How Do I Remove Rusted License Plate Screws?

Oregon Department of Transportation/CC-BY 2.0

Remove a stuck license plate screw by applying penetrating oil, allowing time and tapping with a hammer. If the screwdriver slot strips, file the head to create flat sides, and then unscrew using an adjustable wrench. The process requires patience and takes up to 1 hour.

  1. Spray with penetrating oil

    Penetrating oil helps to dissolve rust and reduces the torque required to unscrew a bolt. Apply the oil as close to where the screw threads into the metal as possible, and allow at least 15 minutes.

  2. Hit it with a hammer

    Some penetrating oils depend on the vibration caused by hitting the screw with a hammer to move the lubricant to where the screw is stuck. Use a few sharp blows to distribute the oil before attempting to loosen the screw.

  3. File square edges

    The rounded head of a screw makes it difficult to grip with any other tools. If the screwdriver slot is stripped, use a file to cut two square edges on opposite sides of the screw head. Use an adjustable wrench to turn the screw and loosen it.

  4. Replace with new screws

    Make the job easier for the next time you remove the license plates by replacing the screws you remove with new ones. Apply antiseize lubricants to the threads before inserting them in the holes.