It’s important to have quality headlights to light your path. But those bulbs aren’t doing any good if they’re not correctly aimed at the road, and that’s something many owners forget or downright neglect when owning a car.
Time can lead to a car’s headlights becoming misaligned as can frequently replacing the bulb. This could lead to reduced visibility, which is essential when driving at night. When you’re traveling at 60 miles per hour, you have mere seconds to avoid a collision if something darts into the road. Misaligned lights can reduce reaction time to zero.
Making Some Adjustments
Adjusting headlights is an easy though often tedious task that takes time to get right, and every car is different. But with practice and patience, you can learn to do it in your driveway in a matter of minutes.
Start by checking whether your car has built-in bubble levels meant to help you align the headlights. Honda, for example, offers vertical and horizontal bubble levels that make it easy to tell if your headlight aim is off. They’re often located on the top and side of the headlight unit. With these, you can tweak the aim (as explained below), until the bubble is centered in the level. Some makes and models offer just vertical or horizontal bubble levels while most others provide no visible alignment indicator at all.
If your car lacks such convenience, don’t worry. There’s a surefire DIY way to check your headlight alignment and get your lights back into shape.
First, park on flat ground and make sure your car is level. That means unloading heavy stuff from the trunk, filling the gas tank to full, and making sure tire pressure is correct at all four corners. You can’t align headlights if your car isn’t level. Check the suspension, too.
Second, you’ll need a plain wall. Pull the car as close the wall as possible and turn on your lights. This way, you’ll find the centers of the low-beam headlights. Mark both spots with a single piece of horizontal tape running through the middle. Make the vertical tape marker about two feet long, again running through the center of the low-beams.
Next, find the adjusters, which are often located somewhere on the headlight housing. Each make and model is different, but generally the adjusters are a type of screw or bolt on the back and side of the headlight unit. While they’re not often marked, they are often gray or silver, which stands out from the black headlight backs.
However, some vertical adjusters are located on the bottom of the unit (like several GM vehicles), which makes access difficult. Sometimes, automakers cut a hole in the vehicle’s frame that allows access to the adjusters. A look at the owner’s manual or a quick Google search can help.
If you follow these guidelines, you’ll give yourself the best chance possible to avoid some unwelcome surprises on your next road trip.