Headlight Motor Buyer's Guide
The headlight leveling system relies on headlight motors to move the headlamps down or up to compensate for the disruption in their aim.
Also called the “headlight leveling motor,” the headlight motor is a stepper motor that controls the focus of its attached headlamp.
The rear part of a heavily-loaded car will sink down while the lightly-loaded front part rises. This increases the headlights' angle of aim, which the headlight motor and headlight leveling system corrects.
Symptoms of a bad or failing headlight motor include groaning noises and headlight lamps that fail to illuminate. These symptoms also stem from other issues, so make sure to check what truly causes the problem.
On CarParts.com, a new headlight motor can range anywhere between $48 for a Replacement OE unit and $262 for a high-end AC Delco component. They come in individual units and sets of two motors.
A headlight leveling system keeps bright headlights from shining into the eyes of other drivers, which could prove blinding and dangerous. The remote control system relies on headlight motors to move the headlamps down or up to compensate for the disruption in their aim.
When the headlight motor wears out or breaks down, it cannot adjust the angle of the headlight. The loss of a motor makes driving at night harder and riskier for you and other drivers on the road.
While it’s sometimes possible to repair faulty headlight motors, you often need to replace them. Unfortunately, a new motor doesn’t come cheap. To avoid wasting time and money, it helps to recognize the symptoms of a bad or failing headlight motor.
What is a headlight motor?
The headlight motor is a stepper motor that controls the focus of its attached headlamp. Also called the “headlight leveling motor,” it forms part of the headlight leveling system and actuates the mechanism that moves the headlamp.
Each headlight assembly gets its own headlight motor. The motor runs on +12 volt current and contains sensors and electronic inputs that keep track of where the headlight are focused.
The role of the headlight motor
Headlight motors make sure that the headlights don’t shine their beams at high angles that can hit the eyes of other drivers. They keep the light beams directed at the road.
When the sensors notice that the headlights’ angle of aim exceeds the correct height, the headlight motors go into action. The motors bring the headlamps down in precise increments to compensate for the increased angle.
Once the angle of aim of the headlights returns to its previous height, the headlight motors raise the headlamps back to their normal position. This keeps the beams from aiming too low and reducing the driver’s visibility.
Modern European and American vehicles fitted with powerful bi-xenon headlight bulbs require headlight leveling systems. In high-end cars, the headlight motors answer to a computer that oversees the headlamps.
Why does your car need headlight leveling motors
Auto manufacturers take care to angle headlights in the car’s front so that they focus their light on the road. If the headlights aim upward too much, they can shine directly into the eyes of other drivers. Conversely, downward-angled headlights don’t reach as far, making it harder to see in the dark or through bad weather like fog.
When passengers climb into the vehicle’s back seats or the driver moves a sizable payload into the trunk or rear cargo compartment, the additional weight forces the heavily-loaded rear half to sink downwards.
Meanwhile, the vehicle’s lighter front half elevates. This raises the upward angle of the headlights, making it more likely that the lamps produce blinding glare for other drivers.
Eventually, several European countries, including Germany, made headlight leveling systems a requirement on vehicles. By moving a control knob or lever on the dashboard, drivers could aim the headlights lower or higher to compensate for the raised front.
The control knob could switch between several different modes with different beam heights. On modern vehicles, the switch appears either on the dash or on the more accessible steering wheel.
As technology progressed, headlight leveling systems grew more sophisticated. The systems on high-end cars can adjust the headlights’ position while the driver concentrates on operating the vehicle.
But even the latest automatic systems continue to use headlight motors. Stepper motors can perform precise movements with just a small amount of electric charge.
Symptoms of a bad or failing headlight motor
Despite their ability to control heavy headlamps, headlight motors are surprisingly fragile devices. If you don’t take good care of them, they can break down fairly quickly.
A bad or failing motor will show certain warning signs. They include:
Groaning noises from the direction of the headlight
When you switch your headlights on, you may be surprised by a noise that sounds like a groan. The noise indicates a problem with either the headlight motor or the wiring circuit that supplies power to the device.
Like any motor, a headlight motor contains several parts. If any of those parts got damaged or wore out, they will affect the smooth operation of the other parts and the motor as the whole.
If the issue lies with the wiring, the headlight motor may not receive the right voltage it needs to run properly. A motor starved of electricity will run erratically and may produce groaning noises.
The headlight lamp stops working
Other times, you won’t hear any weird sounds from the direction of your headlights when you switch them on. Instead, one or both headlights will refuse to light up.
