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 15 of 36)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #424

Feb 102016


  • 115,000 miles


I have a 2009 Nissan Altima with push-start ignition and respective 'smart key'. while 2 hours away from home and alone, the electronic steering column lock mechanism malfunctioned and therefore did not recognize my smart key was in the vehicle and would not allow me to start the car. I was stranded alone, at night, 2 hours from home with a vehicle that would not start due to malfunctioning part. I had to have the car towed to my local Nissan dealership where the diagnosis was made that the steering column lock malfunctioned and needs to be replaced. Upon calling Nissan corporate, I was informed that this was a known issue, however my car was no longer under warranty and it would not be covered. I purchased this car as certified pre-owned with the expectation that any safety related known issues would be addressed. I was never made aware of the issue or the possibility that I could be put in a dangerous situation. Nissan told me that while they were aware the part was mis-manufactured, the part was not a 'recall' (as determined by NHTSA) criteria) and as such would not have been proactively fixed if not broken. They did however extend the warranty on the part, but only for 6 years, assuming is a driver had this problem it would have occurred in the first 6 years of occurrence was when the vehicle was 8 years old. I feel like this a major safety concern especially if there was potential for the steering column lock to malfunction while driving and Nissan should have issued a voluntary recall or indefinitely extended the warranty.

- Mantua, NJ, USA

problem #423

Feb 112016


  • 68,951 miles
On 2/11/2016, I went shopping. I left the store to return home and the car wouldn't start. The key fob didn't work. Steering was locked. Gear shift was locked. Lights and locks worked. I had a feeling I knew what it was because my cousin, who owns the exact same car and year, had this problem. After 2 towing charges, one to our local mechanic and one 50 miles to a Nissan dealer, it was verified to be the same steering lock mechanism problem. We live in a rural area. This had the potential of being a huge safety issue. I am upset with the $920.06 cost of repair (without the towing charges) for a 6-1/2 year-old car with 69,000 miles. Nissan knows of this problem and sets a limit on warranty repair.. of course ours is 6 months and 13 days passed the warranty extension. Not all of us choose or can afford to turn cars in every year or two. There is a known failure of this part. Why must there be a warranty extension limit?

- Sturgeon Bay, WI, USA

problem #422

Feb 082016


  • 62,000 miles
The car won't start. Called the dealer, they said it is steering column module problem. I have to have it towed to the dealer to fix. Fortunately, I was in home. I wonder what happens if I am out in the dark in the middle of nowhere!

- Edwards, IL, USA

problem #421

Jan 202016


  • 84,500 miles


My 2009 Nissan Altima had its steering column lock malfunction and left my wife stranded in a blizzard. She went to work, was going to head home for the day and the car wouldn't start. So I started the process, check the batteries in both the car and the key fob. As it turns out from researching the problem that it's a steering column lock failure. This is a very common problem with 2009 and 2010 Altima. Nissan has full knowledge of this issue, but fails to recall these cars. They did extended warranty on this part, but of course, this occurred after the extended warranty had expired. Its a $1000 plus repair minimum and the part that they want to replace it with is faulty as well. In efforts to contact Nissan Consumer Affairs I was treated like crap. They cant do anything for me until I have it towed(at my expense) to a certified Nissan dealer(45 miles away) and have them diagnose the problem. After watching numerous videos on this issue. I'm sure that this is the issue and I have many hesitations on having the part replaced because again the new part is also faulty, and comes with no warranty. So Nissan has left me with two choices. Option a: have car towed, pay the labor, and replace with another faulty part($1100 at least). Or option B: try to fix myself by bi-passing the part all together. Unfortunately this option is going to be a temp fix and the part is riveted so access to it is difficult. Not to mention affects my resale value. Its almost like this was Nissan's plan with designing this steering lock mechanism. Its a safety hazard as my wife and countless others have been stranded alone. After watching numerous diy videos I was able to get the car home by tapping the part numerous times with a hammer. We were able to get the car home, but there it sits in the driveway useless. Ive tried to start it since and guess what...nothing. The vehicle is useless.

- Sleepy Eye, MN, USA

problem #420

Feb 032016


  • 129,000 miles
Steering wheel lock failed. Yellow key symbol on dash. Steering wheel freely moves while car powered off. Now unable to power on vehicle at all. I have been the only owner of the vehicle. Called up Nissan to get a warranty claim since the extension ended for me in Jan. 2015. When asked for assistance, was told that they have done so in the form of the warranty extension. Took the car to dealer for diagnosis per corporate's procedure even though I knew the issue, now out $158 and was quoted $1,600 for their repair. Cant do anything with the car, its unusable and non-sellable all due to a defective part. Nissan should issue a recall and take care of their defective part.

