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:
4 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
68,497 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 steering problems

steering problem

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2009 Nissan Altima Owner Comments (Page 12 of 36)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #484

Feb 012016


  • 78,479 miles


The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. While driving home at approximately 30 mph, the vehicle stalled and shut down. The check engine light illuminated. The vehicle restarted and was taken to a local dealer where it was diagnosed that the steering column lock fractured. The component was recalled and repaired previously; therefore, the manufacturer was not responsible for the repairs. The dealer also diagnosed that the transmission needed to be replaced. The manufacture was made aware of the failure, but did not offer assistance. The failure mileage was 78,479.

- Edison, NJ, USA

problem #483

Apr 232016


  • 75,000 miles
The escl wheel lock will not release to let the vehicle start

- Baltimore, MD, USA

problem #482

Mar 152016


  • miles
Takada I got stranded on my work my car wouldn't turn on at all had to get it towed home. After I took it to the dealer auto service came to find out its the steering lock assembly I'm being charged $975 dollars to get it fix came to find out alot of people ware complaining of this problem theresolution need to be a recall for this parts.

- Hesperia, CA, USA

problem #481

Apr 172016


  • 174,000 miles


Car won't start. It's stuck in lock position.

- Washington, LA, USA

problem #480

Apr 182016


  • 178,000 miles
Car will not start or turn on accessories. Steering lock mechanism failed. I was unable to do anything with the car until aaa can to tow it to the deal.

- Basom, NY, USA

problem #479

Apr 152016


  • 110,000 miles
Steering lock mechanism failed leaving the car completely disabled and unable to move at all. Nissan has know about this being a very chronic problem with these cars but did not recall the part. The extended warrantee ended March 31 2015 and it should have been indefinitely because Nissan knows these are faulty and hasn't communicated to owners about it as far as I know.

- Gleneden Beach, OR, USA

problem #478

Apr 152016


  • miles


I was about to start my car at a gas station the vehicle was stationary and my car would not start leaving me stranded it is a known issue with Nissan and it was diagnosed as a steering lock control unit failure which prevents the vehicle from sensing your key fob which prevents you from starting the vehicle and you are stuck. There should be a recall for this defect leaving drivers stranded and the car useless. I could have been robbed or other. Nissan is aware of this issue and has done nothing to notify owners and replace stearing control unit.

- Lewisville, TX, USA

problem #477

Apr 132016


  • 73,000 miles
Steering lock went with no warning. Nissan aware of problem and hasn't recalled. Cost $959.21 to fix. Was shopping car shut off. When I returned with groceries wouldn't start. Had to tow to dealer

- Fort Myers, FL, USA

problem #476

Apr 132016


  • miles
Steering wheel lock failure- disabling the car where it will not start. Nissan is aware of the issue and has not done anything about it. To get the car fixed it's going to be over 1000 dollars.

- Boones Mill, VA, USA

problem #475

Apr 122016


  • 150,000 miles
Key light appeared took the car to the dealership at lunch time. The battery changed in the key I went back to work. At the end of the work day went out to go home car would not start! it will not move from lock to acc! cannot reset so the car can start will have to have it towed!

- Stockbridge, GA, USA

problem #474

Apr 102016


  • 66,500 miles


Was going out of town and due to bad weather conditions on the area I was supposed to drive to, I did not go. However, on Sunday afternoon I got into vehicle, tried to start it and it would not start. Now, if I had of gone out of town like I was supposed to, I would have been stranded. I often have my small granddaughter with me. Glad she wasn't this time. Had to call tow service.

- Newark, OH, USA

problem #473

Apr 102016


  • 49,900 miles
I went to the grocery store and was inside for 30 min. When I got back to my car, it would not start, it was completely dead. I had it towed to the dealership and they diagnosed it as electronic steering column unit failure. I am the original owner, car has under 50K miles.

- Reston, VA, USA

problem #472

Jan 072016


  • 94,334 miles
Drove to Laredo, Texas to get new tires for my vehicle. When the auto technician went to move the car from the parking lot it would not start. They checked everything they could think off, battery, battery cables, alternator. They called an electronic specialist to come check the car. It seemed it was the steering lock module. No warning, nothing. I never even received a recall notice for this part. I called the Nissan dealership and of course the recall had just expired. To top it off the Nissan dealership wanted to charge me towing fees from the tire dealership to the Nissan dealership and to fix it was going to be over a thousand dollars. I ended up paying $850 to repair the car somewhere else. I live in a very rural area where there are no stores, gasoline stations, etc. Nearest city is Laredo which is over forty miles away. At least I was at the parking lot of the tire dealership. I don't want to think if this would have happened when I am taking my elderly mother to the doctor, hospital, or for chemo treatments. I feel Nissan should reimburse me for the replacement for the steering column module. For instance, never did I receive the recall notice and this was such an unexpected experience. Not only was I without a vehicle for almost a week but finding someone to pick me up to take me home and then someone to take me back to pick up the car. I cannot believe that Nissan didn't have the common courtesy to notify its customers of this steering column defect and the Nissan dealership taking advantage of the situation.

