2009 Nissan Altima steering problems: steering wheel lock failure

Steering Wheel Lock Failure

2009 Nissan Altima (Page 1 of 23)

This problem may be covered under warranty. Ask your Nissan dealer.

CarComplaints.com Seal Of This Might Hurt

CarComplaints.com 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.

More info & videos about the Nissan ESCL defect are available over at NissanProblems.com.

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.


pretty bad
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
89,700 miles
Total Complaints:
459 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. replace steering wheel lock (169 reports)
  2. not sure (107 reports)
  3. replace steering lock controller unit (98 reports)
  4. make it recall (26 reports)
  5. replace electronic steering wheel column (13 reports)
  6. replace brake switch (8 reports)
2009 Nissan Altima steering problems

steering problem

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2009 Nissan Altima Owner Comments (Page 1 of 23)

problem #459

Nov 032018

Altima 3.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles


I bought my used 2009 Nissan Altima used in February of 2015. It was in excellent condition when I purchased it (only 35K miles) and has remained in fairly decent condition since. Apparently, the warranty on the steering column lock was extended due to the part being faulty which prevented the vehicle from starting. I was never informed of the "voluntary campaign" that Nissan put out and this expired in March 2015 (only a month after I purchased my car). Here I am, 3.5 years later, and the part finally malfunctions. My car would not start, and at the time I wasn't sure why. I had AAA tow it to a garage where they diagnosed the issue with the steering column lock. It was the mechanic at this garage that told me (after a $130 diagnostic fee) about Nissan's campaign and that I should contact Nissan because it may be covered under the warranty. I called Nissan Customer Affairs who flat out told me no, it was not covered because the extended warranty date had passed. I explained my situation and I was told that they would not even consider my case until I had it diagnosed at a Nissan dealership. This meant another tow and another diagnostic fee ($120) that I'd have to pay on the slight chance that they'd cover even some of the repair. If they do not cover the repair, then it's just more money down the drain. I am currently waiting for Nissan to complete the diagnostics, however I am absolutely astounded that they are able to treat their customers like this. If I was entitled to a replacement part 3 years ago, what difference does it make if it's done now, rather than back in 2015. I am hoping that Nissan will work with me on this or I will have serious doubts in ever purchasing another Nissan again.

- Allie B., Saratoga Springs, NY, US

problem #458

Feb 242019

Altima 2.5 S

  • CVT transmission
  • 84,000 miles

My car would not start/turn over/click or anything, other then flash the no key and security signals on the dash. It ended up being due to the electronic steering column lock going bad. To get things working temporarily, I used an angle grinder to cut slots into the break off bolts that hold the ESCL in place and removed it while keeping all of the under dash panel wiring connections in place. After inserting my key fob in the sensor slot and jamming the lock bolt back down into the ESCL a few times, the car started, and has worked for the last few days without any further issues. I contacted a local dealership and scheduled to come in and have this repaired on their dime and my time.

- Jesse W., Marysville, WA, US

problem #457

Nov 232018


  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

I need some help in getting this post shared Please. So if everyone that comes into contact Please share I would appreciate it. So I have a 2009 Nissan Altima that the electric steering column has went bad on and in order to fix it I have to pay almost $800. But I have been online and seen many people with this same problem from their 2009 Nissan Altima.

So I contacted the recall line and they informed me there was a recall for this exact issue but that it was on certain vehicles. So I wondering how many people have had to front the bill on an issue that clearly was a recall but because it wasn't the vin # they were looking for, there is nothing they will do about it. I just don't get it, so we have the same problem that the recall was for but have to pay $800 out if pocket Because its not a vin # from that line. Well maybe they need to extend that recall to the other vehicles that wasn't from that line but have the same issue.

So Please contact me so I can see who else has this issue and hopefully do something about it to make Nissan pay for everyone's recall as they should. Funny same year and same make and model and same problem but some aren't included in recall? Hummmm. I feel we need to do something about this, plz contact me only if you are willing to help. Send message on FB message under Crystal Aguilar it's a pic of just the face and a sparkling ear ring. Thanks

- Crysta A., Harrisonburg, US

problem #456

Dec 082018

Altima 2.5S 2.5L

  • CVT transmission
  • 193,000 miles


This is the last Nissan I ever buy. The voluntary service campaign does not include my VIN number but clearly my vehicle has the issue. I called both the local dealer and Nissan of North America and they both gave me the same run around. I asked why my car wasn't included if it was exhibiting the same problems and they could not answer my question.

