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How to Adjust Car Headlight Beams? - Check the Process

Team Ackodrive16, Jul, 2021

Wonder why the oncoming drivers were flashing their headlights and honking at you the last time you took your car out? Or worried why you couldn’t see beyond a few feet from your car even with your headlights turned on? The reason might be simple: your car's headlights aren’t correctly aimed at the road and need realignment. When the headlight beams fail to light the road ahead, leaving it unattended would mean you are compromising on visibility and road safety. Why risk it at all when you can fix the headlight beams in your garage all by yourself?

How to Align Your Car Headlight Beams?

Before looking at the detailed process involved in adjusting the headlights, let's take a look at the reasons behind a car’s headlight losing its alignment.

 Your headlight beams may go out of line due to the following reasons.

  • You have recently changed the headlights.

  • There’s been an accident resulting in a front-on collision.

  • You are carrying more weight in your car than usual.

Tools Required to Adjust Headlight Beams

To realign the headlight beams of your car, you need a screwdriver or a ratchet that goes with your car’s headlight adjusters. The location of the headlight adjusters differs from one car to another. Hence, the owner’s manual may come in handy throughout. Apart from a screwdriver or a ratchet, you will need the following tools.

  • A measuring tape

  • A dry-erase marker

  • Painter’s tape

  • Carpenter’s level

  • A levelled surface

  • A piece of cardboard or something thick enough to shut off lights

  • Minimum space of 25 feet

The Process of Adjusting the Car Headlights

When your headlight beams need realignment, you would want to take care of them immediately. Below are the steps to adjust your car’s headlights.

  • Get Your Car Ready

See to it that the tires of your car have enough air pressure. Try to have between ¼ and ¾ tank of fuel, as it will help adjust the car’s positioning. If you travel light, get rid of all the excess weight from your vehicle. If you travel with heavy equipment in your car, make sure to put them back inside the vehicle.

  • Look for the Headlight Axis

Mark the centre of each headlight (call it the headlight axis) with the help of a dry erase marker.

  • Position the Car Close Against Wall

Park your car against a levelled wall (could be your garage wall)—you may park the car at a distance of 10 to 15 feet from the wall.

  • Allow the Suspension To Settle

Bounce the car on all four sides to level shocks absorbers. Also, measure the ground-to-headlight distance to make sure that the suspension itself has settled.

  • Mark the Wall Corresponding to the Centre of the Car

Mark the garage wall vertically with the help of a painter’s tape corresponding to the centre of your car. Precision is, however, not required here.

  • Switch On the Headlights

Make sure to turn on the headlights and not the high beams or the fog lights.

  • See if the Lights are In Line

Take the painters tape and flag both the horizontal and the vertical centre lines of the headlight beams on the garage wall. It would look like the letter “T”. Repeat the same for the other headlight beam. Ensure they are in line by positioning a carpenter’s level between the two flagged centre lines. The centre lines should not be more than 3.5 feet from above the ground. If there is any discrepancy, use a tape measure to get the lines right.

  • Reverse Your Car Precisely 25 feet Away from the Wall

Reverse the car exactly 25 feet away from the garage wall. You can take the help of a measuring tape if required. At this point, turn the headlights off.

  • Realign Both the Headlights One By One

Locate the adjusting screws by removing the trim ring from around the headlights. You will have to adjust one headlight at a time. Therefore, cover the other headlight you are not working on with a jacket or a thick cloth. Do not lean on the car as it may adversely affect the alignment.  Once you locate the screws, mark both the vertical and the horizontal adjusters. In most cars, the screw on top of the headlight is for vertical adjustment and to the side of the headlight is for horizontal adjustment. Ask someone to be in the driver’s seat as you may need the person to turn the headlights on and off when required.

  • Fine-tune the Vertical Field

Turn the upper screw or the bolt clockwise if you need to raise the light. Alternatively, turn the screw anti-clockwise to lower the light. Once done, notice the light pattern on the wall. The cap of the most potent part of the beam should either be at par or just below the centre of the tape line you have put up on the wall.

  • Fine-tune the Horizontal Field

Rotate the screw on the side of the headlight (clockwise or anti-clockwise) to get the same result as above. The powerful part of the light should be cast either right or left (if you drive on the left side of the road) of the vertical line you created on the wall.

  • Check the Alignment

Go out on a drive and check if the alignment is okay. Readjust if required.

Your car's headlights need to light your path correctly. Unaligned headlight beams question your safety on roads. Hence, taking the cue when the headlights aren’t perfectly aligned and getting those fixed at the earliest should be your priority. And knowing that setting them is not difficult, why wait for a mechanic to get it done for you? Not to forget that accidents may occur anytime, even when you take all the precautions. It is always better to get your car insured with reliable digital-first insurers like ACKO.. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the most common questions about headlight alignment.

Where to find the car headlight adjustment screws?

The adjustment screws are generally located close to the headlights. However, in some vehicles, the screws are put in the engine compartment at the back of the headlights.

Do all the cars have adjustment screws?

Most of the cars have adjustment screws. However, in some vehicles, you will find adjustment bolts instead of screws.

Is it necessary to have someone seated on the driver’s seat while adjusting the headlights?

It is advisable to have someone seated in the driver’s seat to turn the lights on and off to make proper adjustments.

Is it safe to adjust headlight beams by myself?

Yes, it is safe to align the headlight beams all by yourself. It is a straightforward process, and you need not fiddle with any other components of the car.

Why do I need to maintain the correct air pressure to adjust the headlight beams?

You must park the vehicle with the correct ride height to adjust the headlights. If the tyre pressure is low or high, it may alter the normal ride height. So, it would be best if you have the correct air pressure in the tyres.

Do I need any special tools to adjust my car’s headlights?

No, there is no need for any special tools for headlight adjustment. All you need is some basic tools such as a screwdriver, a measuring tape, a carpenter's level, a painters tape and a dry erase marker.

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