Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Remove stuck license plate screw

4 ways to remove a stuck license plate screw

If it’s a Philips head and it’s stuck but not stripped

stuck license plate screw1) Start by cleaning out the head and spraying with rust penetrant

See all the gunk in the head of this Philips screw head? It’s pretty hard to sink the screwdriver tip all the way in with all that rust.

So spray it with rust penetrant like PB Blaster or Liquid Wrench (WD-40) isn’t a rust penetrant.

Let it soak and then insert a smaller Philips screwdriver into the head. Tap the screwdriver a few times with a hammer to push the rust out. Then try using the correct size Philips screwdriver (usually a #2 Philips). Many times the rust penetrant alone will let you remove the stuck license plate screw.

2) If the Philips screwdriver is slipping out of the screw head, use kitchen cleanser to get a better grip.

Dip the tip of the screwdriver in some kitchen cleanser powder. kitchen cleanserThen push it into the screw head and try again. The grit in the cleanser will get you a better grip

3) If the screwdriver is gripping but the screw isn’t turning, you need more push and torque

Hex bolster screwdriver have a hexagonal attachment below the handle. The bolster is designed to accept either an open end or closed end wrench to help you gain more torque than with the screwdriver handle alone.

With a bolster screwdriver, push the tip into the screw head with one hand while you turn the wrench with the other. If that still doesn’t work, you can try using an impact screwdriver and hammer. But use caution because sheet metal bends easily.

hex bolster screwdriverimpact screwdriver

If the Philips screw head is stripped

stripped license plate screwCut a slot in it using a hacksaw blade or cut-off wheel

The goal is to cut a slot for a flat blade screwdriver.

A rotary tool with a cut off wheel works the best. Cut deep into the screw head so the flat blade screwdriver can bite without slipping out.

Then twist the screwdriver handle to remove the screw

cut a slot into the stripped screw head

Final straw — drill it out

Yeah, sometimes it comes to this. Start with a small bit and increase bit size until you’ve drilled through most of the screw. Then try the slotted screwdriver again. If it still won’t budge, break off the screw head and use a vice grip to remove the rest of the screw.

What NOT to do to remove a stuck license plate screw

  1. Do NOT use heat. Most license plate screws are screwed into a plastic insert. Heat will melt the plastic.
  2. Even if the screws are mounted into metal, using heat can discolor the paint and melt surrounding plastic.
  3. If you’re using an impact screwdriver, keep in mind that the sheet metal is very thin and easily dented. Don’t go overboard.

Last tip: Don’t waste your time using a screw extractor tool. They never work

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Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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