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 25 of 36)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #224

Aug 062014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 72,822 miles


Have had several issues with my 2009 Nissan Altima. I bought it November 2012. By February 2013, I replaced tires. Was sold a car with incorrect license plates that owed registration fees to dmv. I almost got towed and didn't know why. Between February and November 2013, I replaced brakes, another set of tires, third brake light twice, and battery. May 2014, took it to rogers & rogers dealership for an oil change. Maintenance other light and tires on. (car was bought with a flashing tire maintenance light on) mounts and struts were replaced and was advised to replace sensors. August 2014, car wouldn't start again. Steering lock unit needs to be replaced. It's not covered under extended warranty. Rear left window doesn't work either. Everything adds up to over $3000.

- El Centro, CA, USA

problem #223

Mar 122014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 64,451 miles
Vehicle would not start. Appeared not to be a battery issue. Vehicle was towed to the dealership where I purchased the car. However, car started and electrical system seemed fine. Subsequently (after a discussion with the service person), it seemed apparent the there was a wheel lock switch assy failure (which is under a formal recall). I was told that the part is severely backordered. I then decided to return in a few months (during the next oil change) and attempt to schedule a warranty replacement per the formal recall. However, the dealership (grubbs Nissan in hurst, Texas) told me that "since the switch was not broken now, that they would not be able to honor the warranty". I was given a phone number to call corporate. After some research on the web, it appears that my warranty request should have been honored (especially since I already was stranded and had to pay for towing once before!). I will call corporate on Monday, but wanted to file this official complaint (if you look on the web, you can note countless people in the same situation with mixed results (obviously, very poorly communicated from corporate out to the dealerships or very poorly complied with at the dealerships (whichever is the answer, it is not acceptable). Thanks for listening, [xxx] information redacted pursuant to the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(B)(6).

- Fort Worth, TX, USA

problem #222

Jul 072014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 72,300 miles
Car will not start.dash display illuminates "no key",which is a "fob" type system which has a start button.this happened multiple times over the past 2 left at Nissan of medford, MA today for replacement of the electronic lock module under the dash.Nissan extended the warranty for up to 72 months just for this issue, a known problem.not a recall yet.better not be a "diagnostic"fee for this.somebody needs to step up and demand a recall for this is all over the internet for the past several years, affecting 2009-2010 Nissan Altima's.

- Somerville, MA, USA

problem #221

Mar 192014


  • 69,000 miles


The electrical steering lock is a malfunction defect. It won't let you crank your car. And Nissan won't issue a recall it will only extend the warranty and they won't replace it. It has to do with the security system of the car. Hundreds of people are having issues.

- Cordele, GA, USA

problem #220

Feb 172014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 51,000 miles
When returning to my car after work on February 14th, 2014 the engine would not start using the automatic start intelligent key system in my 2009 Nissan Altima. Upon doing research, I found this is a highly common issue with the 2009 Nissan Altima model. There are also various independent petitions and class action suits being filed by individuals who have been affected by the same part malfunction. In fact, the complications involving the electronic steering column lock (escl) mechanism was so common that Nissan did not implement this part into the 2010 or in any future Altima vehicles. In addition (and in effort to avoid a recall situation) Nissan North american, Inc issued a warranty extension - "as it applies to the electronic steering column lock unit to 6 years/unlimited miles." Furthermore, Nissan also sent a technical service bulletin to all service shops on how to handle this problem concerning 2009 Altima's. ultimately Nissan North America, Inc. Denied my request to utilize a buy back program toward their 2009 Altima and also denied me any further details as to how they reached their decision. The regional specialist said she could only say ┐┐arbitration decision(s) are always based on the service history of vehicle. Too close, it is in my opinion Nissan has monopolistic controls on consumers in this situation. Only a Nissan dealership/service shop can diagnose the escl malfunction, as it requires a Nissan product specific scan tool, and it is their company's arbitration department who facilitates all legal decisions at which are typically not in favor of the consumer. I do not believe a service history of vehicle is material information in this scenario. Nissan should be obligated to buy back any-and-all 2009 Nissan Altima when asked to do so by their consumers who purchased this product in good faith. Updated 04/07/14

- Indianapolis, IN, USA

problem #219

Dec 072013

Altima 4-cyl

  • 42,400 miles
Steering was locked and key indicator was coming on dashboard. It was a mechanical failure related to escl (emission steering control lock).

