How to Aim and Adjust Headlights

Headlight

Source | Bernard Spragg. NZ/Flickr

Here's how to aim headlights and adjust your headlights properly

When your headlights aren't shining in the right direction, you know it. It's tough to see and be seen on the road. Or you're inadvertently blinding other drivers, which isn't very neighborly of you. Headlight alignment can change after an accident, when new lights are installed, and as driving miles accumulate. Checking and aligning headlights only requires a couple tools, and is a straightforward fix. We recommend killing two birds with one stone by changing headlight bulbs at the same time.

Let us show you how to adjust headlights.

Vehicle System
Wipers & Lighting
Skill Level
Beginner

This is a good project for new DIYers

Time to Complete
1 hour
    Pro Tip

    For an easier time, try doing the alignment at dusk or night.

    Some vehicles feature a bubble vial, like a carpenter's level, as part of the headlight adjusting setup. This will make the job of headlight aiming a lot easier—just make sure your car's on totally level ground.

  1. Check your vehicle owner's manual for the location of the headlight vertical and horizontal adjusting screws. Note there’s a difference between the adjusting screws and the screws or fasteners that hold the headlights in place. The adjusting screws may have long shafts; long enough to span the entire vertical or horizontal edges of the headlight buckets.

  2. Find a level surface in front of a garage door or wall with 25 ft or more of space. This is so you can back away from the wall in a later step.

    Step-2
  3. Using the measuring tape, measure 25 ft from the wall and use the tape to indicate the 25-ft line. (Colored chalk also works.) (image: tape outstretched, tape mark on driveway indicating 25 ft mark.)

    Step-3
  4. Park the vehicle close to the wall and turn the headlights on low beam.

    Step-4
  5. You'll make three separate markings with the masking tape:

    • Mark where the low-beams' horizontal centerlines appear on the wall
    • Mark each beam’s vertical centerline on the wall
    • Mark the midline of the vehicle on the wall – it’ll help determine side-to-side alignment later
    • (image: tape on the wall, with illumination visible)
    Step-5
  6. Back up in a straight line so that the vehicle’s front is at the previously marked 25-foot line.

    Step-6
  7. Check to see if each headlight’s brightest spot is two inches below and just to the right of the marked horizontal and vertical headlight centerlines. If they’re not, turn the horizontal or vertical adjusting screws or both, as needed, to position them properly.

  8. And there you go! You should have a good grasp on how to align headlights properly. If you're in need of new headlight bulbs, shop for them now.

Last updated November 13, 2017

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