Question About a Car Issue

A couple of years ago, the Illinois DoT decided to switch over all of our license plates to a new design. I got my new plate and removed the left screw on my old license plate, but I could NOT get the screw on the right side to turn. From what I could tell, it was rusted on. So I took the car to get my oil changed and asked if they could remove it - they couldn’t do it, so they just popped the top off so I could get the old plate off.

Well, now it’s two years later and that screw on the right is still stuck in there, but it has no head so you can’t even think of using a screwdriver on it. Anybody know a way to get the screw out of there so I can put in a new one and connect my license plate on both sides? Or, at the very least, does anyone know where I could take my car so someone else could do it?

I’d have some serious doubts taking a car in for service to a place that couldn’t figure out how to remove a stuck screw.

If there’s enough of the screw left sticking up, you might try soaking it with WD-40 for a bit, then grab on to what little is left with a pair of vice grips and see if you can twist it out.

If all else fails, drill it out. You may need to take a dremel to it to get the remains of the screw flat with the metal so the drill bit doesn’t keep slipping off.

One last thought, make sure you use nylon screws to put the new license plate on, just to be sure you never have to go through this again.

Easy. Take a Dremel or similar cutting tool and cut a notch in the top of the screw (actually, I’ll bet it’s a bolt, but…whatever). You now can take a flat-tip screwdriver and turn the screw.

But wait! What if that notch gets mutilated like the original?

Very well; spray vinegar all over that bad boy, and let it penetrate and start working on the rust. Then spray on WD-40 and let that penetrate, lubricate, and displace moisture. Then get yourself an impact driver (no, not that pneumatic thing – a hand impact driver turns when you hit it with a hammer) and pound that sucker right off.

As above grind the head or exposed end of the screw flat.
Use a center drill to start, and then a smaller than tap size drill to drill into the screw.
Last use an “Eeasy Out” or a new screw extractor designed for your type of problem from “Ace (is the place) Hardware” store.

Alternatively, once a hole is drilled through you can use larger and larger drills untill the bolt threads are free, run a tap through to clean up the threads and use a nylon screw or grease the new bolt to minimize rust.

From my experience with seized license plate screws, I wouldn’t hold any hope that it’s going to work loose with WD-40. I’ve never tried vinegar.

Drilling it out can work. It can be tedious, especially if the drill bits aren’t really sharp. It’s important to get the hole well centered in the screw. That can be quite tricky with such a small diameter screw.

An effective method is to apply serious heat, like from an acetylene torch. The main limitation is collateral damage – paint or plastic in the area will be ruined. But if you can safely heat it, and there’s something to grab onto to twist (making a slot as mentioned, or the screw sticking out the front or back of its hole), this is the easiest way.

You can get a screw extractor at the hardware store.

Great, I’ll look into all of your suggestions. Thanks, everyone!

In my experience a screw extractor works only in a few specific conditions. If the fastener is rusted so bad that it broke, the smaller screw extractor is not likely to work.

If you can safely hit it with a torch; do it. Just be ready to turn it after heating.

You can just drill the whole bolt out and tap the drilled hole.

What is the working area like? How is it threaded now?