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 3 of 36)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #664

Dec 192016


  • 91,000 miles


The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle failed to start because the steering was locked. The contact spoke with the dealer and was advised that the extended warranty was expired. The manufacturer was not notified. The failure mileage was 91,000.

- Mapnaperville, IL, USA

problem #663

Dec 172016


  • 93,000 miles
The steering lock failed. The car wouldn't start and was stuck in the lock position. I had to have the car towed to a dealership and it is now going to cost me $957 to fix for parts and labor.

- East Stroudsburg, PA, USA

problem #662

Dec 182016


  • 70,000 miles
2009 Nissan Altima steering lock failure occured for no reason, fault, wear and tear, leaving me stranded without the key working to start the stationary car. Nissan admitted a defect and extended the warranty on the 2009 Nissan Altima steering lock part knowing this, but placed an expiration on the extended warranty. This expiration did/does not cover the actual cars impacted and was, I believe, solely designed to avoid a formal recall. I did not receive any communications informing me of this defect, including during all of my dealer servicing visits that were within the warranty period. The steering lock failed on my 2009 Nissan Altima. The dealer, clay cooley in irving tx service advisor said that I was six months out of warranty and it would cost $1,200 to repair it. Nothing was wrong with my key fobs and the the car was in great shape with the exception of the defective 2009 Altima steering lock that prevents my car from reading my key fobs. This shooed be a recall without expiration. I purchased the car new from Nissan and remain the original owner. Nissan should bear the cost for this entire $1,200 repair as it is not normal wear and tear, preventative, of any control of myself. It is a manufacturer defect.

- Dallas, TX, USA

problem #661

Dec 132016


  • 64,000 miles


Steering wheel lock /ignition, car not able to start using key fob, total steering and brake lock. Got off work and could not start car, was running fine prior to work 7am

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #660

Dec 172016


  • miles
The power lock steering keeps on locking the start system and car can`T start.

- Guntersville, AL, USA

problem #659

Dec 072016


  • 28,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle would not start. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the steering lock was faulty. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was not notified. The approximate failure mileage was 28,000.

- Brick, NJ, USA

problem #658

Dec 122016


  • miles


I was driving my car all day with no problems at all. I decide to the grocery store with my son and after doing all my shopping I get back into my car and the key security light was on and I tried to start the car by pressing the push start button and it would not start. The key allows me to lock and unlock the door even recognizing it when I put it in the ignition but would not start. Me and my son was stranded for hours in cold. I had to leave the car in the parking lot for 3 days before I was actually available to get it towed. And then I was informed its going to cost about $1000 to have it fixed because of a steering lock. When I researched this is a common and known issue with these cars. I just got this car about 2 years ago why do I have to pay for something I didn't do to the car. Why are these cars still being stole to the public and people not aware of these issues. This could of happen anywhere!! and I don't stay in the most safest area these problems are dangerous for them to just happen anywhere. And it's December!!! it's cold!!! why am I coming out of pocket for a Nissan issue!!!

- Norcross, GA, USA

problem #657

Dec 152016


  • 77,000 miles
I tried to start the vehicle this morning, which has a push-button start, but the car wouldn't start. The outdoor temperature was around 6 degrees. I got a light on the dash that that indicates there's a problem with the steering wheel lock mechanism (attached photo). The vehicle will not start unless this lock mechanism is replaced. Apparently, there was a voluntary recall on the wheel lock mechanism for owners who've had issues, which expired Jan 2016. The part and repair can cost $900-$1000. Here is a link to the expired service bulletin:

- Canton, MI, USA

problem #656

Dec 092016


  • 45,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the vehicle failed to start and the steering wheel locked. There were no warning indicators illuminated. The vehicle was towed to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the steering column had to be replaced and reprogrammed. The manufacturer was notified. The vehicle was not repaired. The approximate failure mileage was 45,000.