- Bayonne, NJ, USA

problem #419

Feb 012016


  • 65,000 miles
Electronic steering wheel lock is defective. Nissan know about it....extended the warranty, but it expired in 2015. Now I'm stuck with a $960 repair bill for a problem that the company knows is a widespread defect. Thousands of complaints online. Consumer Affairs told me: "we won't provide assistance" since it is outside the warranty extension. Yet the problem still exists, and thousands of people nationwide are left stranded when their cars wont start!

- Dumont, NJ, USA

problem #418

Feb 012016


  • 62,000 miles


The electronic steering control lock failed after 62,000 miles. The dealership charged me $1,100 to replace it. This is a know problem that Nissan addressed with a secret warranty extension that was not communicated to owners. At one point I believe Nissan extended the warranty to 72 months/unlimited miles, but then changed its mind and ended the extension. I parked the car on 1/1/16 and it would not start after that.

- Winston-Salem, NC, USA

problem #417

Jan 192016


  • miles
On January 19th at 6:00pm I attempted to leave work and my car would not start. I called a tow truck and jump would not help. I had to call a tow truck to tow my car home. The next day on January 20th, I had the car towed to my local Nissan dealership, Nissan of union city. I had the diagnostic test run and it was determined that the steering lock no longer worked. My Nissan rep advised that this issue with the steering lock appears to happen in these model cars. I researched the issue online and found that this is a major issue with many people online speaking about their frustration with Nissan. Nissan North America is aware that this is a major issue and extended the warranty on this part. They did not mail me any information on the warranty extension which expired on 8-15-15. The warranty extension was specifically for the steering lock since Nissan knew this was a huge issue. The total cost to resolve this issue and fix my car is $1000. I had to take out an icare plan where the total cost was broken down into payments for 6 months. I called Nissan corporate to find out if they would help with the cost of this major issue and they advised me they would not. They stated they looked into this issue and the warranty was extended. Since I did not bring before the warranty extension expired, in there words, nothing could be done. I contact clark howard, and they advised I file a complaint with NHTSA. Thousands and thousands are having this major issue and Nissan is putting all the responsibility on the consumer vs. Themselves. This is an obstruction and Nissan needs to be held responsible.

- Fairburn, GA, USA

problem #416

Jan 292016


  • 100,000 miles
I've had to repair my 2009 Nissan Altima due to escl that disabled my car on my way to work!! I had to have my vehicle towed in, after doing research online I noticed I wasn't the only having the issue. I called Nissan consumers affair which told me I missed the extended warranty by a couple of months. This is a defect on Nissan and they should be held liable for the 1,000 repair I had to pay. This is my second Nissan but will also be my last!! I am very disappointed in the poor customer service and I guess it will take a fatality for them to do a recall on the steering column lock

- Bainbridge, GA, USA

problem #415

Jan 282016


  • 85,000 miles
The steering lock malfunctions on this car, and other years and models. This causes the driver to be stranded when the car will not turn on due to the car being in an anti theft mode. Nissan is well aware that this is an issue and is profiting from it. The customer will have to tow the car to Nissan (since they are the only ones that can fix it), and it will cost $1000 to fix. Nissan states that due to it not being a safety concern, they do not have to recall this. This has affected countless customers however and it is unethical. This is not even something the person themselves or another mechanic can fix since it is electrical. I do not feel that Nissan should be profiting from a part that they know is defective

- Old Bethpagr, NY, USA

problem #414

Jan 232016


  • 70,000 miles


The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the push to start failed to operate and start the vehicle without warning. The vehicle was towed to a dealer where it was diagnosed that the electronic steering lock column needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 70,000.

- Ham Lake, MN, USA

problem #413

Jan 272016


  • 83,000 miles
My 2009 Nissan Altima would not start and stranded my wife in a parking lot. After much research and a tow to the dealership, the problem was diagnosed. The steering lock failed. Nissan is aware that this part is defective so they increased the warranty. Now that the warranty is up, I am stuck with a $1000 repair of a part that should have been recalled!

- Lynchburg, VA, USA

problem #412

Jan 182016


  • 103,711 miles
Started the vehicle at home and drove to the store, approximately 5 miles away. After shopping less than 30 minutes, went to start the vehicle and it would not start. The little key light went on so went back into the store to buy a battery for the remote as some people reported that as the problem. Replaced the battery and the vehicle still would not start. Called the local Nissan dealer, they said it sounded like the electronic steering lock which was under an extended warranty but due to the age of our vehicle (6 years old) it was no longer covered. Vehicle was towed to the Nissan dealer, they replaced the lock steering at a cost of $1000. Called Nissan to request a reimbursement but they said it was not a safety concern, so it is not a recall only an extended warranty was issued and since it is out of warranty there is no reimbursement. I believe this is a safety concern and request it is issued as a recall. Many people online are complaining about the lock steering issue.

