How to Remove Rusted and Stripped License Plate Screws [4 Methods]

For someone who loves to work on their cars, sometimes simple tasks can be frustrating. In this case, we are talking about removing rusted license plate screws.

It might seem like a simple task to do, however, it can be frustrating when the screws won’t break loose. So, what can you do? That is what we want to look at in this guide.

We will look at three various scenarios you might encounter while working on rusted license plate screws and how to deal with them.

Let us get to the methods already.

Method 1: Custom-Made Wrench fit Your License Plate

Custom-made wrench to fit my License plate. Decided not to do Philips screws to hold it on. Hopefully, it slows down the pick pock process of someone stealing it with these hex screws.

Would love more of a hidden screw so you could see the nut better.. but have the security of a star bit screw.

YouTube video

Method 2: Removing the Rusted License Plate Screws

What You Will Need

  • Penetrating oil
  • Spray bottle
  • White vinegar
  • Stainless steel screws
  • Screwdriver


  1. Spray the screws with penetrating oil

As the name suggests, the penetrating oil is meant to loosen the rusted screws so that it becomes easy to unscrew them.

Spray the oil on the rusted screws and let them sit for about 15 minutes before attempting to unscrew the screws.

Read More:  What Is The Average Lifetime Of Brake Rotors (Detailed Answers)

With a nozzle of a spray can, it should be easy to spray the oil directly to the wanted screws without messing up the whole license plate.

If after 15 minutes the screws still won’t come loose, then add more penetrating oil and then leave it to sit for an hour.

It should be easy to get penetrating oil from any automotive repair shop.

Where possible, spray also behind the license plate to get the oil into the screws further loosening them.

  1. Soak the rusted screws using white vinegar

Vinegar has always been a multipurpose product. It is why you might want to consider using white vinegar to loosen the rusted screws.

Pour the white vinegar over the rusted screws or soak a piece of cloth in vinegar and hold it over the screws.

Once some of the rust gets off the screws, try removing them using a screwdriver.

Vinegar is good for dissolving as much rust as possible. With your steel brush, scrub off as much rust as possible and loosen the screws.

Keep adding vinegar to the rusted screws as you try loosening them.

  1. Use an impact wrench

stainless steel screw

Sometimes brute force might be what you just need to loosen the rusted screwdrivers and get them off your license plate.

In such a case, consider using an impact wrench with the right bits attached to it.

An impact wrench is known for delivering high rotational torque. Once you have oiled the rusted screws with penetrating oil, then consider using an impact wrench as it has more torque to break off any remaining rust.

Read More:  Signs of Bad Spark Plug Wires [Causes & Symptoms]

Each time you use an impact wrench, consider wearing safety glasses to keep yourself from any harm.

This method might break the rusted screws. So, use it only when you have exhausted the other options mentioned above.

  1. Replace the rusted screws with stainless steel screws

At some point, you might have to remove the screws again. It is best to use stainless steel screws as they do not rust. This makes it easier for you to remove the screws later, even if the car is exposed to the elements.

Method 3: Removing Rusted Screws Using Heat

Using heat will help you remove the rusted screws from your license plate with ease. The heat is important for expanding the metal around the screws so that you can remove the screws with ease. So, how do you do it? Follow the steps mentioned below.

What You Will Need

  • Water-based degreaser
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Leather gloves
  • Gas torch
  • Coldwater
  • Screwdriver
  • Spray bottle


  1. Use a water-based degreaser to loosen the rust

When using heat, it is advisable to use water-based detergents for loosening the screws rather than using penetrating oil.

This is because oil or other chemicals can easily catch on fire. It should be easy to get the water-based degreaser from a home improvement store with ease.

You can still make one at home using baking soda or vinegar.

  1. Use leather gloves and keep the fire extinguisher close

You should always take full safety measures to avoid any accidents. Since you will be working with heat, consider wearing leather gloves and keeping the fire extinguisher nearby to put out the fire in case one arises.

Read More:  Can You Change Spark Plugs When Engine Is Hot? [Correct Temperature]

Always wipe off the flammable chemicals from the rusted screws on the license to keep the chances of ending up with a fire low.

  1. Heat up the rusted screws

Start heating up the rusted screws on the license plate using the gas torch until it starts to smoke.

Getting a butane or propane gas torch should be safe for this method. Keep the flame close to the screw heating it until you see smoke coming out of the screw.

It is advisable that you do not overheat the screw. When the screw starts to turn red, take away the flame.

  1. Soak the screws with cold water

Once the screws are hot, you need to immediately spray the screws with cold water. The aim of this process is to contract the screw rapidly.

If you keep repeating the process where you heat to expand and cool the screw rapidly, it ends up being loose. This makes it easier to unscrew it from the license plate.

  1. Use a screwdriver to remove the rusted screws

If you repeat heating and cooling rapidly 3 to 4 times, you will note that it is now easier to remove the rusted screws from the license plate.

Since you are no longer heating the screws, consider using penetrating oil to further loosen the rusted license plate screws.

Method 4: Removing Stripped Rusted Screws

The worst is when you have to remove the rusted screws, but they are stripped. This means that there is no groove for you to insert the screwdriver head and start loosening.

Read More:  Why Does My Check Engine Light Comes ON And OFF [Causes and Fixes]

If that is the case, follow the method mentioned below to get it done.

What You Will Need

  • Protective goggles
  • Leather gloves
  • Rotary tool
  • Screwdriver


  1. Use heavy leather gloves and the protective goggles

Since you will be working with a power tool, it is essential that you always wear gloves to protect your hands.

Also, protect your eyes by wearing goggles too. The goggles are important for protecting your eyes from metal fragments.

  1. Make a groove using a rotary tool

Rotary tools will have detachable heads that you can swap depending on the applications. Use the right attachment to make a groove in the head of the screwdriver.

Work slowly with the rotary tool to end up with the right slot size for your screwdriver.

  1. Loosen the screws

You can now use the other methods mentioned above to loosen the rusted screws before you can attempt to remove them from the license plate.

Most people will have access to penetrating oil, so consider using it for this part.

  1. Remove the screws

With the screws now loose, you can continue to remove them from the license plate. Keep on adding more penetrating oil to loosen the screws further if they get loose.

If you find that the groove is narrow, use the rotary tool to expand it.

In Summary

There is no doubt that right now you have a clear understanding of how to remove rusted license plate screws.

Follow the steps we have mentioned above to have an easier time getting the screws off the license plate.

Read More:  How to Remove Spark Plug Boot That Is Stuck? [Step-By-Step Guide]

If you have to use fire or power tools, make sure to keep in mind the safety measures to avoid any accidents.

Leave a Comment