If you’ve recently gotten new projector headlights for your vehicle, and want to know how to adjust them so they’re aiming in the right direction, please read on. We hope you find these five-step instructions on how to aim projector headlights in cars helpful and easy to follow.
Table of Contents
- 5 steps to aim projector headlights in your car:
- Types Of Projector Headlights
- How To Aim Projector Headlights
5 steps to aim projector headlights in your car:
- Level your car
- Level the surfaces
- Take measurements and mark them
- Adjust the projector headlights
- Align the light beams with the marks
Before we dive into more detail on how to aim projector headlights in cars and explain each step, we’ll provide some useful background info on projector headlights, as well as the differences between various types of headlights.
First, it’s important to compare and contrast projector vs. reflector headlights, and understand the advantages of projectors over reflectors. The main difference between the two headlight categories is that projectors have a more focused lens for a more intense lighting effect, whereas reflectors illuminate a wider area, making the light less focused, less intense, and less bright. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as ‘light waste.’
Projectors, however, still illuminate an area that’s plenty wide enough (without wasting light), and have a greater lighting distance, illuminating further down the road than reflectors can. Their even distribution or spread of light paired with their being aimed at the road is what makes projectors far less likely than reflectors to blind oncoming traffic. This is one of the main advantages of projector headlights and the reason many people look to switch.
Projector headlights were initially only available in certain luxury cars, but now they are much more widely used and popular for both performance and appearance reasons. One reason reflector headlights are still popular in cars and trucks is because they are cheaper to manufacture and take up less space than projector headlights.
Both reflectors and projectors have a bulb shining inside a reflector bulb, but projectors have an added lens the light passes through before hitting the front of the vehicle and then the road. This lens is what helps projectors better focus the light. Despite being much brighter than reflectors, projectors are street legal, generally speaking.
We also love the sleek, modern design that characterizes projector headlights. This is a result of the added lenses in these headlights. Traditional reflector headlights have more of a wide open or circular look, since they have no added lens hiding the reflector bowl.
A popular accessory light for car headlights worth mentioning is halo headlights, also known as angel eyes. We have the creators of The Ultimate Driving Machine to thank for these fun lighting accessories for our cars. BMW first designed and introduced halo rings in their vehicles’ headlights in the year 2000. By 2009, all their sedans were ready to drive off the lot sporting the eye-catching halo rings.
Now they are popular add-ons for many drivers – not just BMW owners – who want to elevate the look of their vehicle. They are not at all difficult to install by yourself, and come in both xenon and halogen bulb options (we’ll explain what these are in the next section).
If you’ve made up your mind that you want projector headlights but are still curious about which bulbs to use, the next section of this is for you. We’ll dive into the different options for projector headlights in terms of the light bulbs themselves. If you already have your projector headlights and are wondering how to aim them, skip to the last section: How to Aim Projector Headlights.
Types Of Projector Headlights
Below we will describe in brief the three main light bulb choices for projector headlights: Halogen, HID (Xenon), and LED. You’ll also find in each description the benefits and drawbacks.
Halogen Projector Headlights
These projector headlights use halogen light bulbs – the same type of light bulbs generally found in traditional reflector headlights. Standard halogen bulbs were the first bulbs to be used in projector headlights. Halogen bulbs are incandescent, meaning they have a filament inside which produces light when heated (charged with electricity). They are not nearly as bright or long-lasting as HID or LED lights, which we explain in greater detail in the following sections.
HID (Xenon) Projector Headlights
These projector headlights use high-intensity discharge (HID) light bulbs. HID projector headlights are also known as xenon projector headlights. HID lights are different from halogen bulbs in that – instead of having a filament inside – they have metal-halide lamps in xenon gas. The electricity runs between two electrodes on the arc lamp, causing the xenon gas to produce light. HID bulbs for projector headlights can last much longer than halogen bulbs, with a lifespan of about 2,000 hours compared to the halogen lifespan of approximately 600 hours.
The light produced by HID projector headlights is much brighter (up to 3x brighter, in fact) than the light from halogen projector headlights. The light emitted from HID projectors covers a larger area than LED or halogen projectors. HID bulbs are also the most effective at illuminating the sides of the road.
LED Projector Headlights
(Light-emitting diodes) LED projector headlights are the most efficient as they use LED light bulbs, which utilize lower wattage than other types of bulbs and last significantly longer. LED light bulbs for projector headlights have a notably longer lifespan than HID bulbs – up to 60,000 hours compared to approximately 2,000 hours. LED projector headlights are the most eco-friendly solution, as they are energy-efficient with a cool temperature. A key aspect of LED headlights that differentiates them from halogen or HID lights is the technology they use to emit light. Instead of using a filament or xenon gas, they pass the electrical current through a semiconductor, which emits photons to produce the light.
LED projector headlights are newer than halogen or HID projectors. Lexus was the first company to come out with a car using LED headlights back in 2007. Lexus still uses LED bulbs in its headlights, and LED projector headlights have been increasing in popularity for many other vehicles as well.
