Skip to Content

Nissan Altima Acceleration Problems (+ 5 Solutions)

Nissan Altima Acceleration Problems (+ 5 Solutions)

Nissan Altima has been around for decades and is a fan-favorite midsize sedan. We´ve extensively talked about its problems before. However, one significant aspect of this car that is not talked about much is the acceleration problems. Let’s dissect these problems – but first, we’ll start with a short answer. 

Nissan Altima acceleration problems appear in the form of slow and hesitant acceleration, shuddering noise while accelerating, the car losing speed suddenly, and sporadic delays in acceleration. The most likely causes include CVT issues, clogged air, and fuel filter, faulty brake light relay switches, and inaccurate sensors.

This is only a summary of what we’ve researched for you—a detailed and in-depth analysis of these problems – their symptoms, causes, and solutions. We will also tell which model years have shown these problems and what you can do to mitigate these issues. 

Want to save money on gasoline? earn up to $0.25/gallon every time you fill up? GetUpside is a free-to-use cashback app for US gas stations. Use coupon code THEDRIVERADVISER25and earn an additional $0.25/gallon the first time! Click here to download the app for Android or iOS.


The acceleration problems in Nissan Altima manifest in a variety of ways. Knowing what these symptoms look like and what you can do to mitigate their causes is often the key to solving these issues. Let us discuss some situations where you might ask yourself if your Nissan Altima has some acceleration problems. 

Slow and Hesitant Acceleration 

Nissan Altima not accelerating or showing slow acceleration while traveling on a highway is a tell-tale symptom of an acceleration problem. Several Altima owners have reported that their car suddenly decelerated while going uphill as well. 

Although a gradual reduction in acceleration is normal while going uphill, a sudden acceleration can leave you in a pickle. Even if the car is not going uphill, several car owners have reported having trouble accelerating while traveling on highways. 

For some users, this symptom appeared out of nowhere when the Nissan Altima went from 80 mph to 60 mph while the cruise control was on. Along with this, users also reported hearing whizzing sounds. 

These problems were more common in later models of Nissan Altima (2009-onwards) that come with a CVT. This issue can be quite dangerous if your car is crossing a busy road or while you’re overtaking someone; therefore, it should be solved soon. 

This problem is difficult to ignore and can be found relatively easily. Here is a YouTube Video showing what you can expect to see on your car’s dashboard while facing this problem. 

Shuddering Noises While Accelerating

Imagine this – you go full throttle on a highway, looking to go at maximum speed – but your car starts shaking, and you hear loud shudders. This is another common way by which acceleration problems appear in a Nissan Altima. This is a common problem reported in nearly all of the Nissan Altima models. 

Several causes can cause this symptom. A check engine light usually accompanies this problem. You might also see error codes such as P0300, P0301, P0303, P0304, P0305, and P0306. These codes indicate an engine cylinder misfiring. 

Car Losing Power While Accelerating 

Another symptom of acceleration problems in the Nissan Altima is the car losing power while accelerating. Users have reported that their car suddenly lost power while trying to accelerate, sometimes shutting down entirely while facing agonizingly slow speed. 

In addition to this, you will also notice that your car cannot go above 25kmph. Lastly, users also reported that while facing this problem, their car’s brake lights stayed on after releasing the brake pedal. 

This problem is more common in the 2013-2015 model years of the Nissan Altima. Most likely, there won’t be any engine codes when this problem appears, but in rare cases, you might see the code P0420.

Sporadic Delay While Trying to Accelerate 

Another way to diagnose acceleration problems in your car is if you notice sporadic delays in acceleration. Altima owners have reported that for a few seconds, their car stopped acceleration, regardless of how much they pressed the gas pedal. After a few seconds, this situation subsides. 

While in this situation, some users also reported that their car’s RPM went up – or at least the tachometer displayed so. But in contrast to the tachometer’s display, the car did not accelerate. This problem is solved when the car is turned off for a short time and then turned on. However, this is a temporary fix, and this symptom will likely appear again. 

Possible Causes

Acceleration problems in Nissan Altima can be caused by various factors, ranging from a faulty CVT to a clogged mass-air flow sensor. We will elaborate on each of these causes one by one. 

This way, you could pinpoint the cause or at least eliminate some possible causes before you visit the shop. You might even end up fixing the problem by yourself or will, at the very least, have a better idea of the problem and how much it should cost to repair.  

Defective CVT

A defective CVT is one of the significant causes behind all acceleration problems in a Nissan Altima. Every model of Nissan Altima since 2007 comes with a continuously varying transmission. 

These transmissions were not durable and had manufacturing defaults that troubled Nissan users. These problems are aggravated by low transmission fluid or a faulty stepper motor. The CVT belt system is also prone to failure, and wear and tear of other components can often result in transmission giving up the ghost. 

Although there hasn’t been a recall to solve transmission-related issues, there are several technical service bulletins that tell us how to solve acceleration problems caused by a faulty CVT. 

TSB with reference number NTB15-102b solves a major acceleration-related problem. This TSB is directed toward those users who experienced shuddering noise while accelerating. These noises are caused by an abnormal wear of the internal CVT components, such as the CVT cooler, oil pump kit, or reduction gear bearings. 

Faulty Stepper Motor

The stepper motor is a part inside the CVT transmission that controls the gear ratio. A faulty stepper motor can also cause the car to face acceleration problems, such as shuddering noises and slow acceleration. 

Although relatively inexpensive, a defective stepper motor will cause your car many problems. The significant component in Nissan Altima’s stepper motor that is prone to damage is its winding. In addition, burned plugs or drivers can cause a stepper motor to go wrong. 

