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 23 of 36)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #264

Mar 262015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 113,855 miles


Vehicle would not crank vehicle needs steering column lock actuator.

- Oklahoma City , OK, USA

problem #263

Mar 202015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 81,000 miles
Last Friday my car would not start. We try different things to get it going and it finally worked. Today the same incident happened and started doingnsome research online online tonfind out this vehicles had a malfunction for a electronic steering column lock. I called the dealership to get my vehicle fixed and they stated the extension expired in February of this year. I asked why were the consumers not notified. He gave me H 1800 number for Nissan to see I they can help out with this issue that apparently tons people are having.

- El Paso , TX, USA

problem #262

Mar 232015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 96,900 miles
Steering lock escl, malfunctioned and car wouldn't start. I was at my job leaving to pick up my 2 children from school, and could not get my car to start. I had to wait for my sister to get out of work to pick me up and then go get my kids who were waiting at school long after hours to be picked up. Nissan acknowledges that the error was theirs during manufacturing but did not notify Altima owners and now I missed the "extended warranty" by 3 months when this should have been recalled in the first place and the cost to repair is over $1,000. Thankfully my father in law was able to tow my car, but this has happened to 100S of Nissan Altima owners in the 2009 models. He was able to do a temporary fix, but it has not been replaced due to the expense that I cannot spare right now. But just because it doesn't happen while driving doesn't mean that it is not a safety issue. Not being able to start your car in for example, winter, at night, on a vacation or far from home, with my 2 young elementary school daughters in the car with me is a safety issue!!!!!!!!! if a recall never happens, then this will be the last Nissan I ever own, and I will be spreading the word on facebook as well!!!!!!

- Fletcher, NC, USA

problem #261

Mar 142015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 121,036 miles


I had no electrical service in the vehicle at all, the ignition would not turn on the steering wheel was locked.

- Landisville, PA, USA

problem #260

Mar 212015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 153,637 miles
I drove to pick up my daughter from the babysitter and I parked my car alongside the curb. It was less than 10 min and we went to the car and it would not start. I performed my usual routine when starting it...insert key in foot down on brake...then press the ignition start button and it still would not start. I tried the same routine a second time only to no avail. Finally on the third instrument panel displayed a yellow key and a red key and it the ignition button stayed in the lock position. I eventually called a tow truck and when he arrived he knew exactly what it was. I was informed by the tow driver that it was a steering wheel lock issue and the only reason he knew was because I was his 6th Nissan in over a three day span. Apparently...Nissan is aware of this issue but refuses to acknowledge this issue as a recall.

- Saginaw, MI, USA

problem #259

Feb 182015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 101,000 miles
Just finished a 13 hour shift at work when I went out to my car to head home. The key fob opened the doors but would not allow the ignition to start. I had the car towed to the dealership and they told me it was a steering wheel lock failure, which Nissan is well aware of. I spoke with two dealerships which told me this is indeed a chronic issue. I submitted a claim to Nissan Consumer Affairs which they denied since my warranty had expired 8 weeks prior. When I returned to the dealership they again advised me to complain to Consumer Affairs as they had 5 cars come in for the same problem in the 4 days that my car was there. I again called Consumer Affairs who told me again that my claim was denied on the grounds that the warranty was expired, they would not budge on this. I had to argue with the representative for 15 minutes before he would have his supervisor call me back, still waiting for that call. Nissan is very aware that this part is defective and expect the consumer to eat the costs when the part inevitably fails. They say that this is not a safety concern, but do not take into account the possibility of being stranded. Nissan does not stand by its product or its consumers.

- Highland, UT, USA

problem #258

Mar 052015


  • miles


The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle failed to start. The vehicle was taken to the dealer who diagnosed that the steering lock control unit needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was unavailable.

