How do you replace a tail light in a 2006 Nissan Maxima?
First I downloaded the lighting system service manual from http://x.nissanhelp.com. It had a rudimentary diagram of the tail light assembly that was somewhat helpful.
The next step is to push back the lining inside the trunk which covers the access to the nuts which hold the taillight assembly fastend to the vehicle. There are nylon tie downs which hold the small cargo net in place. In the center of the nylon tie down are small inserts whihch must be removed. Take a small flat edge screw driver or needle nose pliers and work the center piece out of the tie down. Next, remove the tie down by pulling on the top of the tie down.
The next step was to remove the electrical connector to the light assembly. There is a tab/button at the top of the connector that you push to make the disconnect. I then pushed the rubber grommet with the light assembly wiring back through the penetration so it was with the light assembly. However, unless you are replacing the entire tail light assembly, there is no need to disconnect this connector.
Next I removed two 8 mm nuts from the bolts attached to the light assembly. On mine, there were two tie downs that used the threaded ends of the bolt studs to attach. They had to be worked back and forth a bit, but they came off the studs and were re-usable.
Once you've got the two nuts off, the assembly can be rocked back and forth from the exterior of the trunk. At this stage, I still couldn't remove the assembly so I had to take a look for any other fasteners that might be keeping the assembly captive.
If you look from inside the trunk on the far side of the light assembly (closest to the fender sheet metal), there are three penetrations. At this point, the top most and the center bottom are what is holding the assembly in place. The bottom most penetration has a different appearance and is not related to the removal of the light assembly, you can ignore this one.
These penetrations had a small tab on their visible side that was making it difficult to push them back through the sheet metal. I had to trim the tab from the side of these penetrations with a utility knife (I only trimmed the visible side, I didn't try to reach around). I only took off the very small side node that was acting to prevent the penetration from moving back through the hole. Once they were trimmed, I gently tapped them with a light rubber mallet. There was some adhesion with the surrounding sheet metal, but the eventually came loose and allowed the removal of the entire light assembly.
Wait!!! I just changed the light and no shaving is required. You have to push the bolts though as much as you can. Once you do this you will be able to see the plastic guides that go into the part that was originally thought needed to be shaved off. Take a thin screwdriver and work out the plastic part wiggling with some pressure to what you are comfortable with and it will pop free.
The headlight has two notched studs and two threaded bolts holding it onto the car. The notched studs are friction fit into the two plastic keepers that are visible in the trunk on the far outside of the car towards the side panel. The plastic keepers top and middle (ignore bottom) are supposed to stay in the vehicle and the headlight is supposed to be pulled straight back out of the car body after the two nuts are removed, well basically straight. Now saying this and doing it are two different things. There is nothing to grab onto to do this. I used a thin screwdriver on the top keeper as mentioned above after the two nuts were removed while pulling back. I then was able to get the top edge of the light to move 1/4" or less away from the car. A popsicle stick might help to wedge as you work it back. I was then able to get a grasp on the upper and the inside edge from the rear of the car and pull back until the notched studs popped loose from their plastic keepers.
Watch out for two small rubber squeak eliminators attached to the taillight body. They are supposed to support and also keep the tail light from rubbing on the car body. They are on the inside edge. One of mine fell off. There are 4 bulbs in the housing, which of course are exposed to the weather in a brilliant bit of design, irrespective of bulb seals.
Improved: Please note that you don't need to remove the penetrations. Don't touch them. Similarly, you don't need to unplug the electric connection. These two steps are unnecessary. After removing the two nuts, simply grab on to the light assembly from the outside start shaking and pulling it off. It will eventually come off. The whole process is much simpler. I just replaced my tail light and it was reletively easy thing to do.