Poor headlight illumination

We recently purchased a new 2011 Toyota Camry. When we got around to driving it after dark, we were very unpleasantly surprised at the headlight illumination with low beams. Visibility through the windshield is cut off by a sharp blackness across the upper third or half. it is hard to see very far ahead, especially going down hills. Also, when making turns to the right or left, there is very limited visibility; there is simply not enough light to see where you are turning. It is fine on high beams, but we don’t want to drive around with high beams all the time. My wife is afraid to drive after dark. We took it back to the dealer, whose service department made an adjustment to it, but it’s not much better. We wouldn’t have bought a Camry if we had known this (and our last two cars were Camrys, the most recent a '96). We saw nothing about this in any reviews, in spite of diligent research. Who would have thought you’d need to test-drive a car at night?! Is this typical of modern headlights? Is there anything we can do to fix this?

No, it is not typical of modern headlights.

If you otherwise like the car you could alway ask the dealer to install “driving lights” to supplement the headlights.

Had a similar problem with a 2006 VW I bought last year. Seems the right headlight lamp assembly was just flopping around in the hole. Whoever installed new bulbs didn’t twist the socket to lock it in place. VW dealer couldn’t fix it, but my mechanic knew exactly what it was. It’s fine now. This may not be the cause of YOUR issue, but it’s really easy to check and fix. Don’t touch the glass bulb.

I’ve noticed the same thing on my 2011 Toyota Sienna and in a 2011 Chevrolet Traverse that I rented. The headlights on many cars today have a sharp cutoff on low beams. Consumer Reports has noted that.

It’s a good thing, I think. I’m tired of getting blinded every morning. There IS a safe adjustment spot, that can provide decent lighting, and save oncoming drivers from my daily flinching experience.

Check the manul, and see if you can adjust them yourself. On a flat, level surface, pull up to a wall. If you’re about 20-25 feet from it, you should be able to have that line about 2 ft off the ground. To make life easier, when you adjust them, do it one at a time, and get something (a wife works well, as does a towel), to block the other light so you can see the lines move. Any higher than this, and you’ll be constantly flashing (and annoying, and possibly making unsafe) the drivers approaching you.

Yes, this phenomenon is becoming more and more commonplace in new cars.
The apparent reason is that the European Community’s auto safety standards mandate this type of sharp cut-off on the low beam headlights, and the result for many of us is what looks like a dark bar across the driver’s field of vision.

At the next service, I intend to have my headlights adjusted upward a tad. I think that a minor upward adjustment will help my night vision without disturbing the night vision of oncoming drivers.

I think the reason there’s a straight line there now is cost.

In the US, we drive on the right, and the “line” used to go about halfway, then angle up towards the curb, giving us much more light on the side of the road, and still nto blinding the oncoming folks. In other countries (UK pops to mind) where they drive on the left, the lights had to be made the other way. Angled up on the left.

They figured out how to make that cut off sharp enough, and with the newer higher intensity lights, the extra tad of light on the side isn’t that much of a big deal anymore…and the BIG plus is they only design one headlight, for every market. Sure, the rest of the car (driver controls) still has to be different, but they can eliminate many of the other, niggling little bits that make it a pain, and costly.

Would be nice if they passed “all those savings” down to us. :slight_smile:

I would take the Camry to a local mechanic or even a local body shop and see if they can adjust the aim of the headlights to your liking. If not, try loading a few 100 bags of sand in the trunk to see if this raises the aim of the headlights enough to help.

A few 100 lbs bags of sand will likely raise the level of the headlights to some extent.
However, the way that it would wreak havoc with the OP’s fuel economy leads me to suggest that he not try this idea.

And, in addition to reducing his MPGs, his FWD car will actually have less traction on slippery surfaces if the weight distribution is disrupted by loading a few hundred lbs of sand into the rear of the car. This is not a good idea, IMHO.

In the old days there would have been only one to possibilities. Today we have a mix of different types of lamps. It seems most of the ones I dislike are the fancy ones designed to sell cars not to provide good safe lighting.

The sharp cut off that has been noted is typical of good european lights. They illuminate the road, don’t blind on coming drivers and function great in fog and snow. I put a set on my Miata. All I had to do was to “change” the sealed beam lamp, do a easy adjustment and it was done. Cost was about $4.00. Sorry I can’t do that today.

Today most of the lamps are designed by the designers, not the engineers. They are designed not to provide good illumination, but to sell cars.

The lights on today’s US cars is a mix, some good most OK, far too many look great during the day, but don’t provide good safe reliable illumination.

Joseph_E_Meehan — "Today most of the lamps are designed by the designers, not the engineers."
In Europe, incandescent, headlamp-based Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) were not allowed after DRLs became mandatory in February of 2011. The reason is fuel efficiency. Fuel consumption reductions of up to 0.5 mpg can found when comparing an LED system to an incandescent system. Eventually, LED headlamps will be mandated in the European Union for reasons of fuel efficiency and CO2 reduction. Wikipedia: European DRLs