- Butler, PA, USA

problem #655

Jan 082015


  • 60,000 miles
2012-I was headed to my car to drive home from work. My car wouldn't start. I tried jumping the battery and a few other things and nothing happened. It was winter in Michigan and it was snowing and it was freezing out. After researching the make and model year, 2009 Altima, I realized the problem was the steering column. My step father watched a youtube video to fix my car. He put a zip tie in to hold the column open so the car would start even though it cant lock now. Which means, I cant use my automatic starter and I live in Michigan were it's cold in the winter. I am thankful this didnt happen while out on back roads. In 2015 the zip tie broke and I was stranded once more during winter. It took several hours before I could get someone to help me. So I sat in my car with no heat and froze. It was blowing snow and it was 14 degrees out. Who knows what the wind chill was. But, I was stuck one more time! my step dad once more came to the rescue. I had my hunting knife in the car so he jammed the column open and I drove it home that way. Once home he put a bolt in the column to prevent it from locking up. I wish I would have known about this issue before I bought this car. I love my car but I hate that Nissan wont stand behind their product. This is a serious issue and the part to fix it is about $1000! this is a known issue that Nissan should fix. What if I was in the up and this happened? I truly want to know why the steering column issue is not considered a big enough issue for a recall!

- Walkerville, MI, USA

problem #654

Dec 072016


  • 130 miles


So I was at work came out to start my car and it wouldn't start...thought it was my battery it wasnt it towed to Nissan dealership.young lady advised me it was steeling column lock.after doing my research I seen this matter to alot of Nissan customer's.the cost was over 1,000 dollars and seen the warranty expired last year. Had to paid other people to get back and forward to work and pick my child up from childcare. Called nissan1 the woman told me it would take 3 business day to review my case....she called today telling me it was nothing they can about this matter.I was pissed off. This problem wasnt my fault and Nissan knew about this problem way before me.its sad to be a customer to Nissan. They really dont care about their customers or this problem seem like everyone having.

- Memphis, TN, USA

problem #653

Dec 102016


  • 78,200 miles
I am the latest victim of faulty steering lock on 2009 Nissan Altima. I didn't know until it happened with me. I along with my family (including 10 months old kid) went out around 7:30 pm on 10th Dec 2016 and stopped to fill fuel at the nearby fuel station. Switched off car's ignition before filling fuel as usual but was unable to start it later. Car ignition didn't start at all, both steering and brakes got locked and didn't move at all. Eventually car was showing key symbol repeatedly. It was little cold outside and started raining as well. Had to get car towed back home, it took me 3 hours to get home as towing service was delayed as well. Meanwhile attempt to jump start the vehicle also didn't help as batteries were all okay. Being Sunday next day, no repair shops and Nissan dealer were opened. During this time researched about the issue and learnt that there is a defect on 2009 Nissan Altima steering lock system which disabled the car until replaced. And Nissan had kept only extended warranty of 6 years on this part but there was no recall. I had to get vehicle towed to nearest Nissan dealership on Monday and upon diagnostic they also found the same problem. Had to cough up $1200 to get it replaced including labor charges. It is huge dent to pocket but seems there was no choice. It is unfortunate that Nissan has decided to not to recall this part even after learning mutliple reports and its defectiveness. Keeping 6 years extended warranty doesn't help as low mileage car will take more years to detect this problem. Moreover there is extra burden on consumers of their time, spoiled plans and money. Worst case if it happens to someone at remote location where getting help is bleak. I urge NHTSA to take this matter seriously and direct Nissan to recall/reimburse on the defective parts. Safety of consumer should be top priority than profits.

- Round Rock, TX, USA

problem #652

Dec 112016


  • 90,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. After operating the vehicle, the steering wheel failed to operate. The vehicle was taken to an independent mechanic where it was diagnosed that the steering ignition lock needed to be replaced. The vehicle was not repaired. The manufacturer was not notified. The approximate failure mileage was 90,000.

