Altima owners say their headlights aren’t providing much in the way of lighting up the road ahead. And it’s a problem that appears to get worse over time as evidenced by the increase in complaints from 2013, 2014, and 2015 owners.
It’s natural to assume that underwhelming headlights are the result of a dim or low-quality bulb. And yes, Nissan didn’t exactly break the bank with the stock halogen bulbs in the 5th generation Altima.
My 2013 Nissan Altima headlights are very dim and I have to drive with brights on just to see at night. This is a real safety concern. I have replaced the bulbs twice with LED and HID and they have not fixed the problem.
The Altima comes with projector headlights which is usually a bulb mounted inside a chrome-painted projector bowl. The bowl reflects light towards a magnified projector lens which sends a focused beam of light out onto the road.
But when the material inside the projector bowl wear down, burn off, or scuff up, the projector lens doesn’t receive as much light to, well … project.
It takes a while for the material inside the projector bowl to fade away, but once it’s gone you’re better off strapping a couple jars of fireflies to your bumper until you can replace the whole assembly.
Owners report that it can cost between $890 and $1000 to replace the pair of assemblies.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) only issues recalls for safety-related problems, and not being able to see the road at night certainly seems to qualify.
It wouldn’t be the first time a recall has been issued for a projector headlight problem. In 2012, the Ford Fusion was recalled because “with use, and over time, an improperly cured low-beam headlamp projector will become hazy, resulting in reduced visibility and an increased crash risk.”
This problem has popped up in the following Nissan generations.
Most years within a generation share the same parts and manufacturing process. You can also expect them to share the same problems. So while it may not be a problem in every year yet, it's worth looking out for.