How to Adjust the Headlight on Ford Cars

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

Ford car uses the Ford car nameplate to identify its half-ton pickup trucks. The Ford car is available in several different cab and bed configurations with two- or four-wheel drive. Interiors can be ordered with optional accessories that rival some luxury cars. The standard halogen headlights on your Ford car are adjustable to compensate Ford car loaded and unloaded conditions. This insures that you can see the road at night without blinding oncoming traffic with ill-adjusted headlights.

Under The Hood:

 How to Adjust the Headlight on a 1998 Ford Explorer

Park your Ford Explorer on a flat and level surface about 1 foot from a wall or a garage door. You will have to back the Explorer 25 feet to check the headlight adjustment, so be sure to work in an area where you can do so.

Pack the Explorer with the same stuff that you would normally carry so the load weight will be accurate. Load the trunk, fill the tank halfway with gas and ask a partner to sit in the driver's seat. The amount of weight in the truck will affect the angle of the headlight beams

Turn the Explorer's lights on and mark a line on the wall with the masking tape. The line should run horizontally from the center point of the driver's side light to the center of the passenger's side light. Then take two 6-inch pieces of tape and mark the vertical center of each headlight. this will create to crosses in front of each light.

Measure 25 feet from the back of the Explorer. Back up so the rear of the Explorer is at the point you measured. Keep the headlights on. Note how the light beams hit the wall to determine what adjustments need to be made. The center of the driver-side headlight beam should fall 2 inches below the horizontal line and 2 inches to the right of the vertical mark. This allows for good road illumination without blinding opposing traffic. The passenger-side headlight beam should fall 2 inches below the horizontal line and directly on the vertical mark.

Locate the adjustment screws under the hood at the headlight assembly. The horizontal screw will be on top and the vertical on the side. Use a standard screwdriver to adjust each headlight until it hits the optimal position. Be sure to do this with the lights on so that you do not over-adjust. A very slight movement on the screw will make a substantial difference in the beam aim.

Items you will need

  • Screwdriver

  • Masking tape

  • Measuring tape

  • Partner

 How Do I Adjust a Headlight on an F-150?

Park your truck at a perpendicular angle to a flat, vertical surface such as a garage door or wall. Use a measuring tape and make sure the front of your vehicle is 25 feet from the wall or door.

Locate the centering indicator on one of your headlight lenses, which is a 3 mm circle. Measure from the indicator to the ground. Transfer this measurement to the wall or door by applying a piece of 8-foot-long masking tape horizontally to the surface of the wall or door directly in front of your truck.

Turn on the headlights on the low-beam setting to illuminate the wall or door directly in front of your truck. Open the hood. Cover one of the headlights with a piece of cardboard and masking tape to make individual adjustments easier.

Observe the pattern on the wall or door that the uncovered headlight is making. Note that if the bottom of the beam pattern is above or below the masking tape, follow subsequent steps for vertical adjustment of the headlight. Turn the adjustment nut on top of the headlight assembly with a 4 mm wrench in a clockwise direction to raise the beam pattern, or in a counterclockwise direction to lower the beam.

Remove the cardboard from the opposite headlight and place it over the one you have already adjusted. Repeat Step 4. Remove the cardboard and masking tape, close the hood, and turn off the headlights.

Items you will need

  • Measuring tape

  • Masking tape

  • Cardboard

  • 4 mm wrench

 How to Adjust the Headlights in a Ford Focus

Unload any extra cargo you don't carry in your Ford Focus on a daily basis. Inflate the tires to the proper air pressure and replicate any other normal conditions for your daily driving.

Park the car (with the emergency brake dispensed) on a level surface 5 to 10 feet away from a wall or garage door. Turn on your headlights and locate the center of the trajectory path on the wall. Mark the center point for each headlight on the wall with masking tape.

Put your Ford Focus in reverse and back up to a distance of 25 feet from the wall. Park the car, set your emergency break and turn off the engine. Bounce the car gently to settle the suspension.

Pop the hood and locate the headlight aim-turn screws. Ford locates these on top of the headlight unit. If your model has a leveling motor for the horizontal aim, you'll find it located on the surround trim.

