Have you noticed oncoming drivers flashing their lights at you or that your lights tend to illuminate the tops of trees along the roadside instead of the road? Then there’s a good chance you need to realign your headlights.

Driving with misaligned lights is extremely dangerous and should be adjusted as soon as possible. Headlights not only light up the driving path but help illuminate road signs and any animals or debris that might be coming into the road.

Adjusting headlights is fairly simple and most people can handle in their driveway or garage, but if you have halogen or high-intensity bulbs, please trust a professional like Dowell Automotive to properly align.


When should I check my headlamp alignment?

Headlights tend to slip out of adjustment with time, most need to be adjusted every few years. Other reasons might include frequently hauling heavy loads in your truck bed or vehicle’s trunk, worn shocks, or vehicle has been in an accident. Hauling large heavy loads can cause the vehicle’s rear to sink and tilt the front up. Worn shocks can lead to similar results in sag. Even if the vehicle doesn’t have visible damage from hitting an object, the headlights could have been knocked out of alignment.


How do I check the alignment of my lights?

All you need to check the alignment of your lights is a flat surface, a vertical wall to project towards, a tape measure, level, screwdriver, and some tape. Then do the following:


Make sure all the tires of the car are properly inflated, the fuel tank has at least half a tank, and there is someone sitting in the driver’s seat. This will ensure a level vehicle and reflect normal driving conditions while measurements are being taken.


Park the vehicle somewhere dark, on a flat level surface with a wall or garage door 10 to 15 feet in front of it, and the lights aimed at the wall.


Use a tape measure to find the distance between the ground and a fixed point on each headlamp – this measurement should be within a half inch of one another. If the distance is greater than that, the vehicle may have suspension issues.


Don’t use the fog or high beams. Use the tape to mark the wall with the horizontal and vertical center of the headlight beams. Measure from the ground up to the centerline on each side, neither should be any higher than 3.5 feet. Then use the level to verify the evenness of the centerlines from each other. If the lines are not even, lower the higher mark down to the level of the lower one.


The car should then be backed up so its 25 feet from the wall, use a tape measure to be exact. 25 feet is standard for most vehicles, but check your owner’s manual for details on your specific model. Now it’s time to make the adjustments to the headlamps.


How do I adjust my headlights?


Most are located on the top and side of the light housing. You may have trim to remove to find these. If you cannot locate, check your owner’s manual for details.


Have another person sit in the driver’s seat that can turn the lights on and off. Put a towel over a chair in front of the one light to block the beam. The screw on the top of the light housing should be turned clockwise to raise and clockwise to lower the light. The headlight should be adjusted until the top of the intense part of the beam shines directly on the center of the tape-line on the wall. The lights should be turned off while you’re making adjustments and then turned back on to determine any further adjustment. The screw of the side of the light housing should be turned next to improve the right or left adjustment. Adjust the lens so that the intense part of the beam is on the right of the vertical centerline.


A good rule of thumb is to always check your owner’s manual for headlamp adjustment. There may be precise specifications to follow, especially with newer vehicles that have brighter headlights.


Once you think you’ve got the adjustments corrected on the garage door or wall, take your vehicle out to the road and double check. Check them on a dark road to ensure they are properly shining on the road and repeat the steps above if not until they are corrected.




Dowell Automotive

For those who live in the Greater Lafayette area, Dowell Automotive would be happy to check and adjust your vehicle’s headlights.

To make an appointment give us a call at 765-477-0333 or visit us.

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