How To Adjust Headlight Height

In this article, we’re going to discuss how to adjust your headlights to the perfect height.

The simple reason for proper headlight adjustment is to help you to see the road ahead when you’re driving in the dark. If your headlights are set too high, they will light up the night sky, and not the road ahead. Too low, and it will create the perfect pool of light around your front wheels, but nothing more. 

We chatted with a few car manufacturers to get their advice about optimal headlight adjustment and put this article together to help you make a few simple adjustments to improve your vehicle’s safety.

What You’ll Need To Adjust Headlight Height

First up, here’s what you’ll need to adjust your headlight height. This is a relatively simple DIY procedure, and you’ll probably be able to manage on your own, even if you are all thumbs!

  1. Your owner’s manual
  2. A measuring tape
  3. A screwdriver
  4. Dark fabric of some kind of cardboard that blocks light
  5. A solid wall with about 25 feet of backing-up space
  6. Masking tape

How To Properly Adjust The Height Of A Headlight

If you follow these steps, you should be able to adjust your headlight height without issue. We’ve designed these steps to be generic – so they’ll work for most models and makes, but remember, keep your owner’s manual close by.

  1. Consult your owner’s manual to make sure your vehicle allows for headlight adjustment and also to find the adjustment screws.
  2. Make sure your car is parked on level ground. Also, ensure the tires are inflated to the correct pressures – all of these make a difference in headlight height adjustments. Push down on all four shocks to level them out, and make sure you have around half a tank of gas in the vehicle.
  3. Park your car around six feet from the wall, and turn your headlights on. (This works best when the light is low – so dusk or dawn are your friends here.)
  4. Use the masking tape and mark the vertical and horizontal axis of the headlight beams on the wall. (The tape should make a cross.)
  5. Now measure the distance between the two headlight beams. If the measurements don’t match, make a note of the difference between the two.
  6. Now back your vehicle away from the wall to around 25 feet.
  7. Turn your headlights on again, and look for the brightest spot of each headlight on the wall.
  8. Now you can start to prepare for the actual adjustment. Remove the ring (or bezel) from the headlights. Have a screwdriver, and your dark cloth or cardboard handy.
  9. Use the screwdriver to adjust the vertical field. Put the cardboard or dark cloth over one of the headlights. Adjust the other one up or down (by turning the adjustment screws clockwise or anti-clockwise) until the brightest part of the beam falls on the vertical center line you made on the wall with the masking tape in step 4.
  10. Use the screwdriver to adjust the horizontal field. Again, the headlight beam should fall slightly to the right of the center line.
  11. Repeat with the other headlight.

Signs Your Headlights Height Needs To Be Adjusted

If drivers are constantly flashing their beams at you when you’re driving at night – even if your beams are on low – you’re blinding them. That’s a surefire sign your headlights are out of alignment.

Also, when you’re driving at night and can’t see more than 30 feet ahead – check your alignment. That’s more than likely the cause of your poor visibility.

Remember that your headlights need sporadic attention, just like many other parts of your car need maintenance. A front-end collision, no matter how light, will cause your headlight alignment to go out of whack. Potholes, road hazards, or anything that causes a substantial bump could do this.

A parting shot

Headlights are like the orphans of car maintenance – we often don’t pay them any attention. If you’ve been struggling with poor visibility while driving at night, now is a good time to check your headlight height. It will make your vehicle safer, and your life easier.

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Richard Nickleson is the author and owner behind Headlight Reviews. He first started the site as a hobby to share his insights on car parts and specifically headlight bulbs, but it soon ballooned and now he writes on all topics surrounding headlights bulbs. If you've got a bulb question, contact Richard here.