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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My SA has offered to show me how to adjust the headlight aim in my cars. He claims it's very quick and straightforward to do--have you found this to be true?

Also, he says sometimes people adjust the lighting pattern in front of the headlights to be other then the "step" pattern that the car should have. My understanding is that the light coming from the driver's side headlight stops in a straight black line shorter than then the line of the passenger's side light, like stairsteps. This is used to increase visibility off to the side of the road and prevent blinding the oncoming drivers. Anyone set their pattern up differently?

Thanks!

Anita
 

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Anita said:
My SA has offered to show me how to adjust the headlight aim in my cars. He claims it's very quick and straightforward to do--have you found this to be true?
It's very easy. When I first got my car the lights were aimed down so low that I could barely see 15' down the road a night time. I asked the SA about it and he said that since they were self-leveling, they could not be adjusted:eek: . I later found out from this site how to adjust them. Look for two large, white phillips-head screws on either side of the headline housing. One will adjust up/down the other will adjust side-to-side.

I still have the stair-step setting and find it works great. I never get anyone flipping their brights at me but I can see nicely down the road.
 

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Masking tape on the garage wall...

Anita-

I had to adjust my lights after doing the angel eye upgrade a few years back. I marked the position of th front tire on the pavement (as level a surface as possible), then placed strips in three places: (1) top of driver's beam, (2) top of passenger's beam, and (3) the location of the "step."

I then used the two Philips adjusting screws on each side to bring the beams into line with the marks. It took maybe five minutes.

That 'scallop' or stair-step has appeared on every Bimmer I've owned since my '92 E36 325i/5. Without the auto-leveling feature found on our beasts, one of my favorite games on my previous cars was to 'place' the horizontal edge of the beam on the license plate of the car in front of me by either adding or lifting throttle. I know, I know: what does that say about how I entertain myself?

-Dave
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks! Now I have something else to entertain myself this week besides doing paint chip touch-up on my poor, poor M5. Winter prep and all that. Snow tires are going on very soon.

One other headlight question though. Do the headlights look like they are not even when you look at them head on?

Anita
 

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more on headlights

New owner, intro to come shortly.

The '01 I just purchased has the headlights pointed to what I think is too low. But, I thought I'd check with you first.

I read below about the stair step pattern. For me, it looks
like the driver's side light paints a white block of near sun
light in front of the car from just in front of the bumper
to a distance of about 30 feet out. Its far edge is parallel to
the front of the car.

Additionally, the left outer corner of this area of bright light
tails up and away out to the left. It does a great job of lighting
signs to the driver's left.

The passenger side headlight paints its white area starting
at the middle of the car the same distance out. Its lit area is
not parallel with the front of the car, but an angle out and away
from the middle of the lit area. It really lights up most highway
signs which are to the driver's right.

The issue I have is that the headlights seem to do less than
they should/could with the area in front of the car from 30' out
to 100 or more feet out.

Also, the passenger side is not step shaped, but about 45
degree angle shaped.

Is this normal?
Do you recommend adjusting the headlights based on this?

The auto-leveling I read in this thread seems to explain why
when I turn them on, they seem to point down then rotate
up to the position I described above.

Thanks for any info.
 

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Re: more on headlights

l8apex32 said:
The '01 I just purchased has the headlights pointed to what I think is too low. But, I thought I'd check with you first.

I read below about the stair step pattern. For me, it looks
like the driver's side light paints a white block of near sun
light in front of the car from just in front of the bumper
to a distance of about 30 feet out. Its far edge is parallel to
the front of the car.

Additionally, the left outer corner of this area of bright light
tails up and away out to the left. It does a great job of lighting
signs to the driver's left.
L8APEX-

Welcome aboard! The pattern you describe for the driver's side sounds about right, except for the distance illuminated directly in front of the car.

The driver's side illumination caught me by surprise: I upgraded from a '98 540i/6 w/ halogens to my '00 M5. The first I was on the interstate and encountered a concrete dividing wall along the center median, I thought the bright light beside me was a car overtaking me from behind. I actually swerved into the next lane the first time it happened!

l8apex32 said:
The passenger side headlight paints its white area starting
at the middle of the car the same distance out. Its lit area is
not parallel with the front of the car, but an angle out and away
from the middle of the lit area. It really lights up most highway
signs which are to the driver's right.

Also, the passenger side is not step shaped, but about 45
degree angle shaped.

Is this normal?
The basic pattern that illuminates the highway signs on the passenger side is normal. The 45-degree angle, however, is not. While stair-stepped implies two surfaces parallel to the ground, I believe that is inaccurate as well: there IS a slight slope to the beam pattern of the passenger light unit. It sounds like yours might be slightly skewed.

What puzzles me is that the two white plastic adjusting screws for each headlight unit do not allow for adjusting the angle you desribe. One screw adjusts up/down, and the other adjusts left/right.

FWIW, the "notch" that I notice between the two (driver/passenger) light patterns, I can place on the middle of the license plate of traffic in front of me. I know there's no standard height for where that falls, but it seems more often than not I could "place" the notch there and watch the auto-adjuster adapt to my throttle and brake inputs.

l8apex32 said:
The issue I have is that the headlights seem to do less than
they should/could with the area in front of the car from 30' out
to 100 or more feet out.

Do you recommend adjusting the headlights based on this?
Yes. As you describe it, your pattern seems to follow the shape of the hood down to the ground, as opposed to being more parallel to the road surface. I've had similar problems since some collision work I had performed a few months ago. The body shop seems to have aimed the lights just a few degrees too low.

I'm wondering if all the hubub about xenon lamps has led shops to err on the conservative (low) side when aiming. That would be a shame, because the improved HID technology that protects you from over-driving your lights at night gets practically negated by some ham-fisted adjustment!

l8apex32 said:
The auto-leveling I read in this thread seems to explain why
when I turn them on, they seem to point down then rotate
up to the position I described above.
Precisely. Pretty cool, eh?

Hope that helps. Good luck!
-Dave
 

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At the factory-approved aiming point IMO BMW headlights are set too low. Take the middle white screw (mine are allen heads) and give it a half-turn with the allen wrench or screwdriver. Against a wall at a distance of 10' it will raise the aiming point about 1.5". Even a small adjustment like this makes a big difference with the "country road at night" test. That's all the adjustment mine needed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
l8apex32,

I'm glad these other folks are here to help you with your lighting questions. All I can add is my welcome to you to the board. And my hope that I will continue to improve my late apex turn-ins.

Anita
 

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I know! Jus' raise them up until everyone's flashing you thinking you're hi beams are on, then back off at full turn! hiha hiha
 

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Hey Need thats a good Idea! I will be replacing my Ambers with Clears and I guess at night I should start marking out my pattern. Is it better to go against a garage door or like anita on the ground. As it were please:hihi: :cool2:
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
'Side M5,

Why don't you just be creative with your headlight aiming--you can do a write-up and post some pics. But I'm not going to be looking at any more of your pictures any time soon because I fell for that "what's the difference between picture one and picture two" on your sink drain, or whatever they are called, post. BTW, I think they look more like the top of garbage disposals-kidding.

Anita
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
O'side O 5,

No no no, just buy a couple of extra garbage disposals and pull off the rings to mount on your car. If you don't like doing dishes you can always shove a bunch of stuff, like those dirty dishes, down your current disposal unit and you'll still have two backups ready to go when you bust your current one.

Anita
 
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