License plate screws that won’t come out can be frustrating and inconvenient, especially when you need to replace your license plate. There are several reasons why this might happen, such as rust, tight locking, or stripped screws. In this article, we will explore these issues and provide you with effective methods to remove those stubborn screws. By following these techniques, you can tackle the problem head-on and successfully replace your license plate.
Reasons for License Plate Screws Sticking
License plate screws can become stuck due to various factors. Understanding these reasons will help you choose the right method to remove them effectively.
- Rust: One common reason for stuck license plate screws is rust. Over time, exposure to moisture and other elements can cause rust to form and seize the screws, making them difficult to remove.
- Tight Locking: License plate screws are designed to securely hold the plate in place. However, if they are tightened excessively or with the wrong tools, they can become locked in too tightly, making them challenging to unscrew.
- Stripped Screws: Stripping occurs when the screwdriver or tool used to tighten the screws slips or doesn’t fit properly, causing damage to the screw’s head. This makes it nearly impossible to get a grip and remove the screws.
Now that we understand the reasons behind stuck license plate screws, let’s explore some effective methods to solve this problem.
1. Using Vinegar or Penetrating Oil
One approach to removing stuck license plate screws is by using vinegar or penetrating oil. These substances can help loosen the rust and make it easier to unscrew the plates.
Method 1: Spray Penetrating Oil on the Screws
Start by spraying penetrating oil directly on the stuck screws. Allow the oil to sit for about 15 minutes to penetrate the rust and lubricate the threads. This will make it easier to unscrew the screws. You can use a spray can with a nozzle for precise application. Additionally, consider spraying some penetrating oil on the backside of the license plate to further loosen the screws.
Method 2: Using Vinegar
Vinegar is a versatile household item that can also assist in loosening rusted screws. Pour some white vinegar directly on the rusted screws or soak a cloth in vinegar and rub it on the screws. Allow the vinegar to sit for a while to break down the rust. You can also scrub the rust off with a steel brush while loosening the screws. Then, try unscrewing them with a screwdriver. If necessary, repeat the process and apply more vinegar.
Method 3: Impact Wrench
For stubborn rusted screws that are difficult to remove, an impact wrench can provide the necessary force. Before using the impact wrench, make sure to apply penetrating oil to the screws to facilitate easier removal. However, be cautious when using an impact wrench, as it can potentially break the rusted screws. Use this method as a last resort and always wear safety glasses for protection.
2. Applying Heat
If the license plate screws are exceptionally stubborn, applying heat can help loosen them. The expansion and contraction caused by heating and cooling can break the rust’s grip, making it easier to remove the screws.
- Water-based degreaser or detergent
- Gas torch
- Cold water
- Fire extinguisher and leather gloves (for safety)
Steps to Remove Stuck Screws with Heat:
- If the screws have rust, use a water-based degreaser or detergent to loosen them. Avoid using penetrating oil or other flammable chemicals.
- Take a gas torch and heat the screws until smoke starts to emerge. Be cautious not to overheat the screws, as excessive heat can damage surrounding materials.
- After heating, spray cold water on the screws to rapidly cool them down. This quick contraction can help break the rust’s grip. Repeat the heating and cooling process several times until the screws become loose.
- Once the screws are loosened, use a screwdriver to remove them from the license plate.
Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby and follow proper safety precautions when using heat. Wear protective leather gloves and ensure that flammable chemicals are wiped away to prevent accidents.
3. Utilizing a Rotary Tool for Stripped Screws
If your license plate screws are stripped, meaning there is no groove for a screwdriver to grip, you’ll need to employ a different approach. A rotary tool can be a helpful tool in creating a new groove for a screwdriver and loosening the screws.
- Rotary tool
- Penetrating oil
- Protective goggles and leather gloves (for protection)
Steps to Remove Stripped Screws with a Rotary Tool:
- Use a rotary tool with the appropriate attachment to create a groove on the stripped screw. The groove should be the size of a screwdriver head.
- Apply penetrating oil or another lubricant to the stripped screws to facilitate easier removal.
- Once the screws are loosened, you can remove them from your license plate. Apply more lubricant if necessary. If the groove is too narrow for your screwdriver, use the rotary tool to widen it.
4. Using a Flathead Screwdriver and Vice Grips
If the screws keep turning but won’t come out, accessing the rear side of the screws and using a flathead screwdriver with vice grips can be a solution.
- Vice grips or pliers
- Penetrating oil spray
Steps to Remove Screws that Keep Turning:
- Open the liftgate to access the rear side of the license plate and screw endings.
- If a plate or panel covers the rear side of the screws and their latch assembly, pull it with your hand to remove it.
- Once the rear gate latch assembly and the back ends of the screws are visible, hold the screw ends from inside the liftgate with vice grips or pliers. Simultaneously, turn the screws on the outside with a screwdriver.
By using this method, you can grip the screw ends and prevent them from turning, allowing you to unscrew the license plate.
5. Trying a Rubber Band
A rubber band may seem like an unconventional tool, but it can be surprisingly effective in removing stuck license plate screws. The rubber band provides grip and traction, making it easier to unscrew the plates.
To use this method, place a wide rubber band over the screw head, pressing it firmly to create a good grip. Position the screwdriver on top of the rubber band and turn it counterclockwise. The rubber band should grip the screw, allowing you to unscrew it with ease.
Preventing License Plate Screws from Getting Stuck in the Future
To avoid encountering stuck license plate screws in the future, there are several preventive measures you can take:
- Use stainless steel or rust-resistant screws: Opt for screws made of stainless steel or other rust-resistant materials. These screws are less likely to corrode and get stuck.
- Apply an anti-seize compound: Before installing screws, apply a small amount of anti-seize compound to the threads. This compound helps prevent corrosion and makes future removal easier.
- Keep the threads clean: Ensure that both the screw threads and the mounting holes are clean and free of debris before installation.
- Avoid over-tightening: Excessive tightening can strip the threads and make screws difficult to remove. Tighten them securely but not excessively.
- Regular maintenance: Periodically inspect and clean the screws and the mounting area to prevent the buildup of rust and corrosion.
By following these preventive tips and solutions, you can successfully remove stubborn license plate screws and minimize the chances of encountering the same issue in the future.
Here are some frequently asked questions about license plate screws that won’t come out and their solutions:
Q: Do screws always turn left to loosen?
A: Generally, screws follow the “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” rule, meaning they turn left (counterclockwise) to loosen and right (clockwise) to tighten. However, some specialized screws, like reverse-threaded or left-handed screws, follow the opposite pattern.
Q: How long should I let screws soak in vinegar?
A: Soaking screws in vinegar for at least 15-30 minutes should help remove rust and loosen them. For heavily rusted screws, you may need to let them soak for several hours or even overnight.
Q: What is the fastest way to unscrew a rusted screw?
A: The fastest way to unscrew a rusted screw is to use a penetrating oil, such as WD-40. Spray the oil on the screw, wait a few minutes for it to penetrate, and then try unscrewing it with a screwdriver or power tool.
Q: Can you hammer out a stuck screw?
A: We do not recommend hammering out a stuck screw, as it can damage the screw head or surrounding material. Instead, try using a penetrating oil, pliers, or a screw extractor to safely remove the stuck screw.
Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of why license plate screws won’t come out and various methods to remove them, you can tackle this issue with confidence. Choose the method that best suits your specific situation and follow the recommended steps. Remember to prioritize safety and take precautions when using power tools or heat. By applying these techniques, you’ll be able to successfully remove stuck license plate screws and replace them as needed.