Aligning my own headlights

My old beater pickup truck failed inspection for some silly stuff (the inspection guy himself told me it was no big deal).
One item on the list was “headlight alignment”

I think I did this once many years ago on another vehicle by shining the headlights against a garage door and eyeballing it, but that seems a little too imprecise.
A quick Google search found plenty of links saying “pay a professional to do it” and then I found this site.

So, what’s the scoop? If I follow the instructions on that site am I pretty much Ok? Is there some tip that the auto mechanics of the board can offer?
Is it true that I really do need to take the car to the shop?

Those instructions are pretty good, maybe even a bit anal-retentive. Most states have specifications for headlamp aim, such as “two inches down and one inch to the right” (for the center of the light beam) but I think that’s pretty well covered by the instructions to have the edge of the beam touching the tape lines.

The instructions you saw on that site pretty much match all the other do-it-yourself instructions I’ve seen, so I’d say they’re about right. You want the driver-side low beam to point downish and slightly toward the curb, so it doesn’t blind oncoming cars, and the passenger-side low beam to point downish and maybe a little less toward the curb, a bit more straight-ahead than the driver’s side.

After you’ve finished adjusting the headlights, go out on the road at night and turn on your high beams. If your high beams end up illuminating treetops instead of the road, you need to adjust the headlights down a bit more.

If your own driveway isn’t flat (need not be exactly level, just not have a hump or dip
leading to wall) then you need to find a good place to do it…not hard, but I did have a cop ask me what I was doing in a store parking lot after hours, he was satisfied by my answer BTW.

I know late model Ford’s require a special tool, not expensive, and widely available. This does prevent DIYs for inadvertantly screwing up the adjustment when, e.g., changing a headlight. Which is why I was in the parking lot talking to the cop. It was my neighbor, a Dodge, and she asked for my help after turning the wrong screws and not being able to figure out how to change the headlight.

Great! Thanks for the feedback. It now seems that the only problem I face is finding an appropriate location for this activity. Like Kevbo says, I figure I might get questioned by a local officer of the law, but it is a harmless activity.

i’ve always aligned my own headlights using the same technique (have never owned a truck, but i don’t think it should matter)

drive up to a wall where the ground is level. mark on the wall where the centre of your headlights shine (you’re as close to the wall as you can get).

back up about 30 meters in a straight line.

align headlights so they centre on the marks you made previously.


Check out this link for Headlight Adjustment: