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 1 of 36)

problem #704

Jan 172017


  • miles


My daughter 2009 Nissan Altima which she brought from turnersville Nissan in turnersville NJ Feb last year 2016 her car would not start come find out it was steering wheel lock defect which was recall for that they telling her recall date ended they know going charge her 900 dollars fix it if knew recall she should not be charged it at Nissan place as of 1 day ago for recall problem and if Nissan knew of recalls with steering they should let person know when purchase car of any recalls she should not be charged for this an if she was driving that day she could gotten hurt when car just did not start and should not be a time frame on recalls they told her she missed it that why she have pay I disagree

- Lindenwold, NJ, USA

problem #703

Jan 182017


  • 73,000 miles
My car wouldn't start, with no warming or indicator. Thankfully, for my safety, it was parked in my garage overnight, however, this could be dangerous situation. I looked through the manual and found out that the car has a defective steering wheel lock that will cost around $1,000. This is a common and known problem which Nissan is apparently aware of, so I would really like to see them recall this part.

- Austin, TX, USA

problem #702

Jan 062017


  • 45,000 miles
The electronic steering column lock malfunctioned, leaving the car entirely incapable of starting. The car had been shut off while I was at work, snow had started to fall and it dipped into freezing temperatures. I went to leave work late at night only to find I could not start the car despite my best efforts. The key fob allowed me to unlock and lock my doors, and there was power to the car as the interior lights powered on, but the car wouldn't recognize that I had a key (and a spare key) present. Inserting it in the key slot did nothing. It wouldn't even attempt to start if I pushed the "start" button. Nissan quoted around $1100 to repair the car once I managed to get ahold of someone at their service department. Not having $1100, I repaired it by banging on the escl with a wrench until the escl disengaged, which allowed me to power the car to the "on" position, started the car, and pulled the fuse for the escl to prevent it from engaging again in the future. It has started up every time since I've disabled this part, but it took some major research on my part to find a workaround. This part needs to be fully recalled, in my opinion, especially with this being a proprietary Nissan part and safety hazard. Had I not had a coworker wait behind with me to give me a slow and slippery ride home (tow trucks had 3 hour waits that night due to ice), I'd have found myself frozen, and then who knows what being that all business shut down over the weekend. This is a safety issue.

- Knoxville, TN, USA

problem #701

Jan 132017


  • 76,500 miles


Drove home from work one day with no issues. Then a couple hours later, I tried to start the car and there was a steering lock malfunction making the car impossible to turn on. Cost to fix with tow nearly $1200.

- Madison, WI, USA

problem #700

Jan 112017


  • 96,000 miles
I was ready to go home at the lightrail station and I could not get the car to start. It was late at night and cold, plus the station is in a not-so-safe place. I had to call my wife to come with our 5 week old infant in her car to get aaa. The aaa guy could not find what the problem was. Then we towed the car to the dealer. And we had to wait for the next day to find out that the steering lock was bad. And it was a known issue to Nissan and they did not issue a recall. Instead Nissan extended the warranty for escl. Unfortunately, it was past the warranty extension. And I had to pay over $1100 to fix some defetive part. Shame on Nissan. Now there will be less diaper for my baby and definitely won't be a Nissan customer again.

- Indian Land, SC, USA

problem #699

Jan 092017


  • 43,989 miles
I am writing on behalf of my 80 year old parents. This 2009 Altima is their only vehicle and source of transportation. At work last week, my mother was headed home to check on my father who has recently had a stroke. Her vehicle would not start. After conversations with dealers who are 75+ miles away, we determined that her steering wheel lock mechanism had failed. This rendered the car undriveable and it had to be towed to a dealer where this part was replaced for $1055, (not including towing fee, $327). This is the same part that Nissan had issued an "extended warranty" on for 6 years with free replacement and unlimited mileage restriction. Needless to say, they have yet been uncompromising that this is now an out of warranty repair. Still yet, they have acknowledged that this is a known part for failure and never contacted my parents regarding this possible issue. This car had 43,989 miles on it when this event took place. My concern is that this isn't just a worn out cushion on a seat that could easily be overlooked if failure occurred. Instead, this renders the vehicle un-operable and could have happened at a time of greater need. If the part has been known to be defective and was discontinued on the next generation of the Altima, why was it not recalled? the extended warranty was a bandaid on a large wound. Perhaps the low number of miles never let this car be cycled as often in order for the failure to occur prior to the 6 year cutoff. Still yet, a bill of nearly $1400 has been generated for two senior adults who live on a fixed income, but do still rely on their vehicle. At the very least, they should cover their expenses. It has been an inconvenience, but could have occurred during a time of medical need for them. Please help, if possible. Respectfully submitted, paul kimble C/O ralph and bertha kimble, uvalde,