This symptom can stem from other causes like a burned-out bulb or bad wiring in the assembly. If a thorough diagnosis eliminates those common causes, consider checking the headlight motor.
Cost of a replacement headlight motor
Your car’s headlights help ensure your safety on the road at night and during inclement weather. If failure strikes the headlight motor that controls the headlamps’ aim, you should repair the faulty part or replace it soonest.
The price of a replacement headlight motor varies according to the brand and quantity of parts. On CarParts.com, a new part can range anywhere between $48 for a Replacement OE unit and $262 for a high-end AC Delco component. They come in individual units and sets of two motors.
Getting the right headlight motor for your vehicle
Headlight motors can cost a pretty penny. Given the important role they play, they’re worth every dollar. It’s important to ensure your replacement part enjoys compatibility with the headlight leveling system on your vehicle.
Check the owner’s manual for information on the factory-issue headlight motors that come with your car. You can also check the website of your car’s manufacturer for details on the motor and compare them to potential replacements.
CarParts.com makes it easy to find a headlight motor guaranteed to fit your car. Enter your vehicle’s year, make, and model in the filter bar. It will bring up the most suitable replacement parts.
Heads Up on Headlight Motors
Turning on the headlight is the basic thing to do once the sun has set. It increases visibility at night especially when you’re driving in a dark route. However, in due time, the headlight motor gives up and then you’ll have to replace it soon. Some can still be repaired, although sometimes when worse comes to worst, you really have no choice but to buy a new one. You have to take note that these things aren’t exactly very affordable; most of the prices can go really high. So here’s a guide on how to find a new headlight motor that really suits your car.
What is a Headlight Motor?
The headlight motor is often called a leveling motor for some people. Basically, the headlight lamp ceases to function if this gets broken. The motors can be really sleek, but it’s inevitable for it to wear out due to constant use. Plus, it’s fragile, so you really have to handle it with care.
How do you know that it’s time to replace the Headlight Motor?
Often times, the symptom when the motor is malfunctioning are when you start hearing a groaning type of sound when you turn the lights on and when you have a wiring problem. Another apparent sign that your Headlight Motor is bad is when your headlight lamp does not work anymore. Try if you can repair it first by checking out Repair Guides or asking experts. If not, then it’s time to say hello to a new headlight motor.
Where should you buy a new Headlight Motor?
There are a lot of auto stores in the market that sell headlight motors. However, a common problem is that most stores might not have the motor you need in their inventory. But, it’s also advisable to buy from these local stores because at least you can actually check them to see if it’s the right motor for your car. However, the headlight motors sold in these auto shops can be really expensive. You can also check out online automotive retailers where they have these parts that come directly from their warehouse. It saves you time and you can get them at a really lower price. Some may require shipping fees, but there are other sites that ship for free. Though, you must be careful not to buy from your local scrap yard because you may not be guaranteed with the components that are being sold there. It’s true that you can save up even more, but you may end up paying double the price if it jeopardizes your headlight instead.
So, if you’re looking for a new headlight lamp, keep these tips in mind so you’ll be able to get your hands on one that’s really worth the price. Good luck!
Repair Your Headlight Motor in 3 Steps
To keep driving safely at night, always remember to keep your headlights on; otherwise, some people may not be able to see you on the road, which can cause terrible, terrible accidents. Most cars require a motor to be able to light up the headlights. Though the motors can be really sleek, these eventually wear out after constant use. Nothing lasts forever, as they say. But, instead of taking it to the mechanic and bury yourself in jaw-dropping expenses, doing it yourself just might be a better idea. Believe us, you’ll be able to save on loads on money and all you have to do is follow these 3 steps.
Difficulty level: moderate
Things You’ll Need:
- Metric sockets
- Battery terminal wrench
Step 1: Disconnect. You wouldn’t want to electrify yourself while working with the battery connected, so make sure that before you start doing anything, you have to disconnect the car battery by removing the negative cable. Next, disconnect the headlight electrical connector.
Step 2: Remove. Take the ratchet and remove the bolts securing the headlight assembly to the hood of the automobile. Next, take out the bolts from the inside of the assembly. Also, remove the three bolts that hold the motor in the headlight assembly in place. Next, take out the motor.
Step 3: Replace and Reconnect. Get your new motor and place it inside the headlight assembly. Put the three bolts back in place to keep the motor in place inside the assembly. Put the whole assembly back inside the hood and reinsert all the bolts that were previously removed. Reconnect the electrical connectors and attach the negative battery cable.
Now that you’ve gone through these steps, you will surely be able to repair and replace your old headlight motor. All you need is a garage and a quality replacement part and you’re good to go. Good luck!