Although there hasn’t been a recall or TSB to counter this issue specifically, several Nissan Altima forums agree that the abnormal wear and tear of a stepper motor’s internal parts cause many acceleration problems. 

Brake Light Relay Switches 

If your Nissan Altima is facing low power while accelerating, the most likely cause is a broken brake light relay switch. The brake light switch is a part of the brake pedal assembly located under the dashboard or near the top of the pedal lever. 

A faulty brake light relay switch means your car won’t know when the brakes are pressed. That is why even though you will be pressing the gas pedal, the relay switch will tell the engine that the brakes are being pressed, causing your car to lose power while accelerating. 

This issue is due to poor-quality brake light relay switches installed in Nissan Altima and is common in the 2013-2015 model years. To counter this problem, a TSB with reference number NTB15-111 was issued. The problem lies in the stop lamp fuse of the relay switch. 

Clogged Air or Fuel Filter 

The air filters behind your Nissan Altima’s glove box can accumulate dirt and debris, causing it to consume more fuel and stall the engine. Therefore, it can cause slow and hesitant acceleration. 

The fuel filter in your car is located between the fuel tank and the engine, preventing contaminants from getting into the engine. This could damage the cylinder, cause the engine misfires, and hamper your car’s acceleration. 

Although there hasn’t been a recall or TSB to counter this issue, it has already been reported many times by Nissan dealerships. 

Defective Sensors 

Several sensors in Nissan Altima can cause slow acceleration if they go bad. 

The MAF sensor is located between the engine’s intake manifold and the air filter. If not cleaned after regular intervals, the Mass airflow sensor (MAF) can accumulate dirt, causing your engine to misfire and resulting in reduced acceleration. 

Similarly, oxygen sensors can also get clogged, resulting in a similar predicament. This issue will be highlighted via the onset of the Check Engine Light. Apart from this, the appearance of codes such as P0130 to P0135 & P0150 to P0155 indicates a problem with the oxygen sensor. 

Here is a video explaining how to diagnose sensor problems that can cause acceleration issues. 

Most Likely Solutions 

Lawsuit Against Nissan Altima For Defective CVTs

A lawsuit against Nissan says that the transmission (CVT) is prone to overheating. According to this lawsuit, which targets 2017-18 Nissan Altimas – the small cooler inside the CVT fails to dissipate heat, causing the transmission to overheat and give up the ghost earlier than expected. 

The original plaintiff said that due to this manufacturing issue, his Nissan Altima 2017 overheated, lost acceleration and power while driving, and had trouble applying brakes. The lawsuit was filed in 2020, but there hasn’t been any settlement on this issue yet. 

CVT Issue & Stepper Motor Solution 

Replacing a transmission can be one of the costliest car repairs you’ll ever have to do. If a CVT failure is on the cards, we suggest you take your car to a nearby dealership and undertake a thorough car service. 

After all parameters, such as transmission oil change, filter change, cleaning of debris and dirt, etc., have been checked, thoroughly inspect your Nissan’s CVT to find out the most likely cause of a problem. 

If your car is experiencing shudders while accelerating, this issue is solved via a TSB. According to this TSB, the dealership is instructed to disassemble the CVT, inspect the reduction gear bearings, and races for cracks or abnormal wear, and replace the faulty parts via a shim selection procedure. Another TSB was issued in case of CVT failure.

This TSB affected several models of Nissan Altima from 2013-2016. We suggest you take your car to a nearby mechanic since the solution is sophisticated and should be left to the experts. The dealership will replace the faulty part or repair it if applicable.  

If the stepper motor of your car is giving you a tough time, there is a DIY method you can try. 

Depending on which part of the transmission needs replacement, the fixing cost will likely vary. You can expect a bill of $300-$400 for repairs. 

Faulty Brake Light Relay Switches Solution 

According to the TSB, the broken brake light relay switches need to be replaced with new ones. Nissan has advised the following to dealerships who’ve encountered vehicles with this problem:

  1. Delete the stop lamp relay and bypass the stop lamp relay circuit.
  2. Replace the faulty part with a new one using information from the Parts Replacement section. 

Professionals can adequately execute this solution, so if your Nissan Altima has a faulty brake light relay switch, we suggest you take your car to a dealership. This whole thing will likely cost you around $60-$150 to fix. 

Clogged Air & Fuel Filter Repair 

Regular maintenance and service of your car will ensure that you don’t face any problems due to the accumulation of dirt and debris in your car’s filters. 

Replacing the air filter on your Nissan Altima will be done in a few minutes and won’t cost you a hefty repair bill. You can get it done in around $20-$50, including labor costs. 

The fuel filter on a Nissan Altima should be changed after 5000 miles. These filters accumulate dirt and need regular service to work correctly. Getting a new fuel filter costs around $60-$90. 

Sensor Issues Solution 

If your Nissan Altima’s Mass-Air fuel sensors are the reason for acceleration problems, you’ll need to clean or replace the MAF sensor. 

After you’ve located the MAF sensor, carefully remove the sensor while ensuring that the wirings and the harness are not damaged. After cleaning the sensor thoroughly using recommended chemicals, install the sensor back inside. If the problem persists, and you’re sure that the MAF sensor is to blame, replace the sensor. 

If the problem is with your oxygen sensor, take it to a nearby Nissan dealership for repair. It will most likely be solved via a regular cleaning service. If the sensor needs replacing, you can expect a repair bill of $300-$400. 

Did you know that Nissan Altima have also had problems with its transmission and starting? Click on the links to read detailed articles about these problems.

Have More Questions? Join Our Facebook Group!

Do you have any more questions that weren´t answered in this blog post? Join our free Facebook group and ask your question there. We promise you you´ll get an answer from one of our team members. Join the group here!