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 17 of 36)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #384

Dec 242015


  • miles


Was stuck at work over the weekend. Car did not work. Intelligent car key remote changed new battery and still did not work had to tow to dealer Nissan, was told to run a diagnostic test on the car, and found out the electronic steering lock is not working. Ive checked online and found out alot people have the same promble that I had. The cost to replace cost about $1200. Since too many people have the same problem. Nissan should have recall all the 09 model. I want Nissan reimburse the cost of replacing new lock.

- Lino Lakes, MN, USA

problem #383

Dec 172015


  • 56,000 miles
When driving my car to work, I stopped for a drink; after coming out of the store, my car would not start, either with the remote fob or by placing the fob in the key port. I had aaa tow my car home so I could try jumping the car, replacing the battery in the key fob, then replacing the battery in the car with a brand new one. At that point, I saw the "key ignition" light on the dashboard. Pressing the ignition button does nothing, but the door locks respond to the key fob and the lights work fine. I searched the internet and found myriad complaints about this same issue, that it was related to the steering wheel lock mechanism. It should be noted that my steering wheel has never locked in place when the care is turned off. Concerned about the status of my car, my neighbor told us that a friend had had the same situation, with the same error message, and he was able to get the part and labor serviced at no cost to him.

- West Valley City, UT, USA

problem #382

Dec 112015


  • 90,100 miles
The steering lock has failed. I wasn't sure what was wrong at first but then after researching, I found this to be a known problem. I was stuck in a car that would not start in below freezing temps. After watching a couple of youtube videos, I was able to get my car started and able to get it home where it is still sitting. Please advise if my car is under the warranty on this part.

- Oregon, OH, USA

problem #381

Dec 152015


  • 94,000 miles


Car left me sit due to steering wheel lock needing replaced. It affects the push start ignition and the brake pedal too. Upon researching, I found that this was a common problem and that Nissan fixed some at no charge but others had to spend $1000 and up to repair it. There are copious amounts of complaints regarding this same issue and I suspect that Nissan are fixing some to appease those who are pushing for a recall. My vehicle was stopped at a rest area on the pa turnpike to use the restroom and when I returned the car would not start when I pushed the button. The brake was also very hard to push. The key fob battery light came on and the key fob holder in the dash also was flashing. I started looking for ideas to help us on the internet and right away the steering wheel lock information came up with pages and pages of complaints regarding this same repair. We had car towed to closest dealership to have them diagnose it as the steering wheel lock. I cannot believe with all the complaints online that this has not been recalled. What if that would start a fire?

- Camp Hill, PA, USA

problem #380

Dec 182015


  • 94,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that while attempting to start the vehicle, it failed to start without warning. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the steering lock assembly failed and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The failure mileage was approximately 94,000.

- Memphis, TN, USA

problem #379

Dec 212015


  • 64,000 miles
My daughter went to start her 2009 Altima upon exiting a walmart and car would not start or respond. Car uses a smart key to start and instrument panel displayed key problem. Raining and cold she tried many options without any success. I told her to call aaa and have it towed to premier Nissan. The next day they determined it was the steering column control unit and it would have to be replaced. They said Nissan is aware of the problem and extended the warranty to Feb. 2015 and this date has passed therefore I would have to pay $1,093 for the repair. Nissan should have had a recall to correct this. This is a safety hazard depending on where you get stranded with no prior warning. A company like aaa can not even help you except to tow you. There needs to be a recall! I would think this could happen while you were driving and cause the steering to lock.

- Destrehan, LA, USA

problem #378

Dec 202015


  • miles


I left church today to get in my car only to find that my car would not start. I had to incur towing expenses for a defect that Nissan is aware of that stops working with no warning, leaving Nissan customers stranded. I was informed that the steering lock column is the problem. The steering lock column has been shown to be a defective part which is causing thousands of Nissan customers to be stranded and expensive out of pocket cost. The part needs to be recalled but instead was extended to six years only, which did not allow for the part to be replaced unless it was showing signs of being broken. This part costs $650 and labor runs about $350. Nissan needs to recall this part for 09 Nissan Altima. This continues to be an issue for 2009 and 2010 Nissan owners.

