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 16 of 36)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #404

Jan 042016


  • 89,000 miles


Defective electronic steering column lock widespread defects in the electronic steering column lock (escl) can disable the push-button ignition. The escl's primary job is to keep the steering wheel locked until you bring your key fob in range of the vehicle. It's meant to prevent theft. Once the escl detects the your key fob, it unlocks the steering wheel and lets you go. Even with the fob present and working, the escl won┐T detect it and, therefore, won┐T release it's iron grip on the wheel. This defect can affect owners of the 2009 Nissan Altima without warning and without cause. When this issue occurs the only way to resolve the issue is to have the car towed to a Nissan dealership to have the faulty steering lock replaced. The car cannot be started at all. The problem can be quite expensive to fix. A new escl will set you back about $1100 and it takes a couple hours of expensive-mechanic-work to replace. That's not to mention the cost of a tow truck, or the safety issue of being completely stranded where your cars to stop working. This can be very dangerous for drivers who are in remote or dangerous areas. I personally was attending a prenatal doctors appointment when I left to find my car would not start nor go in neutral, I was stuck for 4 hours waiting on a tow truck 30 20 miles away from my home so this was very scary for me. I had to pay $50 thanks to triple a to have my car towed- I had to rent a car for two weeks while I tried working with Nissan to pay for the repairs only to be told my extended warranty expired Feb. 2015 (this occurred January 2016). The dealership wants $1100 to repair only a few weeks after christmas. Why the decision for a extended warranty verses a recall I fail to understand. I think this needs to be recalled one for the simple fact it comes with no warning, so hopefully your not in a bad area of town....updated 01/25/16

- Louisville, KY, USA

problem #403

Dec 302015


  • 100,000 miles
My car was stationary in a grocery parking lot and push button starter would not start. It was the dead of winter with sub zero temperatures. The dash displayed an illuminated key indicating there may be something wrong with the intelligent key, so I replaced the battery in both keys and the car still would not start. I then tried to jump the car with no success. So I googled "car won't start, 2009 Nissan Altima" and that opened the flood gates. I read tons of complaints about this same part malfunctioning on the 2009 to 2011 Nissan. When I finally towed my car to the dealer, guess what--I had that very issue, something called the "steering lock malfunction". during my research, I even read an article that indicated Nissan was aware of the problem, and had extended their warranty to help, but that extension ended in March 2015 and Nissan would not complete a recall because it was not a safety issue. I say it is a safety issue. Again, my car stopped on me in the dead of winter in the middle of a cold snap. What I also read was that Nissan knew that at least 50% of these cars manufactured would have to have this part replaced and decided to leave the consumer on their own to pay for the repair. I viewed youtube videos where tons of consumers were doing desperate things to avoid spending the $1000 for this repair. They were pulling their fuses for the steering lock system. They were pulling out the part and banging on it. They were sticking a screw driver in the part to release the stuck mechanism to get the car to start. It's a shame that Nissan is aware that this part is defective and has the tendency to get stuck, resulting in disabling the push button starter and they won't do anything about it. I will never, ever, ever buy another Nissan car, especially not a 2009 through 2011. I wouldn't own another Nissan if they were giving them away. This company is unethical.

- Romeoville, IL, USA

problem #402

Jan 072016


  • 84,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that while at the fuel station, the vehicle failed to restart. The vehicle was towed to a dealer where it was diagnosed that the computer box in the steering column needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The VIN was not provided. The approximate failure mileage was 84,000. Updated 02/18/16

- Brunswick, MD, USA

problem #401

Jan 112016


  • 120,000 miles


Daughter used car to go to work, pick my son and fourtunately did not have evening classes. When she went to visit friend the car would not start, and it is freezing outside. Lucky she was home. 3 nissians we have purchased over 10 years. Very dissapointed about no recall, considering all the complaints I see more nissians for me..

- Yonkers, NY, USA

problem #400

Jan 052016


  • 57,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. When attempting to start the vehicle, the ignition failed without warning. The vehicle was towed to a dealer where it was diagnosed that the steering lock unit failed and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was approximately 57,000. Updated 04/06/16

- West Warwick, RI, USA

problem #399

Jan 082016


  • 86,599 miles
My car started just fine when leaving my house, I drove it to a gas station, parked at the pump, turned off engine and filled up my tank. Upon restarting my vehicle, the engine never turned over, car will not start, or recognize key fob. My steering wheel locked up and the red car icon with a key inside of it was blinking "security device icon" as well as the orange "no key" warning lit up on console. Even after depressing my brakes, the car did not respond. I had to call roadside assistance to tow my car, as it still will not start.

- The Village, OK, USA

problem #398

Jan 082016


  • 61,000 miles


Went to get gas vehicle wouldn't start. Called dealer and concluded electronic steering lock was defective causing car not to start. Had car towed to dealer since car out of extended warranty had to pay $933 to dealer for repair. This problem is quite common and had it fixed in a short time. This needs to be a recall. Herba Nissan of johnstown NY completed repair.

