How to check headlight alignment

Written by jeremiah blanchard
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How to check headlight alignment
Learn how to align your car's headlights (Elenathewise/iStock/Getty Images)

Driving at night can be difficult if your headlights aren't aligned properly. You may notice that one beam appears to be shining further down the road than the other, or that the centre of the road is a bit darker than the verge. If this happens, your headlights should be aligned for optimum night-time visibility. Headlights should be checked for proper alignment every 3,000 miles or so, typically when you change your oil.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Spirit level
  • Tape

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  1. 1

    Park your car on a flat level drive or car park facing a wall 60 to 90 cm (2 to 3 feet) away. Place a cross with masking tape at the centre of each beam on the wall.

  2. 2

    Move the car back between 3 to 7.5 metres (10 to 25 feet) away from the wall, then check the beam position in reference to the tape marks. The beams should be in line with the tape marks. If not you will have to adjust them to meet the central line between the marks.

  3. 3

    Measure the distance between the bright beam spots on the wall with a tape measure. Ensure that they are over the tape marks. Proper headlight alignment will appear to illuminate the wall in a straight line, slightly below your lower windscreen, resting on the wall just above the floor. If the light beams are too far apart, you will see two spots of light on the wall, and little illumination between the spots. If the beams are too close together, you will see a large bright spot at the wall centre. The beams should illuminate the tape marks, and appear in line. Bright spots should not rest above, or below the central line of the tape marks.

  4. 4

    Consult your owner's manual to properly align your headlights if needed. Typically you can alter the alignment by turning two screws placed on either side of the headlight array. Certain vehicles may require different methods of headlight alignment.

Tips and warnings

  • Ensure that your vehicle is parked on a level surface in order to check headlight alignment correctly.
  • Check your owner's manual for specific headlight alignment instructions.

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