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Old 11-18-2010, 07:48 PM   #1
Frankd1
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1998 SL1
Default How do you properly aim headlights?

I was wondering how to properly set the aim on the headlights of my 98 SL1?

I found the vertical and horizontal adjustment screws on each assembly..

I'm guessing the car should be pointed at a closed garage door on a level driveway? How far away from the door should the car be and is there somekind of horizontal reference line that I need to mark on the door? If so how high above the ground?

I'm guessing that the horizontal adjustment screw angles the headlight assembly in and out and the vertical screw angles the assembly up and down?

Whats the proper method or steps to take when doing this?

Is there a special tool or attachement to connect to the heads of the adjustment screws? From what I recall the heads looked like a star pattern that a regular socket won't fit over....

Thanks!

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Old 11-18-2010, 08:06 PM   #2
Low Saturn
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2008 AURA XE
Default Re: How do you properly aim headlights?

Vertical Aim:



SAE recommended practice and most state inspection requirements allow a vertical aim of up to +0.76 degrees or -0.76 degrees as indicated by the vertical aim bubble position. (This is the equivalent of +/-101 mm (4 in) when the vehicle is 7.63 m (25 ft) from a light board.)


Notice
Do not tamper with the bubble level calibration screw. Movement of this screw will destroy basic lamp aim calibration. Adjust vertical aim with the VERTICAL ADJUSTING SCREW only.


To reset the vertical adjustment to 0 degrees, rotate the VERTICAL ADJUSTMENT SCREW (as shown in the illustration) using an E8 TORX® socket until the bubble level is at zero.

If a 0 degree setting is unattainable following the repair of the front end sheet metal, reposition the structure as necessary so that the 0 degree reading can be attained.


Horizontal Aim:



SAE recommended practice and most state inspection requirements allow a horizontal aim of up to +0.76 degrees or -0.76 degrees as indicated by the horizontal aim decal. (This is the equivalent of +/-101 mm (4 in) when the vehicle is 7.63 m (25 ft) from a light board.)

An aim setting within this range has been preset at the factory. Readjustment is unnecessary under normal vehicle operating conditions.

Screen Methods

First locate the vehicle so that it is square with the screen and with the front of the headlamps, directly over a reference line which has been painted on the floor.

Locate the center line on the aiming screen so that it is in line with the center of the vehicle. This can be done by sighting through the center of the rear window of the vehicle. Mark the center of the front and rear windows with narrow strips of masking tape. Move the vehicle until it is in alignment with these 2 points. Use these "sights" to locate the centerline of the aiming screen, directly in line with the vehicle's axis.

Aiming Area Required

It is required, since seeing the outer edges of the headlamp beam patterns depends greatly on the amount of darkness in the area, to have a specific aiming area in a darkened location. This should be sufficient for the vehicle and an additional 7.63 m (25 ft) measured from the face of lamps to the front of the visual screen.

The floor on which the vehicle rests must be flat, and level with the bottom of the screen. If the floor is not level, compensate.

Aiming Screen

If a screen is used, it should be 1.52 m high x 3.66 m wide (5 ft high x 12 ft wide) with a matte white surface well shaded from extraneous light, and properly adjusted to the floor on which the vehicle stands. Kent Moore P/N SA9706B is available for use to align the headlamps using the instructions in this service manual. Provisions may be made for moving the screen so that it can be aligned parallel with the rear axle and so that a horizontal line drawn perpendicularly from the centerline of the screen will pass an equal distance midway between the 2 headlamps.

The screen should be provided with a fixed vertical centerline, 2 laterally adjustable vertical tapes, and 1 vertically adjustable horizontal tape.

If a regular commercial aiming screen is not available, the screen may consist of a vertical wall having a clear uninterrupted area approximately 1.83 m high x 3.66 m wide (6 ft high x 12 ft wide).

The surface should be finished with a washable non-gloss white paint.


Important
Aim composite headlamps on LOW BEAM only.


After the aiming screen has been set up in its permanent location, it is necessary to paint a reference line on the floor directly under the lens of the lamps to indicate the proper location of the headlamps when they are being aimed.




...
Mike

-1991 Turbo SL2 - Gone, but not forgotten.
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Old 11-18-2010, 09:59 PM   #3
MattBarszcz
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Default Re: How do you properly aim headlights?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frankd1 View Post
I was wondering how to properly set the aim on the headlights of my 98 SL1?