- Amsterdam, NY, USA

problem #397

Jan 052016


  • 152,000 miles
While at my location, I turned my 2008 Altima off. When trying to start the car it would not restart. It only dispaced the key symbol. And had the word lock on the push start part. I undid the battery and let it sit for about an hour. Still nothing. I called the Nissan dealership and they stated that it would cost about $1100 plus towing expenses. I've only had this car since the end of 2013. Its now parked where I left it in my mother's yard due to it not wanting to budge or start.

- Ethel, LA, USA

problem #396

Jan 052016


  • 62,000 miles
I went out to start my car and it wouldn't start. Luckily it was in my parking spot. It kept showing a yellow box with a key inside of it. The push start button kept showing the word lock. I thought it wouldn't start because it was really cold outside so I went back in the house for about an hour and tried to start it back up. It still didn't start up. I got the vehicle towed to the dealership and one of the guys there told me that the warranty expired do I would have to pay $950 plus tax. It is really upsetting that Nissan isn't doing anything to help with this problem.

- Colorado Springs, CO, USA

problem #395

Jan 052016


  • 81,487 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. After starting the vehicle, the steering wheel seized. The contact had to place the vehicle in neutral and restart the vehicle, but the failure recurred. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the steering wheel lock system needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 81,487.

- Santa Barbara, CA, USA

problem #394

Jan 022016


  • miles


On Jan 2 2016 I was left stranded in a parking lot when my 2009 Altima failed to turn back on. My fob battery was changed and still no luck. I towed it to dealership for a diagnostics and was told my steering lock unit needed to be replaced $1450 and I do not qualify for any recalls or extended warranties. This is extremely upsetting and timing sucks after the holidays.

- Houston, TX, USA

problem #393

Dec 312015


  • 122,000 miles
While driving back to work from a lunch break, I noticed the"key warning" light illuminated. When I arrived L put the transmission in park then shut off the engine. Proceeded to exit the car then to lock the car. Nothing happened. Tried again and had the same result. Tried to restart car and had the same result. Electronic key with a new battery did not work. All electronic mechanisms did not work.

- Cutler Bay, FL, USA

problem #392

Dec 312015


  • 40,691 miles
Nissan Altima recall morning of December 31 2015, my car was not able to start. It was not able to go to acc or on mode even when the keyless entry was recognized. I called triple a for a jump start but they were not able to jump start the either. So I got it towed to the Nissan dealership for an diagnose and repair. While I was waiting I did some research on my phone looking for what might the problems may be. I kept seeing "steering wheel lock control module failure", which repair cost averaged around $1000 to 1300. Hoping this was not the issue, after receiving the diagnoses, it was that... I asked if the extended warranty was still valid but they said the warranty ended on July of 2015... I was very disappointed. Not just because the warranty ended but since my commute to school and work is very short, my mileage on the car is less than 45000 miles on a 2009 car and on a low mileage car like this and having to do a expensive repair like this on a small module that does nothing compared to its cost. I am very disappointed. I was not able to make it to my family in san diego for new years and stuck with long waits, expensive repair, and traffic that day. I hope Nissan notices this common issue on the car and recalls the all potential cars for the same issue. Hopefully I can get my money back with the recall.

- Brea, CA, USA

problem #391

Dec 222015


  • 80,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle would not start and the steering wheel would not unlock. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the steering lock assembly was faulty and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 80,000.

- Woodbury, NJ, USA

problem #390

Dec 302015


  • 74,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle failed to start and unknown warning lights illuminated. The contact mentioned that the dealer was contact and informed her that the warning light was regarding that the steering wheel seized. The contact stated the steering wheel was stiff, the brakes and the accelerator pedal. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 74,000.

- Providence, RI, USA

problem #389

Dec 262015


  • miles
On 12/26/15 I received a phone call from my mother stating that my 2009 Nissan Altima would not start and the intelligent key icon appeared on the dashboard. After she replaced the battery in the key fob to still only find out that the car still wont start. I contacted my local Nissan dealership for them to tow my car to their location. Once my car was towed and they inspected my vehicle I was told that the problem was the steering unit control lock. After doing some research I found that this was a common problem for all 2009 Nissan Altima and this particular part was replaced in all 2010 Altima. Furthermore, there was an extended warranty issued for 8 years unlimited mileage which expired on 9/25/15 for 2009 Nissan Altima for the same problem. So, when I asked the dealer about this they told me that I was out of the parameters and it will cost me $951 + tax. So, immediately I became upset I asked the dealer why I wasn't informed of this information when my car is regularly serviced at Nissan. They told me that sometimes the consumer is not informed. As a customer who is at Nissan several times a year and every 2-3 months for routine oil changes I think I should have been informed of the extended warranty. I followed up with Nissan Consumer Affairs and filed a claimed and was told it takes three days for them to make a decision regarding paying for my vehicle to be fixed. It has only been 24 hours since I spoke with Nissan and I am waiting for a decision to be made. I believe that this unfair to the consumer if the information was never given to the consumer via the dealer and you have service records to prove it. What I also found out from Nissan Consumer Affairs is if you aren't the original owner of the vehicle you will not receive notification unless the dealer tells you about it.

