1000. Imagine if location my car stop was unsafe with my kids in the car. This unsafe and Nissan should cover the cost for their faulty product.

- Alexandria, VA, USA

problem #291

Jan 152016


  • 0 miles
No star. Steering lock bloqued

- Mcallen, TX, USA

problem #290

Dec 262015


  • 70,000 miles
Our 2009 Altima, left us stranded in a remote location. The car was parked and turned off. We have aaa so we didn't have to pay for towing. But we thought it was something simple like battery, or batteries in the remote key. Research has shown us that is a known problem with this specific year make and model of vehicle. And Nissan is clearly not helping they're customers with this safety issue. We where luckier than some people that have been stranded in worse places, with children and no warning. This fix is costing us $894 at the Nissan service, I filed a case with Nissan they refused to help, so we where stuck once again with our car at the service center with a $105 diagnostic charge. So we couldn't take it somewhere else for less expensive repair. They caught us hook, line, and sinker.

- Boring, OR, USA

problem #289

Mar 092016


  • 103,000 miles
2009 Nissan Altima would not start after shut off which required a tow to Nissan dealership ( auto fair Nissan tewksbury, MA). Paid $119 for diagnostic which confirmed a faulty electronic steering column lock (escl) unit. Purchased and replaced the unit. Although there are a record number of complaints, the unit was not covered by warranty. Receipts availabe

- Dracut, MA, USA

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