2021 Nissan Altima Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Forward collision avoidance, brake, and steering issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

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Sedans might not be as popular these days as they used to be, but the Nissan Altima continues to be the automaker’s top seller. The 2021 Nissan Altima is said to bring “an exceptional level of advanced Nissan Intelligent Mobility technology to its segment.” But for owners whose brakes fail to stop or whose automatic emergency braking systems activate for no reason, mobility is fraught with concerns. Consumers are also complaining about faulty steering that diminishes their trust in the sedan.

Click on other model year to view more problems: 2019  2020  2022

Most Common Problems

The most common complaints registered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about the 2021 Nissan Altima relate to forward collision avoidance (62%). More specifically, about 29% relate to the automatic emergency braking system. Most of these complaints are combined in both categories. Some owners are finding that the emergency brakes kick in for no apparent reason, while others complain that their brakes don’t stop their cars.

Another fairly common problem is a loss of steering control (19%) that appears to be caused by a detached tie rod ball joint. There is an active recall that relates to this problem. However some complaints are from owners who have experienced the malfunction and whose car VIN numbers aren’t included in the recall.

Other components and systems that owners are complaining about include backover prevention, the electrical system, latches/locks/linkages, seats, steering, structure, suspension, tires, and visibility.


There are two recalls that affect the 2021 Nissan Altima. The earliest, dated March 4, 2021, is the tie rod ball joint fastener that isn’t properly tightened. NHTSA Campaign Number 21V138000 warns that if the ball joint detaches, it can result in a loss of steering control. In total, 2,407 2020-2021 Nissan Altima vehicles have been identified as being at risk. With supposedly unaffected vehicle owners reporting this very problem, the numbers could be higher.

A more recent recall, NHTSA Campaign Number 23V628000 warns that 153,376 Nissan vehicles may have rear view cameras that don’t display images properly. Because this can reduce drivers’ rear views, it increases the risk of a crash. According to the recall notice, 2019-2021 Altima and 2020-2021 Sentra vehicles are affected.

2021 Nissan Altima Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Service Brakes
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
Forward Collision Avoidance: Warnings
Electrical System
Unknown Or Other
Air Bags
Back Over Prevention
Back Over Prevention: Warnings

Forward Collision Problems

As mentioned above, most forward collision avoidance complaints relate either to the automatic emergency braking system or brakes that don’t stop vehicles. Radar and sensor malfunctions are identified as possible causes.

One theory about emergency brakes is that the malfunction is caused by a front impact radar malfunction that causes cars to stop. An owner from Texas whose console light came on intermittently states that the dealer diagnosed a front impact radar malfunction. They replaced the radar but within two months, the light was back on. “This can cause your car to suddenly stop, causing you to be rear-ended because the car thinks you are in danger. It affects the automatic emergency braking system.”

The owner of an Altima with emergency brakes that didn’t stop the car was told it might have been caused by rainstorm water that damaged the sensors. A New Jersey owner whose car “auto braked from 47 mph to 28,” believes it was because of a front sensor malfunction.

There are also complaints of error messages and warnings that the forward collision avoidance system has been disabled.

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Automatic Emergency Braking Complaints

An owner from Maryland reports “unintended brake activation in various situations. I have experienced the emergency braking system activating when I am driving at high speeds (60-70 mph) with nothing in front of me. I have had it automatically brake when I am in traffic maintaining safe distances and speeds.” Additionally, “I have experienced it braking when I have been leaving a parking garage — again with nothing near or around my vehicle. When this occurs, it is when the warning lights turn off. So, it is completely random and unpredictable.”

The dealership was unable to correct the problem, and gave the owner “an estimate of an additional $1,977.43 for a 4th attempt to fix this problem.” The car was still under warranty, so they eventually agreed to reduce this amount to $808.96 (40%). “There have been multiple lawsuits and class action suits against Nissan for this same problem, yet they continue to sell these vehicles without fixing the problem or issuing a recall.”

An owner from Pennsylvania states that the forward emergency braking system periodically engages for no reason. The first time it happened was “in heavy traffic with low speed and nothing close enough to set it off. Sometimes just the emergency light will just appear and disappear quickly and sometimes it comes on and the brakes go on.” The dealership couldn’t find an error. But the owner states that “there is a class action suit against Nissan for the same problem in Tennessee. There seems to be the same problem with other models from 2019 to (the) present.”

Complaints that Brakes Failed

It stands to reason that brakes are intended to stop vehicles to prevent them from crashing. But some 2021 Nissan Altima complaints describe brake failures that end up in crashes.

One such complaint states that while driving down a street, a truck in front of the woman ahead of his Altima suddenly stopped at a green light. She also stopped, but the driver of the Altima couldn’t stop. His service brakes didn’t work, and neither did the emergency front collision brakes. “I could not stop the car…” and he crashed.

Another owner was driving on the interstate in a construction zone. He began “reducing speed from about 62 mph after noticing brake lights from cars in the far distance. As the car started to reduce speed, I began to apply the brakes as I approached the stopped traffic.” But instead of stopping, the car kept going. “I pressed the brakes harder, and the car began to slide. After sliding about 9-10 car lengths, I was stopped by rear-ending the vehicle in front of me. There was an error message on the dash ‘Chassis Control System Error See Owner’s Manual’ that appeared on the dash. I was struck in the back by a Toyota 4Runner resulting in my car being totaled.”

Steering Problems

The first steering complaint was lodged with the NHTSA in November 2021 by an owner in California. This was about 8 months after the steering recall was issued. It doesn’t say much except that the steering sometimes feels loose, especially when making a sharp turn. The car had only 300 miles, and “the suspension, brakes underneath the front end, and the steering do not feel like they are one unit.”

A recent complaint lodged on September 30, 2023, by an owner in Georgia identifies a faulty tie rod ball joint. “My car has a detached tie rod ball joint and is causing a loss of steering control, and increasing the risk of a crash. My children are in danger yet your site says my VIN has no safety recall after I reviewed the safety recall for my vehicle and noticed a connection. I can’t afford any repairs and I shouldn’t have to risk my life over a recalled problem with my make model and year vehicle.”

Unable to identify a steering problem, another owner did some research. “I’ve discovered a recall for (the) ball joint separating from (the) steering column due to (a) bolt not tightened properly.” This, he believes, “explains the noise I’ve heard since I got (the car).” But, like the previous complaint, his car’s VIN isn’t included in the recall.

An owner from Arizona lost control of the steering after malfunction error messages flashed across the digital display. The Altima “Steered me to the right side of the road and up over the curb which tore out my front end. And, had it not been for my superb braking skills, I’d be headfirst into a big cement hole on the side of the road.” He was injured in the crash.

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

If your dealership is unable to rectify problems that affect the value or use of your 2021 Nissan Altima, you might have a lemon on your hands. Not sure what to do? Contact the Lemberg Law Helpline or fill out a contact form and we’ll assess your problem free of charge.

Every year, auto manufacturers including Nissan buy back, replace, or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners. A lemon law firm like Lemberg Law can facilitate an agreement. Ultimately, the law makes Nissan pay lemon law legal fees. This is why it’ll cost you nothing.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones

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