How to Remove Rusted License Plate Screws?

Few days back, a friend called to ask me how to remove rusted license plate screws from his old car to fix the plate on a new one. I suggested him these simple steps to follow and voila the screws came off faster than you can imagine. So, I thought of sharing those steps with you as they may be helpful to you. 

Detaching rusted screws from a license plate can be difficult and even frustrating if you don’t have the proper knowledge; However, if you follow the right steps and work with the right tools in your toolbox, the job becomes easy and faster. Please read on to see the different methods and steps to follow.

how to remove rusted license plate screws

How to Remove Rusted License Plate Screw

I love cars and also love to work on them, but simple tasks like removing rusted license plate screws can become frustrating when the screws are not yielding. So, what are the best ways to get the job done? Here are my sure bet methods below.

You can remove the rusted license plate screw by destroying the bond the screw has with the rust. One of the ways to achieve such is by applying a rust remover to the screws to remove some of the rust and make it easier to remove the screw with a screwdriver. The methods and their steps include:

Read Also: What size are license plate screws?

First Method: Using a Lubricant and Simple Tools

What you’ll need are:

  • A lubricant or Penetrating Oil
  • Screwdriver
  • A spray bottle
  • A steel brush
  • White vinegar
  • An impact wrench

Steps to Follow:

Step One: pour some white vinegar on the rusted screws or dip cotton wool in the vinegar and use it to wipe the screws carefully. Then, leave it for 10 minutes to allow the acetic acid on the vinegar to cut through the rust and break the bond.

Step Two: use a steel brush to scrub as much rust off the screws as possible. It is advisable to use a brush with stainless steel strippers as they last for a long time and does not hold rust.

Step Three: After removing the rust, pour a lubricant or penetrating oil into a spray bottle and spray it on the screws; Leave it for 15 minutes after spraying to allow the oil to dissolve with the rust and loosen the screw faster.

Step Four: now remove the screws using a screwdriver and ensure you put in some strength to have it come out faster. If it’s still strong and you need a better grip on the screw, you can employ the impact wrench, which can be firmer and has a sturdy torque for a firm grip.

Second Method: Using a Rotary Tool

This method is best if the screws head is off and you need stripped license plate screw hole. It’ll help you get the groove to insert the tool to loosen the screw.

 What you’ll need are:

  • Rotary tool
  • Protective eyeglasses
  • Screwdriver
  • White vinegar
  • Leather gloves

Steps to Follow:

Step One: pour some white vinegar into a spray bottle, and apply it on the rusted screws and let it stay for about 10 minutes. Get a soft brush and use it to scrub the rust off the screws.

Step Two: wear your quality leather gloves and protective eyeglasses as you proceed to work. The gloves play a vital role in protecting the hands from burns, and the eyes from sparks and pieces of metals.

Step Three: get the rotary tool, attach the blade to it, and begin to make a groove on the screws. Work until you have a deep groove that can fit the head of the screwdriver appropriately.  

Step Four: after making the groove, spray some lubricant or penetrating oil on the screws to make its removal process easy. Leave it for some minutes.

Step Five: proceed to remove the screws using a screwdriver. You’ll have to unscrew them one after the other, and you may have to apply more lubricant as you work if such need arises. The screws should all be out in no time.

Third Method: Using Heat

If you’re looking for how to remove license plate screws that are stuck with heat, then this method is for you. It is effective as the heat melts the metal and causes its expansion and easy removal.

What you’ll need are:

  • Fire extinguisher
  • Screwdriver
  • Solution of vinegar and baking soda
  • Leather gloves
  • Gas torch
  • Spray bottle
  • Chilled water

Steps to Follow:

Step One: make a vinegar-baking powder solution by combining vinegar, baking soda, and detergent with a cup of water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on the rusted screws, then use a soft cloth to clean them.

The solution is not flammable and will break the rust bond, making it easier for the screws to come off the license plate.

Step Two: put on your heat-resistant leather gloves and keep the fire extinguisher handy in case there’s a need for it. These gears will ensure your safety while working with fire.

Step Three: use the gas torch to apply heat to the rusted screws. Keep applying heat until the screws become red, and then stop the flames when the screws are red. Pour chilled water immediately on the screws to make them cool down. Repeat the heating/cooling process about four times on each of the screws to easily remove them.

Step Four: apply penetrating oil or lubricant on the screws and begin to unscrew them using a screwdriver. The screws should come off easily at this point.

How to Remove a Broken Rusted License Plate Screw?

You can remove a broken, rusted license plate screw with the help of a hollow extractor.

What you’ll need:

  • Liquid wrench
  • Panel remover tool set
  • Vise grips
  • Needle nose vise grips

Steps to Follow:

Soak the broken screw with a liquid wrench and leave it for some minutes. Access the screw from the rare, and place the needle nose vise grip on it and twist it both ways till it becomes loose to an extent. Then, place the vise grips on the screws and begin to unscrew them until the screw comes out.

how to remove old rusted license plate screws

Read Also: How To Fix License Plate Light Wiring?

Frequently Asked Questions FAQs

Will wd40 loosen bolts?

Yes, wd40 helps to loosen bolts because it is formulated to melt rust and deposits. You can use it by applying some drops on the bolt and leaving it for some minutes, then begin to work on removing the bolts. They would have loosened and ready to come off.

Can WD-40 remove rust?

Yes, Wd-40 can remove rust. It is a lubricant that works through rust to loosen the bonds between metals so you can easily take the rust off the metal surface. You’ll apply the lubricant to the rusted surface and let it sit for some minutes.

Then, use a scouring pad or a brush to scrub the rust off the affected surface. The rust should come off easily, but if all the rust doesn’t come off the first time, you can reapply the wd40, wait, and scrub again until the surface is rust-free.

Why are my screws not coming out?

One of the reasons why your screw is not coming out could be that the screws are rusted and stuck. If that’s the case, a lubricant or penetrating oil such as wd40 can help. You’ll have to apply it on the stuck screw, wait for some minutes, and try to unscrew it.

Can I unscrew a screw without wd40?

Yes, you can, but it’ll require more elbow power. Begin by tapping the screw head of the screwdriver to break the rust and particles. Then, grip the screw head with a vice grip and move the screw anticlockwise. You can also use a blow torch to apply heat to help loosen the screw before unscrewing it with vice grips.

Can I use super glue to remove a stripped screw?

It is possible to use super glue to get rid of a stripped screw, but it’s not guaranteed and not advisable as it can damage the screw. However, to use this method, fill the gaps created by the stripped screw with cyanoacrylate glue. Leave it to dry, and then use the screwdriver to undo the screw.

Read Also: Find Driver’s License Number by SSN in all States in the USA

Removing Rusted License Plate Screws (YouTube Video)

Final Words

There you have it; the methods above are how to remove rusted license plate screws. All the methods are effective, so you can choose the one that suits you best. However, it is necessary to apply the advised safety measures while working to ensure a safe and happy outcome.


Hi there, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanic (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I worked as a Mechanic and Mechanic Supervisor for over fifteen years at Global Rebound Automotive companies - Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others. Now, I enjoy my new role of leading a team of automotive experts (in their respective fields) and publish new content on a regular basis on my website and social media.

Recent Posts