- Uvalde, TX, USA

problem #698

Jan 102017


  • 99,656 miles


The car failed to start due to a steering wheel lock mechanism failure and the car had to be towed and the steering wheel lock mechanism replaced. The vehicle was stationary at the time of this failure, however these units should be fairly reliable and should not be failing. It appears that the unit used in these cars has a particular design flaw that causes these units to fail and Nissan has many complaints against the failure of these units. My bigger question is to what happens when these units fail while driving the car. Is it possible that people are driving around in death traps that may lock their steering while driving" I had the unit replaced and contacted Nissan and was not able to get a straight answer on if these units are safe, if the replacement is safe, if the replacement contains the same defect as the original unit. Nissan had extended the warranty on this unit, but obviously it has not been long enough, or the replacement units are failing as well. Such a simple unit that obviously has a wearing design flaw that may potentially lead to loss of control of a vehicle if it does not fail safe. Does it fail safe"

- Olathe, KS, USA

problem #697

Jan 132017


  • 108,000 miles
Owner of a 09 Nissan Altima 2.5 S. my whole family got stuck with the car that didnt start at all, there's a key logo in the dash panel showing so I went to find some solutions online and found that im lost because it wont start again until fix by a dealer. No fun at all because I found that I might have to pay out of my pocket and this been a old problem that I never was mentioned by my service dealer. Nissan needs to do something about it.

- Capitol Heights, MD, USA

problem #696

Jan 092017


  • 136,000 miles
Faulty steering control lock disabled engine; would not start. Vehicle was stationary in parking lot.

- Germantown Hills, IL, USA

problem #695

Jan 082017


  • 92,000 miles
Steering lock mechanism abruptly failed preventing the car from starting. The car was stationary but the problem caused me and my young grandchildren stranded in subfreezing conditions.

- Maryville, TN, USA

problem #694

Jan 092017


  • 82,105 miles


Car was parked. Car wont start or crank. The fob opens and locks doors, but engine wont start. Dealer replace steering lock unit. Nissan forums are full of complaints from 2012 - 2013 with the same issue. Nissan did extend warranty on this part but only of few years with out issuing a re-call or notice. Part and labor are over $1100.

- Bethpage, NY, USA

problem #693

Jan 102017


  • miles
Started car with no issues and drove to a place of business. Approximately 3 hours later, car (stationary in a parking lot) unlocked, but would not start. "key" indicator light blinks, which usually means remote battery is low. As I attempt to push brake and push button to start car, red light blinks indicating my car is not recognizing the key. It's 25 degrees outside and I have my 2 year old child and no heat in my car, so I have a friend drive me home. I return with new batteries in the key. Car still will not start. Inserted the key in the port, but that didn't start the car either. After reading and researching the issue, I'm sure it's the steering wheel lock mechanism. I therefore have to call a tow truck and have my car towed to the Nissan dealership.

- Ellicott City, MD, USA

problem #692

Jan 092017


  • miles
My brake switch went out in September. At any given time my car wouldn't start. When I press the brake peddle my brake light wouldn't come on. This happened over and over again. This is very dangerous because someone could run into the back of the car at any given time. I travel up and down the road a good bit. Having this problem is very dangerous for me. Now, a few months my car want start again. The dealership thinks its the steering column this time. My car don't even have 70,000 miles on it. This doesn't make since to me. I've been told by several people that Nissan is aware of this problem. I've been told that the problem exist in most all 2009 Altima's. why would Nissan risk the well being of their customers. It's sad that when I give them the year and make of my car they know exactly what the problem is without even checking them out. There should be a recall on these parts. These parts. Why is Nissan willing to cheat their customers and why are they willing to put our lives as well as the lives of other drivers at risk.

