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 7 of 36)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #584

Oct 012016


  • 136,175 miles


I tried to start my car on a rainy cold night& it was dark out. My car would not start so I called tripe a & waited an hour & they could not start it. It wasn't the battery. I waited for a ride & waited another hour after they left. I was 45 mins away from home. I got a ride back the next day & paid for a tow. They towed it to the closest Nissan dealership on Sunday. I spent most of my day waiting & had to wait at the dealership for them to unload cars before the tow truck could put the car there.the next day I called them. The service department said that it would be $119.95 to diagnose then that would be put towards the repair. The dealership called me and told me that they needed to replace the faulty steering lock controller. I called back an hour later & the price was more. $1120.85. I picked up the car in tears. I questioned the invoice & then questioned the dealship & they said it wasn't covered under a recall. I feel like they took advantage of me. Also I asked why didn't you put the diagnose charge of $119.95 towards the repair ? please look into this and help me.

- Reading, MA, USA

problem #583

Oct 032016


  • 67,000 miles
Electric steering column lock (escl) failed and left me stranded at work. Had to wait 2 hours for someone to come get me.

- Fargo, ND, USA

problem #582

Oct 032016


  • 12 miles
The push button start will not recognize the key "fob". I can still unlock and lock my doors with the fob, pop open my trunk, but the system that is supposed to recognize my key and unlock my steering wheel is faulty. Reading up this has been a problem for many '09 Altima and Nissan even extended a warranty on this part, unfortunately that warranty is expired and my car now has the problem.

- Olathe, KS, USA

problem #581

Sep 302016


  • miles


Ignition lock cylinder fail. Common with 2009 Nissan Altima's

- Manassas Park, VA, USA

problem #580

Oct 022016


  • 96,000 miles
The electrical steering column lock (escl) failure which wouldn't allow the car to start is the most stupid thing I've ever heard. And that Nissan wouldn't recall it is a big shame on the manufacturer. On top of that, they charge ridiculously expensive to have the part replaced ($600+labor)"?!! this is super unsafe for drivers in the northeast as we may get stuck in a cold winter freezing to death for what? there is even no mechanic problem with the car. Just a little wedge-like thing that wouldn't drop to where it's supposed to be???" ridiculous!!

- Plattsburgh, NY, USA

problem #579

Aug 262016

Altima 4-cyl

  • miles
2009 Nissan Altima. Consumer writes in regards to vehicle would not start, towed to dealership and diagnosed as, electronic steering column lock problems. Consumer states problem should be considered a recall issue.

- Dade City, FL, USA

problem #578

Sep 162016


  • miles


Ecsl went out and my high school daughter was driving the car at the time as we were out of town, this could really be a hazard and definitely was costly as far as towing, thank god we have an extra vehicle but she had to find transportation, had the stress being 17 and not really knowing what to do, the car sat until we got home to have to towed to dealership, missed some of school. This part definitely should be recalled and put back out there indefinitely to be warrantied. I had heard nothing prior but good things about this vehicle and then after reading about the same year and model of vehicle I am praying after the fix this will be the only time it happens!

- Helena, MT, USA

problem #577

Sep 182016


  • 135,000 miles
The steering lock has now become completely incompetent, did my research and found there was a recall for the 2009, 2010 models. Yet for some reason I was never informed of that. Also, now finding out that the recall extension was cutoff in January of 2016. I was lucky enough that this had happened a mile away from my house, if this would have happened on the highway, there would have been a huge issue.

- Mount Airy, MD, USA

problem #576

Sep 192016


  • miles
A few months ago I was left stranded at work, had to have my car towed, the car would not start. A yellow key appeared on dash board as if the car was not sensing the key fob evident. I called the dealership and turns out to be the steering wheel lock issue. There was a recall on this part however I purchased the car used, and was never sent a recall notice. I called Nissan corporation but was never got a response. I need the vehicle fix and this can be a dangerous situation if I am ever stranded in a remote area.

- Coppell, TX, USA

problem #575

Sep 152016


  • 68,000 miles
The contact owns a 2009 Nissan Altima. While the vehicle was stationary, the steering wheel locked and the vehicle lost power. The contact stated that the vehicle would not start when prompted. The vehicle was towed to a dealer. The vehicle was repaired. The manufacturer was made aware of the issue. The failure mileage was 68,000.

