license plate
DIY Auto Repair

The Ultimate Guide on How to Install a License Plate

Driving around without a license plate is illegal. You become a target for any police officer who sees you. While you may get off with a warning or a ticket, you could also have your car towed.

Save yourself a headache and learn how to install a license plate on your car in a few simple steps.

Get Your Supplies

First, start by gathering the items necessary for this project. You will need a flathead screwdriver, your new validation sticker, and the right screws.

Brand new cars often come with license plate covers or license plate frames. Check your glove compartment for this as well as the screws needed.

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The next steps will depend on if your car already had a license plate before and has predrilled holes or not.

If Your Car Has Predrilled Holes on the Bumper

If your car has had license plates installed in the past, follow these simple steps.

Attach the Validation Tag

Remove the old expiry tags if you are using your existing license plates. You may need to use the screwdriver to pry off the old stickers.

Clean the area with a clean cloth to ensure that the new stickers adhere well. Stick the new stickers in the top corners of your license plate.

Do not stick the new sticker on top of the old sticker. The bonding agent of previous stickers will begin to weaken over time. This could cause your old stickers to fall off with the new sticker attached.

Play it safe and do this right to avoid a trip to the DMV.

Attach the Plates

If your car has predrilled holes on the bumper, use these to line up your license plate and screw it in by turning the screw clockwise with a screwdriver. If your plate includes a frame, line the holes up with both the plate and the frame and then insert the screws.

Make sure the plate is secure but not overly tight. If you worry about license plate theft, you can get security screws that are the same size.

Don’t forget to put your vehicle’s registration receipt in your glove box together with the owner’s manual and insurance slip. If you bought a used car without an owner’s manual, download a copy of your owner’s manual and print a copy to store in your glove box.

Installing Plates Without Drilling

If you don’t want to drill into your bumper, you can buy an adhesive-mounted bracket.

Make sure to choose a bracket that will fit your car’s make and model. First, clean the front of your bumper with rubbing alcohol. For the adhesive to properly stick, the area needs to be clean.

Let the bumper air dry or wipe it dry with a microfiber cloth.

Then, without peeling off the protective film, hold up the bracket in place to gauge how it will fit. This is your final chance to make sure it is the right size for your car. If it doesn’t line up with the bumper, it is the wrong kind of bracket.

Next, remove the protective film on the back of the bracket and place it onto the bumper. Then, screw the license plate to the bracket using a screwdriver. If your plate comes with a frame, go ahead and push the screw through both the plate and frame before attaching to the bracket.

If you have a Tow Hook Bracket

Some cars have a tow hook anchor that you can use to install your license plate. Buy a tow hook license plate bracket kit that will come with everything you need.

First, find the tow hook anchor and take off the plastic panel that covers it. It is usually a small rectangle that you can press to pop the cover out (like a gas tank cover).

Now, screw in your kit’s tow hook stud. Insert the threaded end of the stud into the anchor slot. Turn it clockwise to tighten.

Next, push the bolt through the holes to attach the bracket plate to the tow hook stud. Turn this bolt clockwise with your fingers as far as it will go and then use a ratchet to tighten it fully.

Now that the bracket is in place, you can attach the license plate to the bracket with a screwdriver. Again, if you have a license plate frame, screw both this frame and the plate into the bracket at the same time.

Drilling Holes into the Front Bumper

If your car does not have predrilled holes and you want to attach your license plate using screws, you can drills holes yourself.

Before you start you need to find out if you have a metal front bumper or one made out of fiberglass. Drilling into metal is trickier so if you have never done it before, we recommend using the adhesive method instead.

If your bumper is fiberglass, you’re good to get started. First, measure your bumper with a measuring tape and mark the center with a pen or scotch tape. Find the middle of the height and mark that spot.

Hold up the license plate bracket over this middle point and draw guide marks where the holes are. If you are not using a bracket, draw marks where the plate’s holes are.

Now, use a drill and a 1/8 inch drill bit to make shallow pilot holes in the bumper. These are just pilot holes so you don’t want to drill any deeper than 1/8 inch deep.

Now you are ready to mount the bracket to the bumper. Line up the holes you just drilled with the holes in the bracket and use screws to attach the bracket to the bumper.

Next, attach the license plate to the bracket with screws and a screwdriver. If you’re not using a bracket, just screw the license plate directly to your bumper.

You’ve Installed Your License Plate!

You did it! Your license plate is now securely attached to your car. We hope this article has helped you feel confident in performing this important car task.

Learn more about DIY auto repairs at Motor Era. You’ll find easy-to-follow instruction for both beginner mechanics and auto repair hobbyists.