Use a Torx tool head or an Allen wrench to turn the screws. Keep an eye on the marks and adjust until the trajectory hits the mark. You want the low beam to be within a 2-inch variance and the high beam to center on the mark. Adjust each headlight individually.

Items you will need

  • Masking tape

  • Torx tool head or Allen wrench

 How to Adjust the Headlights on a Ford Super Duty

Park your Ford Super Duty truck directly in front of a garage door or other flat, vertical surface.

Measure the height from the ground to the horizontal center of the headlights and place a horizontal strip of tape on the wall in front of each headlight at this same height.

Place a vertical strip of tape on the wall in front of the vertical center of each headlight, creating a cross shape that can be used as a target for aiming the headlights.

Measure 25 feet away from the garage door or wall and place a strip of tape on the ground to mark that spot. Reverse the Ford Super Duty truck until the headlights are directly above that spot, turn on the headlights, and prop open the hood.

Look for the hex bolt on top of the headlight assembly that controls the vertical direction of the headlight beams and the bolt on the back that controls the lateral direction. Adjust these bolts until the high-intensity portion of the beams hits 2 inches below and to the right of the center of the tape targets on the wall, ensuring that the beams illuminate the road and street signs.

Items you will need

  • Torque E5 wrench

  • Tape

  • Tape measure

 How to Adjust the Headlights on a Ford Escort

Determine Aiming Points

Locate a vertical surface to reflect the headlights against. This can be a wall or a darkly painted sheet of plywood set up on its side.

Park the vehicle on a level surface 10 feet away from the wall or darkly painted sheet of plywood. The vehicle must be positioned so that its centerline intersects the wall or plywood sheet at a 90-degree angle.

Determine the centerline of the vehicle and draw a vertical line corresponding to it on the wall.

Push up and down on the front of the vehicle until the suspension begins to rock. Then allow the suspension to settle. This will ensure that the headlights are at the correct height.

Measure the distance between the center of the headlight and the ground on each headlight.

Mark the height of each headlamp on the wall and draw a horizontal line between them.

Measure the distance between the center each headlamp and divide by two.

Measure on the wall, starting from the centerline, along the horizontal line the distance you calculated in the above Step on either side of the centerline. The horizontal line represents the distance from the ground, and the mark you are making in this step represents the distance from the centerline of the vehicle to the center of the headlamp. Where those two lines on each side of the vehicle intersect is where you will be aiming your headlights.

Aim the Headlights

Remove the four screws that secure the headlight trim bezel to the grille.

Remove the headlight trim bezel.

Turn the headlight high beams on.

Adjust the headlights. Use the adjustment screws located along the outboard side and the inboard lower corner of the headlight bucket. Adjust the headlights until the beams project directly onto the marks you made on the wall.

Push the car up and down on the front suspension until it begins to rock, then allow it to settle.

Check the headlight alignment against the marks on the wall to make sure they remain consistent.

Replace the headlight trim bezel.

Items you will need

  • Wall or darkly painted sheet of plywood

  • Phillips screwdriver

  • Marker or pencil

  • Measuring tape

  • Straight edge or chalk line

 How do I Adjust the Headlights on a 2003 Ford Explorer?


You can adjust the headlights on your 2003 Explorer with a Phillips-head screwdriver. However, to make sure you've adjusted the lights properly, you will also need some masking tape, a tape measure and a blank wall on which you can shine your headlight beams. The best time to perform this task is in the evening, as you will be able to see the beams on the wall more easily.

Adjusting the Headlights

Park your Explorer about 20 feet away from a wall, with the headlights directed at the wall. Turn the headlights on. Measure the distance between the ground and the center of the headlights. Mark this distance on the wall with masking tape. Make two marks, one for each headlight. Open the hood and locate the headlight adjustment screw above the headlight assembly. The headlight should be about 2 inches below the mark on the wall. Use your Phillips-head screwdriver to adjust the headlights to the appropriate alignment. Once you have adjusted both headlights, close the hood.


The headlight assembly and engine can become very hot when in use. Be careful that you don't burn yourself when adjusting the headlights. If you are unable to align your headlights properly, you may need to take your Explorer to a mechanic, as one or both headlight adjustment screws may be defective.

About the Author

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