- Hollywood, FL, USA

problem #574

Aug 292016

Altima 4-cyl

  • 87,061 miles


I was driving the children to school and a "key" indicator came on. After I dropped them off and went to leave again, the car wouldn't start. I could lock/unlock the door with the key sensor; but nothing else would work. I had aaa check the battery and everything was fine. The technician called into the office and learned that this model is one of two cars that have an issue with a faulty steering wheel lock. The car would not start and it had to be towed into the dealership for a $979 repair. I also had to rent a car for two cars while this was fixed. I'm a social worker and I could have easily been trapped at a client's house in a bad situation and had no way to leave. This is a dangerous fault that should be at the cost of the manufacturer and not the customer. Why were these vehicles not recalled since this is a known defect?? we should practice prevention; not wait until a "magic number" of lives have been compromised.

- Huntsville, AL, USA

problem #573

Sep 142016


  • miles
Steering wheel lock control I have been stranded 4 times do to me car not starting with my child in car I researched and Nissan has had alit of complaints on it just want it fixed before I go any further.

- Fall River, MA, USA

problem #572

Sep 082016


  • miles
Nissan has refused to recall their faulty electronic steering lock unit that is needed to turn the vehicle on. If it does not lock the wheel in place it will not allow the push start ignition to start the vehicle, thus leaving their occupants stranded with no option other than to have their vehicles towed to a Nissan dealership and forced to pay upwards of $1200 for the replacement of a defective factory part. They offered a extended warranty to address this issue, but neglected to inform consumers of this. They are clearly trying to get out of paying for their mistakes and are passing the cost on to their unsuspecting customers.

- San Diego, CA, USA

problem #571

Sep 092016


  • 120,000 miles
After routine drive, car "froze-up" door would not open, car would not start, wheel did not turn, car would not start, car dead. After some research found many complaints about this, it has something to do with "steering / engine locking-up" and can happen anywhere at anytime without any warning. Nissan at one point had extended the warranty on this indefinitely, then arbitrarily ended it in mid 2015. This is incredibly dangerous....can leave you stranded anywhere!!!

- Miami, FL, USA

problem #570

Sep 112016


  • 91,000 miles
Escl - electronic steering column lock I went to the store far from home and when I tried starting the car it did not start. The door locks worked but nothing else would come on. I checked online and it stated that it was escl. I put in a used one and it worked. I would like Nissan to replace that part with a new part. I was stranded for hours and had to leave my car in the store parking lot for 3 days.

- Chicago, IL, USA

problem #569

Aug 272016


  • 88,000 miles
My mother-in-law drove the car to work in the morning with no issues. When she went to leave at the end of her evening shift, the car would not turn on when the push button start was pressed. Thankfully a co-worker was still with her and able to drive her home, otherwise she would have been stranded in a precarious situation waiting for a tow truck for who knows how long. The car was parked in a parking lot of a bank branch (where she works). After researching the behavior, we learned about the steering lock module failure. After having it towed to the dealership, they confirmed our fears. Unfortunately, the repair was grossly expensive. Upon filing a claim for payment assistance or reimbursement with Nissan, we were denied as they said it was not a recall/safety issue, their "customer satisfaction warranty extension" offered has expired, and the NHTSA did not feel the issue was tied to customer safety therefore it wasn┐T a recall. I believe this is unreasonable. My mother-in-law, or any driver, could be stranded with a useless vehicle, unable to start the car, due to a known failure in a Nissan part. At a minimum, Nissan should have been required to notify owners of this known and the possibility of being left stranded should the car fail to properly turn on.

- Sarasota, FL, USA

problem #568

Sep 122016


  • 65,000 miles
Takata recall steering lock control unit malfunction

- Miami, FL, USA

problem #567

Aug 222016


  • 190,345 miles
The Altima 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. 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. I turned on my car and took my 6 month old daughter to the doctor as she was running a high fever. Upon leaving the doctor's office at 12A.M. I pushed my start button to turn on my vehicle and it was unresponsive. I was left in the dark unable to operate my vehicle in the middle of the night with my 6 M month old baby. The parking I was in did not allow for overnight parking and I was alone with my baby. Upon researching Nissan had extended the warranty to the electronics steering column lock to 6 years unlimited miles from 3 years 36,000 miles warranty. I no longer fall on that and I am having this issue. Nissan says I am out of warranty and there is nothing they can do for me. According to their annoucement this is a ┐manufacturing irregularity┐ that now I have to find a way to pay. I have no savings to pay for such part and the towing already cost me a handful and put my baby in a dangerous situation. I am a single mom and truly upset with the situation. This should have been a recall! please see link: Regarding the warranty

- San Benito, TX, USA

problem #566

Sep 102016


  • 117,000 miles
The steering lock is causing the car not to start at all. I have been stranded many times and this is not safe. I have been at my house where it hasn't worked, I have been at work.

- Hilliard, OH, USA

problem #565

Sep 092016


  • miles
Intelligent key light would come on but the car wouldn't start or do anything, but the lock/unlock feature would still work. Apparently the steering lock mechanism is defective

- Silver Spring, MD, USA

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