5th Generation Altima's Low Beam Headlights Are Extremely Dim

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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.

2013 Altima owner in AR

However, owners who have spent out-of-pocket to upgrade to better, brighter aftermarket bulbs have only seen marginal upgrades. So what gives?

Allow me to project a theory

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.

Black marks inside the projector housing on an AltimaImage from nissanclub.com discussion

Replacing the headlight assembly costs $$$

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[1] and $1000 to replace the pair of assemblies.

Any Chance of a Recall?

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.”

For now, Nissan is silent on the subject.

Attorneys Chimicles & Tikellis are investigating a potential class-action lawsuit against the automaker.

  1. From data collected by 2013 Altima owners who replaced their assemblies ↩︎

Dramatized Altima headlight image originally from CarComplaints.com

Generations Where This Problem Has Been Reported

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.

OK, Now What?

Maybe you've experienced this problem. Maybe you're concerned you will soon. Whatever the reason, here's a handful of things you can do to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

  1. File Your Complaint

    CarComplaints.com is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.

    Add a Complaint
  2. Notify CAS

    The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.

    Notify The CAS
  3. Report a Safety Concern

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.

    Report to NHTSA