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How to Adjust and Align Your Headlights

Lighting - by Bryan Veldboom - updated on 12/23/2021

Holding a replacement car headlight

Everyone knows that auto headlights are vital to helping you see and be seen when driving after dark. However, if your headlights aren’t aimed properly it can hurt your visibility or even blind other drivers when they’re angled too high. That’s why it’s important to adjust your headlights if they’ve become misaligned. So, what is the correct way to adjust headlights? Keep reading for simple step-by-step instructions on how to realign your headlights for the perfect aim.

What Causes Headlights to Go Out of Alignment?

Your headlights can be thrown off in a number of different ways. If you’ve recently had a traffic accident, you’ll definitely want to check your car’s headlight alignment. It doesn’t take something that dramatic though. Headlights can also become misaligned due to wiring issues, bad fuses or damage to the headlights’ lenses or internal components.

What is the Correct Way to Adjust Headlights?

Proper headlight adjustment is important, but the way in which you adjust your headlights will vary slightly from vehicle to vehicle. For some vehicle makes and models it is only possible to adjust the headlights vertically, while others will allow you to adjust them both vertically and horizontally. Some vehicles even have built-in bubble levels on the top and/or side of the headlights themselves. For these vehicles, all you have to do is adjust them so that the bubble is centered.

Where are the Headlight Adjusters?

The headlight adjusters themselves will also vary between different makes and models. In general, headlight adjusters are usually some sort of screw or bolt on the back or side of the headlight unit. They’re also often a different color than the headlight housing to make them easier to identify. If you’re having trouble finding the adjusters on your vehicle, consult your owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s website.

What Do I Need to Aim My Headlights at Home?

Assuming that your vehicle does not have built-in levels, there is a simple way you can adjust your headlights yourself. In order to do this you’ll need a few headlight adjustment tools first. For starters, you’ll need a wall, garage door or some other type of upright flat surface. You’ll also need a level driving area with enough space to let you back the vehicle up 25 feet from the wall. A driveway facing a garage door is ideal for this. You’ll also need the following things to help you figure out if your headlights are aimed properly:

  • A measuring tape
  • Painter’s or masking tape
  • A jacket, blanket or piece of cardboard for blocking off one of the headlights
  • A ratchet, screwdriver or whatever other tools you need to adjust your vehicle’s headlights

How Do I Aim my Headlights at Home?

Once you have the correct space lined up and the proper tools at hand, it’s time to check your headlights’ aim. Aiming headlights requires these simple steps.

Step #1 Get Your Vehicle Ready

The first thing you want to do is make sure that your vehicle is completely level. Take out any cargo or excess weight from the back seat or trunk and make sure that your tires are all filled up to the proper pressure. It’s also a good idea to adjust your headlights when your gas tank is half-full. If possible, have someone sit in the driver’s seat to provide the proper weight your car typically experiences when it’s being driven.

Step #2 Mark the Beams on the Wall

Park your car about 10 to 15 feet away from the garage door or wall. Turn on your vehicle’s regular beam headlights. Don’t use the high beams or fog lights as those will give you an inaccurate reading. Use your tape to make a cross in the center of where each headlight beam strikes the wall.

Step #3 Back the Car Up & Block Off One Headlight

Using your tape measure, back your car up in a straight line so that it is exactly 25 feet from the wall. Then, use a jacket, blanket or piece of cardboard to block off one of the headlights. This is important because if both headlights are shining at the same time, it can be difficult to distinguish between them.

Step #4 Adjust the Vertical Field

Once one of the headlights is blocked off, take a look at where the remaining beam is striking the wall. You want the most intense part of the beam to hit directly at or slightly below the center tape line you created. If that’s not happening, adjust the headlight vertically until it falls into the proper range.

Step #5 Adjust the Horizontal Field

Just like you did with the vertical adjustment, adjust the headlight so that the most intense part of the beam falls directly at or slightly to the right of the vertical tapeline.

Step #6 Adjust the Second Headlight

Now that your first headlight has been properly realigned, cover it up and uncover the second one. Then, repeat steps # 4 & 5 for the remaining headlight.

Step #7 Go for a Drive

After you’ve adjusted your headlights, you’ll want to take the car out for a short drive to make sure that they’re aligned properly. Pick someplace with a minimum of traffic. If you notice that the headlights are still misaligned, head back home and adjust them accordingly.

Get Replacement Headlights at Batteries Plus

Need a new bulb for your headlights? Batteries Plus carries replacement headlight bulbs for an enormous range of cars and trucks. You’ll also find additional vehicle essentials in our Automotive Center, including windshield wiper blades, fuses and battery chargers. You can also check out our tips on how to find the right car or headlight bulb for your car or truck.

Are you experiencing issues with the battery in your car or truck? Stop in and have it tested for free. Do you need a car battery replacement? Shop our selection of car and truck batteries online and be sure to take advantage of our expert car battery installation service, available on most vehicle makes and models at most of our locations. Do you need a new key fob or a spare key for your car? Most of our locations offer key cutting and key fob replacement services. Contact your nearest store for more details.

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