How To Aim Your Headlights

How To Aim Your Headlights


The headlights on your vehicle serve to illuminate the road and any dangers that may lie ahead, but are too often neglected or ignored when they are in need of service. Normal service tasks like cleaning and replacing bulbs is an easy step for any vehicle, but today we’ll be showing you how to aim your headlights in your car to maximize lighting conditions.

Before you learn how to aim your headlights, you must understand why this is an important step to driving at night. Over time your headlights may shift or change the directions in which they point. Because there’s a definite angle and range to your headlights, it’s important to properly adjust and aim them, so that you know exactly where you are going.


Step by Step directions on How To Aim Your Headlights


Park your vehicle
  1. When it’s dark, park your vehicle 10-15 feet away from a wall. Have some painters tape or blue tape ready so that you can box off and measure your headlight angle correctly.
Turn on the headlights
  1. Turn on your headlights and using your tape or painters tape, carefully mark off and measure where your headlight seems most concentrated.


If you have halogen headlights and the cutoff seems vague or difficult to track, don’t be afraid to use the tape at the fringes of your headlights against the wall.

Measure and Mark
  1. Tape off your cutoff lines and areas of highest and brightest light, as this will allow you to “tune” and adjust your headlights to your liking. Once you have your wall taped off, you are looking for three distinct traits of your headlights and their beam of light.
    1. Between both headlights – This measurement will allow you to know whether or not your headlights must be leveled out so that they both project light at the correct horizontal area
    2. Mark off your desired cutoff and beam areas – Using your tape mark off the area where you would like your headlights adjusted. Knowing where you want your headlights to aim during operation is a big part of knowing how to aim your headlights.
Locate your headlight adjustment knobs
  1. Open your hood and locate the headlight assemblies in your vehicle. Most headlights have multiple adjustments that allow you to move and tune the beam of light horizontally and vertically. If there’s a cover or protective sleeve over your headlight adjustment dials, go ahead and remove them now.
Adjustment screws can be simple or complicated, as shown on this 2003 BMW on the left versus a 1992 Nissan 240SX Halogen headlight on the right.


Adjusting your vertical beams


Now it’s time to get down to the real meat of our how to aim your headlights article, and we’ll begin with the vertical beams. Adjust the vertical beam using the top screws on your headlight and make sure that your beams are projected onto the road where they belong.

Remember, too high of an adjustment means your headlight beams are wasted and you’ll be high beaming incoming traffic as well as the car ahead of you. Too low and you won’t be able to see anything on the road, causing a dangerous condition.

Horizontal beam adjustment


The next part of knowing how to aim your headlights is the horizontal beams, which must be adjusted using a tool or screwdriver. Reference the measurement between your beams to ensure that your headlight beams are pointed directly ahead of you where they belong.

Test Drive

Get into the driver seat and check out your adjustments until you are satisfied with your headlight adjustments. Once you have gotten your beams where you want them, take the car out for a test drive to make sure that your headlight adjustments are working for you.

Tools you may need for adjusting car headlights can include a wrench or box wrench, or a screwdriver for certain adjustment points and headlights.

Commonly asked questions about how to aim your headlights


Q : What measurement am I looking for when I am adjusting my headlights?

A : The adjustment between the headlight beams aren’t as important as the vertical adjustments. You are looking for two values here, the distance between the center of your headlight beam and the ground, and the the distance to measure between the center markings.

From the headlight beam to the ground, you are typically looking for a measurement of 34.5 inches or less. And the measurement from the center of the markings downward should not exceed 2.5 inches.

Q : What is headlight cutoff?

A : The headlight cutoff is the demarcation line of where your headlight beams “cut off” or stop. This is typically a term used for High Intensity Discharge headlamps.

Q : What is the term VOL, VO or VOR?

A : Mandated by the US goverment, headlights with these markings simply means that your headlights can be adjusted. If you are having difficulty locating your adjustment screws, check your headlight to see if these markings are on it.

Q : Do I have to level my car or can I do this on my driveway?

A : It’s a good idea to always level out your car on a flat surface, and make sure your tires are properly inflated and that you don’t have any heavy loads in the vehicle. You want the car as unencumbered as possible to get an accurate headlight beam adjustment.

That does it for our How to Aim your Headlights tutorial, make sure to check your headlights frequently to ensure that the road ahead of your is illuminated. Making sure your headlights are within specification are an important part of maintaining your vehicle an operating it safely.