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

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:
81,000 miles
Total Complaints:
15 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. not sure (5 reports)
  2. Nissan replaced the transmission (3 reports)
  3. external cooling system for the transmission (2 reports)
  4. replace transmission (2 reports)
  5. i could not reproduce the whine to dealer (1 reports)
  6. repaired with transmission kit (1 reports)
2009 Nissan Altima transmission problems

transmission problem

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2009 Nissan Altima Owner Comments

problem #15

Jun 132018

Altima S 4 Cylinder

  • CVT transmission
  • 103,500 miles


Nissan Altima transmission is failing at only around 100k. Just ridiculous. It started whining when going up hill in heat after driving over 1 hour. Now it's repeatedly doing it regularly and getting worse. Also, loses some power. The speedometer goes up but much slower than normal. If I put it in manual mode it's crazy loud and sounds like an RC car even on flat ground now.

I've only had the car for around 1 year. This is crazy. If this transmission failed in 2019 instead of now, the car would be worthless and have to be junked since paying 4k for a piece of crap transmission that will fail again is crazy. Thankfully, it's under warranty and nissan should replace it. If I had known about this site before I never would have bought this car. I took the car into the dealership and the mechanics said transmission was failing and now I'm waiting to hear back from Nissan corporate to approve the replacement transmission for the car.

If you're thinking about getting a Nissan CVT car in anything other than a brand new lease, DO NOT. This is not a rare event. The technician I spoke with says they regularly replace these transmissions. Failure is common. The CVT from Nissan is badly engineered and is not designed to last a long time. Apparently, 2013 Nissans seem even worse from what I've read on this site and they never extended the warranty past 60k. Thankfully 2009 was extended to 120k or 10 years.

Update from Aug 8, 2018: Nissan replaced the transmission under warranty. I got real lucky that this happened while the warranty was still active.

- nissanreallysucks, Middletown, US

problem #14

Aug 172013

Altima 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 97,000 miles

Same problem Ive seen everyone complaining about. Once I've driven it for a while or temperature outside is above 85 it makes a whining sound and will not accelerate, you can push the peddle to the floor and it stays the same. Now it is slipping while driving.

- rgrear, Edinburg, VA, US

problem #13

Oct 012015

Altima S 2.5L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 70,000 miles

Nissan replaced my CVT under warranty with a rebuilt CVT that is terrible with significant vibration while accelerating and driving but they said that's normal. The original transmission had no vibration issues like this but did have the speed sensitive noise which led to the replacement.

- mjkgolf4, Waltham, MA, US

problem #12

Sep 062015

Altima S

  • CVT transmission
  • 84,859 miles


My issue is the same as many others. While driving up the Cajon Pass on our way the Vegas the car lost power. We had the gas pedal to the floor and could not get above 35mph. We were in the fast lane with no shoulder. Luckily we were able to get over in the truck lane and inch our way to the top of the hill. We heard a loud whining sound and barely made it without getting into an accident.

I took the car to the dealer. They could not recreate the problem even though we were clear that they would have to drive the car for awhile uphill as this has happened twice with the same exact issue. They were trying to charge me $700 for something completely unrelated to the transmission issue. I filed a complaint with Nissan Corporate and I am awaiting the outcome. I am scared to drive the car any long distance at all. This is now right and Nissan needs to replace my transmission as it is still under warranty. I have a feeling this is going to be a long fight...

- Kelly P., Covina, CA, US

problem #11

Jul 012014


  • CVT transmission
  • 99,000 miles

The car would wine at high speeds / long trips and high temps in the summer. It got worse every summer and even would suddenly stop accelerating. I took the car into the dealer for 3 summers in a row. The first two summers they basically told me I was crazy because they could not reproduce the issue.

The third summer, they finally had an answer that was $750 for a known issue and there its no guarantee the problem would be fixed. I feel as if there is a known defect in a car that is a huge safety issue on a highway, it should be replaced or fixed at no cost to the owner. Nissan sucks and I can guarantee I will never buy or recommend a Nissan to others again.

