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 1 of 4)

problem #74

Jan 112016


  • 50,000 miles


My vehicle was stopped roadside and would not start due to a faulty electronic steering column lock which is apparently an anti theft device. I was stuck in dangerously cold weather with nobody around and the vehicle would not start. The company issued a limited warranty in which I could not get the part fixed unless it was already broken. My car then proceeded to have the escl part break less than six months after the "extended warranty". this is a dangerous issue and I feel I should be compensated for the $1000 part replacement.

- Irving, TX, USA

problem #73

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 #72

Dec 032016


  • 110,000 miles
The steering lock broke while I was driving straight in a parking lot, forcing the engine to shut off. I have 10 month old twin daughters and this could have resulted in a very serious car accident if the vehicle was on a main road or highway and going at a faster speed. Supposedly this is a well-known issue with 2009 Nissan Altima's (and other year models as well). Instead of a recall, Nissan extended the warranty on this part by one year. I called Nissan and they told me that the extended warranty expired in August 2015, so I will have to pay for this out of pocket. The estimated cost is between $1,100 and $1,300. The car doesn't start at all, and apparently only Nissan dealers can fix it. This is very worrisome that Nissan acknowledged this as a problem, but did not consider the safety of its customers and issue a recall.

- Easton, MA, USA

problem #71

Dec 012016


  • miles


I got in my car the other day to run to the store and the cars push button ignition would not start the car, the llght on the dash suggests that the steering wheel is not locked, but it is locked. Vehicle is parked in my driveway

- Franklin, LA, USA

problem #70

Nov 092016


  • 76,000 miles
My car would not start. Apparently there was a recall on this problem - only if the car was affected - and it happened to my car after the warranty on the recall expired. I am the 2nd owner and was never notified of the recall despite the fact I purchased the car from a dealer. The Nissan customer service refused to even pay for the part - which I could not purchase or get repaired elsewhere. It was very expensive. I have owned many other cars and have had car manufacturers stand by their products and right was was wrong. Not in this case. Nissan should have at least paid for the part as there was no other place to make the repair. I spoke to several people and went as far up the ladder as possible and was finally told they would not assist with the cost in any way. This is not an acceptable way to run a business and stand by a product. I had a 12 year old car from Lexus replace a cracked dashboard for free! the car is used by my son, a college student, who needs it for transportation and safety while away at school. I was very upset at the way I was treated and how my complaints were not addressed in any way.

- Alpharetta, GA, USA

problem #69

Nov 012016


  • 135,000 miles
Electronic steering column lock failure. Leaves car disabled where ever you are. Car will not start. Must be towed. Nissan had an earlier recall but never published it to 2009 Altima owners.

- Auburn, MA, USA

problem #68

Oct 262016


  • 85,000 miles


My electronic steering column lock has malfunctioned for the second time. This malfunction does not allow the car to recognize the key fob, preventing ignition. I was stranded in a remote part of a forest preserve and because my car would not start I had to hike out 6 miles until I got cell phone coverage and could call for help. This problem happened to me previously in 2011. At that point Nissan had covered this repair as part of a lifetime extended warranty on the electronic steering column lock, but they decided in January 2016 to cancel this warranty.

- Lake Bluff, IL, USA

problem #67

Oct 122015


  • 25,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. While driving various speeds, the contact heard a grinding noise. There were no warning indicators illuminated. Shortly after, the contact drove over a pothole, which flattened the driver's side tire. The vehicle was towed to the contact's home. The contact stated that after a spare was installed on the vehicle, the noise grew louder. The contact had the vehicle towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the passenger side alloy wheel, rear driver side alloy wheel, LK2 engine cradle 2.5, both top control arms and knuckles needed to be replaced. The insurance company declared the vehicle destroyed. The failure mileage was 25,000.

- Mariette, GA, USA

problem #66

Sep 152016


  • 68,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. While the vehicle was stationary, the steering wheel locked and the vehicle lost power. The contact stated that the vehicle would not start when prompted. The vehicle was towed to a dealer. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the issue. The failure mileage was 68,000.

- Hollywood, FL, USA

problem #65

Sep 092016


  • 120,000 miles
After routine drive, car "froze-up" door would not open, car would not start, wheel did not turn, car would not start, car dead. After some research found many complaints about this, it has something to do with "steering / engine locking-up" and can happen anywhere at anytime without any warning. Nissan at one point had extended the warranty on this indefinitely, then arbitrarily ended it in mid 2015. This is incredibly dangerous....can leave you stranded anywhere!!!

- Miami, FL, USA

problem #64

Aug 052016


  • 90,000 miles


The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. While driving approximately 35 mph, the vehicle became difficult to control. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic who diagnosed that the strut insulator was cracked, which caused the vehicle to be unstable. The mechanic advised that there was a recall, but the manufacturer stated that the VIN was not included. The failure mileage was 90,000. The VIN was not provided.

