29 Jul, 19

How To: Correct Headlight Alignment

It’s really important that your headlights are correctly aligned, especially in the winter, as you may be driving a lot more in the dark. Incorrect alignment could result in blinding or annoying other drivers/pedestrians if they are too high and if they’re aimed too low, other drivers will not be able to see you properly or be aware of your presence. Also, you won’t be able to see the road correctly or other potential dangers, which is why it’s highly risky to drive when they’re not aligned accurately.

For information on how your headlights are knocked out of adjustment, how to tell when they have been and how to align them yourself, keep reading!

How Do Your Headlights Become Misaligned

There are a few factors which could affect the alignment of your headlights. A common one is that when you drive over speed bumps, uneven surfaces and general potholes in the road, it can throw your headlight aim off. Small impacts or hits can also cause this issue.

Over time, the angles of your lights can change because of vibrations from the engine when you use your vehicle over long periods, and things that may seem subtle, like often braking too hard could also knock your headlights out slightly. If you have an accident and your vehicle is hit at the front, then your car may need a new set of headlights if they are completely damaged.

Furthermore, worn shocks can also be the culprit. This is due to the fact that when the shock absorbers in your suspension system are in good condition, your car is level. However, if your rear shocks are damaged, they will sag and in turn, the front of your vehicle will sit higher than the rear. Consequently, it will seem like your headlights are pointing up rather than straight ahead, therefore, if this is the case, your shock absorbers may need replacing.

If you are carrying heavy goods and there is more weight in the vehicle, then you will have to adjust the positioning of the headlights because the car will be lower than usual, so you will have to manually change the dips of your headlights. This is something that a lot of drivers tend to forget, however, we must remember how important it is to have full visibility of the road at night.

How To Tell They Are Misaligned

  • When you look at your headlights and they seem off centre, that is an obvious way to know that your headlights are misaligned. It’s important that you check your headlights are working properly before driving at night time.
  • Other drivers may flash you because your lights may seem like they are on high beam when they are only on a low beam.
  • If you cannot see the road ahead of you sufficiently, your headlight aim may be off.

How To Adjust Headlights

You could take your car to a mechanic to adjust them for you or if you have a newer vehicle, there may be a way to fix the level with a button or a knob that is located on the drivers’ control panel. If you want to save yourself some money and do not have a lever or button to do the job for you, then it is fairly easy to fix yourself. Follow these detailed step-by-step instructions if you feel that you need to realign your headlights.

Before you start, you will need the following equipment:
  • A screwdriver (A Phillip or Flat-head – check which one you need depending on the controls)
  • Masking Tape
  • Measuring Tape
  • Something to cover your headlights (a sheet, towel etc)
Step One: Park your vehicle facing a garage door or wall so that you can use it to check the direction of the headlight beams. Also, it is important that your vehicle is parked on a level surface. This is because if the ground is uneven, you may end up adjusting your lights too high or too low, you won’t be able to tell if they are in the correct position and you’ll be aligning them to uneven or graduated ground.

Step Two: Use the masking tape to mark the straight lines of the vertical and horizontal light pattern on the wall or the garage door when your beams are on a low setting.

Step Three: Reverse your car around 25 feet (it doesn’t have to be this exact, just an estimate). It is advisable to keep your car engine running whilst your headlights are on, just in case your vehicle has a weak battery. Cover up one of the lights with a towel or something similar when they are turned on.

Step Four: Release and lift the bonnet – always make sure you refer to your vehicle owner’s manual if you do not know how to do this already. When you have located the back of the headlight’s casing, look for the headlight adjusting screws at the front of the car and evaluate which kind of screwdriver you need to get the job done.

Step Five: When you have located the screws that adjust the positioning of the lights, you will find vertical and horizontal adjusters, meaning one will be for moving it up and down, and the other will be for moving it left to right. If it isn’t clearly labelled, you’ll have to experiment by slightly twisting them to see their function. Make sure that you are keeping an eye on the garage door/wall to see the movement of the light beam.

Step Six: When you are moving the vertical adjuster’s screws, the top of the bright spot needs to be aligned or sit slightly lower than the horizontal tape mark you placed on the garage door or wall.

For right-hand drive cars, the bright spot of the light should be sitting directly to the left of the vertical tape mark on the wall or garage door. Whereas for left-hand drive vehicles, the spot should sit to the right when you’re moving the horizontal adjustment screws. This will ensure that your headlight beams are at the correct level for driving, so you don’t blind oncoming drivers.

Step Seven: Repeat step six for the other covered headlight, and then when you are satisfied with the position of beams in accordance with the instructions, take your car our for a test drive, making sure that you can see the road clearly, your lights are not too high and that the other drivers are also able to see you and you are able to see them clearly.

If you don’t feel confident enough to carry out headlight adjustment on your vehicle, you should consult a professional mechanic who will be able to align your headlights properly, to ensure that they are at the correct level for night time driving!

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