- bgcoldiron, Houston, TX, US

problem #10

Dec 262014

Altima SE 3.0L

  • CVT transmission
  • 154,000 miles

Car is 5 years old, car began to make a slight whine upon driving on CHRISTMAS day. Next morning, the check engine light was on. Took it to my local auto parts store, they ran the code and told me it was coming back as the step down motor for the transmission. I called my dealer, told them the issue and they told me it would be $138 to diagnosis. Took it to them on Monday, was called later that day and told it would now be $250 to diagnose as they had to completely tear into my transmission to figure it out.

I called consumer affairs and asked them why I was having transmission issues in a 5 year old car, that has mainly highway miles. They told me that the transmissions were an issue and they had increased the warranty to 5 yrs or 120,000 miles, whichever came first and "unfortunately, my car was outside of warranty, so there wasn't anything they could do." I even explained to them that this car was my families main mode of transportation, I did not have money to replace an entire transmission as my husband was currently battling his 2nd time with leukemia and he was receiving cancer treatment in Houston, TX awaiting a bone marrow transplant and that my car is used to make trips to and from Houston so he can see our kids while he is there recovering as we live in Virginia. They told me that it doesn't matter to Nissan what your personal issues are, they only look at the warranty period and that is all they are concerned with!!!

I bought a Nissan as I thought they were supposed to be reliable cars and a good company. I now have a piece of crap Nissan in my driveway that I cannot drive as I do not have the $5,499 that has been quoted to have this car fixed due to a known issue with a transmission. I will never spend money on another Nissan product or suggest Nissan to anyone.

- Christina G., Culpeper, VA, US

problem #9

Jul 222014

Altima SL 2.5L

  • CVT transmission
  • 82,021 miles


Bought this car used in early spring this year and originally was quite happy with it. I have been a ford truck guy for years and was quite pleased with the fit and feel of the car and looking forward to a semi luxury sedan with all the promise of lower maintenance cost and fuel economy one would expect from such a vehicle after being a truck owner for years. To my dismay, within a few months of driving, i find myself on the highway heading up a reasonably gentle 5 or 6 percent grade and started losing speed, a little at first, and as i leaned into the accelerator the engine rpm increased from 2200 or so to 3500ish, (which i had come to understand was "normal" for a CVT) but with no change to this loss of power to the road. slightly concerned but in traffic at a reasonable speed with no where to go i asked a bit more of the accelerator to no avail. Now with a tach screaming out 5000 rpm and doing a paltry 75kmh a very pronounced whine made itself very evident. By the time I had crested this hill it sounded like i was in a fighter jet doing mach 6, only to look out the window and realize i was being passed by a 25 year old 3 cyl festiva with the doors ducktaped on like i was parked. 30 kmh (17ish MPH) to be precise. Now I know its only a four banger 2.5L and a little push to climb a hill is reasonable, but i can run this fast. i managed to slide into a small opening in the guard railing and get off the road enough to stop and get a peek under the hood, that's funny I thought to myself, no smoke, no smell, no ridiculous heat or catastrophic fluid leaks, very odd. called Nissan to be told car must have over revved by my doing and went to "safe mode" give it a few minutes and try it again it should be fine. which it was for about ten minutes, i've had this car in three times at a cost of 250 plus per visit to be told the infamous "we can't reproduce this problem". I find it impossible to believe that hundreds of individuals have made complaints about similar problems all related to this particular engine and transmission issue but a tech at the dealership can't seem to reproduce this. find a hill, get the car up to temp and then try to pass someone at 80kmh, hold it to 120kmh and voila PROBLEM. Now I'm sure your service manager won't appreciate the tech finding this problem, but on the bright side, at least they could consider themselves more than a scum sucking, sack of steaming fecal matter. I would like to know just out of curiosity how many of those two faced, don't give a damn a holes actually drive one of these POS cars, and whether or not you could convince one of them to buy one. PS. I know it asks to list separate other complaints but just for the record, (the steering lock mechanism car wont start problem) is a potential death sentence in a Canadian winter. I just recently was stranded 190kms away from anywhere in northern Alberta Canada. After fueling my car at a self serve station, just closing for the night, with a sign NEXT SERVICE 186km, i figured i should check my fluids and have a quick rest before continuing on to home 580 kms away. being prepared i threw my alarm on pulled my down filled blanket out and caught an hours nap. Upon waking to the minus 36 degrees centigrade, i pushed on the start button and lo and behold nothing, minor panic at this point, try to make a call, no service, moderate panic, after some walking around to try for a signal, phone dies. SEVERE "F" ING PANIC, car wont start,phone is dead,its minus 36 outside and wouldn't you know it the power socket only works while the car is on for the charger. I can tell you this, if it hadn't of been but for the grace of god, that one pickup truck that passed by pulled in to see if they were open, i may very well have been in serious trouble, and I'm a fairly prepared kind of fella, imagine that was your wife and kid, with no blanket, or no truck going by.