I found the vertical and horizontal adjustment screws on each assembly..

I'm guessing the car should be pointed at a closed garage door on a level driveway? How far away from the door should the car be and is there somekind of horizontal reference line that I need to mark on the door? If so how high above the ground?

I'm guessing that the horizontal adjustment screw angles the headlight assembly in and out and the vertical screw angles the assembly up and down?

Whats the proper method or steps to take when doing this?

Is there a special tool or attachement to connect to the heads of the adjustment screws? From what I recall the heads looked like a star pattern that a regular socket won't fit over....

Thanks!
You can use a regular socket if you don't have the star. I haven't had it harm anything. Since you're not tightening those little stars down and you're just making some adjustments back and forth, you won't put them under enough torque to make them strip.

I've found its difficult to get a nice level spot with a flat white garage door where I can draw lines etc. When I had to reaim my headlights, I just kept the right size nut driver with me in the center console. I parked my car on a flat, dark road at night, aimed them where they looked good (with the driver's side dipped down a tad) and then stood out across the street to make sure I wasn't blinding oncoming cars. When I went out for a drive, i saw that the lights barely touched the bottom of anyone's bumper, so I pulled over, aimed them a little higher and went on my way. One night when I was driving on the high way, I decided I could use a bit more light further out, so I grabbed my nut driver, gave them both an 1/8 turn up and I was set. Haven't had to touch them since.

For me the headlights must meet 3 requirements:
1) Light up the road a sufficient distance in front of my car.
2) Not blind anyone in the other lane (I hate it when people's lights blind me at night )
3) Pass state inspection

My headlights do all three so I'm satisfied...garage doors, measuring tapes, marking lines, or not.

Good info nonetheless LS.

--Matt
--Matt

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Old 11-18-2010, 10:32 PM   #4
Frankd1
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Default Re: How do you properly aim headlights?

Thanks guys!

Low,

I don't seem to have the horizontal scale and vertical aim bubble indicator on my headlamp assembly....

Here are a couple of pics of the left side (passenger side) headlamp assembly which shows the adjustment screws.

Pic 1 shows the left side of the headlamp with a horizontal screw
Pic 2 & 3 shows the right side of the assembly with a vertical screw
Pic 4 & 5 shows the left side looking head on at the horizontal screw
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Car 001.jpg (172.1 KB, 67 views)
File Type: jpg Car 002.jpg (181.3 KB, 46 views)
File Type: jpg Car 003.jpg (135.3 KB, 40 views)
File Type: jpg Car 004.jpg (88.1 KB, 36 views)
File Type: jpg Car 005.jpg (93.2 KB, 33 views)

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Old 11-19-2010, 01:49 AM   #5
saturnsl293
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1993 SL2
Default Re: How do you properly aim headlights?

there are tools out there to make sure they are correct but to buy them for one time use isn't going to be worth the price you'd pay. It would be cheaper to find a shop who could do it (though may still be semi pricey) as they'd be able to use it enough to offset the price or at least a body shop would as they would need to make sure the headlights where right after doing front end work.

doing the headlights off the wall/garage door will give a good ball park but may not set them exactly where they should be

...
car bought 12/15/07
car MIA as of 7/29/09, recovered 8/5/09

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Old 11-19-2010, 06:43 AM   #6
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1997 SW2
Default Re: How do you properly aim headlights?

That seems like a lot of work when I just park on a straight unused 1.5miles of road in front of my house at like 9pm and put the aim where I want it... lol
Finding a flat piece of land 25ft next to a building is dang near impossible but flat straight road sections are easy

...
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Old 11-19-2010, 07:53 AM   #7
Frankd1
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1998 SL1
Default Re: How do you properly aim headlights?

I will see what I can come up with regarding the location, there is actually a nice long road not too far from my house that has a section with no lights illuminating it that I can use....

upon closer look at the adjustment screws it looks like a torx bit will fit - you can see from the last picture above that the outside of the head is star shaped and the inside looks like it accepts torx!

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Old 11-19-2010, 02:24 PM   #8
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Default Re: How do you properly aim headlights?

