page title icon How To Adjust Headlights: Step By Step

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how to adjust headlights

It is essential that you have powerful headlights if you are going to be driving a long distance on the highways. Without the lights, you are as good as driving with your eyes closed. But it is not enough if you have powerful headlights.

The headlights must be focusing at the right place. If they are not aligned properly, it is like not having headlights at all.

Another problem with misaligned headlights is that the drivers in the opposite sides can be blinded by your lights.

If you see the drivers from the other side flashing their lights at you or honking loudly, you can be sure that your lights are misaligned and they are getting affected because of that. It could prove dangerous to you yourself if the opposite drivers lose sight and crash on to you. 

Why Do Your Headlights Lose Alignment?

Before we see how to adjust headlights on a car, let us what leads to the headlights losing their alignment. One thing you should understand is that the alignment is not meant to be permanent. As your car moves in rough roads, the alignments slip in a few years.

They need to be aligned for proper lighting. There are also other reasons for your headlights to be out of alignment.

If you are regularly carrying a lot of load in your trunk or boot, then the rear portion of the car is pushed down. This automatically makes the front of the car to go up, thus pushing your headlight focus out of alignment. If you are going to carry such loads regularly, you must get load-leveling shock absorbers.

Another reason can be shocks that are worn out. They will push the rear down and the front of the car up. This must be corrected by changing the shock absorbers.

Your headlight alignment can change even if you have had a head-on collision with another vehicle or the front has hit something.

Method To Adjust The Alignment Of Your Headlights

You must understand one thing first. Proper headlight alignment can be done only at a garage. However, there are ways to do it at home if you need to do it for a night journey.

Fixing car headlights

There are times when you have to change your alignment because you are going to be carrying a heavy load in the back and you must get the alignment of your headlights. Sometimes, it may happen that you didn’t get time to go to the workshop but must go on a night trip. Let us learn how to adjust headlights on a car.

Making The Markings

The first step is to park the car close to the garage wall on flat ground. You must ensure that there is no load in the car if you are aligning for normal driving.

If you are aligning the headlights for driving with a heavy load, you should have the car loaded with the same goods. You must check the air pressure and give the car a couple of bounces to see that the suspension is fine.

Make a vertical line using chalk on the wall exactly opposite the center of the car. Measure the distance between the centers of your headlights and divide this number by two.

Go to the wall and measure this distance from the centerline to both sides and draw vertical lines. Now you have three vertical lines on the wall.

Get back to the car and measure the distance from the floor to the center of the headlights. Make horizontal marking at the same distance from the floor on the wall across all the three vertical lines.

You have two crosses on both sides, which are exactly at the same level as your car headlights. Mark them well so that you can see them even with the lights on.

Adjusting The Headlights

You must go drive back 25 feet and park the car with the center in line with the central vertical line on the wall. If you want, you can draw a line from the central line for 25 feet and ensure that the car is parked rightly. You must measure the 25 feet exactly with tape if you want the alignment to be perfect.

Mechanic checking car headlight

The adjuster screws or buttons may be positioned differently in different cars. You must refer to your user manual to find this. You can even Google to find the same. Sometimes you may have to remove the outer ring of your headlight to locate the screws.

In most cars, there are two sets of screws on both headlights. One set for adjusting vertically and other for adjusting horizontally. Locate these screws.

Switch on your headlights in the main beam. You can start adjusting the lights one by one. The center of the brightest patch of light must be aligned to be at the center of the cross you have drawn on the wall.

You can adjust the screws for horizontal and vertical adjustments on both the headlights unless you have achieved this. Once you have done this, you can lower the patch to two inches down. This will be the right position.

Take A Test Drive

It is not easy to always get it right in the first attempt. So, it is better to take your car for a drive and see if the lights are aligned correctly. Taking a few turns will easily tell you that.

It is better to not try and adjust the headlights where there are four lamps. It can be too complicated. Cars with rectangular headlamps will have a different method of adjustment. You can only adjust the headlamps in the low beam as the main beam will not give you a clear patch of light.

Recommended Resources:

  1. How Much Does It Cost To Replace Car Headlights?
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  3. How To Get Brighter Headlights?