- Pittsburgh, PA, USA

problem #218

Feb 252014


  • 132,000 miles


The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the electronic steering wheel lock mechanism was defective. The vehicle was towed to a local mechanic, who diagnosed that the electronic steering wheel lock mechanism needed to be replaced. The manufacturer was not notified of the failure. The vehicle was not repaired. The failure and current mileage was 132,000. The VIN was not available.

- Prosperity, PA, USA

problem #217

Feb 102014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 70,000 miles
This is probably the coldest day we have had in East Texas this winter especially when including the windchill factor. I came home at 5:45, parked my car in the garage, and went inside. When my son when to start the car at 9:30, it would not start. It would not recognize his key, he woke me up and we tried mine, it still will not start. We spent the next four hours disconnecting the battery, manually moving the car in and out of the garage, and even tried to jump start it as suggested on this site. Nothing worked. The car will not recognize the key and has the key light flashing in the top left corner. There was no warning and I am grateful after reading all of the complaints on here that it went out in my garage. We have narrowed it down to the steering lock module failure. The battery is only 2 years old and all the lights work, the car just won't start because it won't recognize the key fob. I'm going to call the dealership where I purchased this car this morning but I am very concerned about the lack of availability of this part and how I am going to get alternate transportation until this is fixed. This is a known problem with this part and was covered by warranty which was extended for unlimited miles for this part only. Currently, the part is not available due to high level of failures across the us. Part is susceptible to higher failure in extreme cold weather. Nissan you need to make good on this or it will be the last car many of us will buy from you.

- Tyler, TX, USA

problem #216

Feb 082014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 61,012 miles
I went to run an errand and when I came back out to my car from the store, it wouldn't start. I found that the "no key" warning light was lit on the dash and the vehicle security warning light would turn on when I tried to start the vehicle. When I pushed the start button, nothing happened, it stayed in the "lock" setting. After trying everything I could think of (with no tools available), including using both keys, to get the car to start and reading the owner's manual I realized that my car was not going to start. I was able to get a ride home and researched the issue where I found hundreds of complaints on the NHTSA website, along with threads on forums describing the exact same issue. I had to get the car towed to the dealership, where it was replaced free of charge because Nissan knows that this is a failed part and has extended the warranty. However, there should have been a recall on this as this failure renders the car incapable of starting and since there seems to be a lot of people affected by this failure. I have contacted Nissan about paying for my towing bill since, if there was a recall, I could have driven my vehicle to the dealership while it was still working to have the part replaced proactively instead of having to be stranded and charged for a towing bill.

- Abingdon, MD, USA

problem #215

Feb 072014


  • miles
Trying to start my 2009 Nissan Altima, it would not start!!! the brakes were almost stuck and the car simply would not start! the lights in the car turned on with out a problem so I know it wasn't the battery, plus I changed it 2 years ago. After reading many many reviews, 2009 Nissan Altima are having issues with the start button, now I have to pay tow company to take to dealer and pay so much money. Please please Nissan help replace this!!

- New Carrollton, MD, USA

problem #214

Jan 212014


  • 95,000 miles


Would not start, electronic locking mech malfunction....pregnant wife got stranded without warning in negative degree issue.....not to mention, tow bill, time lost from work, and making arrangements, obtaining, paying for alternate transportation, while the part is currently on back order for going on 2 weeks now......luckily wife was only 30 minutes from home or could have been worse but was still potentially very dangerous getting stranded in negative degree weather.

- Corbin, KY, USA

problem #213

Jan 232014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 103,000 miles
When I tried to start my car it was completely dead. Everything was locked up. Aaa towed it to the dealer where it has been for 9 days. The auto manager at ed howard Nissan in venice, fl told me another Altima is there for the same problem. Nissan cannot tell me how long I will have to wait for the part to come in. Instead of recalling the car, Nissan gave this particular part a million mile warranty. Most frustrating is both the Nissan dealer and Nissan corporate relations have refused to provide a loaner or reimburse me for a rental while I continue to wait for my car to be fixed. Bad situation all around.

