Nissan Altima is a great sedan that has been around for a few decades. However, it is not a problem-free car, with users frequently complaining about various problems. In this blog, we have compiled all the frequent problems that Nissan Altima users have encountered.
Nissan Altima has CVT transmission issues in the 2013 model and hood latch problems in the 2013-2018 models. The catalytic converter in nearly all Altima models has been choppy. The poor beam on the 2014 model and the electrical harness issues in the 2019 model also caused issues.
With that bird’s eye view, let’s delve into these problems in detail. We have tried to explain why these problems arise, what they might feel like and how you can get these fixed.
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1. Transmission Problems
Nissan uses a Continuously Variable Transmission in the 2013 – 2018 (5th generation) Altima. CVT is supposed to provide a smooth driving experience because it uses belts and pulleys instead of regular gears. Unfortunately, the low production quality of the CVT units in Nissan Altima makes them vulnerable to heat damage as well as a host of other problems.
Users facing this problem explain that the car either refuses to accelerate or picks up speed very slowly. There have been complaints of delayed throttle response and jerky acceleration.
If you are out to get an Altima, we suggest avoiding the 2013 model like the plague. Fortunately, Nissan has been aware of the problem, and they extended the warranty of CVT from 5 to 7 years. With no recalls for this problem, a trip to the dealership will easily cost you anywhere between $3000-$4000.
2. Hood Latch Problem
Various Nissan Altima users have complained that the car’s hood flies open. This can be troubling, especially since this problem doesn’t have many prominent symptoms and is known to appear suddenly.
The hood of the car has two latches. One that opens from inside the car and then a secondary latch that needs to be opened from under the hood manually. In these 5th-generation Altima cars, the secondary latch has been prone to corrosion.
Nissan Altima’s 2013-2018 models all had this problem. The good news is that Nissan issued at least four recalls for this problem from 2013-2018. So, if you find this problem with the hood of your car, you can get it repaired from the Nissan dealership completely free of cost.
The NHTSA campaign number for this recall is 20V315000.
3. Steering Wheel Lock Failure
In the 2009 model Nissan Altima, there were frequent complaints of electronic steering column lock jamming.
This is supposed to be an anti-theft feature that locks the steering wheel, and the car cannot be started if the car detects any forced entry. The steering wheel can usually be unlocked by putting the car in the ignition and gently rotating the steering wheel.
In the 2009 Altima, users could not unlock their steering wheel despite numerous attempts. Several frustrated users had to get their cars towed out. Nissan Altima users had to launch a change.org petition to bring this issue to Nissan’s notice.
For the 2009 model specifically, Nissan has issued recalls, and the dealership will fix this problem free of charge. However, if the recall does not cover your vehicle, you should be prepared to pay $800-$900 out of your pocket.
4. Camshaft Crankshaft Issue/Engine Stalls
Nissan Altima owners who drove 2008-2010 models have complained of frequent engine issues. These problems are in the form of regular engine stalls and engine slowing down despite adequately warming up the engine. Although this might be confused with the more frequent transmission problems in these cars, the stalling engine is usually due to crankshaft and camshaft sensor malfunction.
The crankshaft sensor synchronizes various aspects of engine function, like ignition, RPM, and the relative engine speed. The camshaft sensor determines which fuel cylinder is firing and ensures that the car runs without hiccups.
Nissan Altima had this issue in nearly all cars up to the 4th generation (until 2013). This mismatched fuel delivery and ignition timing affects the engine performance and brings down fuel efficiency.
With no recalls issued, you will have to bear the repair cost of about $200 for both sensors.
5. Catalytic Converter Failure
Some Nissan Altima users reported that their check engine lights turned on. They suspected an engine oil problem, but on a thorough workup, they were told that the catalytic converter had failed.
The catalytic converter fits into the exhaust pipe and reduces the emission of harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. If the catalytic converter in the engine fails, your car will fail the emission test. A catalytic converter also reduces the emissions of poisonous carbon monoxide from the exhaust pipe.
Nissan Altima has been prone to catalytic converter failure because this part would frequently get overheated. In some cases, it can also break and get stuck in the engine, exacerbating engine failure. An inefficient catalytic converter also adversely affects fuel efficiency. With no recalls issued, a conservative estimate to replace the catalytic converter will be anywhere from $1000 to $1500.
6. Poor Headlight Beam
Some Nissan Altima models, especially the 2014 model, have had poor beams, significantly reducing the driver’s ability to see at night. The users have detailed horrifying experiences they had to face due to poor visibility. The issue is usually bilateral, with both headlights going dim.
Nissan Altima uses halogen headlamps, like many other cars of this league. In these instances, changing the bulb has not rectified the problem. A deeper inquiry reveals that the reflective surfaces of the projector beams in these cars are prone to degradation. Consequently, the whole housing unit has to be replaced for a definitive solution.
Unfortunately, despite numerous complaints, there were no recalls, and users had to pay $200-$300 of their own money to fix this issue.
7. Electrical Problems
Nissan Altima 2019 model owners have complained of numerous electrical issues in their cars. They explain that sometimes the doors don’t lock automatically, the radio system breaks down, and so does the HVAC system. Users have also reported problems with the automated braking system.
This has been more of a design issue than a quality problem. Nissan tends to put the electrical harnesses next to the brake pedal on the car’s floor. If you are bringing snowy boots in the car or moisture accumulates in the floor mats, you can short these electrical harnesses.
Although a complete electrical harness failure is rare, expect to pay up to $3000-$4000 if the electrical system ultimately gives away. Minor electrical issues might pop up occasionally, and you will have to pay for them off and on.
8. Airbag Deployment Issues
Nissan Altima reportedly had this issue that the airbags weren’t deploying even after an intense crash, endangering the lives of the passengers.
Nearly all cars in the 5th generation had this problem, but the 2016 model Altima struggled the most with this problem. This problem was attributed to a malfunctioning OCS. OCS, or the Occupant Classification system, is integral to detecting an occupant and deploying the airbags in response. Due to faulty OCS, the airbags in these cars could not be deployed.
Nissan issued a recall for this problem, and both the ACU and OCS units can be replaced at the dealership free of cost.
The NHTSA campaign number for this recall is 16V244000.
9. Intermittent Starting Problems
Nissan Altima made between 2013 – 2017 have had Technical Service Bulletins issued for intermittent starting problems caused by frequency interference of aftermarket wireless devices. Specifically, wireless devices transmit at 315 MHz and 433MHz, a common frequency for many devices. Nissan would test to determine what device was causing the starting problems. For a detailed, more in-depth look, read this article about the starting problems of a Nissan Altima.
What’s the Worst Year of Nissan Altima
Nissan Altima is one of the mid-tiered Sedans produced by Nissan. It ranks above their Nissan Sentra but a notch below the mighty Nissan Maxima. Nissan Altima has had its fair share of problems, but in our opinion, 2013 was the worst year for this sedan.
The 2013 model frequently struggled with transmission issues, one of the significant reasons we advise steering clear from this model. The 2013 model was also the first of the 5th generation Nissan Altima, one of the most problematic generations for this car.
There were structural issues, and many users gave up on their cars instead of having to visit the dealership every other month. There were hood latch problems as well as airbag deployment issues. These issues are costly to fix and require great expertise, and we think it is best if you try to avoid this model.
We would advise avoiding the 5th generation Altima altogether, but the 2013 model was surely the worst.
If you want a Nissan Altima, we recommend getting one of the newer ones. The 6th generation models from 2018 onwards are a much safer choice.
His interests in cars, motorcycles, and machines led him to the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore where he is currently a mechanical engineering sophomore.
His future aims include the development of an energy-efficient prototype vehicle for the Shell Eco-Marathon competition and getting a Master’s Degree in Automotive Engineering from Germany.