Headlight Aiming

fiat-124-spider-abarth-geneva-1Since quite a few 124 Spider owners are choosing to lower their vehicle’s stance, those with auto-leveling headlights are probably discovering after the fact, that the vertical aiming of their headlights are in need of adjustment (headlights are pointing at the ground immediately in front of the vehicle), and having difficulty figuring out the process of doing so as well.  The auto-leveling control system assumes the front load hasn’t changed and that all of the change in the suspension movement is in the rear (a LOT of weight has been placed in the trunk), which is why the headlights are aimed downwards.

Having just discovered processes that I haven’t seen mentioned in any forum on the subject, I am writing this article for discussion purposes, looking for verification that adjustable headlight linkages don’t need to be purchased and brackets don’t need to be modified to get your auto-leveling headlights to be aimed properly, even after lowering the vehicle.

First of all let’s clarify the 2 different headlight systems:

  1. Self-adjusting LED headlights that are controlled by the auto-leveling control system which gets it’s primary input from a height sensor that is linked via a bracket to a control arm that is attached to the rear suspension on the driver’s side, as shown below.  This option, in conjunction with Adaptive Front Lighting (AFS), is not available in Classicas and is offered as part of a Premium package in Lussos and Abarths only.amxuuw00003329
  2. Fixed-aim Halogen headlights (see step 13 in the manual headlight aiming section), which are standard in all 124 Spiders.

♦♦♦♦♦

Flyin’ Miata and Good-Win Racing both offer adjustable headlight linkages to replace Mazda’s stock aluminum control arm in the 124 Spider, as identified in the photo above, and described in these instructions.

Recently jpwfz6 has come up with his own version mod for his lowered Spider’s self-adjusting headlights, for a fixed 1″ drop (not adjustable) and entails drilling a new hole in the bracket while using the stock control arm – all described in detail here.

Today, when I investigated the subject in the Mazda MX-5 Service Manual (partially extracted below – see actual manual for a complete guide with all of the illustrations), I learned that there is an initialization of the auto-leveling system that I haven’t seen mentioned in the forums, and may preclude having to go through all this extra work, since it allows the system to basically learn the new “normal” setting of the height sensor.  

  • I guess the question remains – why did the vendors come out with the adjustable linkages?   Perhaps a 1″ drop brings the height sensor close to the limits of it’s range, such that further lowering of the rear end because of additional weight in the trunk, passenger seat,  etc. no longer properly registers change in the auto-leveling control system?


[UPDATE 7/6/2017]

Not having the special Mazda tool (Mazda’s Modular Diagnostic System), bogeyman has tried the OBD2 METHOD of headlight auto leveling system initialization on his MX-5 and has proven my theory correct by verifying that it works, stating:

[Mazda’s auto-leveler module assumes any vehicle suspension drop is on the rear axle only, and] doubles the downward angle of the headlights, effectively halving the covered distance.

… I can vouch for the fact that the OBD2 re-leveling procedure works. There is no need to install mechanical leveling adjusters. The OBD2 procedure tells the computer to take the current leveling sensor position as the new “flat” level.

The procedure was pretty straight-forward. The toughest part was getting wires [paper clips] into the proper holes in the connector, and having them stay. I used my phone camera to verify everything was correct before shorting the wires. It is a pretty tight squeeze to get at the connector; hard to see.

I was surprised that this simple procedure is not better publicized. It is a reasonably painless way to regain nighttime visibility after changing ride height.

The only extra thing I would add is…. Make sure you jumper correct two pins otherwise you will have a very very bad day.  Specifically, the OBD2 port shown in the diagram is upside down versus how you will see it in your car…

The diagram he’s referring to is in the “OBD2 method” instructions  ⇓…

amxuuw00004666

…shows port oriented with narrow side up, whereas looking up at the actual port underneath the steering wheel, it looks like this – with the narrow side down ⇓obd2 from underneath MX5

The headlights can also be manually aimed with the adjustment screws (one white plastic 10mm hex as shown in illustration at the very bottom of this article) that are on the backside of each headlight, but if the car has been lowered the same amount for both front and rear, the factory setting should still be appropriate and this procedure should not be necessary.

HEADLIGHT AUTO LEVELING SYSTEM INITIALIZATION

NOTE:

The auto leveling control module/AFS control module records the vehicle height in unoccupied condition by performing the headlight auto leveling system initialization.

Perform headlight auto leveling system initialization if any of the following services is performed.

  • Auto leveling control module/AFS control module replacement
  • Auto leveling sensor replacement or removal/installation
  • Any service which changes vehicle height, such as suspension replacement or removal/installation

Two different procedures are available for the headlight auto leveling system initialization:

  • one which uses the M-MDS (Mazda’s Modular Diagnostic System which is a diagnostic/module programming tool that your dealer should have and plugs into the vehicle via the OBD-II port; Fiat dealer may call it something else)
  • and one which you can do yourself without the dealer tool (the “OBD2 method”), but involves a carefully executed jumper procedure

Initialization Procedure Using M-MDS

CAUTION:

  • Perform Steps 5 and 6 within 30 seconds.

