How to Adjust the Headlights on Cars

by Contributing Writer; Updated June 12, 2017

Truck headlights should be adjusted each time a bulb is changed and checked for proper alignment at least once a year. If driving at night is difficult because of poor lighting, adjusting the headlights to point in the correct position can dramatically improve visibility. Most dealers recommend taking the truck to a mechanical shop to be adjusted, but you can learn how to adjust the headlights on a truck yourself.

Under The Hood:

 How to Adjust the Headlights on a Mazda6

Park the Mazda 6 one foot away from a large wall or garage door. You will need 25-feet of room to back up; the ground should be level in order to allow for accurate alignment of the beam.

Mark the wall with the painter's tape along the axis points of the headlights. First place a strip of tape horizontally across the wall, starting at the center of the driver's side lens, then moving across to the center of the passenger's side. Place a small vertical strip directly in front of each light--this will create two cross-shaped bull's eyes for aiming purposes.

Back the Mazda 6 up 25 feet and turn on the headlights. Determine what needs adjusting by seeing where each beam hits the wall. Both headlights should hit two inches below the horizontal strip of tape. The passenger's side should also hit directly on the vertical strip (in front of it). The driver's side should fall two inches to the right, to avoid blinding oncoming traffic.

Open the hood and locate the adjustment screws: These can be found on the top-center and side-center of the headlight assembly. These two screws control the vertical and horizontal directions of the beams. Use a standard screwdriver to adjust each one until the light hits the desired mark on the wall. Close the hood.

Items you will need

  • Screwdriver

  • Painter's tape

 How to Adjust the Headlights on a GMC Yukon

Maneuver your Yukon so that it is perpendicular to a light-colored wall, about 25 feet away, with the headlights facing the wall. Make sure the tires are properly inflated and the area between your vehicle and the wall is flat.

Open the hood of your Yukon. The aim dot is in the center of the low-beam headlight. It is used to aim the lights.

Measure the distance from the ground to the aim dot using the tape measure. Mark the wall the same distance, measured from the ground up. Tape a horizontal line at this height, the width of your vehicle.

Cover one headlight with a piece of cardboard or other light-proof material. Turn the lights on.

Locate the headlight aiming screws. They are in the engine compartment near the headlights. Adjust the headlight aiming screws with an E8 Torx socket. Turn them clockwise to raise the light or counterclockwise to lower it.

Adjust the headlight so the top of the light beam stops at the bottom edge of the horizontal line on the wall.

Repeat Steps 4 to 6 with the other headlight if needed.

Items you will need

  • E8 Torx socket

  • Cardboard or other light covering

  • Tape measure

 How to Adjust Headlights on a Pontiac Grand Prix

How to adjust headlights on a Pontiac Grand Prix

Pull your Pontiac Grand Prix to within 25 feet of a flat wall, like a garage door. Park the vehicle on a flat, level surface.

Measure from the ground up 4 feet on your flat wall and using the masking tape, place a horizontal line across the wall. The horizontal line should be a little wider than the width of your Pontiac Grand Prix.

Locate the center of your vehicle bumper and transfer that position to the horizontal masking tape line on the wall. Using the masking tape, make a vertical line across the horizontal line in the position that represents the center of your vehicle's bumper.

Measure from the center of your vehicle's bumper to the center point of each headlight. Transfer those measurements to the horizontal masking tape line in the same manner that you transferred the center point in Step 3.

Open the hood of your Grand Prix. Locate the adjustment screws on each headlight. The vertical adjustment screw will be on the top of the headlight and the horizontal adjustment screw will be on the lower outside edge of the headlight.

Turn the headlights on and set them so the low beams are showing. Using a screwdriver, adjust the screws until both headlights are centered on the horizontal and vertical center points you created with the masking tape. When they are centered, turn the vertical adjustment screw until both headlights are showing the top of the light, across the horizontal tape line.

Turn off the headlights. Close the hood of your vehicle and remove the masking tape from the wall.

Items you will need

  • Tape measure

  • Masking tape

  • Screwdriver

 How to Adjust the Headlights in a VW Passat

Make any necessary repairs to your car before you adjust the headlights.