- Grenwell Springs, LA, USA

problem #651

Dec 112016


  • miles
I drove to work everything was fine went out on break to start my car and can't do anything windows are lowered and it started to rain the steering lock has went out and leaves you know way of doing anything with the car now I have to miss work to get vehicle put in to a dealership I see many others with the same problems

- Palmyra, MO, USA

problem #650

Dec 092016


  • miles
My 2009 Nissan Altima's steering column lock is defective. It's failed in my car twice now leading to costly repairs/replacements. The car will be running perfectly when I arrive at my destination and I proceed to turn off the car and leave. Upon returning, the intelligent key warning light appears and it becomes nearly impossible to turn on the car. Sometimes a jump will start the car (which has a new, fully charged battery), but many times nothing works except getting the car towed to mechanic to have the column lock replaced. The steering column lock is supposed to stop theft, not keep me from starting my car when I'm trying to get home from work at night. It's absurd that this is such a common problem with the Nissan Altima's and that Nissan refuses to take responsibility for their defective product. Now that winter is approaching, I may be forced to spend hours outside in the freezing cold trying to get my car to start because the column lock is defective and completely unreliable. It is just not safe to drive in a car you are afraid to turn off because it may not start again, especially in the cold or when you are far from home.

- Yonkers, NY, USA

problem #649

Nov 112016


  • 50,000 miles
Car wouldn't start out of nowhere. No electricity or anything now I'm out of two grand for a Nissan defect which is absolutely absurd. I want my money back. Stranded myself and three kids at midnight in the middle of a dark parkway in ten degrees weather!!! I had no money for towing. What nerve of Nissan. U need to recall this crap

- Saint Albans, NY, USA

problem #648

Nov 262016


  • 60,000 miles
The car doesnt start because the car's starting system is faulty. It is called electronic steering column lock (escl) failure. Only Nissan dealers can fix this issue and they charge exorbitant amount of money for replacing a small part and for labor. This is not caused by a user error but because of a defect with this model itself. There are many such complains online and happens to people randomly. This is a severe health and life hazard. Me and my wife were about to leave for remote places when this issue happened and if that would have happened, we would have been in a huge mess! Nissan does not even have the courtesy to reimburse the full repair amount. I didn't even ask for the hotel and trip cancellation reimbursement but still they are not ready to budge. I escalated it to three levels but to no effect. This is sad. There must be a recall on this model. My car just has 60K miles on it and I feel cheated to have to pay $1100 for Nissan's fault just for the repair, let alone additional expenses I had to incur to book hotel last minute for two days and incur charges for the hotel stays for the rest of my trip. My honeymoon trip was screwed up because of Nissan and they are saying they can only reimburse me for the part which is only half the cost. I will sell this car as soon as I can and will never ever buy a Nissan car again. But, I would like to see this car recalled asap before it leads to someone's death.

- Union City, CA, USA

problem #647

Dec 042016


  • 78,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. The contact stated that the push to start feature failed to start the vehicle. The vehicle was taken to the dealer where it was diagnosed that the steering lock mechanism failed and would need to be replaced. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was notified of the failure. The approximate failure mileage was 78,000.

- Lowell, MA, USA

problem #646

Dec 032016


  • 110,000 miles
The steering lock broke while I was driving straight in a parking lot, forcing the engine to shut off. I have 10 month old twin daughters and this could have resulted in a very serious car accident if the vehicle was on a main road or highway and going at a faster speed. Supposedly this is a well-known issue with 2009 Nissan Altima's (and other year models as well). Instead of a recall, Nissan extended the warranty on this part by one year. I called Nissan and they told me that the extended warranty expired in August 2015, so I will have to pay for this out of pocket. The estimated cost is between $1,100 and $1,300. The car doesn't start at all, and apparently only Nissan dealers can fix it. This is very worrisome that Nissan acknowledged this as a problem, but did not consider the safety of its customers and issue a recall.

- Easton, MA, USA

problem #645

Nov 272016


  • 49,000 miles
Sterling locked, cannot operate vehicle

- Ashburn, VA, USA

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