Headlights after body repair

I’m helping a friend whose 2011 Camry needed a lot of body work after somebody ran a stop sign in front of him. After repair, the area illuminated by the headlights seems way short of what it should be. The body shop says the lights are properly aimed. I’ve already suggested that he find a same-year Camry (undamaged!) to compare.

I noticed that the forward edge of the illuminated zone is very sharp – well-lit up to that boundary, then very dark just beyond. Could it be that the lights are occluded, rather than mis-aimed? Any suggestions as to what to look for? Could it be as simple as having the wrong bulb installed?

At the worst you need another headlight housing. Under $200 new, I think.
Maybe something inside is knocked out of alignment.

It’s $120-140 at RockAuto.

This is normal for many cars of that vintage and newer. The newer headlamps are designed that way to avoid blinding oncoming drivers. They have a very sharp cutoff and it’s unnerving the first time you encounter it. My '12 Odyssey took some getting used to…

TT is correct. As a matter of fact, Toyota’s alignment procedure for aligning the headlamps specifically addresses the “cutoff line”. I’m looking at it as I write this. I hoped to write the procedure for you, but Toyota made it complicated and without the illustrations it’s useless.

However, you can always ask the local dealership parts guy to print you a copy of the headlight aiming procedure and check it yourselves.

In the final analysis, all is not lost. Stop by WalMart or any parts store and take a look at the “Silverstar” series of bubs. They come in four or five different levels, each more expensive, each level producing more light. I use the 'Silverstar Ultras" and they make a huge difference. Be aware, however, that if you compare the rated “hours” (life) of each bulb, the brighter the bulb the shorter the life. Standard bulbs are rated at 1000 hours, the next level at 850 hours etc…, with the “Ultras” being rated at 250 hours. That, plus the added cost, makes them expensive. But IMHO well worth the cost. I put some in a friend’s car and she never stops commenting on how great they are.

As others have said, a sharp cutoff is becoming more common, so that’s probably normal.

I don’t know the procedure for this car specifically, but generally you’re supposed to park the car, with a full tank of gas, on a level surface at some specified distance from a wall. Then, blocking each headlight in turn, you check if the left or right part of the cutoff line (because it should have two distinct parts) is at a specified height.

If you can’t find the exact procedure, you could at least take some measurements to give us a rough idea of what’s going on. Find a level spot like I described, possibly in a garage, and park maybe ten feet from the wall. Measure the height to the center of the headlight bulb, which might be marked with a little bump or cross molded into the plastic cover. Working on each headlight in turn, measure the height of the cutoff lines. Measure the distance to the wall. Report back here with these numbers. If I had to guess, I’d say that the cutoff heights should be maybe an inch below the bulb heights.

Comparing with another Camry would definitely be helpful if you can find one, of course.

I have a 2012 Camru and the cutoff line is just as you described. In my opinion, if we all keep putting in brighter and brighter lights, none of us are going to be able to see anything. I already have a large touchscreen radio display that I can’t turn off ruining my night vision.

Thanks, all. Looks like this is a “learn something new every day.” I sure felt uncomfortable the couple of times I was in the car at night. Maybe most people don’t care if they can’t see where they are driving. Feh!

While it’s true that newer headlights have a more sharply defined beam pattern the OP seemed to say that the pattern has changed since the body work.
Either the lamp is mis-aimed or there is a problem with the focusing elements.

Maybe most people don’t care if they can’t see where they are driving. Feh!

I think most people do care if they can’t see, which is why they are now designing headlamps with cut-off lines. People keep putting brighter and brighter lights in their cars, and now it’s like everyone is driving with their high-beams on and blinding oncoming drivers. Your desire to see everything shouldn’t interfere with my ability to see at night.

Circuitsmith - I thought it resulted from the body repair, but that was because it seemed so “wrong” that I presumed the pre-accident pattern was like I was used to with older designs. Faulty presumption. I don’t think I ever saw the headlight pattern before the accident.