Known Problem On a Popular Car Leaves Drivers Stranded

Lockport family stuck with $1,000 repair bill until NBC 5 Responds took the wheel

A suburban Chicago family said a known defect with their Nissan vehicle left them stranded on a cold, wintry day and with a nearly $1,000 repair bill the car company refused to pay. 

Nissan owners across the country have reported an issue with some of the company’s vehicles, saying a defect has left them stranded and in potentially dangerous situations. Widespread problems in the Electronic Steering Column Lock (ESCL) can disable the push button ignition on 2009 Nissan Maxima’s and Altima’s. A similar issue exists on the 2009 Cube and 2009-2011 370Z’s. 

It was that very problem that left Kristen Kuchyt and her 7 year-old daughter, Nicole, stranded in the cold in Lockport, without warning.

“It was in the middle of January and I was very cold,” the 7 year-old recalled. “I got kind of nervous and I thought nobody would come and help us.”

Kristin Kuchyt says she tried repeatedly to start the 2009 Nissan Altima, but it wouldn’t budge. That’s when she called her husband, Chris.

“I received a call from my wife saying that she was stranded at swim practice with my daughter, so I quickly raced out there,” Chris Kuchyt said. 

Chris says he had the car towed to a nearby Nissan dealer, where he was stunned to learn two more Nissan’s had just been brought in with the same problem. 

“As I was talking with service manager, I’m noticing that a couple other cars are being brought in,” Kuchyt said. “There was two other cars being brought in that same exact day with the same exact issue. And so I went over to the tow truck driver and said, ‘Hey what’s going on?’ And sure enough he said, “The lady’s button wouldn’t start the car.” 

NBC 5 Responds uncovered 746 similar complaints on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website, from drivers who say “they were stranded without warning,” some “in the middle of nowhere,” and could have been “in life-threatening danger,” insisting “Nissan should be held accountable.” 

Nissan has issued technical service bulletins to dealerships about this problem, and because of it, extended its 3 year/36,000 mile warranty to 72 months/unlimited miles on 2009 Maxima’s and Altima’s. The automaker never issued a recall. 

Chris Kuchyt says his extended warranty had just expired when his family got stranded. He called Nissan and says he got nowhere, fast.

"They just kept giving me the runaround. There’s nothing we can do,” Chris Kuchyt said. "And for a consumer to have to repair a faulty part that Nissan has acknowledged is a problem, that's concerning." 

Stuck with a nearly $1,000 repair bill neither the carmaker nor the dealer would cover, he turned to NBC 5 Responds. In response to our questions, Nissan issued this statement:

“Nissan Consumer Affairs team reviews and considers every customer request on a case-by-case basis, taking into account many factors. Mr. Huchyt has been a loyal customer of Nissan, and Nissan decided to reimburse Mr. Huchyt for the cost of his repairs. As for any other complaints that were not addressed to our company directly, we have no comment.”

NHTSA tells NBC 5 Responds it is aware of the issue, is monitoring it, and will take action as warranted. 

Chris Kuchyt believes Nissan should further address this issue that he says puts many drivers in a dangerous situation.

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