How To Adjust and Install LED Sealed-Beam Headlights


How To Adjust and Install LED Sealed-Beam Headlights


For anyone diving into their first older car experience, the sealed beam headlight might be a bit of an oddity. Instead of just changing the bulb itself, like you would on a modern car, you have to replace the entire unit, housing and all. Then there is aiming the headlight's beam so that driving at night is a safe, trouble-free prospect. The fastest way to get lights flashed at you, an angry horn-honking, or seeing the original Angry Bird aimed in your direction is to have headlights that are aimed directly into oncoming traffic's eyes. Joking aside, having poorly-aimed headlights is legitimately dangerous, so taking the time to aim your headlights correctly is a free and easy way to improve your safety on the road.

Can I swap sealed beam headlights for LED headlights?

Recently, we decided to update the headlights on this 1976 Dodge Charger to Holley RetroBright 7-inch 5700K LED headlights. We wanted the modern performance of LED headlights but did not want to deviate from the classic appearance of the front of our mid-1970s personal luxury coupe. We picked the 5700K "Modern White" color as this car is driven plenty, especially on country roads where wildlife is very common. Holley RetroBright headlights are available in three color tones (Classic White, Modern White and Euro Yellow) and are sized for common sealed-beam headlight sizes, such as:

  • 5.75-inch Round
  • 7-inch Round
  • 4-inch x 6-inch Rectangular
  • 5-inch x 7-Inch Rectangular

Follow along as we show you what it takes to properly set up a sealed beam headlight system.

Sealed Beam remove outer trim ring

The first step is to remove any outer trim from around the headlight. In the Charger's case, this meant the large chrome ring surround, which is held on by three screws.

Headlight retaining ring

Next, you need to remove the headlight retaining ring. Again, there are three screws that need to be removed in our case. Be careful here, as finding corroded screws is very commonplace. If you have any concerns, now would be the time to find a good penetrating oil to make sure you don't break a screw or worse, damage the headlight retaining ring.

Sealed Beam retaining ring install

When installing the headlight retaining ring, make sure that the ring fits properly over the lens of the light. If one side looks or feels higher than the other, stop and re-set the retaining ring. Failing to do so can result in a bent retaining ring or damage to the headlight.

Sealed Beam adjustment screws

Once the retaining ring is installed, you can choose to install your trim now, or wait until the headlight is adjusted. This will depend on your car. On our Charger, our headlight beam adjustment screws were located at the top of the headlight (vertical motion) and on the outboard point (horizontal motion, left side shown). Other makes might have these screws in a different location, so be sure to familiarize yourself with your vehicle's setup. Once again, don't forget the penetrating oil for the adjustment screws...more often than not, corrosion will be present.

Sealed Beam Headlight Adjustment 1

Once your bulbs are installed, the next step is to adjust the beam pattern. You don't want your headlights too low, or you will risk "over-running" them at night and not have enough forward vision. Alternatively, you don't want to be the driver on the road blinding everyone with a light aimed too high. To start the process, find a flat wall that has a flat enough surface in front of it for your vehicle to move. Pull the vehicle close to the wall, then mark where the beam pattern is with tape or another means of marking where the center of the beam pattern is. You might also want to mark each beam with a vertical tape stripe (making a cross) to dial in the horizontal measurement.

Sealed Beam Promo Shot

It might seem like an Auto Shop 101 lesson, but taking the time to set up your headlights properly is a safety issue that you can't afford to avoid. A couple of minutes with a screwdriver will make your night-time driving safer for not only you, but everyone on the road with you.


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