License Plate Screw Is Stuck – How to Get It Out

If you haven’t inspected your car’s plate number for some time, you may not be able to remove its screws if you need to. So, if your license plate is stuck – how to get it out will be quite a hassle. How do you do it?

Get a screwdriver that is right for the size of the screw on the license plate, whether it is Philips or flat screwdriver. Size PH-3 also called number 3, will fit snugly and not slip easily. Now, use your weak hand and press down firmly on the screwdriver handle. While you are doing this, use your strong hand to twist the screwdriver. 

Another way is to use a pair of vice grips. Clamp the suckers of the vice, grip down on the head of the screw, and then twist it. If the screw does not move, try twisting it the other way. You may break the head, but it can also cause the screw to give way.

Read on to learn more about how to get a stuck license plate screw out and the different ways you can remove it.

License Plate Screw Is Stuck

license plate screw is stuck

Use the Right Screwdriver Size

Removing an old screw stuck on a license plate is not an unsolvable problem. You need the right size of a screwdriver to do it. Usually, the size PH-3 screwdriver is the one that will fit snuggly and will not easily slip out. Press down on the screwdriver with your weak hand and twist the screwdriver with your strong hand at the same time.

Use a Pair of Vice Grips

You can also use a pair of vice grips. Clamp the suckers of the vice grips on the screw head and twist it. If the screw doesn’t budge, try twisting it the other way. The head may break, but it may give in if you do it carefully.

Rusted License Plate Screw

One of the most common reasons the license plate screw won’t budge is rust or corrosion. Since license plates and their screws are exposed to the elements, they get rusted. If the screws were very tight when they were first installed, and they get rusted over time, it will be tough to unscrew them.

But don’t worry. There are many ways to unscrew old and rusted screws. The rest of this article will discuss the details of the different ways to unscrew them.

To replace the screw, see our article on the right license plate screw size.

How to Remove Stuck License Plate Screws

my license plate screw is stuck

Here are some things you could use to remove rusted or stuck license plate screws:

1. Vinegar

Vinegar is not just for cooking. You can also use it if your license plate screw is stuck. Vinegar is also effective in removing rust from screws. The only thing you need to do is get some white vinegar and pour some of it on the stubborn screws.

How to Use

  • An alternate way is to soak a piece of cloth with white vinegar and rub or wipe it over the head of the rusted screw.
  • Give the vinegar some time to do its work. This could be from 10 to 15 minutes.
  • After that, use a flat screwdriver of the right size and unscrew the stubborn screw.
  • You can also use a fine brush or scrub to remove the rust from the screw.
  • If necessary, pour more vinegar on the screw.

2. A Pair of Vise Grips

If the slot or the drive of the screw head is already damaged, you can no longer use a flat screw or a Philips screwdriver. The only hand tool you can use here is a pair of vice grips.

How to Use

  • Clamp the head of the screw with the suckers of the vice grip and tighten it sufficiently.
  • Now, turn the stubborn screw counterclockwise to loosen it from the socket’s threads. Try turning it clockwise to rock it from the threads if it doesn’t budge.
  • Once you feel that it gives way, carefully turn the vice grip counterclockwise. Hopefully, the screw will give in.

3. Penetrating Oil

You can also spray penetrating oil to the stubborn screw. Soak the screw with this penetrating oil for about 15 minutes before attempting to unscrew it. Most penetrating oils are available in spray cans. They also come with a nozzle so you can direct the spray specifically to just one spot.

How to Use

  • Spray the oil on the back of the license plate, where the rest of the screw is located. This will help loosen the screw from the threads of the screw hole.
  • Once you determine that the oil has done its work, you can then use your screwdriver to unscrew the stuck screw.

4. Torque Wrench

If the license plate screw doesn’t budge from its hole, you can also use an impact or torque wrench. Only force can remove the screw from its place, and a torque wrench can deliver that kind of force. This special wrench is designed to provide increased rotational torque.

How to Use

  • Spray penetrating oil on the screw. This will increase your chances of success.
  • Use the torque wrench to remove the screw.

The torque wrench is also safe to use because you can control the rotational force that will remove the screw from the plate.

5. Rotary Tool for Stripped Screws

license plate screw rusted stuck

If the groove of the screw is already stripped, there is no place where you can put the tip of your flathead or Philips screw to unscrew the stubborn screw. In this situation, you can use a rotary tool to create a slot the size of your flat screwdriver.

If the right slot is created on the stripped screw, you can now use your flathead screwdriver to unscrew the screw from its seat.


  • Rotary tool
  • Screwdriver
  • Penetrating oil
  • Protective gear such as gloves, goggles, etc.

How to Use

  • Get the rotary tool with the right attachment that can create the right groove size on the head of the stripped screw.
  • Wear safety goggles and safety gloves as you create the groove on the screw head. Small bits of metal can fly towards your eyes or your hands.
  • See to it that the size and depth of the groove is sufficient enough for your screw driver.
  • Once sufficient groove is created on the screw head, you can now use your flathead screw driver to unscrew the screw from its seat.
  • But before you start removing the screw, spray a generous amount of penetrating oil to the screw to aid in its removal.
  • Once the penetrating oil has done its work, use your flathead to remove the screw from its seat.

Again, the license plate screw is stuck – how to remove it? Get a hammer and screwdriver. Then, upon placing the screwdriver in the slot, use the hammer to hit the screwdriver’s head. You can also spray the screw with penetrating oil, then wait for 15 minutes before you try to loosen the screw again.

6. Heat

If the screw is stubborn and can resist every trick in the book, you can use heat to soften its resistance. Heating the metal screw will expand it, making it more pliable to the force delivered through the screwdriver.


  • Gas torch
  • Screwdriver
  • Water-based detergent or degreaser
  • Cold water
  • Fire extinguisher
  • A pair of hand gloves

How to Use

  • For rusted screws, you need to clean them first with a detergent or water-based degreaser. Penetrating oil or other oil-based substances cannot be used here because you will apply heat to the screws. You can use vinegar or baking soda if you want to save money.
  • Use the gas torch to heat the screws. Wait until smoke comes out from the screws. Stop heating the screws when they have turned red. Make sure that you are not overheating them. At this stage, the screws have already expanded since they are made of metal.
  • Immediately, douse the screws with cold water. This will cause the metal screws to contract.
  • Repeat steps 2 and 3 consecutively, for around three to four times. This will cause the screws to loosen from their holes.
  • Once you see that all the screws are loosen up, use your screwdriver to remove them from their holes on the license plate.

Be always ready with the fire extinguisher. It should be at your side just in case the fire gets out of control.

Stainless Steel vs Metal Screws

There’s one critical thing that you can do to save yourself from all the trouble of removing stubborn screws from your license plate.

Ordinary metal screws will always rust and deteriorate if exposed constantly to damaging elements. However, screws made of stainless steel are exceptionally resistant to corrosion and rust. If you don’t want to spend more time than you want to spend on screws, use stainless steel screws on your license plates.

Conclusion: License Plate Screw Is Stuck

To unscrew a stuck screw on our license plate, you need to use a screwdriver that is right for the size of the screw on the license plate, whether it is Philips or flat screwdriver. Usually, size PH-3 also called number 3, will not slip easily from the screw slot.

Now, press down firmly on the screwdriver handle with your weak hand. At the same time, twist the screwdriver with your strong hand. If the screw is stubborn, you can also use a pair of vice grips to remove it.

Related reading:

Transfer License Plates to a New Car

How Long to Get New License Plates from Dealer