- Springville , UT, USA

problem #257

Feb 242015


  • 26,466 miles
Electronic steering column lock (escl) failed while car was parked. This could certainly be a safety issue if it occurred late at night or in a dangerous area. The dealer said there was a short in this. Could this have caused a fire" could they have fixed the short without charging me $993.65 because it was 3 months past the 6 year extended warranty" car has only 26466 miles on it. The starting mechanism which senses the brake being depressed had failed previously, and fixed under warranty, when I was far from home at a lakeside. Two electrical starting failures on the same vehicle. From their web site: Your Nissan vehicle is equipped with an electronic steering column lock (escl) unit that locks the steering wheel when the vehicle is parked and the ignition is turned off to help prevent theft. On some vehicles, due to a manufacturing irregularity that has since been corrected, the escl may malfunction after the vehicle is locked and could prevent the engine from starting. This condition, should it occur, will only occur when attempting to start the vehicle, and not while driving. Although Nissan believes the majority of owners will never experience this unique condition, to assure your continued satisfaction and confidence in your vehicle, Nissan has decided to extend the Nissan new vehicle limited warranty, as it applies to the escl unit, from 3 years / 36,000 miles to 6 years / unlimited miles, whichever comes first. Access to complete information and instructions including a reimbursement claim form will be available at on April 1, 2013.

- Bloomington , IN, USA

problem #256

Feb 212013


  • 80,321 miles
On February 21, 2015, while traveling 300+ miles out of town my 2009 Nissan Altima failed due to the broadly known issue of "steering column lockout, " in which the car will not start and requires a tow to the dealer for expensive repairs. I am requesting the NHTSA launch or expand an investigation of this known issue and provide a public warning to drivers of Nissan vehicles. The car had regular service on February 10, 2015, at mossy Nissan oceanside, ca and I was told "safe to drive" for my trip out of state. It wasn't, the dealer doesn't check for this well known issue during service. Nissan refuses to issue a full recall, instead extending the warranty to 1,000,000 miles or 5 years. In this way Nissan profits from repairs of cars failing after 5 years yet before or after 1,000,000 miles when the car strands drivers, and because not a full recall there is no physical evidence for an NHTSA investigation. Nissan does not have the controls to know which vehicles will fail, as evidenced by my and multiple pages of identical complaints filed with the NHTSA. I and my family do not accept the multiple apologies from Nissan, and there is no way for Nissan to make up for me missing my daughter's event. Nissan's actions indicate they are not interested in passenger safety. This Nissan has stranded me 5 times since purchased new in 2009 from mossy Nissan oceanside, an authorized Nissan dealer. Regarding passenger safety, also the airbag system has failed to turn on to protect passengers. On airbag failure, Nissan tested the airbag on my vehicle with a male passenger and stated they didn't see an issue, misleading myself, customers, and the NHTSA by testing with a male passenger over 120 pounds yet publishing results as applying to both genders - a female passenger will likely need to be over 150 pounds to be protected by the Nissan passenger airbag system.

- Carlsbad, CA, USA

problem #255

Feb 202015


  • 51,300 miles
On a very cold day (O degrees F), the steering lock control unit failed and car could not be started. Car needed to be towed to dealership and the steering lock control unit replaced at a total cost of $1106.98.

- Milwaukee, WI, USA

problem #254

Nov 032014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 83,000 miles


My vehicle begin to not start properly around November 2014. It has since got to the point that it will not start, due to a malfunction of the electronic steering control lock. I found this out after some trouble shooting and research. I also found that this is a known issue with this vehicle and yet a full recall was never made, due to it being labeled as not a safety issue. My wife and 18 month old son were stranded in 14 degree weather for over 3 hours today and the wind chill was below zero. I do not understand how a company like Nissan can get away with saying this malfunction is not a safety issue. Nissan has acknowledged the issue, but claims it will not be covered as our car is out of warranty. We never received anything stating that there was possibly a defective part on our car. There are numerous complaints about this online and I'm sure several have already filed complaints here as well. Nissan now wants us to pay out of pocket for an authorized dealership to diagnose the problem that we have already diagnosed, I find this to be an unacceptable business practice, which indicates they are more concerned with money then the welfare of their customers. I have had several vehicles that had recalls and never once was I required to pay to have it checked out.

- Odenton, MD, USA

problem #253

Jan 262015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 88,758 miles
On Monday, Jan 26, ,2015 my Nissan Altima would not start or turn over due to the steering lock. I contacted Nissan dealership to get assistance by describing what issue I was having with my car. I provided the following to service representative; my car would not turn over and the key symbol light is appearing on my dash board. I was told by the rep at Nissan that I would need to have my car towed to the Nissan dealership/auto nation asap. My car was towed on Monday everning Jan 26, 2015. My car was under warranty (so I thought), I contacted my warranty service and was told my warranty expired Nov 26, 2014. On the auto nation invoice it says (replace steering lock and performed regsition on steering lock). My car repaired on tue, Jan 27, 2015 and I was able to pick-up my car on wed, Jan 28, 2015.the total repair cost was $1,067.47.

