Instructions for Headlight Alignment on a Mazda 5

Never let it be said that Eastern auto manufacturers don’t know how to learn by a good example. Mazda’s been using numbers to designate its models for a long time, but only in recent years has the company gone all-out and taken up the BMW model of designation. Like the BMW 5-Series, the Mazda 5 is basically the same as a Mazda 3 (or 3-Series), and a little smaller than the Mazda CX-7 (or 7-Series). And, being mechanically identical to it’s smaller Mazda 3 cousin, the procedures used to adjust the headlights are almost identical. Can’t fault a company for efficiency.

Things You’ll Need

  • Phillips-head screwdriver
  • A white wall
  • Duct tape or electrical tape
  • Yardstick
  • String

  • Adjust your tires to the proper inflation, and fill the gas-tank to the half-way mark. Park the car on level ground; position it so that its headlights are ten feet from a white wall, and so that it’s parked at a perfect right angle to the wall. Check out your local supercenter; those big blue and white chain stores usually have a side parking lot. The sidewalk next to the building is around eight feet wide, and the parking lines serve as a wonderful guide to get your car perfectly perpendicular to the wall.

  • Tape one end of a ten-foot-long string to your headlight cover using duct tape — make sure that it’s centered right in front of the headlight bulb. Run the other end of the string to the wall directly ahead of the car, and temporarily stick it to the wall with another piece of tape. Repeat on the other side.

  • Measure the vertical distance from the ground to the string on one headlight, or the curb in front of the car if necessary. Transfer this measurement to the strings where they tape to the wall, and reposition the strings on the wall so that they’re perfectly level to the ground.

  • Tape a third, very long string to the sidewall of one of your rear tires. Pull the string to the wall, and keep it taut. Position the string so that it just touches the sidewall of the front tire, and tape it to the wall. Now, measure the horizontal distance from the "tire" string to the closest headlight string right in front of the car. Transfer this measurement to the headlight string on the wall, and reposition its tape as necessary. Make sure to keep the vertical the same. Now, the string should be perfectly level and straight to the headlight. Repeat for the other headlight.

  • Run a piece of tape horizontally on the wall, sticking it to the wall so that its top edge touches the string. The top edge of the tape is now your "horizon line." Place another piece of vertical tape next to the strings, so that the pieces form an "L" shape. The elbow of the "L" is your target for that headlight.

  • Have someone sit in the driver seat of the car. If you’re at the supercenter, you’ll probably find someone who will sit there for five minutes on the promise of a soda afterward. Or something. Point is, get some weight in the seat so that your weight doesn’t skew the headlight alignment afterward.

  • Pop the hood and locate the adjustment screws behind the headlight buckets. If you look straight downward behind the headlight, you’ll see two Phillips head screws look back up at you. The one closest to the fender is the vertical adjustment screw; turning it clockwise adjusts the headlight beam up, counter-clockwise adjusts it down. The inner screw is the horizontal adjustment. Clockwise is outward, and counter-clockwise is inward.

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  • Start the car to keep your battery charged, and set the headlight leveling switch to the "zero" position, if so equipped. Set the headlights on high beam. Now, turn the adjustment screws until the headlight beams are centered perfectly on the elbows in your targets. Turn the brights off and re-check; the beams should now center a foot or more below the targets. Turn the beams back on high. If you’re one of those particularly civic-minded people, adjust the high beams so that they land about two to three inches to the right of the target. This will keep you from accidentally blinding oncoming drivers with your now properly-adjusted headlights.