How to Adjust and Aim Headlights

Aiming your headlights can be a tricky or simple task depending on the headlight, the location and type of headlight adjuster, parts that need to be removed, and the year, make, and model.

Preparing the Vehicle for Headlight Adjustment

1. Check the headlight for engraved DOT VOR, DOT VOL, and DOT VO or ECE (e code) to confirm it is a visibly aimable headlight

Before you begin, confirm your headlight is a visibly aimable headlight. Inspect the headlight housing for DOT VOR, DOT VOL, DOT VO or ECE (e code) markings.

2. Have a wall or headlight adjusting board

Create a headlight aiming board, which will make pinpointing and measuring the headlight beams’ location easier, or find a wall in a dark area where you can see the headlight beams.

3. Leave the car with normal loads and correct tire air pressure

Remove any objects that would not be a part of your everyday load while driving, and confirm the tires have the correct air pressure (Video: Beginner Car Care: Tire Pressure How to Check Inflate and Deflate Tires). You can confirm the tires’ required tire pressure by reading the sticker on the door jamb, which is found in most vehicles, and measuring the psi with a tire pressure gauge.

4. Back the car up 25 feet, jounce the suspension, and check the headlight beam locations

Back the car up from the wall by 25 feet and jounce the suspension, letting the vehicle self-adjust to the proper ride height. Turn the headlights on and briefly check the high beam and low beam locations on the wall to determine their current adjustment.

Measuring the Headlight Beams’ Aiming Points

1. Mark a center mark across from the center of the grille

On the wall or headlight adjusting board, locate and mark a center mark directly across from center of the grille. If you do not have a headlight aiming board, this can be done with an object that is easily visible, like a colored piece of tape.

2. Mark a center mark across from the center of the headlight bulbs

On the wall or headlight adjusting board, locate and mark a center mark of the headlight bulb or headlight lens. Record the measurement of this mark from the ground, and mark a center mark on the wall or board that is equal to the height of this point.

3. Mark the aiming points for the driver and passenger sides

On the driver side, make a mark that is 4 inches below the center mark on the wall or headlight adjustment board. On the passenger side, make a mark that is 2 inches below the center mark on the wall or headlight adjusting board. The headlight beams are adjusted unevenly to prevent the blinding of drivers on the other side of the road and to increase the visibility of animals, signs, and objects off the road. To see this point better from a distance, horizontally place the bottom edge of a piece of tape along each aiming point.

Note: This aiming point may be different if your state has specific requirements for headlight beam height.

Aiming the Headlights

1. Find the adjuster screw, bolt, or wheel

Locate the adjuster screw, bolt, or wheel, which may be vertical or horizontal, and grab a tool that can adjust the headlight beam.

2. Find the headlight beams’ current location

Find an object large enough to block one of the beams (like a chair) to get a rough measurement of the beams’ current location. Turn on the headlights and make note of where the top of the headlight beam lands in relation to its center mark and aiming points.

3. Aim the Headlights

Use the right tool without adding weight to the vehicle, and bring the upper edge of the beam in line with the aiming point for each side. Adjust the driver side to 4 inches below the center mark and the passenger side to 2 inches below the center mark unless your state has different requirements.


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