Put your Volkswagen Passat in its normal driving condition. You want at least a half-full tank of gas and the proper air pressure in your tires. Leave any cargo that you normally carry in the trunk. Consider having a person of similar physique sit in the driver's seat while you make the adjustment.

Find a wall at least 6 feet high near a level area. Park your car next to another Volkswagen in front of wall. The headlights should face the wall at a distance of 25 feet. The car you use to compare the aim must have the correct aim, or your adjustment will not be correct.

Lift the hood and locate your adjustment screws. Most models have a horizontal adjustment screw on the exterior of the headlight housing and a vertical adjustment screw on the interior.

Check the low beam headlight aim and adjust before you switch to your high beam lights.

Twist the adjustment screws with a Torx bit.

Match the path for the headlights on your Volkswagen Passat with the car that has the correct aim. Stop adjusting when the path for your headlights matches the other car.

Items you will need

  • Volkswagon of similar body type

  • Torx bit

 How to Adjust the Headlights in a Subaru Outback

Check the aim of the headlights on your Subaru Outback any time you change the bulb or do front end work. If you don't do either of these, check the trajectory path at least once every 12 months. Start with your wagon in normal driving condition with at least a half-full tank of gas. Other factors to consider include normal cargo weight, driver's weight and the air pressure in your tires.

Put the wagon in park on a level surface three car lengths (25 feet) from a wall that's at least as wide as the wagon. Set the emergency brake to prevent accidental injury.

Measure from the center of each headlight to the ground and transfer the measurements to the wall. Use a bright color of masking tape to improve visibility.

Find the adjustment screws. On a Subaru Outback, you should find these on the headlight assembly. You may need to remove cover plugs or access the screws through holes.

Begin by testing the aim for your low beam headlights against the marks on the wall. Then test the high beam lights. The adjustment screws control the headlight angle regardless of which setting you use.

Determine the best tool to make the adjustment. Typically a Philips or Torx screwdriver works well. You want to move the trajectory path until it is within a 2-inch variance of the marks on the wall.

Items you will need

  • Measuring tape

  • Masking tape

  • Phillips or Torx screwdriver

 How to Adjust a Headlight on a Mazda 3

Park your Mazda 3 facing a flat surface such as a wall. Park roughly 20 feet away from the wall.

Turn the headlights on.

Open the hood of the car and locate the adjustment bolt on the back of the headlight housing assembly.

Turn the headlight adjustment bolt until the headlight beam shines at the base of the wall or other flat surface near the ground. Ideally, you want the headlights to shine where the headlight beam meets the ground.

Items you will need

  • Socket wrench

  • 10mm socket

 How to Adjust Headlights on a Mercury Grand Marquis

Pull the hood release lever and open the hood. It may be helpful to park the car in a garage or somewhere where you are able to shine the headlights against a flat surface.

Mark the horizontal and vertical center lines of the headlights on the wall. To do this, find the center of your headlights. Then place a strip of masking tape horizontally on the wall that corresponds to the center of your vehicle's headlights (you can use just one section of masking tape for this). Do the same for the vertical center line, except that you will place the masking tape vertically instead of horizontally (there will be two sections of masking tape this time).

Turn on the headlights. Make sure that the headlights are shining on a wall or other flat surface and that the vehicle is approximately 10 to 25 feet away from the wall.

Locate the headlights. Starting with the driver's side headlight, locate the adjustment screws. They will be located on the top and front of the headlight. The horizontal screw will adjust the headlight from side to side. The vertical screw will adjust the headlight up and down.

Adjust the horizontal and vertical adjustment screws so that your low beam headlight is 2 to 4 inches below the horizontal center line and 2 to 4 inches to the right of the vertical center line.

Remove the masking tape from the wall and close the hood.

Items you will need

  • Philips head screwdriver

  • Masking tape

 How to Adjust Headlights on a PT Cruiser

Locate a wall with about 30-feet of flat level pavement in front of it. Park the PT one foot from the wall. Before aligning the lights you'll need to have the car weigh what it would under normal night driving conditions. Load the trunk, make sure the gas tank is half full and have a partner sit in the driver's seat.