- Carmel, IN, USA

problem #411

Jan 262016


  • 67,000 miles
Steering lock failed. Had to replace it at bommorito Nissan. $1180. It was only 3 months out of extended warranty. Since the part was defective I feel the parts and labor should have been covered. I want to be paid for cost.I was never notified of problem. I'm the second owner.

- Florissant, MO, USA

problem #410

Jan 062016


  • 13,000 miles
One morning while on my way to work, my car would not start. A yellow key light came on in the dash that I had never seen before. The steering wheel wasn't completely locked until trying to start it several times. The car stayed in the lock position and would not switch over to accessory mode or start at all. I quickly found several complaints online with the similar problem. I was able to pull a video up on youtube that showed me how to temporary fix this issue. We removed the case off from under the wheel, used a wrench or sturdy metal object and located the steering lock itself and slowly tapped on it. Sure enough, we were able to get my car started after a few taps. It worked fine for several months. After discovering this problem I found a website that showed this part was not on recall but did have an extended warranty. Unfortunately, my steering lock went out 3 weeks after the extended warranty. Go figure.... after several months without the issue, the car locked up again on while I went to head home from work. I was able to do the same tap and get it started to get myself home and it worked a few weeks. Now, my car is currently stuck at my work until I can afford a tow and the repairs at the dealership which will cost me $950-$1,200. I've called other local mechanics to see if they could get me a better deal and unfortunately most of them do not have the proper tools/equipment to completely repair the problem. Once they replace the steering lock the car will need to be reprogrammed which only a Nissan dealer can do supposedly. It's pretty awful Nissan isn't doing more to help people out in this situation when there is case after case with the same stories.

- Tulsa, OK, USA

problem #409

Jan 242016


  • 120,000 miles
Steering lock failure, car will not start!

- Belleville, IL, USA

problem #408

Jan 192016


  • 44,050 miles
Parked my car in a store parking lot. When I returned my car failed to start with a failure to recognize my key fob. I replaced the fob battery still won't start. It was getting dark I had to leave my car in the parking lot. Returned the next day. Nothing will start my car. When online to see that this is a common problem with my car. I had my car towed to the dealership. Was told the extended warranty had expired 03/15. I only have 44500 miles on my car. Nissan never notified me that there was a problem. It cost me $964 to get it fixed. And of course this all happen when my husband was out of town. Why was this not a recall?

- Merritt Island, FL, USA

problem #407

Jan 202016


  • miles
Tried to start the vehicle to run errands and the vehicle would not start. I noticed the the key light on the dash board was on. (had never happen before) after some research I found out that a steering wheel lock failure was a common problem on this make and model.

- Cudahy, CA, USA

problem #406

Jan 182016


  • 62,000 miles
Yesterday, after driving to lunch, my car would not start after it was parked for apps. 1 hour. There was no warning that there was any sort of malfunction about to happen. It was not recognizing my key fob inside or outside of the manual slot. The steering wheel locked up, the breaks wouldn't depress, nothing had it towed to the dealer to the tune of $125. Then had the dealer run diagnostics at $75. Only to find out that this was what I had expected, the steering lock. This must be replaced and will cost $946. After contacting Nissan, I was told they would not be helping out in any way, despite that this is a well known and documented flaw. When asked why I wasn't contacted by then sooner, they said I should have been but had no documented history of contacting me. I am currently in the process of filing a complaint with the BBB and the ag. Will never purchase from Nissan again.

- Saint Albans, WV, USA

problem #405

Jan 062015


  • 83,917 miles
My 2009 Nissan Altima steering lock had an internal failure. Nissan failed to recall this part so no information was provided to consumers owning this make and model. I filed a complaint with Nissan Consumer Affairs which they of course denied, but after several minutes of me requesting them to let me know when I was notified of the extended warranty regarding this part, I was told no letter was sent to me. I purchased my 2009 Nissan brand new in 2010, so unless the Nissan part went bad early in ownership I would have never had the opportunity to be covered under this so called extended warranty. To add insult to injury, this is a bad Nissan part, they are charging $700 just for the part alone to be repaired, and only guaranteeing the part for 12 months, can't make this up. It appears that Nissan made the adjustments in later models and that 2009 owners are left holding the bag. I understand parts going bad, and in some cases people are going to be stranded (as I was in a dangerous situation) due to unforeseen issues. But I would like for someone to explain to me why all of these people posting the same complaint (and there are tons) are being discriminated against by Nissan that this (the part they built into the car) part is somehow different than most parts being recalled even at this very moment. Shame on you NHTSA for not holding them accountable for this horrible business and safety issue. The car will not start without this part, because it is so expensive it is requiring people to try and repair this themselves, which is going to cause even further safety issues in my mind. We own 2 Nissan's in my house, do all of our servicing there, we will never purchase Nissan again.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

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