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 1 of 20)

problem #388

Jan 172017


  • miles


I was at a gas station in a unsafe area (high crime) and my car would not start back up. My car went into "lock mode", after research the steering lock can malfunction on the 2009 Nissan Altima. Looks like the warranty used to be 8 years and it was changed to 6 years. This would have been the 8th year for me. I was terrified being stuck with no ride. It took me an hour to find someone to pick me up. I had to leave the car overnight. If this is a common issue why was the warranty shortened" or why is there not a lifetime warranty on this part" being stranded for an issue that is the manufacturers fault is unacceptable. I have never been more scared in my life than I was last night. I sat in my car waiting for a tow. I am a female and I had multiple men approach my car. Terrified. Unsafe. This problem could have been much much worse but it needs to be addressed and under warranty.

- Eustis, FL, USA

problem #387

Jan 132017


  • 108,000 miles
Owner of a 09 Nissan Altima 2.5 S. my whole family got stuck with the car that didnt start at all, there's a key logo in the dash panel showing so I went to find some solutions online and found that im lost because it wont start again until fix by a dealer. No fun at all because I found that I might have to pay out of my pocket and this been a old problem that I never was mentioned by my service dealer. Nissan needs to do something about it.

- Capitol Heights, MD, USA

problem #386

Jan 112017


  • 91,000 miles
Steering lock defective, known problem by Nissan since 2009, refused to recall the cars involved. I just spent $923 to fix my '09 with 91K miles on it. Car left me stranded in a safe spot, fortunately. After I parked, walked away for a few minutes, tried to restart, nothiing but the two key lights in the dash, horn, overhead lights and alarm. Steering wheel would not lock. This needs to be an active recall and owners reimbursed for the work involved!!!

- Oklahoma City, OK, USA

problem #385

Jan 072017


  • 49,150 miles


The intelligent key system failed rendering the car completely inoperable. I drove the car which operated perfectly with no warning lights, turned it off and next time I got into the car to start it and drive away. The intelligent key (pushbutton start) did not recognize that the key was in the car so the car would not start. The steering wheel was locked so could not be steered, could not be pushed due to the car being locked in park. No accessories functioned inside the car. The remote functions on the key fob all worked, door locks, trunk release, panic button, but the ignition system was a complete fail. There is no bypass for the average consumer. While it is certainly inconvenient, it could also be dangerous if the car was to have been shut off in a remote area, in sever cold or beside a busy highway. The vehicle was stationary point of failure, parked on a side street. I was fortunate that I was at a relatives home as the temperature was -3 with a wind chill of -15. Nissan realized that the steering lock mechanism was faulty and originally offered a free replacement for this part which is estimated to cost between $500-$900, but from what I have read they have rescinded that offer as of January of 2016.

- Lakeville, MN, USA

problem #384

Dec 142016


  • 118,000 miles
The steering lock mechanism failed suddenly. I drove to the grocery store and parked in the parking lot. When I got back in my car to leave, the car didn't start. It didn't recognize the key fob and did not allow me to use the override system. The steering lock warning light came on. I had it towed to the Nissan dealership service center. The Nissan dealership service team informed me the steering lock mechanism had failed. After doing research, I found this is an ongoing problem with this make and model. Nissan extended the warranty for this part but it had expired. This is an ongoing issue with this year, make and model and Nissan should be forced to recall this part and reimburse people who had to have it repaired after the extended warranty expired.

- Portland, OR, USA

problem #383

Jan 022017


  • 98,000 miles
We have a defects in the electronic steering column lock (escl) which has disable the push-button ignition on Nissan Altima 2009 sl. It can happened anytime which put a persons life in danger if you get stuck on or to F the road. Based on my research I have read numerous cases where very same situation had caused by faulty electronic steering column lock (escl). The only option we have right now to get your car towed to deal ship and pay well over $1100. Even though this Nissan fault for choosing to use the faulty part. This is absolutely unfair on their part. Please advice us as what can we do to have Nissan to accept the responsibility and replace this faulty part replaced.

- Irving, TX, USA

problem #382

Dec 292016


  • 80,000 miles


Nissan Altima 2009 has a defective steering lock system. Suddenly this evening after work when I get back to the car, it just did not start. This is a dangerous situation if it would have happened any remote place and I would have been stranded. I see there have been several people complained about this on the internet but Nissan has not recalled this car. Please investigate and take appropriate steps. They should either replace the defective part of just replace the car.