- Macon, GA, USA

problem #377

Dec 172015


  • 81,000 miles
Steering lock failure.

- Carrollton, TX, USA

problem #376

Dec 122015


  • 145,000 miles
I went out to start my 2009 Nissan Altima. It has a push to start button. It wouldn't start. To much avail we had to have it towed to the dealership. They confirmed our thoughts, it was the steering wheel lock that went bad. Nissan apparently has known about this issue as they extended the warranty on this part to 6 years unlimited miles. Mine went out 6 months after the extended warranty. This could be a serious issue if you were stranded somewhere without being able to get your car started. This part needs to be recalled.

- Eagle Mountain, UT, USA

problem #375

Nov 142015


  • 74,900 miles
We unfortunately are joining the growing ranks of 2009-10 Nissan Altima owners who experienced failure in the steering control unit. We were fortunate it happened in our own alley. I'd stopped the car to unload groceries and when I tried to start it again, it only let me open and lock the doors. Otherwise, it was frozen and blocking the alley to all our neighbors. We'd been on a trip in January 2015 that would have been disastrous if it happened then. (less than 36 hours after the long road trip my husband had a heart attack. If this failure happened during that drive, he wouldn't be alive today.) we had no idea there was an issue with our 2009 Nissan until it happened. This car (and two other Nissan vehicles) had been totally reliable. Nissan responded saying our warranty expired in Feb 2015 and didn't cover the almost $1200 cost in any way. We feel robbed and abandoned by Nissan. Once we researched this, we're very concerned this issue has happened to so many 2009-10 owners. This is a safety issue and should be a recall! we were looking at another Nissan and are doing better research into competitors before we take that step.

- Dallas, TX, USA

problem #374

Dec 072015


  • 68,164 miles


Dec 7, 2015 climbed in car at 8 am, would not start. The key light was on but the dash did not light up as normal when you put your foot on the brake and push the start button. Could not get it out of the "locked" position. Called local dealer and he offered no help, nor ideas of what could be wrong. Told me to "bring it in". didn't even tell ne how to unlock the gear so I could push car out of garage. Took 2 calls to get this info. Checked online for issues, found escl problem, called dealer back. Only then did he remember something about that issue. My car is 7 weeks out of warranty, great shape, 68164 miles. Called Nissan and spoke with Consumer Affairs, filed complaint. Received a call the next day that they were "considering" my issue/concern/complaint. Told me they would have an answer in 3 days. Why not give me an answer when they called?

- Snellville, GA, USA

problem #373

Dec 082015


  • 60,000 miles
Steering lock control unit failure. Though vehicle is in good condition this is default from Nissan side where the system is unable to recognize its own key. Due to the software failure and lock down of steering, car cannot start and we are forced to go to dealer who will just rip off customer $1000 just to rectify there mistake during manufacturing.

- San Jose, CA, USA

problem #372

Dec 082015


  • 91,000 miles
My car would not start and the intelligent key warning light was on. This happened with no warning (the car drove fine 1 hour before). I was stranded and had to get the car towed to the nearest dealership. The problem was the infamous escl unit (electronic steering control lock). I was informed that the warranty had been extended to unlimited miles and 5 years...and expired 6 months ago. $1028 worth of repairs later the car will start again. No help from Nissan.

- Charlottesville, VA, USA

problem #371

Dec 022015


  • 42,000 miles
My family and I were stranded in the middle of the night last week for several hours for my car to be towed cause the engine would not start and jump start the battery did not work. After towed it home and research / diagnostic, found out that it is a well know that the steering lock box is defective. However, calling Nissan dealer about it and will not make the recall on the part. My car just die after 5 years. 3 months after the extended warranty. My dealer will not fix it and Nissan will not assist to get it fix either. They keep wanting me to bring it to the deal for diagnostic, when in-fact it is obvious that the steering lock bock is disabled the car from starting. I brought it in, and they kept telling me no recall and want me to pay for it (almost $1,000), yet recommending me to fix other issues saying it could have been tune up needed that why my car would not start.. ugh!!!

