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 8 of 20)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #248

Nov 042015


  • 88,500 miles


Car won't start at all. Tried two different key fobs with working batteries, and also tried plugging them into the key fob port, but no luck. After searching online I realized the "ignition steering wheel lock failure" is extremely common with 2009-2010 Nissan vehicles. I'm waiting for a tow truck at the office because I can drive home from work!

- Miami, FL, USA

problem #247

Oct 282015


  • 98,000 miles
2009 Nissan Altima would not start. Dealer said that it was an issue with the steering lock mechanism being stuck. Went to Nissan usa's website and saw that a lot of people were having this issue, and it has been talked about all over the internet. So many complaints about this very issue that it looks like Nissan extended a warranty covering the cost to fix the problem if this happened to your vehicle. The caveat, they only extended this by 6 years. Took it to the dealer and they told me it was the steering lock. I called Nissan, and they told me that I missed the coverage by two months. If there are so many people having this very issue, why isn't there a recall. It's a clear product defect.

- Beavercreek, OH, USA

problem #246

Oct 192015


  • 116,000 miles
There was a malfunction with the electronic steering column lock. I went to start my car and it would not start. The electronic steering column lock needed to be replaced.

- Florence, SC, USA

problem #245

Oct 192015


  • miles


The electronic steering column lock issue is prevalent in Nissan Altima model year 2009-2010 and Nissan has failed to take responsibility for this known issue. I experienced the issue conveniently outside of Nissan's "extended warranty claim period" and as a result I am stuck with a $1000 repair that I have taken full financial burden from. This was a known issue that should have been fixed by Nissan under a recall as this is in fact a safety concern because nobody should be concerned about their car not starting especially if they are in an uncomfortable situation and need to get to safety quickly. This issue occurred while the vehicle was stationary and that by no means excuses it from being a safety concern, because it is very much a safety concern.

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #244

Oct 312015


  • 36,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. When the contact attempted to start the vehicle, the push to start feature failed to start the engine without warning. The vehicle was towed to a dealer where it was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was aware of the failure. The failure mileage was approximately 36,000.

- Westfield, MA, USA

problem #243

Dec 232014


  • 113,593 miles
The steering lock unit cause the car not to start. There is a defect with the unit. I have contacted Nissan and have open two case files(case#16923576 & case# 19538658) only to be told that there is a recall for this issue but not for my VIN#. last night I was stranded at work in a dark parking lot for 4 hours because my car would not start and it is still in the parking lot. I called Nissan only to be told the same thing that there is no recall for my VIN#. Nissan knows that there is a problem with this steering device and should be recalling all of the cars. To fix this problem is around $1200 which I do not have. I am the consumer who purchased the vechicle and it is the responsibilty of manufactor to fix and repair there defects. I google my issue on you tube and found several videos with people having this same issue. To get my car started I have to remove the dash under the steering wheel and beat on the steering lock unit until it unlocks so that the car will start.I am 63 year old female and this is something I should not have to do to start my car. What if this locks while I am driving, will someone have to die before this problem is fixed. Enough is enough I am afraid to stop and turn my car off for fear it will not start. This has been an on going problem that began 12/23/2014 and continues every day.

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #242

Oct 222015


  • 86,000 miles


Car deesn't start, it is because of faulty steering lock system. Nissan extended warranty on this part but didn't do recall. It has happend to many people and yesterday I was stranded and my car wouldn't start. The repair is costly and Nissan is not paying for it.

- Billerica, MA, USA

problem #241

Oct 172015


  • 51,371 miles
My 2009 Nissan Altima 2.5 sl started without a problem. Stopped at the store, was in there for 10 minutes. Came out, my car wouldn't start. It would lock and unlock, lights worked, but wouldn't start. Attempted fixing for 2 days by driving up to the parking spot with a bunch of tips and tricks online but ended up towing my vehicle to Nissan dealership and spent $800+ to get it fixed. Refer below links for similar complaints, should have been a recall

- Ellicott City, MD, USA

problem #240

Oct 192015


  • 133,250 miles
Drove car to blaney elementary school in elgin SC. After leaving school got in car pushed brake and pushed start button and got nothing! yellow key light was on. Had vehicle towed to Nissan dealership. Was told today that the electronic steering column lock needs to be replaced and the cost is $1208!!!! googled the problem and see that thousands of other Nissan owners are having the same problem! Nissan needs to step up and issue a recall on this now! I will never buy another Nissan again!

- Columbia, SC, USA

problem #239

Sep 292015


  • 127,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the steering wheel seized and the key warning light illuminated. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was approximately 127,000.