- Atlanta, GA, USA

problem #252

Feb 022015


  • 75,049 miles
The electronic steering column lock suddenly failed, resulting in the inability to start the car. I had to tow the car to the dealership to find out that the issue is out of warranty and would cost be $900+. after researching the issue, I found thousands of similar experiences with the 2009 Altima and it is clear that Nissan is well aware of this issue and they have not issued a recall. I was stranded, away from home, and had to rearrange my entire day while coming out of pocket a large sum of money which I, quite frankly, do not have. I submitted a warranty extension reimbursement form to Nissan who turned around and told me that I was out of luck. I was referred to the Nissan Consumer Affairs who confirmed that I was out of luck. I never received any notice that there was a recurring issue with the 2009 Nissan Altima, otherwise, I would have taken the car in to correct the problem before it became a problem. I am only 3 months outside of their extended warranty to be eligible for a reimbursement. It appears to me that Nissan is aware of this problem but refuses to stand by their product.

- Henderson, NV, USA

problem #251

Jan 202015


  • 104,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the steering wheel lock mechanism was fractured. The vehicle was completely shut off and did not restart. The vehicle was towed to a dealer who stated that the steering lock mechanism failed. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was notified. The approximate failure mileage was 104,000.

- Demopolis, AL, USA

problem #250

Jan 292015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 62,000 miles
The electronic steering column locking mechanism is faulty and will not recognize the key pad and refuses to allow the push button starter to start the engine. According to what is on the internet, Nissan knows of this problem.

- Marietta, GA, USA

problem #249

Jan 142015


  • 40,395 miles
My 2009 Nissan Altima did not start. My car was towed to the bay ridge Nissan dealer. I was told that I had a steering column lock problem. They said that I might have a warranty but it was most likely expired. If I was to do other work on the car, they could make a pitch to the manufacturer to cover the steering column lock cost. To make a long story short, they told me that I had other problems, control arm, wheel alignment and service maintenance and I need to get it fix which total over $900. The warranty to fix the steering column lock would only apply if I was to agree to do this other "needed" work. The bay ridge Nissan advisor told me that I would have to pay the full charge of the steering column lock $966.63 if I did not agree to do the other work. At the time this happened, I did not know that I had an extended warranty. I did not find out until after the car was fixed and a second problem developed. They took full advantage of my situation to sell me services I didn't need. I'm very angry about this. If anyone knows of a good lawyer, please let me know. The manufacturer should have informed their customers about the extended warranty and dealers should be honoring the extended warranty, not taking advantage of customer's bad situation to make a profit. I will never buy another Nissan vehicle again. I contacted the Nissan Consumer Affairs too and they turned a blind eye, saying that they "resolved" the problem. They would not give me a refund and said they spoke to the dealer. This is their idea of "resolved". this is totally not acceptable. No one is taking responsibility for this dishonesty, not the manufacturer, not the dealer, not even the Nissan Consumer Affairs bureau. They are the worst car company ever with zero accountability for their defects. I hope no one will have to die before they decide to recall this defect.

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #248

Jan 282015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 67,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle failed to start. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the electronic steering lock needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the failure. The failure mileage was 67,000. Updated 03/24/15 updated 10/19/2015

- Brooklyn, NY, USA

problem #247

Jan 022015

Altima 4-cyl

  • miles
After replacing the battery the vehicle will not start / tow vehicle to dealer and got an estimate of $1150 for the steering lock sensor. I am disappointed and ask if I had to take a certain procedure to replace the battery dealer service advisor respond no......what happened the? no answer.

- San Bernardino, CA, USA

problem #246

Jan 262015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 135,000 miles
Drove car to gas station and after filling with gas car would no longer start. Car did not recognize key fob. The steering lock is broken and requires $800 to repair. Spoke with tow truck driver who took car to dealer and they tow a lot of these to the shop each week with the same problem. Incident is not isolated.

- Appleton, WI, USA

problem #245

Jan 162015

Altima 4-cyl

  • 108,000 miles
Car won't start due to the electronic steering column lock being defective.

- Nettleton, MS, USA

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