Adjust Your Headlights at Home

Learn how to fix your headlights right at home.

We believe that it’s important for drivers to know the ins and outs of their vehicles so they can take care of some of the easy-to-fix, but potentially serious, problems. Some things should obviously be left to a professional, so you’re unlikely to see us detailing how to take a part and reassemble a transmission, but adjusting your vehicle’s headlights is something we’ll be happy to help with.

It can be easy for a vehicle’s headlights to go askew, and while they’ll still identify you to other vehicles no matter which way they’re pointing, the fact is that they don’t do a very good job of illuminating the road if they aren’t aligned correctly.

Required Tools

There are a few things you’ll need before you get started, but don’t worry, there’s a good chance you have them lying around. If you don’t, well, they are general purpose tools, and you would do well to buy them for everyday life, anyway.

  • tape measure
  • masking tape
  • screw driver
  • carpenter’s level

Once you’ve got all four of these, you’re ready to start.

What To Do Next

Some preliminary things to consider before adjusting your headlights include whether or not your tires are all properly inflated as well as if you have anything unusual in your trunk or rear seat. Both of these can cause your headlights to project higher than normal and will skew your adjustments, which will mean you’ll have to do it all over again.

  • Be sure to park your vehicle near a garage door or wall, about 10-15 feet away. If you can situate yourself on a level surface, that’s all the better, though you can work around it.
  • Next, turn on your lights and place masking tape in the shape of a “T” where each light projects. Then break out your level and first see if they are level. If they are, then your job is a bit easier and you can skip the next step.
  • Turn off your lights, take off the trim around them, and adjust the projection of the headlight slightly with the vertical adjustment screws. Turn them back on and repeat until level.
  • If your headlights are at a good height, something that makes it easy to see while driving, then you’ll want to make sure they’re both pointing straight ahead (there are horizontal adjustment screws as well).

Finally, put everything back the way you found it and take your car for a drive to see how everything looks. You might have to repeat the process again, and don’t be surprised if your headlights go off kilter from a pot hole or an aggressive speed bump, but at least now you’ll have fixing them down to a science, making it quick and easy.

January 9, 2013 by Jamie Rettig