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3 Headlight Alignment Tips

Headlights on the road at night

As your vehicle gets older, the suspension can settle and sag or the mechanism that aims the lights can even end up out of adjustment from vibration. However it happens, there’s nothing quite as annoying as driving at night with out of place headlight alignment. Luckily, resetting your lights is simple enough that you can do it at home. Here’s how:

1. Bulb BumbleA SUV headlight

Before you get too deep into your headlamps, it could be something as simple as a bulb. If you’ve recently replaced your headlight bulbs, they could be seated funny, which would cause them to project light out of the lamp in the wrong direction. Fixing this is as simple as undoing the clip on the back of the lamp and reseating the bulb in the housing.

In a lot of cases is, this will be all you need to do to fix the problem.

2. Bubble Level

Some car makers have a bubble level while others use a diagram on the lamp on the top of each headlight to help with aim. Aligning the light is as simple as getting the bubble or indicator between a set of marks. Start with your vehicle on a level surface and use a screwdriver to turn the adjusters on the back of the lamp until the marks are within range. Some car makers also have a horizontal adjuster that lets you aim the light left and right.

3. Up Against the Wall

Some cars don’t have bubbles or other methods of setting the alignment, so to align the headlights you’ll need to do more. You’ll need a decent amount of space —25 feet to be exact — and you’ll also need a vertical wall at the other end of that space (a garage is perfect for this sort of thing). As before, you’ll want to do this on a flat, level surface but this time start with the car pulled up as close to the wall as you can get it. Turn the low beams on and, on the wall, mark the center of each light with a piece of tape horizontally and vertically. Next, back the car up exactly 25 feet (use a tape measure) from the wall and turn the lights on again. Now block the light from one lamp with something mid-beam using a chair with a jacket over it or anything else to help you find the beam you’re adjusting more easily. Now use the adjusters on the back of the lamp housing to move the center of the light to the corresponding mark on the wall and then repeat for the other side, of course blocking the light you just adjusted.

Adjusting your headlights is simple and can be done at home with a very basic set of tools, and skill level. Whether your car employs something on the lamp to adjust it or you have to use the 25-foot method, always make adjustments on a level surface.

Check out all the lighting parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on headlight alignment, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Image courtesy of Flickr.


Erich Reichert View All

Erich Reichert has been an editor and on-air personality in the radio control car hobby for 12 years. A certified car nut since birth, he has written for internationally published titles such as RC Car Action, RC Driver and Xtreme RC Cars, as well as Stuff Magazine, Road and Track and Super Street. He's covered everything from product reviews and tech articles to high-profile lifestyle pieces and celebrity interviews. Erich found his passion for writing after a successful career as an art director, working with brands such as Pepsico, NASCAR, MTV, Nintendo, WWE, Cannondale Bicycles and HBO. He's also a father, an avid hockey fan and an FIA race license holder who enjoys hiking, playing drums and movies.

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