SL/SW/'97+SC's need a torx, something like T20 (doubt thats the right size but it's close). '91-'92 SC & '93-'96 SC2's just need a cheap flat tip screw driver

...
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Old 11-19-2010, 05:02 PM   #9
droveavolvoonce
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1993 SC2
Default Re: How do you properly aim headlights?

Any hints on adjusting the sealed-beam alignment on a 1st-gen SC2?

I keep thinking my headlights are kinda dim, but but they may simply be aimed too high!

-daVo

...
1995 SC2 Plum 4-Disc 5SPD $1495 2.17.10 (111K to present)
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Old 11-20-2010, 12:24 AM   #10
Frankd1
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Default Re: How do you properly aim headlights?

I am at my parents place in Michigan and they have a long level driveway and a white 2 car garage door.

So I set up in front of that and started playing around with the adjustment screws, the horizontal screw adjusts the vertical aim and the vertical screw adjusts the horizontal aim.

I lowered the vertical aim of the lights to what I thought was appropriate as I think they were pointed too high and when I went to shut the hood I couldn't get the damn thing to latch, the underside of the hood kept comming into contact with the top front edge of the horizontal adjustment screw (the one that adjusts vertical aim) on the drivers side headlight assembly, you can see this screw in the first pic I posted except it is of the passenger side.

So I had to back off on the adjustment to get the head of the screw out of the way in order to latch the hood....I'm not sure what is going here but I think I may have to remove the headlamp assembly and reinstall making sure its properly seated in the bracket. Maybe something is bent......

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Old 11-20-2010, 12:11 PM   #11
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Default Re: How do you properly aim headlights?

There is a multi-level parking garage near my house in a shopping mall that has a first floor level that is mostly empty when there is no movie playing in a theater nearby. The ground floor of the parking area is a shaded area where there is plenty of room to shine headlights onto a distant wall to adjust the aim of the headlights.

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Old 11-20-2010, 10:18 PM   #12
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Default Re: How do you properly aim headlights?

I can see at night!!!!! Everything is sorted out and I finally got my headlights properly aimed and to my liking!!

The issue I was having with the hood bumping the top of the drivers side headlight assembly adjustment screw was due to a missing bottom bolt at the bottom of the bracket that actually bolts to the front frame of the car.
This was causing the entire headlight assembly to angle up and not provide proper clearance for the hood to close.
I put in a new 10mm bolt which pulled the bottom of the bracket into its proper place and therefore allowing the headlight assembly to properly sit on the bracket!

I ensured that both the pax side and drivers side assemblies were properly installed and fastened and then proceeded with aiming them using a white garage door as the backdrop, this followed by a drive and a few adjustments and tweeking and all is now well!

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Old 11-02-2012, 12:11 PM   #13
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Default Re: How do you properly aim headlights?

Own a 2000 SL1 SOHC and have to thank all of you for the important advice as I prep the car for Florida use. However, after reviewing the forums about headlight alignment, I can not help but wonder why you would not just "zero the bubble" to acheive factory settings?

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Old 11-02-2012, 12:39 PM   #14
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Default Re: How do you properly aim headlights?

Quote:
Originally Posted by meweslow View Post
I can not help but wonder why you would not just "zero the bubble" to acheive factory settings?
Not everyone has those.... seems to have been added mid-98? Or maybe based on trim level.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frankd1 View Post
I don't seem to have the horizontal scale and vertical aim bubble indicator on my headlamp assembly....
The OP's 98 SL1 ddid not have them, my '98 SL2 has them. My '97 SC2 doesn't (I think, have to look)

Also... suppose the bracket were slightly bent, or a slight fender bender or something tweaked it a bit? the bubble always goes to the highest point, but the relationship of the light aim to the bubble may have changed. I haven't looked to see how it works but I expect it requires a fixed relationship

...
...Wait, what, I actually won that eBay auction?
Guess I now (12/2008) own a 1998 SL2, silver, 5 spd :p
102k @ purchase, now 167k
And now (7/2010), a Craigslist 1997 SC2, white, 5 spd

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Old 11-02-2012, 02:14 PM   #15
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Default Re: How do you properly aim headlights?

I used to align the lights on my cars and bike on a long, straight level road that is out in the boonies. Just make sure they don't aim too much left, that will get you pulled over and written up.

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