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 7 of 20)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #268

Dec 112015


  • 58,900 miles


Ignition failed. Car failed to start. Discovered it was the steering lock control unit. Was told by Nissan that the warranty expired June 1, 2015, but to take it to a dealership and that there was a possibility that the warranty would be extended because of customer loyalty. Vehicle was towed to suntrup Nissan and the repair took place. I was told that I would get reimbursed following a fair review of my case. The claim was immediately denied and following a discussion with the regional Consumer Affairs specialist, megan, it was denied in part because the car had not been to a dealership for service since 2011. I feel that I was mislead and mistreated and given an unfair review because I failed to take my vehicle to the dealership for repairs. The reason for not taking the vehicle to a dealership is because the vehicle has not ever required any major repair work in the past. Internet search revealed that hundreds of other Nissan owners had the same problem with 2009 Altima's and there was a petition to get this part recalled.

- Saint Louis, MO, USA

problem #267

Dec 062015


  • 102,000 miles
I was leaving work as I approach my vehicle which was parked in the secured lot; I used my smart key to unlock the door in which it did. And when I entered my vehicle it did not start. The indicator on the dash was showing representation of no key in the vehicle but my key could still lock & unlock the doors. I proceeded to change the battery to my smart key 3X and to no avail did that fix my situation.

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #266

Dec 092015


  • 101,000 miles
Car was working just fine. Drove it to an appointment. When done with the appointment, came out to car and it wouldn't start. The key fob worked, as it would lock and unlock the doors, the car just wouldn't start. When I tried to push the start button, a little orange key light came on. Googled the light... found hundreds of complaints that the 2009/2010 Altima had electronic steering lock issues, that Nissan refused to cover the cost, and that replacement was very expensive. Had to get my car towed to an authorized dealer, who confirmed I needed electronic steering lock replacement. The cost was $1,033, not cheap at all. So disgusted there is so much information about this being an extremely common problem in this car, and there not being a recall to fix it or at least cover it.

- Inver Grove Heights, MN, USA

problem #265

Dec 072015


  • 68,164 miles


Dec 7, 2015 climbed in car at 8 am, would not start. The key light was on but the dash did not light up as normal when you put your foot on the brake and push the start button. Could not get it out of the "locked" position. Called local dealer and he offered no help, nor ideas of what could be wrong. Told me to "bring it in". didn't even tell ne how to unlock the gear so I could push car out of garage. Took 2 calls to get this info. Checked online for issues, found escl problem, called dealer back. Only then did he remember something about that issue. My car is 7 weeks out of warranty, great shape, 68164 miles. Called Nissan and spoke with Consumer Affairs, filed complaint. Received a call the next day that they were "considering" my issue/concern/complaint. Told me they would have an answer in 3 days. Why not give me an answer when they called?

- Snellville, GA, USA

problem #264

Dec 082015


  • 91,000 miles
My car would not start and the intelligent key warning light was on. This happened with no warning (the car drove fine 1 hour before). I was stranded and had to get the car towed to the nearest dealership. The problem was the infamous escl unit (electronic steering control lock). I was informed that the warranty had been extended to unlimited miles and 5 years...and expired 6 months ago. $1028 worth of repairs later the car will start again. No help from Nissan.

- Charlottesville, VA, USA

problem #263

Dec 022015


  • 42,000 miles
My family and I were stranded in the middle of the night last week for several hours for my car to be towed cause the engine would not start and jump start the battery did not work. After towed it home and research / diagnostic, found out that it is a well know that the steering lock box is defective. However, calling Nissan dealer about it and will not make the recall on the part. My car just die after 5 years. 3 months after the extended warranty. My dealer will not fix it and Nissan will not assist to get it fix either. They keep wanting me to bring it to the deal for diagnostic, when in-fact it is obvious that the steering lock bock is disabled the car from starting. I brought it in, and they kept telling me no recall and want me to pay for it (almost $1,000), yet recommending me to fix other issues saying it could have been tune up needed that why my car would not start.. ugh!!!

- San Ramon, CA, USA

problem #262

Dec 042015


  • 99,000 miles


Wife went to drive to work in morning car would not do anything. Turn over or sense the key. She tried other key and same thing nothing. Googled issue and Nissan admitted there is a issue with electronic steering lock column. Instead of fixing issue they just extended warranty in hopes that when not if it went out warranty would be up. Called Nissan North America they told me car is over warranty but if I take it and get it diagnosed and there are no other problems they may help cover repair cost. Did just what they said local dealer confirmed it was my electronic steering locking unit. Called Nissan back they called dealership and confirmed. They then called me back and said we cant do anything its out of warranty. Why make me pay more then say oh no we cant help you. So I had to wait for nisasan to tell me either yes or no they would help after they said no I called dealership to go ahead with work they no longer had part another 2009 came in with same problem. My local dealership is coast Nissan of san luis obispo. Car gave no warning escl was going out and once it goes out your stranded this is a issue Nissan should have addressed but would rather save money and not fix defective issues.

