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  • Writer's pictureJeff Guymon

License Plate Screws

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

There are many different types of license plate screws and you should know which types are the best for your vehicle. License plates screws can seem complicated when thinking of the different shapes, sizes, types, and uses. You may be wondering the following frequently asked questions:

  • What kind of screws do I need for my license plates?

  • Are all license plate screws the same?

  • How do I screw my license plate in?

  • Where’s the best place to get license plate screws?

  • How do I repair screws on my license plate?

  • How to avoid using license plate screws?

The topic of license plate screws can appear complicated, however, this article will walk you through the answers to each question above and serve as your complete guide of license plate screws.

What kind of license plate screws do I need for my car?

There are two different types of license plate screws: those that use metric measurements and those that use standard measurements. Vehicles manufactured in the United States use the imperial system of measurement for their sheet metal screws measuring their screw dimensions in inches or gauges. Whereas the rest of the world has adopted the metric system for their screws, with all dimensions being measured in millimeters (mm). The exception to this rule is that most British cars use a combination of standard and metric fasteners to secure wider plates.

Screw measurements can be confusing, so below are examples of a metric and imperial measurement:

“M5x.08 x 12mm”

  • M5 = Metric 5mm screw shaft diameter

    • The shaft is the elongated part of the screw

  • 0.8 = Thread pitch in millimeters

    • This is the distance between threads

  • 12mm = Screw length

    • The screw length is measured from under the screw head (this excludes flat-head screws)

Are all license plate screws the same?

Screws that are made specifically for certain models and manufacturers are called Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) screws. Each manufacturer produces different sizes and materials of screws, so cars made by different manufacturers require different license plate screws. For example, there are screws with a truss-head, slotted hex, slotted truss, hex heads, etc.

You can buy replacement OEM screws, simple stainless steel screws, license plate bolts, or nylon license plate fasteners online or at any automotive shop (see the heading “Where Can I Buy License Plate Screws?” below).

How do I screw my license plate in?

You can purchase a dealer license plate thumb, which is a type of tool that makes screwing in plates easier. Most U.S. and European DMVs take care of front license plate screws for you, however you might want to request to screw in your plates yourself. Make sure you have the following items on hand before starting:

  • New license plate

  • Flathead or Phillips-head screwdriver

  • Screws

Follow the steps below to screw license plates into your rear and front bumpers.

  1. Start at the back of the car to screw in your rear bumper

  2. If you have an old license plate, unscrew it. There should be two screws on the top of the plate's edge.

    1. Use a flat-head or a Phillips screwdriver

  3. Place your screws in a safe spot

  4. Remove the license plate frame; set it aside

  5. Align the holes of your new plate with those on the bumper

  6. Place the frame over the plate

  7. Screw in the two screws tightly

  8. Tug on the plate to make sure it's secure

  9. Repeat the process with the front bumper

Read our “Do I Need a Front License Plate and How to Mount It?” article to learn the ins and outs of front license plates.

Where’s the best place to buy license plate screws?

You can buy license plate screws from your dealer, at any automotive store or online. We have linked below some reputable online license plate screw suppliers.


When buying screws, pay attention to screw length. Your screw length should match not just the length of the hole, but it must account for the whole registration mount. The entire registration mount includes:

  • Washers

  • Screw covers with a base

  • Clear license plate cover (if legal)

  • License plate frame

  • License plate

  • Frame gasket

  • Spacers

All of the above components can easily add up to over 12mm. Your screws will not fit securely if they are either too short or too long.

You should also familiarize yourself with the many different types of materials for screws. Below is a list of metal screw materials:

How do I repair screws on my license plate?

You can repair damaged screw holes by purchasing black nylon inserts or plastic retainer kits. If you notice corrosion, you may want to take a look at the screws themselves. Cross threading can happen if the screw was inserted at an angle, causing the threads of the bolt to shift off-center. This damages the “female threads,” or tiny threads along the shaft, of the screw. In order to fix it, you must cut new threads into the damaged, “female” area of the bolt. These new cuts will fix the screw over time.

Here is a helpful video to show you how to repair a cross-threaded bolt:

How can I avoid using license plate screws?

There are many alternatives to the usual screw-secured front license plate. You can buy license plate fasteners such as an adhesive mount, tow hook, or even a magnetic mount in order to save your vehicle from bumper damage caused by license plate screws.

Adhesive mounts

Adhesive mounting brackets use a strong adhesive to secure the license plate to the bumper. Since adhesive mounts vary by make and model of the vehicle, be sure to go to your local automotive store’s cruiser accessories section or do some research online to find out which mount will work best.

How to secure an adhesive mount:

  1. Clean the mounting site of your car with alcohol wipes in order to make the adhesive stick

  2. Make sure you center the mount by hovering it over the mounting site

    1. Leave the protective film on while doing this

  3. Remove the protective film and place the bracket onto your bumper

  4. Screw your license plate to your mounting bracket

Tow hook

You can use your car’s tow hook in order to fasten your front license plate.

How to install a tow hook bracket:

  1. Locate your tow hook anchor

    1. Most vehicles have a plastic plate covering your tow hook, press the plate and your tow hook should pop out

  2. Screw a tow hook stud into your tow hook anchor, then turn it clockwise until it tightens

  3. Screw a bolt through the hole located in the middle of your bracket and through the tow hook stud

    1. Use a ratchet to turn the bolt clockwise until it tightens

  4. Screw-in your license plate to your bracket

Magnetic Mounting Bracket

Installing a magnetic mounting bracket is a complicated process. You must start with detaching the front bumper and then self-tapping magnet. After this, you will mount the license plate bracket, re-attach the bumper, and finally secure the license plate over top.

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