Please, if you're in the market for a new car, do yourself a favor and buy anything other than a Nissan.

- Wayde G., Gray, ME, US

problem #455

Jun 202018


  • Automatic transmission
  • 169,001 miles

They need to extend this warranty! Our vehicles are still having this problem. My car was doing just fine. I keep up on anything that needs to be done to it to keep it in good working condition. I am a single mom and this repair is going to cost me if I can't get it to release for me. If this is a problem that Nissan is aware of................why the hell is there a cap on the warranty?

Update from Aug 17, 2018: Update!! Took the vehicle in to Nissan and got the steering lock fixed and the other recalls done as well. New problem.... My car looses power going up hills. Nissan checked and said they couldn't find a problem. I had to go up a hill a week later and lost all power going up it. My foot was to the floor and nothing. I had to be towed. Not good!!!

- Christina R., Phoenix, US

problem #454

Apr 202018

Altima V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 126,000 miles

I was leaving work on lunch and my car would not start. I Googled the issue and found out it was a steering lock problem. Through Google, I did find out you can use a hammer to hit the steering lock box, and that will allow you to start your car. I have not fixed the issue yet, I’m still researching reasonably priced repair. Until then, I will start my hooptie with a hammer. Thanks Nissan!!

Update from Apr 24, 2018: Well, I guess I should of checked the Nissan website before posting my review. There is actually a recall on this. https://www.nissanusa.com/recalls-vin/ My car was fixed at no cost to me.

- Meredith R., Tulsa, OK, US

problem #453

Mar 012018

Altima SD 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 167,900 miles


I paid for this car cash in full. I have two children, going through a divorce, no job, only transportation. I have been stranded 5 times in the past two days not including all the other times. I have no money to fix it and nobody to help me. I love this car but this issue is ridiculous. I need it replaced immediately. I expected this car to be dependable and I'm very upset about this.

- Rebecca R., Traskwood, AR, US

problem #452

Jan 162018

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 109,000 miles

I had this problem before, at that time it was a recall, problem fixed with Nissan in High Point. NC. Now I have again the same problem. They put the same defective piece or maybe never replaced the piece. Really, this is the last time I will select a Nissan. I was reading about this issue and I found that this is a known problem with the steering locking out and unable to turn on the car at all. it supposed to be fixed with the first recall, but it looks like it was momentarily.

The car was unable to turn on. I had to tow the car to the nearest dealer, Mineke, they charged me U$1,069.06.

- Marco A., High Point, NC, US

problem #451

May 132016

Altima S 2.5L

  • CVT transmission
  • 260,900 miles

Steering lock replacement $1200 plus $112 wrecker tow. After filing a claim with Nissan the Saint the extension for replacing that part expired April of 2015 and we're sorry that they couldn't help me. So.... It's a big enough problem to extend warranty coverage, but not enough for a recall. And such an EXPENSIVE repair. I think I have purchased my only Nissan product. I expect to spend money on moving parts that wear out due to my high milage driving, but not this kind of repair due to bad parts.

- Karen V., Lonoke, AR, US

problem #450

Jan 152018

Altima ES 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,214 miles

Crazy and sad that Nissan is well aware of all of these documented incidents and not lift a finger and initiate a national recall. I will never and I mean never own or purchase a Nissan and will definitely negatively put the on blast on all social media platforms, family, friends, co- workers and multiply associates. Yes this might not get Nissan to issue a recall but I know it will cost them multiple sales and complaints on the front end and hit their bottom line. So some smug isolated executive hibernating in their plush office, out of touch with their core customer, better get off their fat ASS and do the right thing!!!!