- San Ramon, CA, USA

problem #370

Dec 022015


  • 66,265 miles
He 2009 Nissan Altima has a defective "steering lock" which causes owners to be unable to start their vehicles. 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. Thus, owners of the 2009 Nissan Altima continuously find themselves stuck in very inconveniant circumstances with no ability to drive their car. This can be very dangerous for drivers who are in remote or dangerous areas. Nissan is very aware of this issue. They have extended the warranty of the 2009 Nissan Altima steering lock to 6 years with infinite miles. That warranty expired May 2015. Nissan says they mailed notices, but cannot produce a copy for me to see, nor can they provide the date it to me or proof that they indeed did mail it. Due to this known issue and defect, I was stranded, had to have car towed to dealer, paid $1167 for the repair, and Nissan wont reimburse me.

- Rowlett, TX, USA

problem #369

Dec 042015


  • 64,000 miles
Our 2009 Nissan Altima hybrid died without warning. We were unable to turn the car on, nothing on the dashboard lit up except a yellow key symbol. The lights, locks, and key fob continued to work, however. I researched the issue we were having and discovered a number of consumers had similar problems with their Nissan. It is a manufacturer's defect with the steering lock which renders the car inoperable, apparently. This is not normal wear and tear. Our car gave no indication of something being wrong. It has only about 64,000 miles on it and we have had no major issues previously, and no indication that anything was wrong prior to it dying. When I contacted Nissan of marlboro, MA, the individual I spoke with diagnosed the problem over the phone. He said he was 99% certain it was the steering lock. This was confirmed once we brought the vehicle in for repair. For him to diagnose the problem accurately over the phone, they must see this issue often enough. Only further solidifying that Nissan is aware that there is a manufacturer's defect. I was told however, that despite Nissan being aware of the problem, we had missed the deadline for the extended warranty which ended in June 2015. Again, this is not due to normal wear and tear. Our car was in perfectly good condition until the moment it simply stopped working. When I contacted Nissan Consumer Affairs to report the problem, I was also made aware that the reason we never heard of the problem was that they had the previous owner, michael something, listed rather than us. So the mailing may have gone to him, not us. We purchased the car from Nissan of woburn as a certified pre-owned vehicle. By the time I spoke with the second individual from Nissan, our information was updated and she claimed Nissan can not guarantee that recall information is mailed to the correct owner.

- Acton, MA, USA

problem #368

Nov 292015


  • 97,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle failed to start. The vehicle was towed to a dealer where it was diagnosed that the electronic steering column lock failed and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was approximately 97,000.

- Harvest, AL, USA

problem #367

Nov 232015


  • 122,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the steering wheel failed. The steering wheel locked and prevented the keyless ignition from starting the engine. The failure was experienced several times. The vehicle was not diagnosed or repaired. The manufacturer was contacted. The approximate failure mileage was 122,000.

- Kansas City, KS, USA

problem #366

Dec 062015


  • 77,500 miles
Steering lock unit failed. Car will not start or even turn over. Nissan extended warranty on the unit, but I and alot of others feel it should be a recall. They didn't notify me of this problem and I had car in for recall for a different issue when they found the problem with these units and warranty on this was still in effect. Luckily I was at home and not stranded somewhere. By tapping on unit with a hammer it started to work I just hope it doesnt fail during driving and lock the steering while driving

- Providence, RI, USA

problem #365

Dec 012015


  • miles
Takata reca my car is not that old and not that many miles on it to brake down. Got stop late at night at a parking lot and car was totally dead. Aaa couldn't fix it so had to get it towed to the dealership because they are the only ones who could fix the problem of a electronic steering lock.

- Renton, WA, USA

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