Maintenance is usually the first thing most people think of concerning car-related responsibilities. You have to invest time and money into your automobile to keep it running smoothly and safely.
It can be easy to overlook the administrative obligations involved, though. Regulations and laws can change, leaving you in the lurch. You may not be aware that there’s an issue until you get pulled over and receive a fine.
Maybe this has already happened to you? Or, you’ve caught wind of state requirements, and you want to avoid trouble?
In this article, we detail how to install a license plate frame.
Below, you’ll learn how to perform this simple task at home and all the tools you’ll need to get the job done. We guide you every step of the way for a painless installation, including how and where to get your plates and frames.
You’ll also discover the alternatives you have if the DIY option isn’t right for you.
Skill Level: Beginner.
Time to Complete: 10–15 minutes.
- Electric drill.
- Drill bits.
- Standard-sized license plate screws (ensure your vehicle doesn’t have special measurements).
- Bubble level.
- Socket wrench.
- Sockets of varying sizes.
- Hardware included with or specified by the OEM frame’s installation instructions.
Contents - Click to Jump to Section
Buying New Plates
The installation can’t proceed without these.
In some states, if you have a plate lost, stolen or damaged so it’s illegible, you’ll have to surrender your current plates and order new ones.
For instance, in California, this rule applies to any circumstance where you don’t have both plates. This applies whether the front one was stolen, lost or damaged to the point that it’s no longer legible.
You’ll get front and rear plates with a different number. You also have the choice to customize or personalize the number-and-letter combination.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
Check the DMV website for your state to find the relevant information. You’ll need to fill out the appropriate form and send it in, along with a fee.
The cost will vary based on your location. We don’t suggest going to your DMV in person as the process can be done online. Once you’ve fulfilled all the requirements, your new plates will arrive in the mail.
American Automobile Association (AAA)
The DMV can be a hassle to deal with. If you’re a member of the AAA, you may be able to speed things up.
One of the services the AAA provides in certain states is handling pesky DMV paperwork. They do everything for you. All you have to do is head to your local branch. You might even get the replacement plates on the spot.
What Should You do With Your Old License Plates?
As with renewal, this will depend on your state. For example, in Nevada, you might have to return old plates to the DMV, either by mailing them in or dropping them off.
Correct disposal could involve recycling at an appropriate center. You may have to destroy them to render them unusable before disposal. Your state’s DMV website will tell you what to do.
Purchase a License Plate Frame That Fits Your Car
Ideally, you should pick an OEM model built to fit your car. Another brand may be more appealing to you, but if it doesn’t fit your vehicle, it’ll be useless.
You can head down to your local automotive supply store to see if they have one in stock. Or, Google the make and model of your car followed by “license plate frame”.
There are two-hole and four-hole models. You have to ensure that you’re getting the appropriate one.
We also have a ton of recommendations in our guide for the best license plate frames available today.
Mounting the Frame: With and Without Dimples
Check out your vehicle’s front bumper. Your car may already have pre-drilled holes on it, which eliminates the need for you to do any drilling.
If not, you’ll either find dimples or nothing at all. Here’s what you’ll have to do for each situation:
The dimples are indicators of where you should be drilling. Look at your owner’s manual or check online to find out what size of drill bit you need to use.
Prepare your bubble level, because you’ll have to align the unit yourself. These are the steps to follow:
Step 1: Align Your Frame
Center it on your front bumper. You could ask someone to stand back to help with alignment, but using a measuring tape is far more accurate!
Measure the width of your bumper, halve it, measure this, and mark it on your bumper.
Measure the width of your license plate. Halve it. Measure this and then mark it.
Finally, make sure the two marks are aligned, and then you are definitely bang on center.
Step 2: Make Sure It’s Level
Use your level tool to do this, so you’re absolutely sure. You don’t want to end up with a canted license.
Step 3: Mark the Holes
Using a pencil or marker, poke it through the holes in the frame to mark where you’ll be drilling.
You’re now ready to get drilling!
If you aren’t familiar with electric power tools, follow basic safety precautions. Keep your fingers and hands away from the drill bit at all times. Position yourself so that
you’re stable and balanced.
This will only take a couple of seconds, but you want to be comfortable. If you’re in an awkward position, you could make a mistake.
Position the drill at each dimple or self-made mark and get to it. Keep a steady hand, and the job will be over before you know it.
Install Your New License Frame and Plates
You’re nearly done. The hardware you need for this step should be included with the OEM frame you purchased.
Step 1: Attach the Frame
Align the holes in your frame to those in your front bumper. Attach the two or four screws using your socket wrench. Tighten until there’s no more give.
Step 2: Screw Plate On
Take out your screwdriver and screws. Securely screw the plate to the frame.
If you’re a visual person, watch this video to get an idea of what to expect:
What Other Options are There?
You don’t have to do the installation yourself if you’re not up to it. If the thought of drilling into your vehicle horrifies you, there are some custom options:
Try Your Local Dealership or Mechanic
Your local mechanic or dealership will be able to handle everything for you. You pay more for the privilege, though.
Professional Detailing Shop
For a detailing shop, this type of installation will be a breeze. If you have a favorite business that you frequent, ask for a quote.
Custom installation is something you can do on your own or have a professional do for you. These are methods that avoid having to drill into your car. If you want to attempt this yourself, research online.
We hope our guide on how to install license plate frames has been helpful to you. This isn’t a task you’ll be performing every month, but it’s still handy to know how to do it.
If you’re driving around with a missing front plate in a state where it’s required, don’t push your luck. Installation isn’t difficult enough to warrant avoiding it and getting fined.
Do you have any questions, comments, or tips for us to share? Please leave it below. We appreciate your feedback, and we’ll respond to every one of you!