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How can I remove a really stuck screw?

I have to return my license plates to DMV by Friday (they expire!), and am finding it next-to-impossible to get them off my car! First I tried unscrewing them with a solid/thick flathead and neither screw would budge (there's two; 1 on each side of the license plate):

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So early this morning I practically emptied a small can of WD-40 on the screws, both of them, on the front of each screw (and around them). Additionally, I pried back the license plate away from the car, and sprayed WD-40 on the back-side of the plate, around the area where the screws might be rusting/welding onto the car underneath the plate. I let it sit there soaking in the WD-40 spray for about 40 minutes, which according to the instructions, is more than enough time for it to take full action.

These screws will not budge! Either of them!

I am junking this old car, so I'm not too concerned about hurting its exterior, but I'm at a total loss as to how to get these screws off. I have a hacksaw, but the width ("curf"?) of its blade is too thick to fit between the bulky head of the screw and the license plate (preventing me from being able to cut the head off). Not to mention I don't think I could use it anyways, because the license plate area is recessed 3 - 4 inches inward from the rest of the car's exterior, and I don't think I could fit my hacksaw into the recess.

Any ideas?


3 Answers 3


Some times tightening the screw helps un stick it.I don't mean turning it a full quarter tighten but use some force. If you hear it click/budge a bit- Spray WD-40 on it then untighten it, spray WD-40(only a short spray-don't drown it), repeat over and over and the distance will get larger and larger and eventually you will be able to unscrew with ease.

  • By the way- Do not use a flat screwdriver. Get a spanner that fits snug on that bolt - you will get it loose very quick with that.
  • To avoid this problem in the future- spend a few bux more and get stainless steel bolts/screws. Galvanized are OK- but some cheap ones rust anyway after a year or two.
  • 2
    +1 for using a spanner (wrench in the US), instead of a screwdriver.
    – Tester101
    Commented Oct 2, 2012 at 14:05
  • 3
    Lacking a proper spanner, this is a situation where many would employ a vise grip type pliers. It's not as if the bolts will ever be re-used. Commented Oct 2, 2012 at 14:17

The DMV don't expect their license plates back in pristine condition, they usually get them back beat up as hell, so just pry them off with a screwdriver. If the edges of the plates are bent out of shape they will not care as they're going into the junk pile anyway.

  • 1
    The DMV is asking that the plates be surrendered so they can't be used on another vehicle. It is not necessary that they be usable on another vehicle when you turn them in. Call your DMV and make sure of this, but sometimes the simplest solution is the best. The car's being junked, so are the plates. A prybar and tinsnips would be sufficient. Neither the car or the plates are worth the extended effort needed for rusted bolt removal. Commented Oct 3, 2012 at 1:13

Home depot can rent an impact driver to you. That and a 1/4" bolt driver should do the trick.


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