- Philadelphia, PA, USA

problem #388

Dec 212015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 80,000 miles
My wife and I purchased a 2009 Nissan Altima in October 2009 and did not encounter any major issues until a few days ago. On 12/17/2015, my wife was left stranded in a parking lot outside a grocery store at night due to unable to start the car. We tried using a key fob with a good battery and jump starting the Altima, but it would change the car from ┐lock┐ mode to ┐on┐ mode (where the car can be started). We did extensive research, and found there were a tremendous number of 2009 Nissan Altima owners that had encountered the same issue, some stranded on the highway, and some in snow with kids. Many people post on blogs and youtube about this issue. We ended up having the car towed to a Nissan dealership for examination for $110, and their diagnosis result confirmed that the steering lock mechanism (part # 48700-9N00B) needed to be replaced ┐ they quoted us $1152 for part ($650) and labor. The part is for sales for $360 on Nissan usa was well aware of this issue, and they extended the warranty on the steering lock mechanism part for 3 years. However, we have not received any notice from them about this. As our car is 10 weeks out of the extended warranty window, Nissan usa won┐T cover the repair expenses. As a Nissan Altima owner for 13 years, we felt betrayed by Nissan ┐ they were supposed to keep the owners informed on this issue and should have issued a recall, or worked with the oem provider and dealers for a cost effective solution. Instead, they have kept the 2009 Nissan Altima owners in the dark, until many of them got stranded in danger. We sincerely urge you to investigate this issue, and help us and other fellow 2009 Nissan Altima owners. As of 12/2/2015, a google search of ┐2009 Nissan Altima steering lock failure┐ yielded 46,600 results. Sample online posts about the issue:

- Dublin, OH, USA

problem #387

Dec 262015


  • 120,500 miles
Merry christmas Nissan! thanks for making it a memorable one. I drove to a relatives home the day after christmas. The car was parked on a city street. When I went to leave, the car would not start or do anything. A yellow key symbol appeared. The car would not start, nothing was happening. The brake was very stiff. No ability to shift. No radio or dash lights would work. I had to have the vehicle towed to a local Nissan dealership. Electronic steering lock failure at a cost of $900. I was then told by Nissan dealership that Nissan was well aware of the issue and they had added an extended warranty to fix the bad part but it had expired earlier in 2015. I only went to dealership 3 times with sterring lock issues previously only to be told that it was my fob not the steering lock. I have 2 fobs and questioned how 2 would be having issues. Never a good answer or option. Never was I told there was bad part that was covered under warranty! shady business, the part should be recalled for safety and negligence. What if it stopped working and locked while I was actually driving" I travel for work and what if it stopped in a bad area leaving me stranded? what if it was extreme cold or heat" the issue is that Nissan knows about a bad part but have left customers to pay $900 to fix their bad part leaving people in danger. There are countless stories online about this same issue. Nissan changed the part in approx 2010. They need to own their mistake and stop leaving people stranded in harms way. I don't understand why Nissan is allowed to make a bad part, know that the bad part will disable the car and leave people stranded without any notice. The consumer gets insult to injury and has to pay for Nissan's mistake at a $900 cost. Again, merry christmas Nissan.

- Tumwater, WA, USA

problem #386

Dec 132015


  • 73,000 miles
12-13-2015 failed electronic steering lock which stranded us on the side of the road with the windows down exposing personal items and our personal safety for a part the manufacture has recognized as faulty and extended the warranty until 120 days before the part fails. 715 times" does someone have to die in a snow storm or get hit on the interstate before action will be taken on this" the part by itself was $715 from the dealer. Make this problem right before someone dies if they haven't already.

- Buda, TX, USA

problem #385

Dec 192015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 70,280 miles
Steering lock assy. Became defective while away from home and had to be towed to Nissan dealer, was told the new assy. Had warranty good for 12month/12000miles after repairs were made. This may be a safety feature for the car itself but becomes a safety hazard for the occupants if it breaks down in a hazards area away from home or in a area of bad weather itself. The dealer informed me that there was an extended warranty of 72mons.or unlimited mileage added to the original 36mon./ 36000miles for this part. I was not notified or aware of this add-on. So it seems there was reason for concern by the car maker by adding the additional warranty. It was a out of pocket expense for me and no guarantee the car would not brake down again since I do not know if the new replacement part is any better than the one that broke! my car was beyond the additional warranty. I do not trust the car, it could break down at a really unsafe location next time if there is a next time. I need security for me and my family! thank you P.S. the car had been turn off luckily in a post office parking lot, but would not re start under any circumstance when we were ready to go on.

- Van Buren, AR, USA

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