Mark the wall with both the horizontal and vertical axis lines of both headlights. To do this place a strip of tape on the wall from the horizontal center point of the driver's side light all the way across to the center of the passenger. Next, take two 6-inch pieces of tape and mark each headlights vertical center. This will create a cross in front of each light.

Back the PT up about 25-feet and keep the lights on. Inspect the headlight beams to determine where adjustments need to be made. The driver's side light needs to be a inch or so below the horizontal tape line and and inch or so to the right of the vertical mark. The passenger's side light also needs to be a bit under the horizontal line but should be right on the vertical marker.

Pull on the hood release latch below the dash on the driver's side of the Cruiser and open the hood. Each headlight will have two adjustment screws, one on the top and one on the side. The top screw controls the horizontal and the side screw the vertical. Use a screwdriver to move the screws while watching as the light beam moves across the wall. Stop once each light achieves optimal placement.

Items you will need

  • Masking tape

  • Screwdriver

  • Partner

 How to Adjust the Headlights in a Pontiac

Park the vehicle exactly 25 feet away from a blank wall with its headlights facing towards the wall. Use the tape measure to measure the exact distance.

Use the tape to mark a spot on the wall that matches up with the exact center of the headlight you wish to adjust. It may be easier to use the tape measure and stretch it from the headlight to the wall in order to mark the spot.

Turn off the vehicle, but leave the keys in the ignition so that headlights can still be used.

Open the hood of the vehicle and locate the two Torx screws above each headlight. The screw closest to the engine adjusts the vertical movements while the other screw adjusts the horizontal movement.

Use the Torx socket wrench to adjust the screws. The headlights should be shining directly on the tape marking on the wall. Adjust the headlights until the the center of the beams is lined up with the spot on the wall. Close the hood when done.

Items you will need

  • Tape measure

  • Blank wall

  • Tape

  • Torx socket wrench

 How to Adjust the Headlights on a Nissan Xterra

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.

Items you will need

  • Tape measure

  • Masking tape

  • Phillips head screwdriver or adjustable wrench

 How to Adjust the Headlights in a Jeep Grand Cherokee

Pay attention to your normal driving conditions including the amount of cargo weight, the pressure in your tires and the level of your fuel tank. You want to use the same conditions for your Jeep Grand Cherokee when you adjust the headlights.

Park your SUV 10 to 15 feet behind a parked car. If you prefer, you can also use a wall or screen and measurements from the headlights to determine where the trajectory should hit on a properly adjusted SUV.

Allow the suspension to settle. You can gently rock the SUV a few times by pushing down on the bumper.

Remove the retaining screws for the turn signal mounting and gently remove the turn signal mounting and the bezel to expose the adjustment screws. Jeep puts the adjustment screws in the center of the mounting screws for the headlight, so make sure you don't accidentally loosen the headlight assembly.

Turn your headlights on. You may want to use the emergency brake to prevent any accidents.

Adjust the horizontal or vertical screws for each headlight. Keep an eye on the item you decided to use as a reference. If you use a parked car, you want the headlights to hit the bumper. You need to use a Phillips screwdriver, Torx tool head or Allen wrench to move the adjustment screws.

Allow a 2-inch variance from the center of the mark to the center of the trajectory path. You may only be able to get either the high beams or the low beams to hit the center. Pick the one you use the most often.

Items you will need

  • Measuring tape, optional

  • Masking tape or writing utensil

  • Phillips screwdriver, Torx tool head or Allen wrench

 How to Adjust the Headlights on a Truck

Check and inflate the tires to the proper pressure. Unload anything that is not usually in the truck. Have someone who weighs the same as you, or use weighted objects, to sit in the driver's seat. Try to replicate the exact driving conditions the truck is under on a typical day.

Park the truck approximately 25 feet from the wall. Use the measuring tape to measure the distance from the ground up to the center of the headlight (where the bulb is located inside the headlight).