- Roswell, GA, USA

problem #691

Jan 062017


  • 100,000 miles
On 1/6/17 my 2009 Nissan Altima would not start due to a locked steering column. I was stranded at a school in below freezing temperatures, and had to ask someone for a ride. This part has been breaking down for awhile. I was fortunate to find a ride. The temperature in kc that day was between 1-14 F with packed snow and ice on the ground. Someone could be stranded in a place or situation that is not safe. I was told the car had a faulty steering lock. I had to have the car towed and repaired at a cost of $1,192.34

- Kansas City, MO, USA

problem #690

Dec 102016


  • 84,259 miles
I go to college in a remote part of Nebraska and in the winters it gets really cold and when you have a car in the middle of nowhere and it does not want to start. Thanks Nissan for not caring if I die of exposure. I live in remote town that doesn't even have a grocery store. Everything is closed by 6pm in my town and we are the last place to close in my work town which is a 30 min drive home. Both of these towns would be considered small town midwest farm towns, so when I close work and I can't start my car at midnight, I'm stranded. I can't go back into work to keep warm as the lock and alarm are activated when I leave. No one is up and the only people on the streets are the cops & are not taxis to drive me 30 mins to another town home. Point is, my car doesn't turn on, I'm left out in zero degree weather or below zero with one heck of a wind chill to just wait for some one that is over an hour away to come get me. If I'm lucky enough to find some one in peru, ne. Otherwise I am call my mother in Lincoln, ne. That's over an hour and half drive. I have been stranded now 3 times since December 10, 2016. 1st time. I was told it is my battery. Replaced it to no resolve. 2nd time was told it is my alternator. Tested fine and since it started fine at the dealership they said my car was fine. 3rd time, I hoped on the internet and to my complete surprise and shock to find that this is not an isolated issues. Nissan has known about the steering lock control unit stranding people for years and has done nothing to notify there customers or have it as a recall, but only as a warranty issue which expired 1-2016. I have already spent over $300 trying to get the problem fixed. I am a college student putting myself through college. That was my book money this semester. I don't have rich parents and need a reliable car. Nissan get it together and make this a recall to fix it!!

- Lincoln, NE, USA

problem #689

Jan 082017


  • miles
Steering lock actuator: Steering lock mechanism went out and left my daughter stranded and we had to have veh towed. There was no alternate way to start car or put it in neutral to roll it out of the way. All due to a push start button on car and no other way to operate it safely. Having to have it repaired myself which will cost between $1500 and $700. This part should be recalled due to the danger it imposes. Also not being able to put it in neutral imposes other damage to car in having to find an alternative way to move veh.

- Jacksonville, TX, USA

problem #688

Jan 082017


  • 151,000 miles
Takata recall. Last evening I went to the closest store, which happens to be 12 miles from home. I did as many do when getting to a store. Turned off my 2009 Nissan Altima and locked it as I was walking away from the store. I had left my car off roughly 15 minutes. When I got in the car there were no flashing lights or indication something was wrong. I applied my foot to pedal and pushed the ignition, but nothing happened. I thought the fob possibly needed a new battery, but this wasn't the case. After replacing the fob battery and trying to insert the fob in dash nothing happened. The car left me stranded in cold temperatures after hours of course. With this problem the car would not even slip into neutral to be towed without extensive fees. Upon having the 2009 Nissan Altima diagnosed the "steering lock module" is not working and causing this to put the car out of commission. The fees of towing, parts, and labor are a little over $1,100.

- Milford, NE, USA

problem #687

Jan 032017


  • 50,000 miles
Electonic steering wheel column lock failed. It failed in a parking lot in the evening and left me stranded.

- Laurel Springs, NJ, USA

problem #686

Jan 022017


  • 170,000 miles
I am unable to start my car due to the steering wheel lock. My key fob works perfectly fine and I did not do anything out of the ordinary when I went to start my car yet I cannot drive it and I am stuck in the frigid cold in front of my job.

- Brooktondale, NY, USA

problem #685

Nov 202016


  • miles
Arrived at a gas station to fuel up, after I was done the car wouldn't start. Come to find out that the steering lock pump (which is connected to the push to start mechanism) is worn out which stops the car to turn

- Boynton Beach, FL, USA

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