GM Cavalier/Sunbird/Skyhawk/Firenza 1982-1994

Headlights

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REMOVAL & INSTALLATION



Sealed Beam

See Figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9

  1. Disconnect the negative battery cable.
  2.  
  3. If equipped with retractable headlights, raise the headlamp door using the manual knob.
  4.  



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Fig. Fig. 1: Raise the headlamp door using the manual knob

  1. Remove the headlamp trim panel (grille panel or bezel) attaching screws.
  2.  

The trim panel retaining screws on the Cavalier are under the hood, on top of the front support. To avoid turning the vertical or horizontal aiming screws, refer to the illustration before removing the headlight retainer.

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Fig. Fig. 2: Unfasten the bezel retaining screws, then ...



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Fig. Fig. 3: ... remove the bezel from the headlamps

  1. Unfasten the four headlamp retaining screws. These are the screws which hold the retaining ring for the bulb to the front of the car. Do not touch the two headlamp aiming screws, at the top and side of the retaining ring, or the headlamp aim will have to be readjusted.
  2.  



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Fig. Fig. 4: Unfasten the headlamp retaining ring screws



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Fig. Fig. 5: Do not confuse the headlight aiming screws with the retainer attaching screws

  1. Pull the bulb and ring forward and separate them. Unplug the electrical connector from the rear of the bulb.
  2.  



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Fig. Fig. 6: Pull the retaining ring then the bulb forward, then ...



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Fig. Fig. 7: ... unplug the connector and remove the headlamp



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Fig. Fig. 8: Exploded view of the headlamp, foglamp and bezel - 1987 Sunbird shown



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Fig. Fig. 9: View of the headlamp assembly - 1987 Sunbird with retractable headlamps shown

To install:
  1. Plug the new bulb into the electrical connector.
  2.  
  3. Install the bulb into the retaining ring and install the ring and bulb.
  4.  
  5. If equipped, install the headlamp door.
  6.  
  7. Install the trim panel (grill trim or bezel).
  8.  
  9. Connect the negative battery cable.
  10.  

Composite

Most of the later model vehicles covered by this information are equipped with composite headlight assemblies. Due to space constraints, no access may be provided to withdraw the bulbs, so the replacement usually requires removal of the composite assembly.

The composite headlight assemblies use Halogen bulbs which contain a gas under pressure. Improper handling of the bulb could cause it to shatter into flying glass fragments. To help avoid personal injury, follow the precautions closely.

Whenever handling a Halogen bulb, ALWAYS follow these precautions:



Turn the headlight switch OFF and allow the bulb to cool before changing it. Leave the switch OFF until the change is complete.
 
ALWAYS wear eye protection when changing a halogen bulb.
 
Handle the bulb only by its base. Avoid touching the glass.
 
DO NOT drop or scratch the bulb.
 
Keep dirt and moisture off the bulb.
 
Place the used bulb in the new bulb's carton and dispose of it properly.
 

  1. Raise the hood and locate the bulb mounting location at the rear of the composite headlamp body.
  2.  
  3. Disconnect the negative battery cable.
  4.  
  5. If necessary for access, remove the splash shield or side marker lamp(s).
  6.  
  7. If there is enough room to access the plastic base, press in and turn the base 1 / 4 turn counterclockwise and remove from the metal retaining ring by gently pulling back and away from the headlight. Remove the electrical connector from the bulb by raising the locktab and pulling the connector down and away from the bulb's plastic base.
  8.  
  9. If you can't access the bulb from the engine compartment, unfasten the thumb screws, and/or other retainers, then pull the composite headlight assembly forward slightly and disengage the wiring connector. Press in and turn the base 1 / 4 turn counterclockwise and remove the bulb from the metal retaining ring by gently pulling back and away from the headlight.
  10.  

To install:
  1. Attach the electrical connector on the new bulb's plastic base making sure that the locktab is in place.
  2.  
  3. Install the bulb by inserting the smallest tab located on top of the plastic base into the corresponding notch in the metal retaining ring. Turn clockwise 1 / 4 turn until it stops. The small plastic tab should be at the top of the metal ring.
  4.  
  5. Install the composite headlight assembly, then secure with the retainers.
  6.  
  7. Connect the negative battery cable, then check for proper headlight operation.
  8.  

HEADLIGHT AIMING



See Figures 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16

The headlights must be properly aimed to provide the best, safest road illumination. The lights should be checked for proper aim and adjusted as necessary. Certain state and local authorities have requirements for headlight aiming; these should be checked before adjustment is made.


CAUTION
About once a year, when the headlights are replaced or any time front end work is performed on your vehicle, the headlight should be accurately aimed by a reputable repair shop using the proper equipment. Headlights not properly aimed can make it virtually impossible to see and may blind other drivers on the road, possibly causing an accident. Note that the following procedure is a temporary fix, until you can take your vehicle to a repair shop for a proper adjustment.

Headlight adjustment may be temporarily made using a wall, as described below, or on the rear of another vehicle. When adjusted, the lights should not glare in oncoming car or truck windshields, nor should they illuminate the passenger compartment of vehicles driving in front of you. These adjustments are rough and should always be fine-tuned by a repair shop which is equipped with headlight aiming tools. Improper adjustments may be both dangerous and illegal.

For most of the vehicles covered by this information, horizontal and vertical aiming of each sealed beam unit is provided by two adjusting screws which move the retaining ring and adjusting plate against the tension of a coil spring. There is no adjustment for focus; this is done during headlight manufacturing.

Because the composite headlight assembly is bolted into position, no adjustment should be necessary or possible. Some applications, however, may be bolted to an adjuster plate or may be retained by adjusting screws. If so, follow this procedure when adjusting the lights, BUT always have the adjustment checked by a reputable shop.



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Fig. Fig. 10: Headlight adjustment screw locations for most sealed beam headlight adjusting plates



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Fig. Fig. 11: Use a Torx screw driver for the adjustment

Before removing the headlight bulb or disturbing the headlamp in any way, note the current settings in order to ease headlight adjustment upon reassembly. If the high or low beam setting of the old lamp still works, this can be done using the wall of a garage or a building:

  1. Park the vehicle on a level surface, with the fuel tank about 1 / 2 full and with the vehicle empty of all extra cargo (unless normally carried). The vehicle should be facing a wall which is no less than 6 feet (1.8m) high and 12 feet (3.7m) wide. The front of the vehicle should be about 25 feet from the wall.
  2.  



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Fig. Fig. 12: Location of the aiming screws on most vehicles with sealed beam headlights



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Fig. Fig. 13: Dual headlight adjustment screw locations - one side shown here (other side should be mirror image)



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Fig. Fig. 14: Example of headlight adjustment screw location for composite headlamps

  1. If aiming is to be performed outdoors, it is advisable to wait until dusk in order to properly see the headlight beams on the wall. If done in a garage, darken the area around the wall as much as possible by closing shades or hanging cloth over the windows.
  2.  
  3. Turn the headlights ON and mark the wall at the center of each light's low beam, then switch on the brights and mark the center of each light's high beam. A short length of masking tape which is visible from the front of the vehicle may be used. Although marking all four positions is advisable, marking one position from each light should be sufficient.
  4.  



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Fig. Fig. 15: Low-beam headlight pattern alignment



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Fig. Fig. 16: High-beam headlight pattern alignment

  1. If neither beam on one side is working, and if another like-sized vehicle is available, park the second one in the exact spot where the vehicle was and mark the beams using the same-side light. Then switch the vehicles so the one to be aimed is back in the original spot. It must be parked no closer to or farther away from the wall than the second vehicle.
  2.  
  3. Perform any necessary repairs, but make sure the vehicle is not moved, or is returned to the exact spot from which the lights were marked. Turn the headlights ON and adjust the beams to match the marks on the wall.
  4.  
  5. Have the headlight adjustment checked as soon as possible by a reputable repair shop.
  6.  

 
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