Place the measuring tape on the ground against the wall and measure the same distance, marking the wall with a pen or tape to show exactly where the center of the headlight should be.

Shine the headlights on the wall. The lights should shine a few inches below the mark, while the high beams should shine directly on the marks.

Open the hood of the truck and locate the headlight housing. The adjustment screw is on the top or back side of the housing. Insert the screwdriver and turn it either way to adjust the headlights. These are not screws that hold the headlights on, so you cannot actually unscrew them completely.

Items you will need

  • Phillips head screwdriver

  • Wall for lights to shine on

  • Pen or marker (tape can be used)

  • Measuring tape

 How to Adjust the Headlights in a Saturn Ion

Prep Your Saturn Ion for the Adjustment

Park your Saturn Ion about 5 feet from a wall. Saturn recommends you use a wall that's 6 feet high by 12 feet long and has a white matte finish.

Make sure you park on a level surface. Rock your car by bouncing the bumper to settle the suspension.

Inflate your tires to proper level and check your gas tank. You want at least a half-full tank of gas.

Remove any cargo or extra weight you don't carry on a normal basis. You can also pile all the extra weight in the driver's seat to compensate for the lack of driver during the adjustment.

Find the Proper aim for Your Headlights

Turn your low beam headlights on. They should shine on the wall.

Mark the center of each headlight on the wall with masking tape. You may want to wait until dusk or darken the room to improve visibility.

Move your Saturn Ion back three car lengths from the wall. It should be about 25 feet from the wall.

Determine where your vertical adjustment screws are. The Saturn Ion does not have a horizontal adjustment. The screws for sealed beam units should be on the headlight assembly under the hood. Composite headlights bolted to an adjuster plate typically have the adjustment screws on the headlamp module.

Twist the adjustment screws with a screwdriver. The type of screwdriver you need may depend on the type of screws; you should be able to use a Torxhead screwdriver, if a Phillips won't work.

Adjust the low beam headlights until the trajectory path hits the marks on the wall. Then check the high beam headlights.

Items you will need

  • Masking tape

  • Screwdriver

 How to Adjust Headlights on a Jeep Wrangler

Adjust Jeep Wrangle Headlights in Minutes

Use the Phillips-head screwdriver to remove the three screws around the perimeter of each headlight bezel. The bezel is the smooth metal ring just in front of each headlight lens on the exterior of the Wrangler. Set the bezels and screws aside.

Look at each headlight lens and note the three Phillips-head screws that were revealed by the removal of the bezel. They are located at equidistant intervals around the perimeter of the lens. When you turn any of these screws to the right, the headlight bulb will move toward that screw. When you turn one to the left, the bulb will move away from that screw.

Squat down so that you're looking straight ahead into the center of one headlight lens. Focus on the marking or symbol in the center of the lens. Depending on the model year of your Wrangler or its aftermarket options, this may be a cross-hair, a Wrangler logo, a Jeep logo or some other mark.

Turn the adjustment screws located around that lens until the bulb appears to be pointed directly at the center of the marking.

Repeat steps three and four on the other lens.

Drive around carefully at night, taking your screwdriver, bezels and screws with you. Observe the pitch of your headlight beams to determine if you need to make further adjustments. Make sure your beams adequately illuminate the path ahead of you without blinding the drivers of oncoming cars.

Pull over in a well-lit area to make any necessary final adjustments. When your bulbs are aimed properly, reinstall the bezels by screwing them into place with the original screws.

Items you will need

  • Small Phillips-head screwdriver

  • Jeep Wrangler

 How to Adjust the Headlights on a Frontier

Park the Frontier in front of a blank wall (like a garage door) and turn off the engine. Leave the keys in the ignition. Turn on the headlights.

Open the hood of the Frontier and locate the headlight assembly. On the back of the assembly is a silver bolt with a washer. This is the headlight adjuster.

Use the wrench and rotate the bolts to adjust the headlights. Be sure to look at the headlight beams on the wall when adjusting the headlights. You should be able to get an idea of how the beams will act on the road. Adjust to the desired positions. Close the hood when finished.

Items you will need

  • Blank wall

  • Open end wrench

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.