- Jim G., So. Chas, US

problem #449

Mar 232016


  • Automatic transmission
  • 95,000 miles


The car would not crank. It had to be towed. The electronic steering lock had gone out. The repair shop replaced the steering column and the car would crank. However, the rear wheels would not turn. The vehicle was towed to a Nissan dealership and the repair shop was told that the steering column caused the security system to think that the car was being tampered with so it locked the brakes. The dealership told the repair shop what needed to be done to fix the problem. The car had to be towed back to the repair shop, fixed, then towed again to the dealership for electronic programming. Nissan instituted a recall on the steering column and said they would pay for repairs if they had already been done. The repair cost $1370.65. When Nissan contacted the repair shop after receiving my claim, they obviously did not remember the work they did. It had been 16 months prior. They told Nissan that the brake problem occurred later. The car could not be driven until the brakes were repaired from the security system lockdown caused by the steering column. How could I drive a vehicle with back wheels that would not turn? I did not drive a vehicle with non-turning wheels away from the repair shop and the bring it back later for the brakes to be unlocked. Nissan denies that the steering wheel lock could cause this problem. They deny that there has ever been a problem or recall regarding Nissan brakes. If they are going to "make things right and whole" they should pay for the entire repair since everything was caused by the steering wheel column lock that they are recognizing. Just because a mechanic does not recall everything regarding a car 16 months earlier does not mean it did not happen. What are the chances of the steering column lock, brake lock, and electronic security system all going out, individually, at the same time. Nissan says they will reimburse between $400 and $500 dollars and will let me know the exact amount in a week.

Do not buy a Nissan. They do not stand behind their vehicles. Also, if they had taken the initiative to make the recall sooner, it could have been fixed before it messed up other systems.

- missyb, Monticello, US

problem #448

Dec 312017

Altima SL

  • Automatic transmission
  • 78,000 miles

Nissan has a recall campaign to replace the Electronic Steering Column Lock (ESCL) with an Electronic Steering Column Box (ESCB). However, Nissan says my 2009 Altima isn't covered although 250,000 others are.

- Dave M., Durham, US

problem #447

Sep 022016

Altima 2.5S 2.5L

  • CVT transmission
  • 124,163 miles

My Daughter was picking up my son at school and after she got him car won't start. they we're stuck at the school parking lot. no sign of a problem before that cause I would have known about it because I check this car every week!!! it happens to be the stupid steering lock mechanism. I was able to rig the lock mechanism and had it started! i am still waiting for a recall notice!!

- Anthony B., San Jose, CA, US

problem #446

Dec 072017


  • Automatic transmission
  • 115,000 miles

Nissan has a campaign and extended the warranty to help some of the thousands of owners whose vehicle won’t start due to a faulty electronic steering column locks. However, these recalls are VIN specific and even though my vehicle has the identical problem, they denied my claim. I appealed and they denied again. Now I get to pay $1,000 to pay for a part that Nissan has publicly admitted was due to shoddy manufacturing in thousands of 09 Altimas, but somehow not in mine.

Nissan, I know you’re not Honda or Toyota, but, c’mon: make an effort.


- Jack D., Bellevue, NE, US

problem #445

Nov 252017


  • Automatic transmission
  • 130,000 miles

Looks like my steering column switch went out. Kids were driving it downtown Minneapolis at 11pm when they went to start it nothing because it was parked on the street cops made me call a tow truck which costed $151.24.. After researching issues and doing things that others tried i tapped on the switch and it started up but went out again... No warranty and looks like about $500 to buy the part and more to have someone do the work. If Nissan knows of this issue why are they not doing a recall as from what i have read thousands of others have this same issue.... Sure wish I found this out before i bought it. I would not bought if i had know about this. Nissan should recall and fix this known issue for free.

- Lori W., Richfield, US

problem #444

Nov 052017

Altima SE

  • Automatic transmission
  • 116,000 miles

First ESCL failure occurred 12/2014. Replaced by Nissan with 'good' part. 'Good' (defective) part just failed again on 11/5/2017. Replacement at discounted cost by personal mechanic was $742. Nissan only warrants the part for 1 year. I've filed a complaint with Nissan Assist for reimbursement, but am not hopeful given what I am reading online. I'm hoping others have had their replacement part fail and that a class action lawsuit may occur. We aren't talking about a fuse blowing - this is typically about $1000 to fix, and this part should not be failing. Nissan's replacement part is obviously still flawed if it failed at under 3 years later. Very unhappy.

