While driving at night, have you ever noticed other people's headlights that appear to be shaking and bouncing around? Isn't it annoying and distracting? Your brain is so good at noticing motion that it's hard to ignore those bouncing headlights, especially if they're in your rear view.
Embarrassingly, I found that I was one of those "other people, bad citizens" when I replaced a headlight bulb and noticed the reflector was loose.
Step 1: Open Hood and Check Reflector
Follow the instructions in the manual for replacing a headlight bulb. The bulb screws into the reflector, so you can feel if it's loose or not.
This is 1996 Volvo 850 GLT with cold weather package. I imagine the headlight assembly and surrounding components aren't that different for models around the same age.
Step 2: Tools
No special tools required: Vice grips, adjustable wrench, screw drivers.
Step 3: Remove Turn Signal Assembly
Looking down on the engine compartment, look for the handle on the end of the turn signal spring. Pull the handle, stretching the spring, and get the s-bend out of its mating fixture.
As an aside, I think this type of connection is pretty sweet: positive connection, easy for the user to access and remove, quick assembly. Good job Volvo!
Step 4: Remove the Headlight Wiper
Flip up the end cap on the wiper, unscrew the nut, and pull the wiper off of its shaft.
Step 5: Remove Plastic Assembly
The plastic assembly underneath the headlight is held on by a couple of barbed connectors. Minding the washer fluid hose, pull this plastic piece away from the headlight.
Step 6: Remove Headlight Glass
Pry off the metal clips around the edge of the headlight glass, and remove the it. Don't drop it! This sucker costs $100 to replace! (A falling icicle once busted mine). I think I counted seven clips altogether; whatever the total number, there's a few at the bottom of the glass you can't see. The glass is only held on by clips, so you'll know when you've found them all.
Step 7: Snap Reflector Back Into Place
The reflector snaps into place. Mess with it, pushing it towards the car until it snaps back in place. It's probably better not to have a bulb screwed in while you do this.
You'll know you have it right when the headlight level works again.
I'm not certain how it came loose in the first place. Maybe it was that minivan I ran into while rushing into work one day? New rule: while driving, focus only on driving; maintain calm, even if running late.
Step 8: Reassemble
Reverse the steps to reassemble. When you drop a clip further inside the car, have fun fishing it out!