1. Empty the vehicle except for the jack and vehicle tools.

2. Adjust the tire pressure to the specification.

3. Move the vehicle to level ground.

4. Connect the M-MDS to the OBD-II port.

5. Switch the ignition ON (engine off or on).

NOTE:

The LED headlight warning light continues flashing during the first initialization, however, continue the work because it does not indicate an improper procedure.

amxuuw00003342

6. After vehicle identification, the following can be selected from the M-MDS initial screen.

a. “Electrical”
b. “Exterior Lighting”
c. “Headlamp”
d. “Auto Leveling Sensor”
e. “Auto Leveling Sensors Calibration”

7. Verify the LED headlight warning light.

    • The initialization is completed if the LED headlight warning light flashes three times every 0.25 seconds and turns off. Go to the next step.

      am2zzw00010640

    • If the LED headlight warning light flashes at 0.25 second intervals, the procedure may have been performed incorrectly. Repeat the procedure from Step 5.
    • If the LED headlight warning light flashes at 0.5 second intervals, the headlight auto leveling system may have a malfunction. Perform DTC inspection.
  • Repair or replace the malfunctioning location, then repeat the procedure from Step 5.

8. Adjust the headlight aiming. (See HEADLIGHT AIMING.)

Initialization Procedure Not Using M-MDS
***** THIS IS KNOWN AS THE OBD2 METHOD *****

CAUTION:

  • Perform Steps 4 and 5 within 30 seconds.

1. Empty the vehicle except for the jack and vehicle tools.

2. Adjust the tire pressure to the specification.

3. Move the vehicle to level ground.

4. Switch the ignition ON (engine off or on).

NOTE:

The LED headlight warning light continues flashing during the first initialization, however, continue the work because it does not indicate an improper procedure.

amxuuw00003342

CAUTION:

  • If the terminals are mistakenly connected, vehicle damage or fire could occur. When connecting with the jumper wire, thoroughly verify what terminals are being connected to prevent a miss-connection.

amxuuw00004666

5. Using a jumper wire, connect OBD-II port (Mazda calls it the DLC-2) terminals B and J (ground) three times at  0.5—1.5 second intervals as shown in the figure.

6. Verify the LED headlight warning light.

    • The initialization is completed if the LED headlight warning light flashes three times every 0.25 s and turns off. Go to the next step.

      am2zzw00010640

    • If the LED headlight warning light flashes at 0.25 second intervals, the procedure may have been performed incorrectly. Repeat the procedure from Step 4.
    • If the LED headlight warning light flashes at 0.5 second intervals, the headlight auto leveling system may have a malfunction. Perform DTC inspection.
  • Repair or replace the malfunctioning location, then repeat the procedure from Step 4.

7. Adjust the headlight aiming. (See HEADLIGHT AIMING.)

MANUAL AIMING OF HEADLIGHTS

NOTE:

If the following servicing is done, perform the headlight aiming adjustment.

  • Front combination light replacement
  • Suspension replacement and removal/installation, servicing requiring vehicle height to be changed

If servicing was done which changes the vehicle height, perform the headlight auto leveling system initial setting first to record the vehicle height under the unloaded condition to the auto leveling control module/AFS control module, then perform headlight aiming. (See HEADLIGHT AUTO LEVELING SYSTEM INITIALIZATION.)

1. Empty the vehicle except for the jack and vehicle tools.

2. Adjust the tire pressure to the specification.

3. Move the vehicle to level ground.

4. Sit on the driver-side seat alone.

5. Make an adjustment-use screen as shown in the figure using double-weight, white paper.

amxuuw00005590

6. Line up the vehicle with the wall so that the distance to the headlights is 3 m {118 in} from the wall.

amxuuw00003287

7. Measure the height at the center point of the headlight.

amxuuw00003288

NOTE:

Measure the height at the center point of the headlight in which the aiming is being adjusted because the vehicle height differs depending on vehicle conditions.

8. Align the center of the headlight to be adjusted with the center of the headlight on the adjustment screen.

amxuuw00005591

9. Set a partition in front of the headlight which is not being adjusted to block the light.

10. Start the engine and charge the battery.

11. Turn on the headlight low beams.

amxuuw00003290

NOTE:

If the headlight low beams are turned on, the light as shown in the figure is emitted to the adjustment screen.

12. Cover the upper part of the headlight with a clean rag so that the brightness border line becomes transparent.

amxuuw00003291

Note that this is the MX-5 LED headlight; the LED headlamps & the Halogen headlamps in the 124 Spider will be somewhat different.

NOTE:

If the headlight is covered with a clean rag from the upper part of the headlight in the direction of the arrow shown in the figure, the yellow line disappears and the brightness border line becomes transparent.

13. Verify that the actual elbow point of the headlight is at the elbow point position indicated by the adjustment-use screen.

amxuuw00003292

  • If the actual elbow point of the headlight is not at the elbow point position indicated by the adjustment-use screen, adjust by turning the aiming adjustment screw.
amxuuw00005592

Note that this is the MX-5 LED headlight; the LED headlamps & the Halogen headlamps in the 124 Spider will be somewhat different.  There is a hole in the plastic trim above each Halogen headlamp in my Classica with a decal showing underneath with the letter “B”, and it looks like a Phillips screwdriver inserted vertically (rather than at an angle) will mate with the gears (aiming adjustment screw) for altering the aiming.    Click diagram to enlarge.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s