When deciding whether to switch to LED or HID projector headlights, it is worth noting that LED lights may be a larger upfront cost than HID lights. LED lights will save you money over time, though, since they last such a long time, while HID lights will likely cost you more down the road due to maintenance and replacement expenses. Also important to keep in mind – whether you’re upgrading to HID or LED projector headlights from halogen lights, you’re going to need a conversion kit.
How To Aim Projector Headlights
Learning how to properly aim headlights is one of the important things that you need to learn when you opt to buy projector headlights for your car. The aim of your headlights is important for your safety as well as the safety of other drivers on the road. Poorly aimed headlights can hinder your visibility of the road in front of you and blind oncoming drivers.
Below are the five steps to aim projector headlights in cars:
1. Level Your Car
The first step that you need to do is to level your car. You must assess your car level properly because it can affect the aim of your projector headlights. When leveling your car, you need to consider the weight you typically carry when driving, the tire inflation, any suspension issues, etc.
Some people may have a tendency to empty their cars when they adjust their projector headlights. If your car carries a heavy weight on normal occasions, however, it is best to keep that typical, heavier load inside your car before you walk through the next four steps to aim your projector headlights.
2. Level the Surfaces
Choose an area where your car is on level ground facing a level vertical surface. Once your car is on the right surface level (free of inclines or declines), make sure the vertical space your car is facing has an evenly flat surface. Most people use a wall or even their garage door (as long as their driveway is flat and not sloped). Both the horizontal surface (the ground your car sits on) and the vertical surface (the flat area your car faces) should be level before continuing.
3. Take Measurements and Mark Them
Next, go grab a measuring tape and a roll of masking tape. First, measure the distance between each headlight, and then measure the distance from the center of one of your headlights to the ground.
Now use the measuring tape to measure the coinciding points on the vertical surface, and the masking tape to mark them. More specifically, measure on the wall the same height from the ground as the measurement from the center of your headlights from the ground, and put a piece of tape on the wall at that point. Then put another piece of tape two inches directly below the first piece of tape.
Next, measure the distance horizontally on the wall to be the same as the distance between your two headlights. Mark the second headlight spot on the wall with another piece of tape, ensuring it’s the same height off the ground as the other. Again, put an additional piece of tape two inches directly below the first piece of tape.
4. Adjust the Projector Headlights
Back your car up 25 feet away from the wall or garage door (25 ft should now be the distance from the front of your car to the wall). You are now ready to adjust your projector headlights in order to properly aim them. You’ll need to open the hood of your car to locate the projector headlight adjustment screws or bolts on the backside of your headlights.
For most cars, you will be able to find these adjustment screws to help you aim the headlight vertically and sometimes horizontally, too. If you are unable to locate the adjustment screws, we advise checking your vehicle’s owner’s manual.
5. Align the Light Beams with the Marks
Adjusting one projector headlight at a time, pick one to start with and grab a screwdriver. With your screwdriver, adjust the projector headlight by finding the spots you marked with masking tape on the vertical surface. When shining the beam of light on the vertical surface, make sure the tape mark is in the center of the light beam so that it is centered both vertically and horizontally. Do the same for the second headlight.
Some people choose to aim their left headlight slightly lower and their right headlight slightly higher so as to refrain from blinding oncoming drivers while illuminating the street signs on the side of the road. The opposite is of course the case if you’re driving in a country like England where folks drive on the other side of the road.
If you are unsure whether or not you have adjusted each headlight properly, you can opt for a short test drive. This way, you can have an idea of whether or not you have the right aim from your projector headlights before you set out for your next long drive at night with more traffic around.
Switching to projector headlights is one of the best upgrades for your car. These sleek, high performance headlights will help you navigate better in the dark, and will not blind other drivers on the road as long as you follow the necessary steps to aim them correctly. With a variety of bulbs to choose from (we recommend either the HID/xenon bulbs or the LED bulbs), you can find a look and lighting effect that best suits your needs and style.
With these five easy DIY steps, you should have no problem adjusting your headlights in the comfort of your own driveway. In addition to making sure you have achieved the right aim for your vehicle’s headlights, it is important to clean your headlights. This is also something you can easily do yourself to save a considerable amount of money.
If you opt to change from traditional headlights to projector headlights, make sure that you also learn how to aim projector headlights in cars. This way, you can rest assured that you, your passengers, other people, and animals on the road will be safe while you drive at night. Happy driving!
Can I put LED bulbs in reflector headlights?
No, it is not safe to put LED light bulbs in reflector headlights. You should only use LED bulbs in projector headlights.
Do LED bulbs work in projector headlights?
Yes, LED bulbs work in projector headlights. They last much longer and are significantly brighter than halogen bulbs. LED bulbs should not be put in regular reflector headlights, however.
How do you fix flickering LED headlights?
The flickering effect you see in headlights is really the LED bulbs turning on and off rapidly, which can usually be fixed using a load resistor or LED decoder. For an easy guide on how to troubleshoot this, we wrote an article on how to fix flickering LED headlights.