How to Adjust Your Car’s Headlights

Need to adjust your car's headlights? It's not as complicated as you may think. Here's a step-by-step guide on adjusting your beams and ensuring they're properly aligned to maximize your visibility and keep oncoming drivers safe on the roadways.

Some vehicles do not come or allow for headlight adjustments. The headlight is contained in a headlight bezel made of plastic. This bezel is held on the vehicle by retaining screws. There is no adjustments to the headlight with this type application.

How to Adjust Your Car’s Headlights

1. Level the Vehicle

Before adjusting your headlights, make sure the car is level. This means checking the tire pressure and removing any excess weight from the cargo area or trunk. It’s also a good idea to adjust the headlights when your gas tank is half-full. If possible, have someone sit in the driver’s seat to mimic the weight that would be present when you’re on the road driving at night. Position the car on level ground by parking 10 to 15 feet from a dark garage door or wall with the headlights aimed toward the wall. Bounce the car on all four corners a few times to level out the shocks, then measure the distance from the ground to each headlight to make sure they’re level.

2. Measure the Lights

Now that the car is level, turn on the headlights. Just use the low beams, not the high beams or fog lights, as those can give you an inaccurate reading. Mark the headlight beams vertically and horizontally on the wall with masking tape. This should create a cross. Using the taped marks, measure the lines (cross) to check that they’re even. If they’re uneven, note the difference in measurements and lower the highest center line marker to the same height as the lowest center line marker. Make sure these center lines are no higher than 3.5 feet from the ground.

3. Back the Car Away from the Wall

Use a tape measure to make sure you back the car exactly 25 feet from the wall. Turn off the headlights. It’s now time to make your adjustments. Remove each headlight’s trim ring and locate the headlight adjustment screws. You should notice marks for both the horizontal adjuster and vertical adjuster. If you’re having trouble finding any of these features, refer to the owner’s manual. You can then adjust each headlight separately using a screwdriver in and the adjustment screws. Remember to block out the light from one headlight while adjusting the other using a heavy fabric or object; having both headlights shining against the wall can make it difficult to distinguish between them.

4. Adjust the Vertical Field

If you can enlist an assistant, have someone sit in the driver’s seat to turn the lights off and on as you make your adjustments. When turning the vertical field’s screw or bolt, turning clockwise typically raises the lights while turning counterclockwise lowers them. Your model, however, might work differently, so check the owner’s manual. When adjusting the headlights, the most intense part of the beam should hit at or just below the center tape line you created on the wall.

5. Adjust the Horizontal Field

Do the same thing with the horizontal field as you did with the vertical one. Turn the side screws or bolts carefully until the most intense part of the headlight beam is just to the right of the tape’s vertical line. You can then check to see if both headlights line up close enough to the tape marks you’ve created on the wall. Continue to make any necessary adjustments until they look right.

6. Perform a Road Test

After making any headlight adjustments, test the alignment on the road at night. Simply take the car for a test drive and note any problem areas. You can then readjust as needed. Adjusting your car’s headlights is a straightforward job. Adhere to recommended instructions and test the alignment as you go to ensure your beams are precisely where you need them to be.

Once you’ve got your headlights adjusted, you’ll be able to see better and drive safer in the dark. If your headlights are looking dim, or it’s been a while since you’ve changed the bulbs, it may be worth taking the time to adjust and change your headlights at the same time. Regardless of your automotive needs, we’ve got you covered here at AutoZone. If the job is too big for you, seek out one of our Preferred Shops to help you do the job.

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Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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