Saturday, April 29, 2017

License Plate Woes

“They’re not standardized?”

For the first time in years, when renewing my license tags, I got new plates. Old, unpleasant memories of struggles with rusted screws flooded back. And I recalled getting, at some point, nylon or plastic screws so I would not have that problem again.

But I had not replaced the plates on my current vehicle even once, and, although I had noticed the screws were rusty, I’ve never done anything about replacing them. And I recalled that either the front or rear plate was attached with bolts, meaning my socket wrench would easily get that job done.

Nearing the end of the expiration month, I resolutely gathered a Philips screwdriver ( moderate sized head ), my sockets, a socket wrench and the new plates. 

Approaching the car from the rear, I put the screwdriver head into the rusted screw on the right side … and could not turn the screwdriver. Its handle was too small. In addition, I feared the head was too small. I retreated to the house for a screwdriver with both a larger handle and a larger head.

I could readily grab this handle, and the larger head fit the screw better. Turning the screwdriver, however, only netted some screw shavings around the screwdriver’s head. The screw turned not a whit. The screw on the left side of the plate wasn’t any better.

I returned to the house. “I might have to go to Toyota and have them change the plates!” I rather disgustedly commented to Ellie, my wife.  I brought some WD-40 and squirted all around both screws. I opened the trunk so the screws’ heads were pointed to the sky and the draining of the WD-40 would be into the screw holes.  I waited; I tried again.

Shoot!” Frustration was mounting.

Wanting to taste some success by replacing the front plate, which was bolted on, I backed the car out of the garage a little. My smallest socket didn’t grab the bolt. “Shoot,” again. As the lighting here was poor, I obtained a flashlight from the house and took a better look. Screws. “At least they’re Philips-head screws.”

The plate I remembered as attached with bolts is on my wife’s car … I had noticed this when approaching my car, not realizing that that one plate is the only one we have that is bolted on.

Hoping, I pushed the screwdriver into the head of one of the screws, turned it for all I was worth, and … viola!, the screw turned. Within minutes, I replaced the front plate. “Would that it were as easy on the rear,” I thought.

I tried the rear plate again. “That WD-40 has had some time to work.” Apparently not.

I returned to the house and came back with my vice-grip, thinking I could point the tool at the screw as if it were a screwdriver, grab the head of the screw and turn the vice grip like a screwdriver. The vice-grip slid off the screw.

Ah, how about grabbing the screw head inside the vice-grip, the way the vice-grip was designed to work?” There was not quite enough screw to get an adequate grip.

If the license plate weren’t there,” I thought, “there would be more screw to grab.”

Aha!” The screw holes were close to the edge, the plate was thin and bendable. “I can tear the plate around the screw holes and remove it.” For a better grip on the plate I returned to the house for a pliers.

Long story short, slightly skinning one knuckle, I pulled, pried, bent and, finally, tore the license plate around both screws and removed it. I could now close the vice-grip around the head of the screw and turn to remove it

I attached the new license plate and returned to the house with many more tools than I initially brought out. I also had a slight battle-scar on my right hand.

Shortly, taking my wife’s car to gas up, I also stopped at my local hardware store to buy some non-rustable screws.

“ … so I’d like four nylon or plastic screws of that size that won’t rust. Can you help?”

“Well, sure, but what size? Those are not standardized.”

The hell you say!? Not standardized?” I said, “Really? They’re not standardized?”


We walked to his inventory; many options. “I’ll return later, bringing a sample of what I want to replace.”

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