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


fairly significant
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
11,048 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 seat belts / air bags problems

seat belts / air bags problem

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2009 Nissan Altima Owner Comments

problem #8

Oct 132010


  • 30,982 miles


The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. When the contact was seated in the front passenger seat the side air bag activated. The contact took the vehicle to the dealer to have the seat bottom and sensor replaced and that did not remedy the issue. The contact called the manufacturer and was advised that she does not weigh enough to activate the air bag and she was seated improperly. The contact stated that she weighs 140 pounds and the passenger side air bag should not activate. The contact fears that if she were involved in a crash that the passenger side air bag would not deploy. The failure mileage was 30,982.

- Queen Creek, AZ, USA

problem #7

Oct 042010


  • 22,000 miles
Passenger airbag (disabled) light turns on even when a passenger is seated (over 150 pounds).

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #6

Sep 252010


  • 10,000 miles
Passenger air bag disabled light comes on intermittently with an adult in the passenger seat exposing the passenger to the possibility of no air bag deployment in a collision. Dealer refuses to repair the problem as he cannot recreate the problem. I have advised him that I have video of the problem and he won't look at it. On 7/28/2010 I notified Nissan, cert. Mail return receipt and gotten an case number [xxx]. the auto has 11,200 miles and this problem was originally reported to Nissan 7/28/2010. Information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Northport, NY, USA

problem #5

May 012010


  • 19,532 miles


I own a 2009 Nissan Altima. Almost always when the passenger rides, the airbag off light turns on, the passenger is not protected. I went to the dealer, mossy Nissan in oceanside, and the conclusion is that all Nissan Altima have this problem -- this model car needs to be recalled so that sensitive enough sensors are installed to protect passengers - the female adult passenger is 110 lbs and not protected, that's a risk Nissan corporation doesn't seem to care about.

- Carlsbad, CA, USA

problem #4

Nov 112009


  • miles
My husband and I purchased a Nissan Altima 2009 sometime around October 2009. We immediately had problems with the "airbag turned off " light coming on even though I was sitting on the seat correctly and I weigh around 135 pounds which is more than enough weight to ensure that the airbag off light didn't turn on. I took my car to the dealership and even though I had video on my cell phone showing the problem occurring, I was asked to go on a ride around to see if the situation would repeat itself. Because the light comes on randomly, and repeatedly, during that 10 minute ride it did not turn on. Needless to say, after much insisting, Nissan went ahead and replaced the sensor on the seat. This resulted in no change to the problem and I ride half the time with the "airbag turned off" light constantly on. I am afraid that if I ever get involved in an accident, the airbag will fail to deploy and it will result in my having a serious injury or death. I have not personally spoken to Nissan since the sensor was replaced mainly because on the initial contact of the problem, they didn't seem to believe me even though I had video proof. I did want to make sure that this problem was reported just in case others are having the same problem as me.

- Corpus Christi, TX, USA

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problem #3

May 262009


  • 1,650 miles
I have a 2009 Nissan Altima where the passenger side airbags are being disabled when a passenger sits in the car. A light on the dashboard shows that the airbags are turned off. This has happened to different passengers, of a variety of weight and size. None of the passengers have been small children. The lightest passenger was 110 pounds and the heaviest was 188 pounds. This has occurred more than 6 times. I have taken this to a Nissan dealer twice and they are not able to fix the problem. I have found out that other Nissan owners are having the same issue. I do have video proof that the airbags are turned off when a passenger is in the seat. I am horrified that Nissan will not authorize a replacement of the air bag sensors. Can you please help me? I do not want anyone to die because of this factory defect.

- Laguna Niguel, CA, USA

problem #2

Jan 312009


  • 1,717 miles
Traveling 65 mph on the freeway, my daughter noticed her mom's "passenger airbag off" light was on. This happened before, Nissan-usa checked the system at mossy Nissan and stated the system is working properly. Nissan-usa did not use weights to check the weight sensor, they drove around with a 125 lb passenger and concluded the airbag system is ok. Nissan countered my safety suggestions below stating it would be very difficult to improve the airbag system due to NHTSA, and they would also need to crash test the car. Mossy Nissan is knew my wife is ~117 lbs and did not disclose to me the airbag safety deficiency prior to the sale. Mossy Nissan stated that because this system passed the NHTSA, they are not liable for anything. I counter that based on Nissan's position, I am holding Nissan corporation, mossy Nissan, and NHTSA liable for any injuries which result from injury from an accident and also pain and suffering and any additional distress, especially if the airbag or other safety system fails. The Nissan airbag system can lead to a fatality even with an adult 150+ lbs. Just prior to an accident, the drive may become rough and the passenger can shift around. For a 150+ lb adult to defeat the airbag system, momentarily lift 1/2 your weight off the seat, as can occur due to movement just prior to an accident. The passenger airbag off light will turn on. Immediately drop your weight back into the seat, the passenger airbag system will remain off for 10 seconds, the passenger airbag won't deploy in the crash. NHTSA should require Nissan to recall this vehicle and lower the weight sensor to 80 lbs - and also program the flash memory so that the once the seatbelt is fastened, the passenger weight is determined and doesn't change (a passenger doesn't lose 40 lbs just because the road is bumpy) - sensors should mainly determine passenger position, not weight. A better system would have weight sensors in the back seat floor.

- Carlsbad, CA, USA

problem #1

Nov 262008

Altima 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 2,500 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the passenger side air bag indicator illuminates whenever a light weight passenger is seated in the front seat. The manufacturer was notified and stated that anyone over 110 lbs. Was meant to sit in the back seat of the vehicle and the air bag indicator was performing normally. The failure mileage was 2,500. Updated 02/24/09. Updated 02/24/09.

- Carle Place, NY, USA

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