- Stratford, OK, USA

problem #63

Mar 152016

Altima 4-cyl

  • 210,000 miles
My 2009 Nissan Altima VIN number [xxx] has many safety issues that are not being reported with my VIN number. The struts, steering lock box{which I paid $900 to repair], ABS speed control sensor, engine oil coolant and most of all the cvt transmission have went out on my car and Nissan will not help me repair. So I am forced to attempt this last try before joining a class action law suit. I have only had the car 2 years and now I am out $9000 and the repairs are more than the car is worth. It would take too long to give detail about all the events so I pray someone at Nissan is decent enough to stand behind their product and make this right I am a single mom of three and ride less. I have contacted att. General [xxx] and BBB. My car is at [xxx] my number is [xxx] my name is [xxx] I have opened 5 cases and been denied. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Greenville, MS, USA

problem #62

Jul 302016


  • 130,000 miles
First problem is stationary while parked. Car was bumped by another while parked and steering column locked up. It happened again without being bumped for unknown reason. Had to tow to garage to unlock. Has happened twice now. Expensive to fix. Second problem is while in motion on highways. On hot day, during longer trips where uphill climbing is present, the engine starts to lose power going up hill and manual states it is a built in safety feature to protect engine however this is a big safety hazard because you have to pull over and let the car cool down for a while before driving again. This has now happened to my family 3 times.

- Alpine, CA, USA

problem #61

Jul 112016


  • 107,000 miles
On July 11th I went to the store to pick up some items. When I left the store to get in my car, it would not start. I drive a two door Nissan Altima coupe 2009. The steering lock had malfunctioned leaving me stranded in a parking lot while it was 95 degrees outside. I had a lock smith come and use his computer on my vehicle, unfortunately my car is in hijack mode and my engine will not allow his computer to talk to it. Only Nissan has a computer that can bypass this and replace my steering lock. With that, Nissan knows the 2009 model has a defective steering lock but has yet to recall it. There are thousands of people with this model and year who have had this same issue. Nissan also went as far as replacing the part but with a different part # as they know the part # in the 2009's are defective. The part # they are now replacing it with is the part they put in the 2013 Nissan Altima's. Nissan says it's going to cost me over $1200 to get this fixed in my car. I refuse to pay for a problem that is defective in my vehicle and is known by the company itself. I am now carless as I don't have that kind of money to fix this problem. I am appalled that Nissan would knowingly not recall the part in the 2009 Nissan Altima's. it poses a risk to people's safety as it can happen anytime and anywhere!

- Tulsa, OK, USA

problem #60

Jul 012016


  • 92,000 miles
2009 Nissan Altima will not start they said it was the steering lock control unit that needs replaced. $1,100. Nissan knew of the issue and extended the warranty only until 2015. If there was an issue why was I never told about it. I would have had them replace it a long time ago. We should have been told and they should cover the cost!

- Naperville, IL, USA

problem #59

Jun 102016


  • 134,000 miles
My 2009 Nissan Altima had a defective steering lock that caused me to be stranded alone late at night on June 10, 2016 - not able to start my car. My car had to be towed to a dealer the next day. This is a very dangerous situation to be in because I had no warning that this was going to happen and this time it was not too cold. I was able to use my cellphone to call a friend to help. I had to get a ride back to my car the next day and wait for a tow truck. I was without my vehicle for 3 days waiting for it to be serviced. This cost me $900 to fix. This is a defective part in the 2009 Nissan Altima and there is no way to know if it will happen again and should be covered by a recall for the life of the car.

- East Providence, RI, USA

problem #58

Jun 082016


  • miles
Car would not start, towed to dealership, diagnosed as failed steering lock mechanism, a known issue on the 2009 Nissan Altima that Nissan did not recall. The car was not in motion at the time, had difficulty getting it towed since even in neutral the steering was locked down.

- Federal Heights, CO, USA

problem #57

May 172016


  • miles
Not too long ago my car would not start in several ocassions I had my children with me ages 4 & 7 in the heat stranded because my car would not recognize my key... I have contacted Nissan consumers affairs at one point their was a recall but has expire in its June 2016 and my car just started doing this I made 1yr with my pre owned car still makin payments not once was I notified about this recall..I just felt scared and this vehicle is not safe for me and my could leave us stranded any time and its June I cannot risk it in this heat.... this is a safety issue... Nissan did state to me that their was a recall and their sorry but it has expired and im responsible for the part... this is a manufacture issue they knew their vechicles had a safety issue when they made them I believe they are responsible for this costly matter... I am a single mom of 2 still making payments on a car that wont unlock and read my key I need help please someone..... this part is $680+ labor=$1150!!!! I believe Nissan is responsible for this issue...

- Vineland, NJ, USA

problem #56

May 292016


  • 146,000 miles
Steering lock release malfunction indicator on; can't start car. It's sitting like a bump in my driveway. Thanks goodness it didn't leave me stranded!! but now I'm carless!!

- Bristow, OK, USA

problem #55

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

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