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:
3 / 2
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
68,727 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 engine problems

engine problem

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2009 Nissan Altima Owner Comments (Page 4 of 4)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #14

Oct 142013


  • 68,800 miles


2009 Nissan Altima coupe, SE. While making turns (without stopping), the car stalls in the middle of the turn and the steering locks up. The most recent time was October 14, 2013, and while making a right hand turn from a busy street and onto a busy street, the vehicle stalled which almost caused an accident due to another car making a left hand turn. Nissan has a current recall on several models regarding this happening due to a faulty accelerator sensor, however this vehicle (make, model, year) are not in the recall, and I suspect it should be. Could be a very dangerous situation. This has happened to me at least 10 times.

- Canton, OH, USA

problem #13

May 102013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 85,000 miles
This part is cracked/broken just like all the other Nissan Altima exhaust manifolds. Had it happened six months earlier it would be covered under warranty. Six months, 9000 miles"?? its a $18000 car. A vital emissions part made of steel cracked and they wont fix it" there is a recall, ntb12-092 in effect for this car but according to Nissan my car doesn't fit the parameters because of the clearly has the exact same problem as the other cars, a defective emissions part and should be included in this safety recall.

- Citrus Heights, CA, USA

problem #12

Jul 172013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 30,837 miles
While driving down route 1 in norwood, MA. My dashboard panel went dark and my engine shut off. I was driving approximately 40 mph. I was able to coast to a stop, put the car in park and restart the engine. The engine did not sputter, or present any issue prior to the shut down. I took the car to the dealer and they said there was nothing wrong with the car. This leaves me feeling very uncomfortable as with no root cause identified it could happen again in a heavier traffic situation. Besides my own safety, I am concerned for other Altima owners.

- Norwood, MA, USA

problem #11

Apr 262013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 57,000 miles


Driving down the road when the car started to stutter pulling over to the side of the highway the car begin to smoke under the hood. I came to a complete stop and got out the car. Flames begin to come from under the hood. After the fire was put out we spoke to the fire marshall ([xxx]) who stated the fire started from mid engine line. And more than likely the car was on fire while I was driving. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Lakeland, FL, USA

problem #10

Jan 142013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 70,297 miles
I went to shop-rite at 6 am to purchase lunch meat for my daughters school lunch. When I went to start the car it would not start. I thought it was the battery so I read the car manual on how to jump a car battery. In the car manual on page 0-12, the warning /indicator lights, page.I saw a picture of the warning indicator that was on my dash board and it had a page number 2-26. On the page it read" it is a security indicator light, to call the dealership" the car would not start with the push button.the car does not have a back up key entry either. So I was stranded at the supermarket.I had to call a tow truck in order for me to get home. I had the company who towed the car and who has been servicing our family cars for years call Nissan to see how Nissan can fix the car. Nissan advised that this part is not under warranty or under any recall and that there is nothing that they can do. They said it will cause me an estimated $3000 dollars to get the car fixed. Mind you the car is only 3 1/2 years old and I am still making car payments. [xxx] who towed and fixed the car doubled checked for me to see if this part was under a Nissan recall or if this part is under warranty, to my surprise it is not.I can't believe that a push button car does not have a back up to start a car when the push button malfunction. This does not make any sense. I can not believe that there is no alternate way of starting a car when a push button does not work. Thank goodness that this happened close to home and not while I was out with my daughters. How can a car be built with out any back up plan. Better yet how can this happen to a 3 year old car with only 70297 miles. Also my tires have been recalled and the engine was recalled and lastly my passenger air bag goes on when it wants to. I am paying so much money for a lemon and no one can help me. I will never buy a Nissan again. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Colonia , NJ, USA

problem #9

Apr 232013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 46,711 miles
After arriving home, I parked my car and went into the house. When I attempted to re-enter my car approximately 1 hour later, I pressed the brake and pushed the start button as I have done since purchasing my car approx. 4 months ago. The car would not start. The push brake sign was still illuminated and the steering wheel would not move. The brake was very hard. I left the car alone and said I would try again in the morning. I went to my vehicle at about 8:30am in the morning and problem occurred again; however, the engine finally started about 5 minutes later. I drove the car to the dealership and they diagnosed the issue to be a faulty break switch. Since the car was no longer under warranty (36 months/ 36000 miles) I had to pay $173 to fix this issue which would have been more if I had not complained that the dealership was charging 2 hours labor and diagnosis for a 1 hour job. After researching the issue online I have found several other owners experiencing the same issue with their 2009 Nissan Altima. Nissan needs to address this issue as I could have been stranded in a remote location or overnight.

- Riverdale , GA, USA

problem #8

Mar 132013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 63,000 miles


On 3/13/2013 I drove my vehicle to work at approximately 8:55am and parked everything in car was fully operational and functioned properly. At 6:30pm I approached my vehicle unlocked the door using my key fob, entered the vehicle and proceeded to press the ignition button and nothing happens. After switching on the headlights and noticing no power issues I noticed a flashing indicator light in the dash that said no key present. After being the only car left in the dark secluded parking lot I started off on a journey to purchase a battery for the key fob and it did not solve the phenomenon. I had the vehicle towed to the nearest dealership which is about 60 miles away from my home. The dealer after investigating for a matter of minutes were quickly able to diagnose the problem which was a steering lock module that was very costly. Upon further research, I found that there are a great number of Altima's and other Nissan vehicle that are infected with the same defective steering lock devices that causes you to randomly be stranded in secluded areas without prior notice. This I find highly unethical for Nissan to be totally aware of such defective equipment and not have any concern for the welfare of it's customers nor their children. Im hoping that the NHTSA can protect consumers from bullies like Nissan and help us get the recall we deserve. All we want is a reliable product that can perform the way it was intended to perform. So let's do what is necessary to hold Nissan up to the american standard of putting out quality reliable products and not ripping off consumers.

- Powder Springs, GA, USA

problem #7

Jan 212013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 32,000 miles
Car would not start / computer lock / car had to be towed.

- Saddle Brook, NJ, USA

problem #6

Jan 272013


  • miles
Attempted to start car with "push to start" ignition. Car sensed key, but I was unable to start ignition although I stepped on brake while pressing button. Lights work in car. Steering wheel is locked. Car starts with autostart using fob key, but when tries to put car in drive it shuts off. Attempted to put key in slot and push "start" button, but that attempt was also unsuccessful. Previously car was working fine.

- Farmingdale, NY, USA

problem #5

Dec 272012

Altima 4-cyl

  • 80,000 miles
[xxx], atlanta, Georgia my daughter's 2009 Nissan Altima did the same thing. She came over for a visit and upon leaving her car would not crank. My husband and I did all of the troubleshooting according to the manual to no avail. I called the dealership where she purchased the vehicle and he immediately knew what the problem was. He wanted to sell here another Altima, because Nissan knew this was an issue, so they stopped putting this mechanism on the 2012 models. Nissan who has a good standing and have millions of cars on the road should do right by consumers who purchased their vehicles and had this problem. I am going to send this complaint site to my local news station and try to put some fire under Nissan. This is ridiculous and other consumers need to be aware of this problem. The repair cost of our Nissan Altima was $919. I see several differences in the repair cost too. We cannot sit by and let consumers continue to be charged substantial amount of money for repair cost when Nissan know there is a problem with the steering lock mechanism. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Stockbridge, GA, USA

problem #4

Dec 162012

Altima 4-cyl

  • 103,000 miles


Our Altima has failed to recognize our intelligent keys and will not start. The doors will lock and unlock. The alarm will sound and the trunk will open but the car will not start. I'm being told this is due to a faulty steering lock mechanism that has been recalled in some Nissan models but not the Altima. The part itself is $500 and the labor will take it to almost $1000 or more. This is completely absurd. What would happen if this happened to my wife and infant daughter on the wrong side of town. What if this part had failed when we were in the mountains or off the beaten path. If a part is going to be recalled in one model, it needs to be recalled in all models. This is extremely unsafe and to know that Nissan is aware of this issue is unacceptable. We also own a murano that uses an actual key to start --- I'm considering replacing both after learning about this. I hope someone will respond to this.

- Knoxville, TN, USA

problem #3

Dec 112012

Altima 6-cyl

  • 33,212 miles
After our first real freeze of the winter (low 20's), the car was locked up for no reason. Pressing the push button ignition, inserting the fob into the key holder, nothing will start the car. The brake pedal is heavy, no lights comes up on the instrument panel and the steering wheel is totally locked out. Had to get the Altima towed into a local dealership and come to find out it's a steering wheel lock out control unit that needs to be replaced. Car just came off the 36month warranty in September'12 and I am now turning in the 39month lease and now a $1K repair. Thanks Nissan... also, had the Nissan original battery replaced twice! original battery only has an 18month prorated warranty! not sure if it all relates somehow. This steering wheel lock control should be a manufacturer's responsibility to keep it for the life of the car.

- Plano, TX, USA

problem #2

Nov 112012


  • miles
Car will not start. The ikey light and the "red key" security light come on. The ikey opens the door locks, trunk. Holding the unlock key down resulted in the windows rolling down. Could not get the widows to go back up. Disconnecting the battery for 10 minutes, replacing the battery in the key fob, using either key did not work. Towed car to the dealer for diagnostics.

- Clarksville, MD, USA

problem #1

May 192012


  • 110,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that while driving approximately 25 mph, the engine stalled without warning. The engine failed to restart after several attempts. The vehicle was towed to an authorized dealer, who stated that the steering column sensor was faulty. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer had been notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 110,000. The VIN was unavailable.

- Alexandria, LA, USA

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