Headlight alignment

Submitted: Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 12:56
ThreadID: 139900 Views:8047 Replies:7 FollowUps:6
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Many times when people are not happy with their headlights it is simply the alignment is out.
Just thought Id share a method I have used for many years.
I worked for a while in NZ just round the corner from a MOT testing centre and had a commercial alignment machine which was used when a vehicle failed the test and come to us to sort out, we would use it and they would get their car passed but id tell the customer to come back in a day or two after the car passed the test and i would reset the alignment for free because they would not be happy with the legal settings.
It is a dead simple but effective method and have never had any complaints.

Find a good flat wall on level ground that you can park the car facing as square as possible, about 4 metres away from the wall.

High beam should produce a horizontal oval shape spot, one from each light.
stand in front of one light and hold your hand on your leg at the centre of the light, then move to the wall and make a mark at that height.
Try to judge the point on the wall that is directly in front of the light you are adjusting and put a cross there at the height you previously measured.
This is where you try to adjust the light so the beam is centred on the cross.
Repeat for the other side, if a 4 light system cover one light at a time.

Basically it means that on high beam the light beam is facing directly forward, not up, down, left or right.

When dipped to low beam, the beam should move down and to the left, this is done with the geometry of the light and does not need to be adjusted.

This wont work on later model cars with separate hi and low bulbs and reflectors.

It is a quick simple method that can be the last thing you do when you have the van on and car loaded for the trip.
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Reply By: RMD - Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 14:04

Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 14:04
Don't you cover three lamps of a 4 lamp system and in turn, uncover the one which you wish to take stock of? That way each one is presented to the wall individually with no light from the others to create errors in assessment. 2 or 4 system. To have the lights aimed horizontal means possums and 747 spotting. ie, Half light is directed upwards. Down slightly to hit the road where the roos are is a preference for most folk.
The normal lights you speak of are separate reflectors anyway aren't they? and adjustable. Many modern ones are integral and locked to each other, so only one adjustment for either high or low, not both. I get the idea and agree that the approved machine doesn't provide what is really needed.
AnswerID: 631034

Reply By: Member - Allan L2 - Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 15:56

Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 15:56
RMD, fair go. Lets not have a repeat of thread 139897 please.
AnswerID: 631035

Follow Up By: RMD - Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 17:22

Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 17:22
I presume you can work out what is intended above but it should be info those who don't already know can use to achieve the goal. Why not be accurate for those people?
FollowupID: 906930

Reply By: mike39 - Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 17:46

Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 17:46
With the main beams set up correctly as above, what happens when we put a load in the boot or on the tray....back to 747 spotting I suspect.
My Renault 16ts from 1973 had two little slide gadgets behind the headlights so that when the boot was loaded a quick adjust brought the beams back down again.
How slowly we progress on features that should be available on every vehicle.
AnswerID: 631040

Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 18:28

Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 18:28
Some cars, including my much slagged-off-at but long departed 2003 Kia Sportage have a headlight trimmer control that allows you to trim the lights down to compensate for a load in the back.

17 years later some new models are touting it as a wonderful invention of their own. ROFLMAO

Should be standard in all vehicles without self-levelling headlights, IMO.


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FollowupID: 906933

Follow Up By: Ron N - Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 18:42

Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 18:42
The greatest annoyance to me, is trying to figure out where the adjustment mechanisms are in todays vehicle headlights - and which way they turn to adjust which direction!

It seems every vehicle designed today, has an increasingly idiotic design/shape in their headlights, with adjusters positioned, so they're virtually inaccessible without removing half the engine bay components - and they seem to specialise in finding every different type of adjuster under the sun, to install!

I reckon it should be made compulsory for all vehicles to have dash-controlled headlight adjustment!
Imagine the amount of road rage that would cure! They can do it with rear-view mirrors, why not headlights?

As to headlight adjustment, I always worked on the old vehicle inspection authority requirements - the centre of the high beam, measured on a vertical surface, approximately 8M (used to be 25 feet!) from the vehicle, must not be above the dimension, measured from level ground, to the centre of the headlight on the vehicle.

Once you have that right, low beam is automatically at the correct level.
I always position my high beam light beam centres, about 5mm below the ground-to-headlight measurement.

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: axle - Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 19:04

Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 19:04
What I hate Ron is when you find a adjustment and turn it to see what happens and the thing snaps off and falls on the ground!!,,,lol,

Cheers Axle,
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 19:28

Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 19:28
Classic Axle, absolute classic.

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Reply By: Michael ( Moss Vale NSW) - Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 22:44

Sunday, Apr 12, 2020 at 22:44
I remember in the 70s, last century, every service station had a headlight adjustment gizmo. It was a white rectangular steel box about 600mm high. A quick test of headlight alignment was carried at rego time. I can't remember in the last 30 plus years at a rego check that this has been done. Maybe someone can let us know if headlight alignment checks are carried out. I'm sure here in NSW it doesn't. Michael
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AnswerID: 631042

Reply By: Batt's - Monday, Apr 13, 2020 at 06:07

Monday, Apr 13, 2020 at 06:07
It's easy to set up your own lights just find a dark quiet road and adjust but what I find amazing is you admitted to setting them up illegally very professional. A fellow I work with has a hilux with self leveling lights and they are ridiculiously high almost level with the horizon personally I would have had Toyo fix them but some people don't care about blinding oncoming traffic.
AnswerID: 631043

Reply By: Member - shane r1 - Monday, Apr 13, 2020 at 09:05

Monday, Apr 13, 2020 at 09:05
Bright lights coming towards me (night or day ) is one of my pet hates.
The authorities don’t seem to care about alignment.
I was getting a road train inspection a couple of years ago, the inspector commented that the led lights were aftermarket, and probably to bright, I commented that at least I had adjusted them down. If they were serious about it all , they’d have testing equipment you’d think.
If low beam is high, then high beam is probably sending it’s useful light to high anyway!
AnswerID: 631044

Follow Up By: Ron N - Monday, Apr 13, 2020 at 14:44

Monday, Apr 13, 2020 at 14:44
I was staggered when I drove Kalgoorlie-Perth a year or so ago, on a Friday night. I hadn't done that particular trip for a number of years.

But as West Aussies would know, on this trip at that time, you run into 200-300 East-West truckies heading East fully-loaded, to get to Melbourne and Sydney by Monday morning to unload.

What stunned me was, in the interval since I had last done this trip, it seems every East-West truck on the road has gone over to LED lighting - for everything from sidelights, to headlights, to driving lights.

Constantly facing the brilliance of these LED lights for 6 hrs - even on low beam, is both annoying and tiring, as compared to the old halogen lights.
I find it surprising that more studies haven't been done on this additional LED light power effect, on other road-users performance.

Cheers, Ron.
FollowupID: 906952

Reply By: Stevemac - Monday, Apr 13, 2020 at 17:10

Monday, Apr 13, 2020 at 17:10
Thanks for the info above. Much appreciated, although nobody worries about it in Oz, or certainly not NSW. I’ve mentioned it a few times when putting the car in for a rego check and they look at me as though I’ve asked for a lifetime of free servicing. No wonder we frequently get dazzled. Cops certainly not interested, and nor are they interested in Richards driving around with foggies on. I often see vehicles with one or no rear lights coming home in the dark on the M1 and am amazed that nobody runs into the back of them with only dull reflectors to rely on.
AnswerID: 631060

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