How to correctly adjust your Jeep headlights. We’ve all traveled on the night road while suffering the incredibly bright headlights of oncoming traffic. Is that their high beams? So bright. Better give them a courtesy flash. WOW, okay. Not their high beams. While headlights have certainly gotten brighter in recent years with the increase in popularity of LED and Xenon bulbs, that burning sensation you feel in the back of your skull is most often caused by improperly aimed lights.
Proper adjustment and aiming of your LED lighting can make a tremendous difference while driving down the road or trail at night. Lights that are not properly aimed can blind oncoming traffic, which can cause a vehicle accident or worse. Additionally, improperly placed auxiliary LED lighting can throw light off into oblivion causing those lights to be wasted or underutilized.
To correctly aim your LED headlights you first have to verify if you have LED projectors or LED reflectors. LED projectors use a projector style lens to magnify the light and create a nice, sharp cutoff. LED reflectors may look like your factory headlights, but instead of a halogen bulb they utilize much brighter and longer lasting LED chips with proper LED optics. Note: NEVER use a drop in LED cluster in a halogen headlight housing. Not only is this illegal on road, but it can seriously blind oncoming traffic.
After you have identified your type of headlights, find your horizontal and vertical headlight adjusters, if applicable (some vehicles, such as the JK, only offer vertical headlight adjustment unless you originally had horizontal adjusters). Then, grab some masking tape and find a garage or wall (white or similar light colors are preferred) where you can park and aim your headlights from about 20 to 30 feet away.
It is important that this area is flat. Parking on a hill will cause incorrect alignment of your headlights. You also need to make sure the vehicle has approximately a half tank of fuel, proper tire inflation, a driver, and the gear you normally have in the back.
Once everything is in place, pull close to the garage door or wall (within two to three feet), then take one piece of tape for each side and mark the horizontal center of your low beams with a horizontal piece of tape. Take another piece of tape and place it vertically in the center of each beam. Your garage or wall should now have two plus (+) signs.
Measure the distance from the ground to the center of the plus signs. At this point, you can also place a vertical piece of tape in front of your Jeep — in the center of the garage or wall. This piece will help you confirm the horizontal adjustment.
Now, back up from the garage or wall to around 25 feet (check your owners manual for specific distances as sometimes they can be as much as 35 feel). I recommend adjusting one headlight at a time, and you can take a piece of paper or otherwise cover the headlight you are not currently adjusting.
The top of the brightest part of your headlight beam should be right at the center of your plus marking, or just below. If that is not the case, grab your torx screwdriver, locate your vertical adjustment screw, and adjust either clockwise or counter-clockwise, depending on the direction you need the beam to move.
Once you’ve finished this adjustment, move on to your horizontal adjustment. The screw should look the same, but it will be in a different location. Adjust clockwise or counter-clockwise accordingly. When you have your first headlight perfectly adjusted, just repeat this process for your other light.
Proper LED headlight adjustment helps to prevent blinding of oncoming traffic while also putting a lot of light correctly on the ground in front of you. Proper auxiliary LED adjustment helps by placing light incorrect, usable location(s) and prevents wasted light.
Make sure when aiming for auxiliary LED lighting, you consider what you need/want out of the light and research what type of beam pattern is best for your specific application. Installing a very wide flood pattern lamp when you actually need a long-distance, tight spot pattern will be a waste and may actually reduce usable light — especially in dusty or foggy conditions.
Even after you have properly adjusted your headlights, you will need to re-adjust them if you decide to install a lift or add larger tires. In some cases, installing an aftermarket bumper (front or rear), winch, or other heavy gear can cause your headlights to go out our alignment as well.
When properly aimed, LED headlights to provide a dramatic visibility increase, promote safer driving, reduces eye strain, and saves you money in the long run because the lights last longer and draw less power. LED lights are a worthy investment that can potentially outlast your Jeep.
Torque Correspondent Scott Ammerman contributed to this article