- Venice, FL, USA

problem #212

Jan 232014


  • 116,000 miles
Car will not start. This model uses the intelligent key system with push button start. The key is actually detected by the vehicle and the steering wheel unlocks. But the start button is not enabled and the car does nothing when trying to start. Lights, electrical and battery tested fine. Towed car to dealership and they found the steering lock module had failed. This is a known problem with this part and was covered by warranty which was extended for unlimited miles for this part only. Currently, the part is not available due to high level of failures across the us. Part is susceptible to higher failure in extreme cold weather. Eta for part delivery is unknown and dealership explained they would get back to me again in 2 weeks! Nissan did provide a rental car due to the part shortage. My vehicle is a 2009 model year but this part has a problem also in the 2010 and 2011 model years for all Nissan vehicles per the local dealership.

- Locust Dale, VA, USA

problem #211

Jan 202014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 62,500 miles
Car would not start due to failure of the steering lock device.

- Greenwich, CT, USA

problem #210

Jan 102014


  • 42,000 miles
The car is equipped with a "smart" key-locking system as well as a "smart" ignition system. The key for the car is a wireless fob that when around the vehicle will allow the car to be unlocked and started. The key will allow the car to start, when the key is detected inside the vehicle. The issue that arose was due to a malfunctioning part, the part was an: Electronic steering column lock. The part failed during a spell of cold days that affected my state. During the first few days before the part ultimately malfunctioned the car began showing error lights for many systems. The car indicated that doors were open, that the emergency brakes were applied (when they clearly were not), the interior lights in the car would randomly come on when driving (as if doors were opening) and finally the indicated that the smart key system was malfunctioning. The car ultimately failed on a cold night. I was able to enter the car, but that was it. The car did not recognize my key and the car was rendered useless. I was unable to turn the car on, or even switch it to any standby mode. Because the car doesn't have a traditional key you are unable to unlock the steering wheel and push it in neutral. The steering wheel locks up, and depending on how the tires were locked initially determines the only direction that the car will move. When I contacted Nissan about the issue I was told that they have issued a "warranty extension" on that specific part only. It is obvious that they know a problem exists. I would also like to note that I was also told by Nissan that the part is on backorder and on restricted release. They have so many problems that they cannot keep up with the demand. This issue is very real and dangerous. People will be left stranded in their car. Unless the part fails there is no indication that the part will go wrong.

- Westport, MA, USA

problem #209

Jan 152014


  • 68,000 miles
Attempted to start car, and received "steering wheel lock" light - despite trying with both fobs (it was not a faulty fob). After half hour of trying, still can not turn car on due to locked steering wheel. Engine won't turn, electrical system will not turn on, and car is stuck. Have yet to contact dealer.

- Herndon, VA, USA

problem #208

Dec 182013


  • 130,000 miles
I went to go start my car and it didnt start I thought I had to jump start itbut that didint work. Then I called Nissan they said your steering lock mechanism has failed. I look up online there are many others with this same problem and now I hate Nissan never going to buy Nissan again, because I had a transmission faliure as well a year.

- Shelburne, CT, USA

problem #207

Jan 032014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 85,000 miles
Got home turned my car off went inside to get gift cards came back outside trying to start my car, but it wouldn't start, all I saw was a yellow key light. Lights worked fine I tried moving the steering wheel and putting in neutral and trying to start but nothing.

- Bristow , VA, USA

problem #206

Jan 032014

Altima 4-cyl

  • 91,000 miles
When I got into my car this morning, the steering column was locked up and breaks were hard to push. After trying a few times to start the vehicle, I noticed that the auto-theft must be on. I tried to put the fob in the manual ignition, but the fob got stuck and would not release. After several tries, the fob finally came out. The car still does not start and the auto-theft is still on. The battery is not bad because the car beeps when the door is open and the lights work. I am going to have to tow the vehicle in to get it repaired. There should be a recall on this problem.

- Blue Mound, IL, USA

problem #205

Dec 102013


  • 25,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle electronic steering wheel lock mechanism was defective. The vehicle was towed to a local mechanic, who diagnosed that the electronic steering wheel lock mechanism needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the problem. The VIN was not available. The approximate failure mileage was 25,000.

- Albertson, NY, USA

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