- Rachel M., Sacramento, US

problem #443

Jun 062016

Altima SE 2,5

  • Automatic transmission
  • 120,000 miles

I just want to let everyone know about this problem and how I repaired it without getting ripped off by Nissan. My wife got in her 2009 Nissan Altima to push button start - nothing happened = after doing internet research - found out the car Electronic Steering lock for push button - a thief deterrent was bad /broke /not working. The Nissan dealership wanted $700 for the little metal electronic box located beneath the steering wheel column - held on by 2 bolts and the electrical wiring harness and they wanted another $600 to program it, $1300 total and that does not include the TOW charge . I went on Ebay or Amazon - look on Both found the exact ESL in plastic bubble wrap in the official Nissan box for $350 - Hesitant to do so because it was an Electronic part - I ordered thru my Pay Pal account in case something was wrong - once it came in the mail about 4 days later = uninstalled existing ESL - 2 Bolts and 1 wiring harness = installed the new ESL - 2 Bolts and 1 wiring harness = pushed the start button - everything lit up on the dashboard - got in the car - put foot on brake - car fired right up - Did not program anything - Have been told because it was a 2009 I did not have to program - Do you think the Nissan Dealership in Goldsboro NC told me that????? NO Would have been an EASY $600 for them plus the $700 part that I got for $350. If you have this issue - HOPE THIS WILL HELP SAVE YOU SOME MONEY

I also own a NISSAN PATHFINDER AND A NISSAN 350Z (3) Nissan vehicles - My ideas of my future car purchases are changing when I see the type of service people are getting from Nissan.

- Mike S., Goldsboro, US

problem #442

Oct 142017

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 101,000 miles

This just happened to me on 10/14/17. After checking the manual and trying the usual things like everyone else has stated, I got a tow to Larry Miller Nissan in Highlands Ranch...they said they were aware of a recall for this issue. They asked if I got a recall notice, which I had not. I am not sure why others have had to pay such high repair costs, as mine was taken care for free :-( The only cost was the $95 tow (which my insurance should reimburse) and several hours at the dealer, not knowing exactly what the repairs might be.....luckily I came out OK.

- Sandra S., Highla, US

problem #441

Sep 252017

Altima 2.5L I4

  • CVT transmission
  • 124,000 miles

After the first long trip (100 miles long), my 2009 Altima refused to turn on, showing the key light on the dashboard and locking the steering wheel. This is the same problem as all the complaints related to the steering wheel lock of this vehicle.

A couple of months ago I received a letter from Nissan Co. offering to replace the mechanical steering lock for an electronic one. I have happily accepted because everyone on the web was saying that's the problem, but after the change, the problem remains the same. I must add that there were times when the dashboard key light went on while driving, and the front lights began to flash, the A/C stopped, and the windshield wipers acted erratically (that was a very dangerous rainy night).

I went to California's Gardena Nissan dealership, and they said it was a battery cable problem that needed cleaning, changing the brake switch (even when never before the car's system failed when the brake was pressed) and replacing the battery. The point is that they did that and charged me over $ 500, but the problem is unresolved. Sometimes I press the button to start and the car does not start, but the key light on the dash is lit (it should be noted the FOB battery has been replaced several times and is well charged; therefore, that is NOT the problem), electric radiator fans and front lights start to go on and off, the power button shows "ON" but the engine is off, and no matter how hard I press it I cannot change the button to the "LOCK" position again.

The only solution I found is to disconnect the battery and reconnect it, wait several hours and then try again. Sometimes starts to work normal, sometimes not. When I returned to the dealership, they just said that it was now necessary to replace the cable that is connected to the brake switch (the same switch they already changed) and recommended me to eliminate the alarm because this "could" be an interference for the car's electrical system, all this would have another additional cost of more than $ 300. I refused to let them keep stealing my money.

Obviously, they don't know how to solve this problem, and they want to keep playing riddles with my car, while I'm paying for that. I had the alarm removed by the person who installed it, but The problem is still there. After this experience, I cannot believe otherwise than Gardena Nissan (and maybe all dealerships) are scoundrels, and probably I need some legal help to solve this.

- elargento, Los Angeles, US

problem #440

Mar 222016

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 77,000 miles

steering lock unit locked up. need to replace in order for car to start. This is a known manufacturing defect from Nissan and I need to my replacement cost reimbursed from Nissan.

I called customer care and they are saying nothing can be done for this.

- Kamla D., Henrico, VA, US

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