- Bruni, TX, USA

problem #471

Apr 042016


  • 98,000 miles
I left work and went to start my car when I wasn't getting any sort of response. Tried repalcing the battery and the keyfob battery to no avail. I learned it was the steering lock and that would cost me 1100 dollars to have repaired. How could the warranty not be unlimited on a car so terrible. What if I couldn't get home to feed my kids when the car broke down? I don't live close to my job, that's why I have a car. To not be able to turn it on for this is ridiculous. It's even more ridiculous to not have at least a 10 year warranty for this part. Stop selling defective cars.

- Philadelphia, PA, USA

problem #470

Apr 052016


  • 140,000 miles
My car started fine yesterday I saw the key light came on I assumed it was because the battery was low. I changed the battery in both keys. The next day my fiancee drove my car to work an hour away. It would not start at all, the light comes on and the steering is not locked but the car will not start at all and it can not shift at all. After looking in the manual it states that it is an idicator that the steering lock has failed. This seems to be an issue with hundreds of other cars and it is going to cost 1200 to fix this. My fiancee was stranded an hour from home and his cell died, not to mention he works nights and got off at 5am and could not find a ride or a nearby place to call home long distance.

- Vincennes, IN, USA

problem #469

Mar 302016


  • 82,368 miles
Steering lock module failed after I would not had to be towed.why no recall for this problem.

- Carrollton, TX, USA

problem #468

Mar 062016


  • 81,326 miles
Could not start the car. Luckily I was in someone's driveway and not on the highway. I was on my way to Florida from NY and had stopped a number of time along the way. I had the car towed to a Nissan dealer where they replaced the steering lock assembly which kept the car from starting. I found out this was an on going problem Nissan was aware of. The extended warranty had expired and I was responsible for the total cost. If this had happened in the middle of an unpopulated area it could very well have become a safety issue.

- Niskayuna, NY, USA

problem #467

Apr 032016


  • 71,000 miles
The car was starting fine no warnings at all that anything was wrong. Went to our place of worship and when we came out it would not start. Had two lights on dash one was the intelligent key light the other was the red car flashing with key in the middle. Had to have it towed and fortunately, we had aaa. Mechanic has diagnosed the problem to be the escl. We were fortunate that we were in a safe place and that we had a aaa membership to get the car towed. If this would have been just a week earlier when we were out town, it could have been even more costly and unsafe. Even though all these cases are not when the car is in motion it is truly dependent on where it is leaving them stranded and time of year, which could be very unsafe for a family. Total charge will be apx. $900. Definitely looks like an issue with many 2009 Nissan Altima. This should be a recall item and we should be reimbursed, as it appears this is a malfunctioning part that Nissan is aware of, especially since they extended the warranty, which has expired and now all of us who have had it go out past the date are stuck with the bill. My car has 71,000 miles on it. Not a high mileage car and I am sure many will continue to have this problem.

- Chromo, CO, USA

problem #466

Apr 012016


  • 70,000 miles
Drove the car to work, everything worked fine. Tried to start he car after work, and I got the intelligent key warning light. Cannot start car. Appears to be related to a faulty steering lock. This appears to be a known issue by Nissan since they extended the warranty to six years, but they have not issued a recall. After reviewing the issue online, it appears hundreds if not thousands of customers have experienced the same issue.

- Fruit Heights, UT, USA

problem #465

Mar 302016


  • 92,000 miles
2009 Nissan Altima have known issues with their steering columns (escl) being defective. I went to my sons elementary school to pick him up. I turned off the car went in to the school to get him. I came back out to my car and it wouldn't start. Their was a key light that came on that told me it had something to do with the key or the steering column. I waited for my daughter to bring me the other key so that I could find out if it was the key fob and it wasn't. I had to have the car towed to the dealership and they told me there was a problem with the steering column. After reading online, I found that this is a known issue with the car and that Nissan gave a limited extended warranty to replace it, which has expired. However, that is not enough in my opinion. This is a serious safety concern. I was lucky and this happened to me in a familiar surrounding area and I had a cell phone to call my daughter. However what if this was to happen to someone who doesn't know their surrounding area. What if it was an elderly person and the light came on while you were driving, and they pull over to check out what is going on, turn off your car and then try and start it again and the car is completely dead and they don't have a cell phone to call for help. There is a known defect in the 2009 Nissan Altima that could have drastic consequences in the end. The fact that there is no prior notification or warning that there is a problem with the vehicle and that at any moment the vehicle will not restart and strand the person is a big safety concern. What if I had pulled over in a remote area and the vehicle would not have restarted, the area had no cell coverage and I had no food or water in my vehicle. This is clearly a safety concern that needs to addressed.

- Port Orchard, WA, USA

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