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Your Headlight Motor (Headlight Leveling Motor) worn out? » Read more about common malfunctions • Repair • Replacement manual
Adjust the headlights according to the rear load using the headlight leveling
The headlight leveling is a technical feature that adjusts the angle of the headlight. It is manually operated via a rotary knob on the inside of the vehicle. For over 20 years, the headlight leveling has been mandatory for all new vehicles in Germany. The actuator is a component of the complete headlight leveling module.
Effect of the headlight leveling
In the idle state, the vehicle has the optimum angle for the best possible road illumination. The angle guarantees the driver has maximum vision without blinding oncoming traffic. If the vehicle is heavily laden in the rear, its rear end will be lowered. The headlight angle must be adjusted in proportion to the lowered rear end. Although vision is increased now, oncoming traffic will be blinded now. To compensate for this, the headlight angle can be lowered via the headlight leveling.
Headlight leveling operating principle
To adjust the headlight range, its angle in longitudinal relation to the vehicle axis can be adjusted. For this, the headlights are mounted in a pivot point. The actuator is positioned at this pivot point. The actuator consists of an actuating motor with connector plugs, mounting points and a linear actuator. This presses against the headlight at a certain point, thereby adjusting its angle. The actuating motor is controlled by a rotating wheel, which is typically located directly at the headlight switch.
Headlight leveling defects
Technically speaking, actuators are very simple components. When headlight leveling became legally required, some manufacturers tried to produce low-cost solutions with the help of hydraulic systems. These hydraulic systems have proven very susceptible to interference, wherefore they are no longer used. The electromechanical version is the standard today. Like all electro-mechanical components, the actuator's electronics and mechanics can become damaged. Also, the lever itself can break off. A defective headlight leveling is detected when it only works on one side. If both sides can't be adjusted by turning the adjusting wheel, the issue is usually with the switch. However, an intact headlight leveling is an absolute requirement for passing the general inspection. That's why the maintenance and repair of this function should not be neglected, even if it is rarely ever used.
Repairing the headlight leveling
If the actuator stops functioning, one should check the contacts to ensure that the issue isn't caused by a corroded plug. Such issues can be quickly resolved by scraping the area clean and treating it with contact spray. Yet, if the actuating motor moves with difficulty or not at all, despite proper flow of electricity, the actuator is simply replaced. Removal and installation is quite easy in most vehicles. In older cars equipped with fold-out headlights, however, the replacement of the body element can be more complex. Yet, with patience and some skill, even hobby mechanics can successfully perform this repair.
Headlight leveling quality
The repair or replacement of the headlight leveling is somewhat rare. It is a good idea to occasionally test the function in order to ensure the motor remains able to move freely. If it becomes resinous or jams, the overload will usually result in complete failure.
A new actuating motor will cost no less than 45 euro, the price for an actuator can easily exceed 150 euro. These relatively high prices of this class of OEM replacement parts attracts many imitators to the market, who offer supposedly cheaper components. Yet, they usually cannot compete with the required quality of brand products. Thus, if one ever encounters the need to replace the headlight leveling, opting for high-quality brand products makes for a safe and lasting solution. Repairing the headlight leveling of high-quality Xenon floodlights is another case. These are bigger, heavier and technically more complex than the normal H4 headlights. This is also reflected in much higher prices for the actuating motors. When it comes to these headlights, in most cases merely the coupling rods are worn. Their replacement is easy and inexpensive. The trade also provides high-quality spare parts for this purpose at fair prices.