- Cleveland, OH, USA

problem #238

Oct 132015


  • 99,300 miles


Turned off my car to get gas when I went to restart it wouldn't turn on. Had the car towed to dealership to get diagnostics completed as recommend from Nissan. I see this as a major safety issue as I'm a single woman stranded in a bad part of the city waiting helplessly for a tow truck. Then had to ride along with a stranger (tow truck driver) to the dealership. Results came back as steering lock unit needed to be replaced. Filed a case with Nissan to have this covered as they put out an extended warranty for this part. The case was denied because they said the warranty expired in March '15. I now have to pay $1008.21 that other customers didn't B/C their issue fell within the warranty time. It makes no sense that some customers are being covered while other are not B/C their issues happened earlier. Nissan has clearly recognized this part as an issue and are now not treating all customer's fairly. They said that I should have received something in the mail about this and it was all over their website. Well, I didn't get anything in the mail & I'm not sure if most people are looking into how their car is going to breakdown in the future so I was never aware of this until it happened.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #237

Oct 092015


  • 100,000 miles
Tried to start my car one day and it would not start. The car was located in front of my children's school. After getting a diagnosis from the dealer I was told it was the electronic steering column lock. I was later told that it was an extended warranty issued for the part because tons of people are having the problem but the warranty ran out June 29, 2015. How would I know that the part was defective if they do T contact me? now they want to charge me $1100

- Philadelphia, PA, USA

problem #236

Oct 112015


  • 112,000 miles
Beware to anybody who drives a 2009 or 2010 Nissan Altima. For no reason whatsoever, it will decide to not start and strand you - severe issue. It's escl (electronic steering column lock: Your car acts like it was broken into and / or stolen), which is clearly a manufacturing problem which they refuse to put on the recall list, even though it's listed on NHTSA's service bulletin (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). After researching this issue, there are thousands of complaints of same issue for consumers, some Nissan service centers paid for it under lifetime warranty of the car, some did not. Very inconsistent! the same item for murano was listed on the recall list, yet not Altima. Nissan extended the warranty on this specific issue to 6 years for Altima, conveniently mine expired 2 months ago (no notification of issue and / or extended warranty). It will cost me almost $1,000 to repair their defect (which I'm grudgingly paying as I need my car and they know it)! time for a class action stance (maybe morgan & morgan), so tired of the little guy being screwed by these big companies! I loved this car until Sunday, I now feel very unsure of its reliability, not to mention the money pit it may become...grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...

- Bonita Springs, FL, USA

problem #235

Sep 232015


  • 93,912 miles
My 2009 Nissan Altima had a defective electronic steering lock unit that rendered the vehicle unsafe and unreliable for my wife as driver and her passengers. She had to get stranded and have it towed before the third dealer we saw about the problem could diagnose the root cause. She was in an unsafe location three hours from where I was located when the part malfunctioned and feared for her safety. The service advisor said this model has had several issues in its history with this particular part to the point that Nissan extend the original warranty until April of 2015 - all according to a service advisor at the third dealership I went to. When malfunctioning, this unit renders the vehicle absolutely motionless and presents an immediate unsafe and hazardous situation to the driver and all passengers. The dealer suggested I contact Nissan Consumer Affairs which I did and spoke with a representative in franklin, Tennessee, who denied my request for reimbursement of the cost of the part. I did not request total reimbursement and thought we could work this out in good faith, but to no avail and my gesture was dismissed. Nissan knows this part is defective and even extended the original warranty. According to the service advisor, there have been problems with this part and it should be recalled nationwide on all applicable vehicles. This may be the reason why Nissan extended the original warranty on this particular part because they knew it was defective and problematic. I believe that Nissan should replace the part on the Altima models affected at no charge to the owner because they know and are aware that the component part is has a history of being defective, unsafe, and unreliable.

- Round Rock, TX, USA

problem #234

Oct 052015


  • 70,300 miles
Car was parked for 8 hours, went to start and nothing would happen, key light on dash was light. Steering wheel was not locked. Battery ok, fob working opening door locks.

- West Nyack, NY, USA

problem #233

Oct 022015


  • 145,000 miles
Without warning the vehicle would not start after being driven an hour prior to the malfunction. The key fob indicator light comes on but the car will not start or respond to the start button. The key fob unlocks/locks the car. Upon researching the issue online, I discovered that the issue is with the electronic steering control lock that keeps the car from being stolen or started without the key fob. This is, from what I discovered, a known issue with Nissan and in my view a major safety issue. Nissan has made this a warranty extension instead of a safety recall for reasons unknown. With no way to tell when and if a steering lock will fail it is a game of chance that many Nissan owners are losing. If you are like me, and purchased your car used, it is safe to say that you will not know about the issue until its already too late. On top of that, since it is a warranty it has an expiration date. Which means that if you are unfortunate enough to no know about this and it fails there is a good chance that Nissan will not fix it for free.

- Fayetteville, GA, USA

problem #232

Aug 232015


  • 60,000 miles
Steering lock assembly failure left us completely stranded. We returned to our car and the start button did nothing. After researching the problem, I was able to return with a hammer and after striking the interlock several times, it started working. The only permanent repair for this is to pay the dealer $1,000 to replace the module. This is a safety issue because it could leave my wife stranded randomly at anytime or any place that she drives the car. Nissan has extended the warranty, but this failed 6 months after it expired... this should be a recall

- Snohomish, WA, USA

problem #231

Aug 262015


  • 140,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the keyless ignition failed to start after numerous attempts. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the ignition switch would need to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 140,000.

- Randelman, NC, USA

problem #230

Aug 012015


  • 130,000 miles
The anti-theft light is on and the car is not recognizing the key. Now I can't start the car and it was parked somewhere not as safe as should be. There are plenty of complaints on this issue with no recall. The problem lies in the steering lock control unit. They are charging me over a thousand dollars to fix!

- Brighton, CO, USA

problem #229

Aug 032015


  • 133,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the steering lock mechanism failed and the driver was unable to start the engine. The contact indicated that the failure had occurred multiple times. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic who indicated that the steering lock mechanism would need to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 133,000.

- Belleview , FL, USA

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