How to Aim Headlights

by Jonra Springs

Aim headlights to get the best visibility for night driving, without blinding the oncoming drivers. Proper vision is one of the keys to driving safety. Headlight adjustments can be compromised by a number of things. Often the installation of new lamp or bulb causes a slightly skewed aim. Certainly the installation of a lift-kit demands a realignment of the headlights. Line up your headlight aim for successful night time travel.

Time the job so that it's dark enough to see the headlight's glow clearly. Begin working at around twilight.

Park the car on a flat surface facing a wall or garage door. The parking surface must be long enough to allow you to park the front of vehicle 25 feet away from the wall or door, but park the front of the vehicle up close to the wall for the initial procedure.

Mark a center line on the wall. Extend a yardstick from the hood ornament, or center line on the hood, to the wall or door. Make a vertical line on the wall with masking tape to mark the vehicle center.

Take measurements for reference marks. Measure from the ground to the center of one headlight. Mark the wall two inches below that measurement with a horizontal stripe of tape that's as wide as the vehicle. Place a yardstick vertically in the center of front grill. Use the hood ornament for a guide. Measure from the center of a low beam headlight to the center of the yardstick. Measure that distance from the vertical center tape along the horizontal tape stripe. Mark the distance with small vertical strips of tape that cross the horizontal tape on both sides of the center line. Your wall marks will look similar to this: (----+-------|­------+----)

Back up the car in a straight line until the headlights are 25 feet from the wall. Use a tape measure to mark the distance accurately. Be sure the driveway or parking surface does not slope up or down.

Turn the low beam headlights on. Notice the glow from each lamp is lower on the left side than on the right. The flat line at the upper left of the glow is called the cutoff.

Adjust the vertical aim of the beams. Use the vertical set screw over the center of the lamp to set the cutoff of each beam level with the horizontal tape line.

Adjust the horizontal aim. Use the horizontal adjustment screw, off to the outside of the lamp, to line up the angled slope coming up from the cutoff with the vertical side marks.

Adjust the high beams on vehicles using a four lamp system. Leave the vehicle in the exact spot where the low beams were adjusted. Switch on the high beams. The glow should fall below the horizontal tape line, and be evenly spaced between the low beam markers. Use the horizontal and vertical set screws as needed to position the high beams as such.


  • check If you are unable to find an adequate surface next to a wall for this job, most garages will adjust your headlights for a very reasonable fee.

Items you will need

About the Author

Jonra Springs began writing in 1989. He writes fiction for children and adults and draws on experiences in education, insurance, construction, aviation mechanics and entertainment to create content for various websites. Springs studied liberal arts and computer science at the College of Charleston and Trident Technical College.