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The Nissan Altima is a midsize sedan that can work as an everyday commuter, long-distance ride, and family vehicle. It’s one of Nissan’s steadiest performers and is known for getting the job done. As for its resale value, CarEdge.com reports that a Nissan Altima will depreciate 59% after 5 years. It’s recommended to get the 2018 model year for the best value.

Are Nissan Altimas Reliable?

2011 nissan altima
The Nissan Altima is a midsize sedan that can work as an everyday commuter, long-distance ride, and family vehicle. Image Source: Nissan

The Nissan Altima has done pretty well on all major reliability ratings. It scored 4.0 out of 5.0 in a RepairPal study, ranking 11th among 24 models in the midsize sedan category. It enjoys a low average yearly cost to repair because it doesn’t experience issues very often. The problems that do crop up are typically easy and inexpensive to fix. Recent model years have also shown improved fuel economy.

It isn’t uncommon to find older Altimas with 200,000 miles logged or more sold in the used car market and still in good condition. As long as you stick to the recommended service schedule and perform maintenance checks regularly, you can get your car to 300,000 miles.

Top Nissan Altima Problems

No vehicle is perfect. Even the reliable Nissan Altima can develop mechanical issues. Understandably, some model years are more problematic than others. Here are the most widely reported problems for different Altima models:

Engine Stalling

This issue is one of the most common complaints among those who drive the Nissan Altima. While some have reported engine stalling while the car was stationary, many instances have taken place while they were driving on the road.

There are plenty of reasons why an engine could stall, and it’s difficult to pin down the exact cause right away. For the Nissan Altima, one possible cause is a faulty camshaft position or crankshaft position sensor. If either sensor stops sending accurate data to the power control module, the engine may run less efficiently or even die.

In December 2007, Nissan announced a voluntary recall campaign for the 2002, 2005, and 2006 model years fitted with a 2.5-liter engine to replace faulty position sensors on the camshaft and crankshaft.

Catalytic Converter Failure

The Nissan Altima’s catalytic converter cleans the exhaust gases from the engine before releasing them into the environment. When the cat stops working properly, the check engine light on the dashboard will illuminate to warn the driver.

A faulty catalytic converter should be replaced as soon as possible. Otherwise, its catalyst materials can get sucked into the engine and damage the latter’s internal parts, adding yet another expensive repair to your list.

direct fit nissan catalytic converter
The Nissan Altima’s catalytic converter cleans the exhaust gases from the engine before releasing them into the environment.

The problem is common among model years from 1999 to 2015. However, the automaker hasn’t issued a Nissan Altima recall for any of the affected vehicles.

Fuel Pump Issues

Nissan Altima owners have reported problems with their fuel pump early on. Some of the warning signs they’ve encountered include difficulty starting their engine, excessive vibrations, and stalling while driving at slow speeds.

Nissan issued a recall for the 1991 and 1993 Altima as well as model years from 2001 to 2015  to replace the fuel pump in the affected vehicles.

Some units of the 2019 model have also been recalled because of a poorly locked retainer clip in the fuel pump. This clip attaches the low-pressure fuel hose to the high-pressure fuel pump. If unlocked, it could cause engine stalling, fuel leaks, and increase the risk of a fire.

Engine Doesn’t Start or Runs Rough

Aside from stalling, the Nissan Altima’s engine can also malfunction in other ways. There have been reports of the engine not firing up or running roughly once it did get started. In some cases, the car would suddenly stall on the road and refuse to start. A leak in a faulty distributor powered by the camshaft may also result in the engine not turning despite cranking.

Engine issues are a long-running problem with the Nissan Altima. They first showed up in the 1993 model year and plagued all subsequent year models up to the 2008 Altima. The 2010 and 2015 Nissan Altima also have similar engine problems.

2008 Nissan Altima
Engine issues are a long-running problem with the Nissan Altima. Image Source: Nissan

Faulty Engine Seals

Nissan Altima models fitted with the 3.5-liter V6 engine often leak oil from their cooler o-ring. If the leak goes on for long enough, the engine will start making strange noises as the oil pressure level drops.

In this engine, the oil filter directly attaches to the cooler. Carelessly removing the filter and installing a new one can ruin the cooler’s seal, allowing engine oil to leak from the cooler.

Depending on the severity of the leak, you may need to replace the o-ring or the entire oil cooler. To avoid damaging the cooler’s seal, always act with care when you remove or replace the oil filter.

Transmission Problems

Many owners have complained about Nissan Altima transmission problems, reporting that the continuously variable transmission (CVT) slows down the throttle and causes shuddering or jerking while speeding up. In some cases, the Altima’s transmission outright failed.

Updating the CVT’s software can fix some of the transmission problems for units with either the QR25DE four-cylinder engine or the VQ35DE V6 engine. If the transmission is damaged, some parts may need replacement. In the worst-case scenario, you may have to replace the entire transmission.

Replacement Transmission Oil Cooler
An external transmission cooler can be used to keep the transmission fluid from overheating.

Furthermore, the Nissan Altima’s CVT may go into fail-safe mode when its transmission fluid gets too hot. This mode prevents further damage by reducing engine power. However, this can be problematic if it engages while you’re driving up a steep incline.

This problem has been known to affect models from 2007 to 2012. An external transmission cooler can be used to keep the transmission fluid from overheating. But if the CVT is too damaged, it will need repair or replacement.

The Nissan Altima is a solid choice if you’re in the market for a new midsize sedan. If you’re planning to get a used Altima, it’s a good idea to research the most common mechanical issues associated with the model year you’re planning to buy to anticipate the cost of maintaining your vehicle in the years to come.

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