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How to Adjust the Headlights on a Nissan Xterra

by Josh Baum

If your Nissan Xterra's headlight beams don't properly illuminate the road ahead, you may need to adjust them. They can be adjusted horizontally if the field of illumination is too wide or narrow, or vertically if you can't see far enough ahead or your headlight beams are shining directly into the eyes of oncoming drivers. Headlight adjustment is simple and only takes a few minutes.

Fill up the gas tank of your Xterra, and remove everything from the car that you would not normally keep in it. Check the air pressure in the tires, and inflate them all to the proper level, if necessary. This is to make sure the vehicle is optimally level.

Park the Xterra on level ground, facing a flat wall head-on. Pull up as close to the wall as possible until your bumper is almost touching it. Straighten out the wheels and put the car in park.

Look at the center of each headlight lens. You'll see a centered crosshair. Place two small squares of masking tape on the wall, one directly in front of each lens crosshair.

Back the vehicle up 25 feet, directly away from the wall. Use a measuring tape to be as accurate as possible. Put the vehicle in park, turn on the headlights and leave the engine running.

Pop the hood and prop it open. Look at the back of each headlight assembly. On the side of each assembly nearest the outside of the car, there is a screw at the bottom. This screw adjusts the horizontal aim of the bulb. Directly above this screw, on the top outside corner of the assembly, is a plastic cap. If you remove this cap, you'll expose another screw, which adjusts the vertical aim of the bulb.

Look at the beams of light on the wall. You should be able to see the center point, where the crosshairs on the lenses are, reflected on the wall. If these points do not shine directly on your masking tape squares, you'll need to adjust the aim of the bulbs.

Use a Phillips head screwdriver or adjustable wrench to turn each of the four screws as necessary until the crosshairs reflected in the beams appear directly on top of the masking tape squares.

Tip

  • The Nissan Xterra owner's manual does not include these instructions, and instead recommends that you take your Xterra to an authorized service center for headlight adjustment. However, doing this yourself is still safe and simple.

Items you will need

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