How to Remove Rusted License Plate Screws

Nothing is more frustrating than going to change your license plate only to find that the rusty old screws are completely stuck in place. You give them a twist with your screwdriver only to have the rusty metal break off, leaving the remains of the screw still lodged firmly into the hole. Been there before?

How to Remove Rusted License Plate Screws

You’re definitely not alone. Rusted license plate screws seem to be an inevitable part of owning a car, especially if you live in an area with cold winters and lots of road salt.

But have no fear – removing stubborn rusted screws doesn’t have to mean calling a mechanic. In this blog post, I’ll share how to remove rusted license plate screws. Let’s get those rusty screws out once and for all!

Why May You Want to Remove Rusted License Plate Screws? 5 Reasons

1 . To Replace the License Plate

The most common reason for removing rusted license plate screws is to replace the license plate itself. Whether you’re upgrading your car’s look with a personalized plate or simply need to renew your annual registration, having intact and functional screws is essential for keeping your license plate securely in place.

2 . To Avoid Legal Troubles

Did you know that driving with a missing or loose license plate can get you pulled over and possibly ticketed? In some states, it’s even considered a traffic violation. So if you’ve been putting off fixing those rusted screws, now is the time to take care of them before you end up with an unwanted run-in with the law.

3 . To Prevent Accidents

Rusted Screws Can Often Break Off in Pieces

As mentioned earlier, rusted screws can often break off in pieces when attempting to remove them. These small metal fragments can easily get lodged into the hole or be left on the ground, creating a potential hazard for future drivers and pedestrians. By removing the rusty screws, you’re not only making your own life easier but also helping to keep others safe.

4 . To Maintain Your Car’s Appearance

Let’s face it, rusted license plate screws just don’t look good. They can make your car appear old and neglected, even if that’s not the case at all. By removing them and replacing them with shiny new screws, you’ll give your car a cleaner and more polished appearance.

5 . To Avoid Future Problems

If left alone, rusted screws can cause bigger problems down the road. As they continue to corrode, they may become even more difficult to remove and could potentially damage the license plate or the surrounding area. By taking care of them now, you’ll save yourself from dealing with a bigger headache later on.

How to Remove Rusted License Plate Screws: Step by Step

Now that we’ve discussed why you may want to remove rusted license plate screws, let’s dive into the steps for actually getting them out.

Step 1: Gather Your Tools

Before starting, make sure you have all the necessary tools on hand. You’ll need a screwdriver or wrench (depending on your car’s setup), some penetrating oil, and possibly a pair of pliers or vice grips.

Step 2: Spray with Penetrating Oil

Using the penetrating oil, spray around the base of the rusted screws. Allow it to sit for a few minutes to help loosen and break down the rust. Also, spray some oil onto the threads of the screw itself.

Step 3: Try to Loosen with a Screwdriver

Using your chosen tool, try to loosen the screws by turning them counterclockwise. If they don’t budge, do not force them. Instead, continue to apply more penetrating oil and let it sit for a bit longer.

Step 4: Use Pliers or Vice Grips

Try Using a Pair of Pliers or Vice Grips

If the screws still won’t loosen, try using a pair of pliers or vice grips to get a better grip on the screw head. Again, turn counterclockwise and be careful not to apply too much pressure. Also, make sure to protect the surrounding area with a cloth or towel to avoid scratches.

Step 5: Heat it Up

If all else fails, you can try using heat to loosen the rusted screws. Use a propane torch or hair dryer to apply heat directly onto the screw for a few seconds. This may help break down the rust and make it easier to turn the screw.

Step 6: Replace with New Screws

Once you’ve successfully removed the rusted screws, replace them with new ones to ensure a secure and functioning license plate. It’s also a good idea to use some anti-seize lubricant on the threads of the new screws to prevent future rusting.

Some Extra Tips to Remove Rusted License Plate Screws

1 . Do Not Use Force

As mentioned before, do not try to force the rusty screws to turn. This can cause them to break off in the hole, making it even more difficult to remove them. Also, applying too much pressure can strip the screw head, making it nearly impossible to remove.

2 . Try Different Methods

If one method doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to try a different approach. Every car and situation may require a different method for removing rusted screws. Be patient and keep trying until you find what works best for your specific case.

3 . Prevent Future Rusting

To prevent your new screws from rusting, consider using stainless steel or coated screws. You can also apply a layer of clear nail polish or anti-seize lubricant to the threads before installing them. Also, regularly cleaning and maintaining your license plate and screws can help prevent rust buildup.

Prevent Your New Screws From Rusting

Frequently Asked Questions

What Precautions Should I Take When Removing Rusted License Plate Screws?

When attempting to remove rusted screws, be sure to wear protective gloves and eyewear. Also, make sure the car is on a stable surface and that you have enough room to work without causing any damage.

How Often Should I Check My License Plate Screws for Rust?

It’s a good idea to regularly check your license plate screws for any signs of rust. Depending on the climate and road conditions, this could be once every few months or once a year.

Can I Use WD-40 Instead of Penetrating Oil?

While both are lubricants, WD-40 is not specifically designed for loosening rusty screws. It’s best to use a penetrating oil like PB Blaster or Liquid Wrench for this task. Also, make sure to follow the instructions on the product for best results.

Can I Remove the Rusted License Plate Screws Myself or Should I Take It to a Professional?

In most cases, you should be able to remove rusted screws yourself with the proper tools and techniques. However, if you feel uncomfortable or unsure about doing it yourself, it’s always best to take it to a professional for assistance. Also, if the screws are severely rusted and unable to be removed, a professional may have more specialized tools and methods for dealing with the situation.

How Can I Prevent Accidents When Removing Rusted License Plate Screws?

Always take your time when attempting to remove rusted screws. Use caution and make sure you have a good grip on both your tools and the screw itself. If the screw is really stuck, consider getting help from someone else or taking a break and trying again later. Safety should always come first when dealing with any car maintenance task.

Attempting to Remove Rusted Screws

Will Removing Rusted License Plate Screws Damage My Car?

When done carefully and correctly, removing rusted screws should not damage your car. Just be sure to follow the steps outlined above and take precautions to protect your car’s surface while working on it.  Overall, taking care of rusted license plate screws is essential for safety, appearance, and avoiding future problems.

With the right tools and techniques, you can successfully remove them and keep your car in top shape.  So don’t neglect those rusty screws any longer – get to work and give your car the care it deserves!


Removing rusted license plate screws may seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and approach, it can be done easily. Remember to always use caution and avoid using force when attempting to remove the screws.

Now you know how to remove rusted license plate screws. And once they’re out, take steps to prevent future rusting to save yourself from this hassle in the future. Don’t let those rusty screws hold you back any longer, get them out and enjoy a secure and visually appealing license plate on your car!

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