Guide to headlight adjustment


Headlights play a crucial role in lighting your path during nighttime and weather conditions where visibility is affected. However, those brightly shining bulbs aren’t going to be helpful if they aren’t aimed correctly—something that many drivers often neglect after buying a vehicle. The truth is, even the most expensive car with the neatest headlights eventually requires its eyes to be adjusted to prevent blinding other motorists. Remember, you aren’t safe if you can see the road ahead clearly, but other drivers don’t because your headlights are shining right into their eyes.

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What Does it Mean To Adjust Your Headlights?

If you’re an avid traveller or truck driver, chances are you probably encounter bumps and bangs in your daily driving, which can knock off your headlights, causing them to wander away from alignment. When this happens, you need to adjust the enclosed headlight units mounted on either side of the vehicle’s nose.

Modern headlight enclosures are separate from your vehicle’s body and are mounted with screws. You can get adjustment screws on the headlight units that allow horizontal and vertical adjustments. Using a fixed point on the wall, you can aim your headlights using the adjustment screws.

Do All Headlights Need Adjusting?

At some point, headlights will need adjusting regardless of the technology behind them. Some vehicles will need adjustments after a year or two, while others can go up to five years, depending on the type of vehicle and how you use it. For instance, your F150 headlights are likely to need adjusting or replacement more frequently if you drive your truck in rugged terrain more often or use it for towing. Even the adaptive or self-levelling headlights occasionally go out of line and require adjustment. The adjustment process can differ slightly for units with self-adjustment features or modern LED units.

What Causes Headlights To Go Out of Alignment?

There are a number of factors that can cause your headlights to go out of alignment and shine incorrectly. One of the major causes is a frontal collision. When your vehicle hits a pole, animal, stone, tree, or other objects when driving, the headlights can get unbalanced. Similarly, the rough roads that cause your vehicle to move or vibrate violently can lead to headlights going out of alignment. This is more common when the car hits a pothole or a road hazard.

How Do I Know if My Headlights Need to Be Adjusted?

headlightUnfortunately, many drivers learn about their misaligned headlights from angry and frustrated oncoming drivers. Some may honk or flash their headlights from high to low to communicate that you need to get your lights in shape. If you’re a veteran driver, you don’t need other drivers to alert you about your headlights.

Following where the lights point at night is enough to tell you if your headlights need adjustment or not. Your headlights are supposed to aim forward and illuminate the road ahead, not other cars, houses, or motorists. That means aiming slightly lower and not to one side. When aimed too high, you’ll likely not see more than 20 or 30 feet ahead in front of you. If all you see are the roofs of houses, tops of trees, and the night sky, your headlights are too high.

How to Adjust Your Headlights

Some states have their own specifications when it comes to aiming headlights. Therefore, it’s best to follow those rules when aligning yours. Automakers also have specific aiming specs that you should consider when adjusting your headlights.

For instance, Toyota recommends ½ inch distance within spec while General Motors states that there should be no distance between the horizontal centerline of the headlamp and the centre of the beam. Nissan allows for slightly more than one and ½ inches, while Chrysler allows between two and six inches below the centerline.

You don’t need to be an expert to adjust your headlights. However, it can be a tedious task that takes time to get it right as every vehicle is different. However, you can learn to adjust your headlights within minutes. The first thing to do is check whether your car has built-in bubble levels.

For instance, Honda has horizontal and vertical bubble levels that help you tell if your headlights’ aim is off. You can find them at the side and top of the headlight unit. With these, you simply need to tweak the aim until you get the correct position. If, for some reason, you’re unable to adjust your headlights, take your vehicle to the repair shop. Don’t ignore the problem. The alignment can cost between $40 and $60 depending on the labour cost in your area.

Dangers of Misaligned Headlights

Improper headlight alignment can lead to dangerous situations for you and other drivers. They can reduce reaction time to zero and lead to accidents, especially collisions with oncoming vehicles. When your lights shine brightly on other drivers’ faces, their visibility can be affected, which can cause them to veer off their lane and hit you. Since your lights aren’t pointed to the road, you may have less time to react or avoid the oncoming vehicle.

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