Do It Yourself: How To Install License Plates

The basics of license plate installation and the security of your plates.

BEFORE YOU START...

General license plate law is that the plate cannot be obstructed. Specific plate laws vary from state to state and usually pertain to the requirement of a front plate as well as a rear plate. Consult your department of motor vehicles requirements before you install any vanity plate or state issued license plate for the guidelines and requirements specific to the state in which you've registered your vehicle.

TOOLS FOR THE JOB...

- A #2 Phillips screwdriver is the standard tool used for plate attachment. But, size the bolts and choose the correct driver size for your plate if this doesn"˜t seem to be the right one.

- License plate (with vehicle registration tags affixed if applicable)

INSTALLATION OVERVIEW...

Installing the plate is the same for both front and back plates. If you've chosen a frame to enclose the plate in, fit your plate in the frame before you attempt to attach the plate to the vehicle. The proper position for license plates is in the center of the bumper for both front and back plates. Every vehicle has pre-drilled holes for positioning and attaching plates; locate them on your vehicle and, using the screws included or already in place, screw the plate into position. Follow these same instructions for installing a second plate on your vehicle if necessary.



LICENSE PLATE SECURITY...

It's not uncommon for people to steal vehicle license tags from cars if their own vehicle is illegal and doesn't have current registration. In this, the easiest way to safeguard yourself from this crime is to completely (or as best you can) remove old tags before attaching new ones. The proper placement of these tags is usually up to the vehicles owner. However some states require you attach the tags in specific corners so be sure to check the guidelines for your state before sticking them on. Common placement of vehicle license tags are in the upper left hand corner for the month the vehicle was registered and the lower right hand corner for the year in which the tags will expire.

Also sold at auto supply and in the automotive department of many warehouse and outlet stores are license plate covers. In addition to a frame for your plate there is also a Plexiglas or plastic cover that shields the plate itself from the elements and provides an extra level of security against theft. If you decide to attach one of these you'll use the same method outlined above, but be sure and watch the wear your cover receives. Over time scratches and pits caused by road debris and general wear and tear can cause the cover to become so scratched your plate is no longer visible. It is necessary to replace the cover at this point because you can be sited for failing to properly display your plate.

One last note about your license plate is in reference again to laws that differ from state to state. Growing increasingly common is the requirement that vehicles have proper lighting on plates making them easily visible at night. Make sure your car meets your state requirements for nighttime plate visibility laws.

And always report a stolen plate or stolen license tags to your motor vehicle department immediately. Not only for replacement, but to avoid any problems you may experience if the person who's stolen them gets into trouble.

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