- Chris P., Calgary, Alberta, canada

problem #8

Feb 152012

Altima 2.5 S V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 37,000 miles

Highly annoying and in fear of having to replace my transmission long before reasonably warranted.

- Kristi S., Liberty, NC, US

problem #7

Jul 102013

Altima SL 2.5L I4

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

It appears that the whining is the beginning to larger transmission issues. Dealer is currently looking at the issue.

- npolite, Drexel Hill, PA, US

problem #6

Jun 182014

Altima S 2.5L 4 cyl

  • CVT transmission
  • 95,000 miles

I have had the same issues so many of you have described. I have had my transmission replaced 3 times in the last 18 months. Same symptoms – humming/whining on hot days, followed by a dangerous loss of power. After months of arguing with the dealer and contacting Nissan Customer Affairs - it turns out that Nissan has reverse engineered a “fix” for this problem.

Apparently what we have been experiencing is an "overheating transmission". If you drive on hot days for extended periods of time, if causes the fluid to break down. This causes the transmission to go into “fail-safe” mode – which keeps the car from accelerating properly (this is the dealer’s explanation, not mine). Based on their description - it does seem logical.

The fix is an “external cooling system” for the transmission. They installed it on my car last week. It will take some time to determine if it really is a fix – but I wanted to make sure I let people know as this is an expensive repair. Good luck!


2009 Altima

99,000 miles

- Robert L., Maple Shade, NJ, US

problem #5

Aug 312012

Altima S

  • CVT transmission
  • 95,717 miles


I bought my 2009 Altima in Oct 2008 brand new and LOVED it, at first ....

Originally we noticed the whine on a trip out of town, mileage was about 65,000. It was a hot day and we'd been driving about an hour. We stopped the car and let it "cool" down ... it drove better after that. Couple weeks later, on another hot day, we'd been driving a couple hours and it made an even louder whining noise. Again, we stopped and "cooled" down. Seemed fine then all the way home. My daughter then drove it down to Santa Barbara, for college tours, and called me from the car scared as heck. She had the gas pedal floored and it wasn't going anywhere. She had to move to the slow lane and said she was still holding people up behind her. I told her to pull over and let it "cool". She did and it was fine the rest of the trip.

We decided to see if maybe the transmission needed service or fluid or whatever and learned that these Nissans use a specific trans fluid. At the next oil change at Oil Changers we asked if they could service the transmission with this special fluid. The manager assured us that he could. My boyfriend saw the mechanic put the special Nissan CVT fluid in the tranny. The car seemed to run better for a while (weather was also cooler than it had been). We took another long-ish trip and had no issues. Two months later, driving up Interstate 80 to Reno, the car acted as it did for my daughter in June. After driving for 2-3 hours, the car speed would suddenly start to decrease and without any warning. With the gas pedal absolutely floored, the speed would slowly drop, and it was worse if you were going uphill. Note that rpms were steady at 3. And this only happened on the freeway, after driving for a while, almost as if the car got "hot" either from weather or time on road.