- Grover Beach, CA, USA

problem #261

Dec 062015


  • 153,000 miles
Car was parked in grocery store parking lot. Car would not start. Dashboard warning indicated key icon. Had car towed 50 miles to Nissan car dealership. Electronic steering lock unit (eslu) replaced. Total cost: $1006 and one sleepless night.

- Crestview, FL, USA

problem #260

Nov 272015


  • 100,000 miles
Electric steering wheel lock (ecsl), is well-known defect that is known across all 2009 Nissan Altima, maxima, and early 2010 350Z. I was filling up at a gas station when my car did not start. I was left stranded at a location that was unsafe location due to this defect. This lock would not allow me to start my vehicle nor go on accessory mode, thus I was not able to roll up my windows. I was not informed of this defect or extended warranty. My extended warranty expired last month. Nissan North America rejected my claim to repair this problem.

- Sacramento, CA, USA

problem #259

Oct 132015


  • 81,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the keyless ignition failed to operate. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where the steering wheel lock was replaced. After the vehicle was serviced, the intelligent key failed to start the ignition. The vehicle was not repaired for the second time but the details were not available. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 81,000. Updated 02/19/16

- Lawton, OK, USA

problem #258

Nov 292015


  • 40,100 miles


The electronic steering wheel lock system didn't engage on my 2009 Altima. This would not allow the car to be started. Nissan extended the warranty on this part but mine expired in August of 2015. I feel this is a safety issue as you could be stranded at anytime anwhere with this issue and should have been a recall. There was a bad snow storm in denver on Sunday when this occurred and if it had happened up in the mountains cross country skiing I would have been stuck in a very unsafe situation. I contacted Nissan and they said they will not do anything for me as the extended warranty has expired. However they never contacted me stating it would be covered and had I know I would have taken the vehicle in before it left me stranded without a car for 4 days. I had to get the car towed to the dealership to get it worked on. This issue is so bad they had to order the part and won't get it in until 2 days after I had brought it in to get fixed. Someone needs to look into this before people start getting hurt or worse stranded and die somewhere.

- Lakewood, CO, USA

problem #257

Nov 302015


  • 54,000 miles
The steering lock failed, and I could not start my car. I had to have my car towed to the topeka Nissan dealer to have it fixed. It cost $973

- Topeka, KS, USA

problem #256

Nov 172015


  • 61,000 miles
Vehicle was parked, stationary when I went to start it. Nothing happened when start button was pressed. The car was recognizing the key fob, due to the fact that when I didn't have it, it was saying no key. However would not start even when fob was present. Contacted Nissan service department, they said it was a common problem, after googling the issue I was surprised at how many sheer numbers of the same exact thing was happening. $1200 later, my car is fixed just because of a faulty steering column lock, which even the private mechanic stated was a big problem, adding that Nissan responded by changing the lock on the 2010 and up models, however not compensating any current owners. Mechanic also advised that the part is so faulty that it will go out again in time. Im taking car back to dealer the car had 50K on it when I purchased this should have been replaced under warrant I cant afford 1200 bucks if not fixed im not paying for a lemon car

- Portland, OR, USA

problem #255

Nov 252015


  • 74,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle would not start. A warning light illuminated and displayed a message. The contact was stranded for over an hour. The contact stated that the vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the steering lock control unit needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified. The VIN was not available. The approximate failure mileage was 74,000.

- Racine, WI, USA

problem #254

Nov 182015


  • 70,000 miles
We purchased this vehicle brand new in 2009. On 11/18/2015, my wife became stranded in a shopping center parking lot because the vehicle would not start. After research online, we discovered that the problem is the steering lock mechanism. When the mechanism fails, it generates a fault in the computer that disables the vehicle. Nissan has known of the problem for some time and extended the warranty, but did not notify owners. There are hundreds if not thousands of similar complaints online. The failed part is 48700-jf00A. Let me stress that Nissan has known of this part defectiveness for years, but has not been proactive to avoid owners from being stranded. The vehicle was obviously stationary when this problem was realized.

- Springfield, MO, USA

problem #253

Nov 162015


  • 72,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the push to start button failed to function. The contact had to make numerous attempts to maneuver the push button start and after multiple attempts, the vehicle was able to restart. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who diagnosed that the steering wheel lock mechanism failed and needed to be replaced. The VIN was not available. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 72,000.

- South Bend, IN, USA

problem #252

Nov 112015


  • 120,000 miles
Car wouldn't start, left me stranded I was stationary at the time in the snow with my kids.

- Prescott Valley, AZ, USA

problem #251

Nov 032015


  • 70,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle would not start. The failure occurred without warning. The electronic steering key light illuminated after the failure. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 70,000.

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #250

Oct 172015


  • 56,000 miles
Escl locked up with no warning. Car would not attempt to start after getting gas because the system thought the escl was engaged. Stranded at a gas station pump for 3 hours until a tow could be done to a dealer.

- Cedar Rapids, IA, USA

problem #249

Nov 052015


  • 103,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. While driving approximately 65 mph, the vehicle stalled without warning. The contact was able to push the vehicle over to the side of the road with other consumers who stopped to help the contact. The vehicle was unable to be restarted. The vehicle was towed to the contact's residence due to the failure. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 103,000.

- Birmingham, AL, USA

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