How Do You Remove A License Plate Screw That Keeps Spinning?

License plate screws serve a seemingly mundane purpose: holding our vehicle’s license plates securely in place. However, any vehicle owner who has experienced the exasperating issue of a spinning license plate screw knows that it can turn a simple task into a maddening ordeal. Many of you face difficulty to remove a license plate screw that keeps spinning. In this article, we will delve into the perplexing problem of license plate screws that just won’t stay put. We will not only explore the reasons behind this annoyance but also equip you with the knowledge and techniques needed to overcome it. So, fasten your seatbelts, and let’s navigate the frustrating world of spinning license plate screws.

Understanding the Issue

License plate screws may seem like a minor vehicle component, but when they decide to misbehave, it can be a source of immense frustration. In this section, we will uncover the reasons why license plate screws sometimes become stuck and seem to spin endlessly, as well as emphasize the critical importance of addressing this issue promptly.

Reasons for Spinning License Plate Screws

  • Corrosion and Rust: Over time, exposure to the elements can cause screws to rust or corrode, making them difficult to turn.
  • Poor Installation: Incorrect installation or over-tightening can strip the threads or damage the screw head, leading to spinning.
  • Vibration and Wear: Constant vibrations from driving can gradually loosen screws, causing them to spin freely.
  • Low-Quality Screws: Inferior-quality screws are more prone to wear and degradation, exacerbating the problem.

The Importance of Prompt Resolution

Spinning license plate screws might appear as a minor inconvenience, but they can have significant implications for vehicle owners:

  • Legal Compliance: A loose or spinning license plate can lead to legal troubles as it may not meet state regulations.
  • Safety Concerns: A loose license plate can obstruct visibility or even fall off, posing safety hazards to the driver and others on the road.
  • Vehicle Aesthetics: A misaligned or wobbly license plate can negatively impact your vehicle’s appearance and potentially reduce its resale value.
  • Preventing Further Damage: Ignoring the issue can lead to more extensive damage, making it even harder and costlier to fix.
  • Peace of Mind: Addressing the problem promptly ensures that your license plate stays securely in place, providing peace of mind while driving.

Understanding why spinning license plate screws occur and realizing the importance of timely resolution is the first step toward effectively dealing with this common annoyance.

How Do You Remove a License Plate Screw That Keeps Spinning?

How Do You Remove a License Plate Screw That Keeps Spinning?

Essential Tools and Materials

Removing a spinning license plate screw is a task that requires the right tools and materials to be executed effectively and safely. In this section, we will compile a list of the essential items you’ll need for the removal process, and we’ll underscore the critical importance of safety gear.

Tools for License Plate Screw Removal:

  • Pliers: A pair of locking pliers or vice grips for a strong grip on the screw.
  • Flathead Screwdriver: To create torque and leverage.
  • Impact Driver: Especially useful for stubborn screws; it provides powerful rotational force.
  • Electric Drill: Equipped with a suitable screwdriver bit or extractor for high-speed removal.
  • Screw Extractor Kit: For extracting damaged or stripped screws.


  • Penetrating Oil or Lubricant: To help loosen corroded or rusted screws.
  • Replacement Screws: In case the existing ones are damaged or need replacing.
  • Safety Glasses: Protect your eyes from any debris or metal fragments that may dislodge during the process.
  • Gloves: Ensure a secure grip and protect your hands.
  • Safety Mask: For added protection against dust and debris.
  • Rags or Towels: To clean the area and wipe off excess lubricant.
  • Safety First Aid Kit: In case of minor accidents or injuries during the process.

Importance of Safety Gear:

When dealing with spinning license plate screws, safety should be your utmost priority. Here’s why safety gear is essential:

  • Eye Protection: Safety glasses shield your eyes from flying debris or metal shards that can result from screw removal.
  • Hand Protection: Gloves provide a secure grip on tools and safeguard your hands from sharp edges or potential injuries.
  • Respiratory Protection: A safety mask helps protect against inhaling dust and fumes that may be generated during the process.
  • First Aid Kit: Accidents can happen, and having a basic first aid kit nearby ensures that you’re prepared for any minor injuries.

Prioritize safety by using the appropriate tools and materials and wearing the necessary safety gear to ensure a successful and secure license plate screw removal process.

Step-by-Step Removal

How Do You Remove A License Plate Screw That Keeps Spinning?

Follow these steps to remove that troublesome license plate screw:

  1. Apply Penetrating Lubricant

Begin by spraying a generous amount of penetrating lubricant, like WD-40, onto the screw. Allow it to penetrate for at least 10-15 minutes. This will help loosen rust and make the screw easier to turn.

  1. Attempt Manual Removal

Using an adjustable wrench or pliers, try to turn the screw counterclockwise (lefty loosey). Apply steady pressure while turning. If it starts to budge, continue until it’s completely removed.

  1. Apply Heat (If Needed)

For stubborn rust, use a heat gun or propane torch to apply heat directly to the screw. Heat can help expand the metal and break the rust’s grip. Be cautious and wear safety goggles and gloves when using this method.

  1. Use a Screwdriver

If the screw remains uncooperative, try using a screwdriver to create more torque. Place the screwdriver’s tip into the screw’s head and apply force while turning counterclockwise.

  1. Grip and Turn

In cases of stripped threads, use pliers to grip the screw firmly and turn it counterclockwise. Ensure a strong grip to prevent further damage.

  1. Seek Professional Help

If all else fails, consider seeking help from a professional mechanic or auto body shop. They have specialized tools and expertise to tackle stubborn screws without causing damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Remove A License Plate Screw That Keeps Spinning?

Can I use a power drill to remove the screw?

While it’s possible, using a power drill can be risky, as it may strip the screw further or damage the mounting hole. It’s best to attempt manual methods first.

What should I do if the screw breaks during removal?

If the screw breaks off, you’ll need to extract the remaining portion using a screw extractor tool. This may require drilling a small hole into the screw for extraction.

Is it essential to replace the screw?

Yes, it’s crucial to replace the old screw with a new one to ensure your license plate remains securely attached.

How can I prevent this issue in the future?

To prevent similar problems, periodically check and lubricate your license plate screws to prevent rust buildup. Avoid over-tightening during installation.

Can I use household lubricants instead of WD-40?

While WD-40 is highly effective, other penetrating lubricants or even a mixture of vinegar and water can be used as alternatives.

What if the screw is in a hard-to-reach area?

In such cases, consider using a flexible shaft or extension for your tools to access tight spaces.


Dealing with a license plate screw that keeps spinning can be a frustrating experience, but with the right tools and techniques, you can overcome this challenge. Remember to take your time, apply lubricant generously, and use the appropriate tools to ensure a successful removal process. In the end, your license plate will be securely attached, and you’ll have gained valuable DIY skills.

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