How bright do my headlights have to be?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader whose Altima has headlights that are too dim.

–Shuji Kajiyama / AP Photo, File

I need brighter headlights on my Nissan Altima.

Q. My 2012 Nissan Altima 2.5 S has only 60,000 miles on it. I only put on 3,000 to 4,000 miles on it each year, so it could last my lifetime. That said, the low beams are too dim for my aging eyes. My mechanic says that the wiring cannot handle more wattage, and that he’s had no success with LED replacement bulbs. I don’t want to give up driving at night. How bright should my lights be, and what do you recommend I do?

A. The first place I’d start is to make sure the plastic lenses are perfectly clear. If they are hazy, you won’t get as much light on the road. Bulbs dim with age, so perhaps the bulbs in your six-year-old car are nearing the end of their life. I have not tried LED replacement bulbs, but I have used bulbs that are brighter than the stock bulbs. Most of the major lighting companies like GE, Sylvania, and Hella all make bulbs that claim to be 50 to 90 percent brighter than the stock bulb without blinding oncoming traffic. The negative side of these high-performance bulbs is a shorter life. In some cases, they last only 12 to 18 months.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE certified master technician. Email your car question to