- Wesley Chapel, FL, USA

problem #381

Dec 262016


  • 0 miles
Takata recall, defect steering lock unit, unable to start engine! after parked Nissan 2009 Altima at a shopping mall, "nokey" light is on, car can be lock and unlock through remote control key, but no display information visible at the dash board, wheel is locked and unable to switch gear. Nothing can be done to the car!

- Agoura Hills, CA, USA

problem #380

Dec 262016


  • miles
Electronic steering column lock (escl); this was a covered warranty replacement until January of this year. I was not aware of any recall or that this might have even been an issue. I was parked out near a lake and had to call my friends to pick me up and have my car towed. This is not a small issue, if someone was unable to start their car in a freezing situation they could die. Or if I was needing to get a family member to the hospital I would be unable to.

- Portland, OR, USA

problem #379

Dec 132016


  • 64,000 miles
Steering wheel lock /ignition, car not able to start using key fob, total steering and brake lock. Got off work and could not start car, was running fine prior to work 7am

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #378

Dec 172016


  • miles


The power lock steering keeps on locking the start system and car can`T start.

- Guntersville, AL, USA

problem #377

Dec 082016


  • 60,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle would not start and the intelligent key warning sensor illuminated. The vehicle was towed to a dealer where it was diagnosed that the ignition lock/smart key lock needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer informed the contact that the extended warranty expired. The failure mileage was 60,000.

- Wantagh, NY, USA

problem #376

Dec 152016


  • 60,000 miles
3 times in the last 2 weeks my wife has been stranded in sub freezing temperature due to the electronic steering column lock (escl) not unlocking. Each time the car has been stopped and does not restart. Having read multiple reports Nissan extended the warranty on the part and even removed it from 2010 models however I am out of luck since the extended warranty has expired. This defective part should be part of a national recall and consumers should be reimbursed for fixes and towing cost. Currently Nissan will not fix the issue until it is occurring which means you have to wait to be stranded some where and have it towed to a Nissan dealership to be fixed which is absolutely insane. I am lucky that me and my wife are handy and have been able to restart the card by literally hammering on the escl until it unlocked. If we had kids or were in the middle of an emergency this would be gathering national news attention on how Nissan knew about a defective piece and (even replacing it in the next years model). I would appreciate anyone's help if bringing awareness of Nissan's negligence.

- Reston, VA, USA

problem #375

Dec 092016


  • 45,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle failed to start and the steering wheel locked. There were no warning indicators illuminated. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the steering column had to be replaced and reprogrammed. The manufacturer was notified. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 45,000.

- Butler, PA, USA

problem #374

Dec 132016


  • miles
My car will not start this is the 3rd time this has happens in 2012 they changed my car battery and in 2013 it wouldn't start after work and I towed it to the dealership and they changed the steering and break lock mechanism and now 2016 my car won't start and it is the electronic steering column lock and now there is no warranty, so it is costing me about $900 to 1,000 to fix a problem that should not be happening or that should have a life time warranty.

- Elgin, IL, USA

problem #373

Dec 122016


  • miles
Instrument panel does not light up and car will not start, it doesn't crank, not even a click form the starter, the steering wheel does not lock. Seems to be the electronic steering column lock (escl) as I googled for similar complaints of other owners. Nissan extended the warranty to 6 years on this issue, however cause they know this is a safety issue with this car. They should extend the warranty for a well known defect indefinitely. If this happens in the middle of nowhere is a very serious life and death issue.

- Vienna, VA, USA

problem #372

Dec 112016


  • 100,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. While attempting to start the vehicle, the intelligent key malfunction indicator illuminated and the engine would not start. The cause of the failure was not diagnosed. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified. The failure mileage was 100,000.

- Fairview, NM, USA

problem #371

Dec 112016


  • miles
I drove to work everything was fine went out on break to start my car and can't do anything windows are lowered and it started to rain the steering lock has went out and leaves you know way of doing anything with the car now I have to miss work to get vehicle put in to a dealership I see many others with the same problems

- Palmyra, MO, USA

problem #370

Dec 092016


  • 114,000 miles
Went to work car, will not start when I went to leave work. Standard for a couple of hours. No warning it was going bad.

- Batavia, OH, USA

problem #369

Dec 032016


  • miles
When leaving to go home from an event for my kids, the car would not and could not start. The key lock symbol (red) and lock symbol (yellow) were lit on the dashboard. I did some research and found that the it was the steering column lock which many has been complaining about. This should be considered a recall with all the problems.

- Wyoming, MI, USA

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