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 21 of 36)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #304

Jul 312015


  • miles


Steering lock does not disengage and the car does not start, something wrong with electronic control unit.

- Porter Ranch, CA, USA

problem #303

Jul 272015


  • 79,000 miles
Got in my 2009 Nissan Altima Monday 07/27 would not start. Had towed to dealership. Steering lock system was replaced. Wednesday 07/29 got in my car again would not start. Took to dealership again. Changed brake plug. Friday 07/31 car would not start again so took back to dealership for the 3rd time and they fixed and sent me on my way. Car with key symbol still blinking on my car so not sure it is fixed yet...updated 10/05/15

- Clinton , NC, USA

problem #302

Jul 032015


  • 83,500 miles
My car was not starting. It was indicated as no key. I called Nissan customer care. They told that my cars warrenty expired on March 2015. My cars first registration date is November 2009. I have heared that the ecsl of Nissan Altima is having 6 years of warrenty. But I am told by the Nissan authorised dealer - pinnacle Nissan scotsdate phoenix that my warrenty expired. My car have not completed its 6 year and I am wondering how the warrently would void. I have replaced the part from my pocket as well, I am really disappointed. It would be great if Nissan can refund the cost of replacing the part. Thanks, binu.

- Phoenix, AZ, USA

problem #301

Jul 152015


  • miles


On 07/15/15 I received a call that my brother in law had died I stop and pulled over to regroup from crying I shut the car off and my car would not start back up, light was flashing intelligent key and also saying key was not in the car which this is called electronic steering column lock failure I had to have to car towed on top of everything else I was dealing with call pearson Nissan in ocala fl told them what the car was doing and mention to them about the extended warranty that I had ran across and they stated they didn't know what I was talking about. I don't under stand why wasn't I notified by Nissan about this problem I like my car but if this don't get resolved I will not buy another Nissan car. Upon doing some research I discovered a lot of people have had this same problem and complaint

- Ocala, FL, USA

problem #300

Nov 252014


  • 70,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. While driving at 45 mph, the vehicle stalled without warning. The vehicle was towed to the dealer for diagnostic testing. The technician diagnosed that the steering wheel lock column failed. The vehicle was repaired. However, the failure recurred. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 70,000. The VIN was not available.

- Greeley, CO, USA

problem #299

Jul 132015


  • miles
My 2009 Nissan Altima has been failing to start daily since 07/13/2015. It takes me 20-30 minutes to get car started. Key fobs appear operational. While pressing the break & push button to start the car, the radio comes on but the car doesn't start. It makes a clicking sound & won't do anything. I have to wait a few minutes & retry several times before starting.

- Raleigh, NC, USA

problem #298

Jul 092015


  • 130,000 miles


Car would not start, battery was charging. It is the steering lock mechanism. This issue will cost $1000 to repair. After research it is clear that Nissan is aware of the issue. Why has that not been a recall? this is unsatisfactory. I have been a Nissan owner for 15 years, but if this is not resolved, this will be my last Nissan. I thought Nissan was a good company, but this is no way to treat your customers.

- Colonial Beach, VA, USA

problem #297

Jul 112015


  • 70,400 miles
The electronic steering column lock failed - the car would not start. This is a well documented and widespread, major defect issue with 2009 Altima models.this apparent defect is well documented on internet forums. The car needs to be towed to a dealer, and a new steering column lock installed. Approximate cost $1,000. The problem is very widespread. Nissan extended the warranty on this part only to 6-years. My failure occurred at 6-years, 2-months. Most failures appear to occur just after 6-years. Rather than issue a 6-year extended warranty which recognizes a problem exists, Nissan should have issued a recall because this problem is so widespread. Luckily for me, this happened close to home and in warm weather.

- Augusta, GA, USA

problem #296

Jul 072015


  • 76,843 miles
I was at the grocery store around the corner from my house I parked went into the store to purchase a few things. I got back to the car no more than 15 minutes later unlocked the car with the fob and got in. Try to start the car and it did not start. I tried plugging it in to the fob holder and the car still did not start. I saw the key light on the dash turn on. I had to have the car towed to the Nissan dealership upon having the vehicle examined it was determined that the electronic steering control lock had malfunctioned. They told me it will $ $1020 to fix. I researched to see if this was an issued with the 2009 Nissan Altima and what do I discover that people have been have the this issued since 2011 when the vehicle was not even 3 years old yet. This is rediculous and outright negligent on Nissan's part for not recalling this part. I have seen well over a 1,000 complaint regarding this issue. Some have left people stranded in bad conditions. Nissan needs to reimburse each and every customer for this issue as they choose to use a very faulty part.

