Project 3323: New Light, Who Dis?

After my accident, I decided to take the front bumper off and found damage in places I expected, and a few I didn’t. So, I go through the process of replacing and repairing where I can on Project 3323, Carbage’s 2000 Nissan Pathfinder Project.

Accidents suck, there’s no doubt about that and they suck worse when they are completely your own fault. You feel like crap, you’re depressed for a few days, contemplate life, and go through all five stages of depression several times a day. When I finally stopped feeling sorry for myself, I took the bumpers and grill off the Pathfinder. With them out of the way, I noticed damage. Of course, I was in a front-end accident, but the parts effected shouldn’t have been. Looks like my poor Pathfinder had a rough life prior to that.

Broken Pieces

A look at the right front corner light revealed a crack that had been there for some time. Where the crack had formed was already oxidized, so this was an old break. I decided to try and mend it by breaking it off.

I then filed the break down to reveal clean plastic and give a rough surface for my glue to adhere to. I did this to both sides of the broken holder. I have no affiliation with them, but I find Loctite to be a great product and this was their Ultragel Super Glue. The link is so you can see what I used and I get no compensation for you clicking on it. So, it didn’t tend to seep as I was holding on to the parts I was gluing together.

I let it dry for the recommended time – about 24-hours – and installed the corner light where it just broke again. Well, that just means I need a new corner light. Crap.

There was also a trim piece that fits between the driver’s headlight and the bumper to fill in the gap. There was a matching one on the passenger side, but it wasn’t broken. It was also my additional evidence that the corner light was broken for a while. The driver side was broken into three pieces: the big corner piece that wraps under the corner light, the strip that fits under the headlight, and corner of the tab that bolts it to the fender.

Just like the corner light, I filed down the breaks to create rough surfaces. Additionally, I filed the entire tab as well as a flat washer to work as a reinforcement for the tab. I probably didn’t need to do that. The overall repair seemed to work better as the parts felt stronger and didn’t act like they wanted to come apart. I wonder if the plastics used between the two parts are different. Wouldn’t surprise me.


New, Aftermarket Lights

Not being sponsored by anyone means I’m buying parts, so I’m working within my own budget. Yeah, I know, first world complaints and subscriptions help. So, I initially tried to purchase a set from Rock Auto, my usual go to for inexpensive parts for my Pathfinder. However, I ran into an issue that’s starting to become prevalent for California. The lights I wanted from there didn’t have a Prop 65 warning on them, so they couldn’t legally sell me those parts.

Prop 65: According to the State of Cancer, This Product Causes California

Prop 65 is the cancer warning you see everywhere in this state. Even if it has the tiniest chance of giving you cancer, it must come with that warning if you’re going to buy in this state. The auto industry is getting hit very hard by this because it’s not the part but the chemicals and components that are used to make it. This also included coffee, well, it would have until the FDA “advised” California to not include it.

Well, I had to find an alternative, so I found a full set of lights off Amazon that were supposedly better for the same price thanks to my Prime membership and its free shipping. These all included bulbs, too, so all you do is remove your old pieces and install these.

In a way, it’s probably saving me even more in terms of labor because I would have had to clean and polish the old headlights, meaning I would need the plastic cleaner, buffing pads, and several sheets of sand paper. I got new corner and headlights with bulbs for less than $100 and would look better than if I cleaned them.


For the most part, the headlights are straight forward to remove on the Pathfinder. The coolant overflow and washer fluid bottles get sort of in the way, though. The washer fluid bottle is easy to deal with since you just remove the filler neck.

The coolant reservoir isn’t as easy. I loosened it up enough to move it around and reach the bottom bolt of the driver’s side headlight.

Upon removal of the passenger side headlight, however, I discovered it also had a broken tab that, much like the corner light, had been broken for a while. Strangely, it never moved or shuffled around while I was driving, but that may have been because I could barely see the light anyhow.

The one thing I decided to do was reuse my bulbs as they were Sylvania Silverstar 9003 bulbs that were less than a year old. Again, not affiliated with Sylvania but I have liked these bulbs since I purchased them. They were brighter than the original bulbs, even in the oxidized headlight housings. Despite that blue tint, they produce a clear, white beam rather than the yellow beam you normally get from standard 9003 lights.

The 9003 is held in by a spring wire latch that just retains the bulb in the housing. It’s then covered by this rubber gasket and the connections from the bulb stick out from the hole in the center. It’s not that bad, even if you must do it on the Pathfinder. It does help if you can move the air box and battery back a bit as this will give your hand a few more inches.


Discovering More Issues

I did the driver’s headlight first, figuring I give myself the learning experience first then photograph the passenger’s side. It was here I discovered even more previous crash damage that wasn’t properly fixed. This bracket was bent in towards the center of the Pathfinder. I also found that the fender was also bent in slightly and didn’t allow for a perfect fit of the corner lamp. So, there’s only one thing you can do.

Beat and bend the living sh*t out of them until it fits right.

Once it was close enough, everything fit.

Well, sort of. Honestly, the headlights aren’t aiming straight and no amount of adjusting and “BFH adjusting” will fix it. The Pathfinder needs a new radiator support if I want everything to fit right.


Gratuitous Night Shots

For now, the lights work on the Pathfinder and give me the light to be able to see the road at night around here in the South Bay. So, there is only one way to celebrate this.

Long exposure night shots. For those of you who are interested in how I did this, I set my camera for a 4-second exposure (the amount of time the shutter is open) at 100 ISO (the “film” speed) and an aperture of f5.7 (the size of the iris compared to the size of the lens). I also do some post processing using Lightroom to brighten up spots, darken others, and improve the white balance among other touches.

This one used the same settings, but I took three shots. One just before a car passed, one as one passed beside Project 3323, then one just after a car passed. I then composited the shots together in Photoshop to create it.

This shot I waited for a car to pass but use my cordless LED shop light to light up the interior. The wall is lit up by a car that was behind me, sitting there with its light on the entire time I was there.

Same here but with a car driving past me the other way. I’m quite happy with how these photos came out. However, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to make Project 3323 right. That’s before touching anything that will make it into a proper desert-runner.

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Justin Banner

Justin Banner, Lead Editor and Founder of Carbage Online, has been involved with the automotive media and industry in many capacities and now tackles publication ownership with CarbageOnline.com. Prior to that, he has freelanced for top online publications of modern media that include Speedhunters, MotoIQ, Super Street Online, Hot Rod Magazine and many others. All due to his nearly 20 years experience as a mechanic, service writer, and technical support in the automotive industry. Justin is also a Journalist Level member of the Motor Press Guild - an industry recognized entity of professional automotive journalists - since 2015.