So, I took it to my dealer who told me that the transmission had failed and I needed a new one. Mileage was now at 95,000 and he said that someone had tampered with the transmission fluid which invalidated any warranty. I would have to pay to replace the transmission - $5700! I asked if this was a common problem with these Nissan transmissions, and he told me no. I later inquired online and found that this is more common than you would think and am surprised he wouldn't know of these complaints. I loved my Nissan, but was MAD that I had to pay this. I KNOW that Oil Changers didn't put the wrong fluid in, but no one would listen to me.

Guess what? It's happening again. After 3 months with the new transmission, I started noticing the whine again. I called the dealer and was told to bring it in. The dealer couldn't recreate the whine, so wouldn't do anything. Three weeks later it did it again. I took it in. They again couldn't recreate it, but sent the car home for the weekend with the mechanic to drive it to see if he could make it happen again. I got a rental car. Monday morning I was told, nope, the car is fine. (Like I'm imagining it or something!) It has now been 1-1/4 years with the new transmission, and whenever the car gets "hot" and I've been driving a while, it makes a really bad whining noise like it did before. Today, after driving just an hour on the freeway, my speed suddenly started decreasing. Of course I was in the fast lane with fast but heavy traffic all around me. I took my foot off the gas, and pressed the accelerator again - to the floor. I had to move over to get out of the way of traffic. Very scary. I'm glad it was me this time and not my 19 year old kid!

Here's the kicker -- dealer says the warranty on the new transmission has expired (in 30K miles). CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? I am beyond furious. Then, I look on this site and see that even more people have had these issues. Nobody put the wrong fluid in my transmission. It was defective and so is the second one!

- Denise I., Pittsburg, CA, US

problem #4

Jun 192012

Altima S 3.5L

  • CVT transmission
  • 90,800 miles

The whining noise on my 2009 Altima CVT transmission started as I was 35 minutes into my trip, going highway speed. Only when I decelerated would it go away. When I got to work, I googled the problem and found numerous people with the same issue and that Nissan extended the warranty coverage to 120,000 miles, admitting there is a problem.Most people eventually get their transmissions replaced under this warranty.

So I bring my car to the dealer figuring they would know exactly the issue since it has been so prominent. However, since I could not reproduce the sound at the shop, they gave me the car back and said to bring it back when it's more prevalent. I even had a video of the sound to show them.

Meanwhile, I work late nights driving 120 miles daily to work and don't want to get stuck on the road at 3am because that's when the tranny finally fails me. It sucks that I know its coming and will eventually be replaced but when and where it happens is out of my hands. I wish Nissan would have replaced it since it is an inevitable repair and could have saved me pain and suffering that lies ahead. I'm not whining, the car is !! Fix it.

- John M., Bellmore, NY, US

problem #3

Mar 052013

Altima LS 2.5L

  • CVT transmission
  • 41,000 miles

I just bought this car 5 months ago at 37k miles, with 60k Factory Warranty still attached + purchased the extended warranty through 100k miles. Then found out NISSAN extended the warranty to 120K miles or 9/2019 due to issues with the 2009 CT Transmission. Luckily It is all covered and will not cost me anything but my time and aggravation.

- Heather S., Eltkon, MD, US

problem #2

Oct 042011

Altima 2.5 Coupe

  • CVT transmission
  • 55,000 miles

Very disappointed that at 55000 miles we are having transmission issues. It was covered by the warranty, but still very worried that these problems will persist after the warranty expires. After researching online, the Nissan CVT is having several problems, Repair would have cost well over $2000 to fix without warranty.

- vthokie, Blacksburg, VA, US

problem #1

Dec 022010


  • CVT transmission
  • 30,000 miles

There was a whining noise with increasing speed and ended up having to replace the entire transmission. Excellent service by the dealership, who diagnosed it, just suprised that this appears to be a 'not uncommon problem'

- marcusaur, Simcoe, Ontario, Canada

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