- Pasadena , CA, USA

problem #295

Jul 062015


  • miles
2009 Nissan Altima - steering wheel malfunction - Nissan refuses to recall this defective part

- Deltona, FL, USA

problem #294

Jul 072015


  • 142,000 miles


Drove car to work everything ran fine. Went on break and got in car it would not crank. The indicator light appeared( yellow keyless light) on the left side. Looked it up in my car manual and it says steering electrical problem call Nissan. So now im stuck without a car and I am still making car payments. This sucks. I've been reading other comments about issue. It seems that this has happened a lot. Supposedly there was an extended warranty that only lasted up until Feb. But its now July, so I guess im assed out. Smdh!! this car needs to be recalled asap

- Lexington, NC, USA

problem #293

Jun 302015


  • 120,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that while driving at an unknown speed, the steering wheel seized and the vehicle failed to start. The vehicle was towed to the dealer for diagnostic testing. The technician diagnosed that the electronic steering column was defective and needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The failure mileage was 120,000.

- Jonesboro, GA, USA

problem #292

Jun 302015


  • miles
Truly cant believe Nissan Consumer Affairs, on 6/30/2015, my electric steering column lock went out. I called Consumer Affairs on 6/30/2015, to see if its part of this extended warranty, ( which I found out though google), rep explain mine expired on 6/3/2015, and I needed to tow it to dealership. Which I did, and found out that was the problem, so I called back on 6/30/2015, and ask since it was less than a month will they help with the cost. On 7/1/2015, I had to call 4 times and message Nissan though facebook to even get a call back from the regional consumer affair agent, when she finally called back an hour before the dealership service dept. Closes, she explain they wouldn't help with any cost. The cost to fix this problem, that Nissan knew about since 2009, would be 1,000 dollars. Personally I don't have the money to fix it, at this point of time it is sitting at the dealership, I'm missing work everyday because of an issue that could have been avoided if Nissan took responsibility of there failure.

- Byram, MS, USA

problem #291

Jun 122015


  • 76,000 miles
Car could not be started and had to be towed to a Nissan deal where they charged me $900 to fix. This is a defective part, electronic steering column lock, that Nissan knows about. They extended the warranty for this part and have it listed on the website. It is specific to the 2009 Altima and maxima. They refused to help with cost in anyway because the warranty expired 2 months prior...even though they know it is a big enough issue to have the extended warranty on it. If the part is defective...why put any time frame on it. Do a recall, or fix them as it happens.

- Meridian, ID, USA

problem #290

Mar 022015


  • 96,644 miles
I finished work late at night during a snowstorm, only to find that my car would not start and I had to get a tow. Nissan later explained that the cause was a defective electronic steering column lock (escl) unit. Because this malfunction occurred a few months after the 6 year extended warranty, in addition to waiting hours for a tow truck in a snowstorm, I was then forced to pay $1000 to fix Nissan's defective part.

- Marlborough, MA, USA

problem #289

Jun 142015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 130,000 miles
The steering control unit seized up, the vehicle wont start....updated 08/12/15 the consumer stated the cost of installation and reprogramming of the unit was $90. Updated 12/23/2015

- Glendale , AZ, USA

problem #288

Jun 232015


  • 74,000 miles
Car will not start steering lock replaced

- Worcester, MA, USA

problem #287

Jun 192015


  • 55,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. While driving 40 mph, the steering wheel seized and the engine stalled. The vehicle continued to coast and crashed into a curb. The contact mentioned that the front passenger side tire bent inward. The contact was unable to restart the engine. The contact did not specify if a police report was filed or if any injuries were sustained. The vehicle was towed to the dealer. The technician diagnosed that the power steering failed. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 55,000.

- Garland, TX, USA

problem #286

Jun 202015


  • 100,000 miles
My 2009 Nissan Altima unexpectedly would not start in June of 2015 and I was on my way to pick up my brother from school. I thought it might have been a battery issue. So, I called my insurance company and they came out to give me a jump. That was not the culprit. Unfortunately, it was after hours and I had to wait till morning to have my vehicle towed to tires plus. They were unable to figure out the problem. Next, I had my vehicle towed to Nissan who were able to diagnose the issue. After further research, I learned that the escl is a known defect and that an extended warranty was issued to these vehicles. My warranty expired a month prior to this incident (very inconvenient) resulting in a $1,000 out of pocket expense that I did not have readily available (I am a graduate student). I wish that instead of just offering an extended warranty for this part that Nissan would have recalled the part to avoid this headache all together.

- Boiling Springs, SC, USA

problem #285

Jun 182015


  • 93,000 miles
Got into my car & it would not crank. Brakes were pressed & stayed in lock position. After turning the steering wheel back & forth it started.

- District Heights, MD, USA

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