So you bought a new car, or in my case, a new grille. It looks nice and clean and free of unsightly holes drilled in it. Then you realize that you live in one of the 31 states that require a front license plate. Before you grab your drill or let the car dealer near your front bumper, consider a cooler, less destructive method... Magnets! This instructable will show you how you can make a removable license plate holder with no drilling necessary.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
You won't need a whole lot for this project, and it certainly won't break the bank either.
- Grille/Bumper - It's best if it is easily removable
- License plate holder and license plate - Even though my state requires a front plate plate, I prefer the look of the European license plate, but you should be able to adapt the instructions for a standard US license plate
- Masking Tape
- 5-Minute Epoxy
- Rare Earth Magnets - I found a pack of 30 for only $10 on Amazon. I went with 1/2 x 1/8 in disc magnets
- Sandpaper - I used 120 grit
- PlastiDip - Color is not important. It will be applied to the back of the grille and license plate holder
- Newspaper or other masking material to prevent paint overspray
- Whatever tools you need to remove your grille/bumper
Step 2: Working With Magnets
Before we start, here are a couple tips for using Rare Earth Magnets. First and foremost is be careful. These magnets are super strong and very brittle. You don't want to get your fingertip pinched in between them when they snap together. And try not to let them snap together from too far apart, they can and will break.
Second, as you separate the magnets, it's helpful to mark one side of the magnets so that you can align the poles correctly.
Step 3: Attaching Magnets to the License Plate Frame
Now that the PSA is out of the way, we can start assembling the license plate frame. For regular US license plates, you can probably just mount the magnets in each of the corners. Decide the best placement for your application. Due to the length, I used four columns of two magnets for my Euro plate frame. Mix up your 5-minute epoxy and apply to the desired locations. I have plenty of epoxy so I applied very liberally.
I noticed that the magnets in the center started to repel each other and drift apart, so I put another magnet on the opposite side of the frame behind each one on the front to hold them in place while the epoxy set.
Allow the epoxy to set before proceeding to the next step. It is not necessary to wait the full cure time, just enough to not make a mess.
Step 4: Preparing the Grille
Once the epoxy on the license plate frame has set, we're ready to start on the grille. If your car has a steel bumper, you can probably skip to step 8 since you won't need magnets on the bumper.
I put a strip of masking tape on the back of the license plate frame so that once it is "attached" to the grille, I can move it around without scratching the grille. I also put a towel down on the table so I didn't scratch the grille while I'm working on it.
Now, turn the frame up side down and place the grille on top of it, aligning them close to where you want the frame to sit. Place magnets on the back side of the grille matching each magnet with the ones on the frame. This will "attach" the frame to the grille. You should be able to pick up the grille and frame as one piece.
Measure/eyeball the frame, moving it to where you want the final location. As you move the frame, the magnets on the backside of the grille should move around as well. Once you have the frame located where you want it, apply masking tape around the magnets on the backside of the grille as shown in the second photo.
Step 5: Preparing the Grille, Cont'd
Now we are at the point of no return. Remove the magnets from the back of the grille and set them, and the frame, aside. Take the sand paper and scuff up the surface that you outlined in the previous step. This will give the epoxy something to bond to.
Once you've scuffed up the surface, clean up the dust using a wet paper towel. Soap and water probably wouldn't hurt. Allow the grille to dry.
Step 6: Attaching Magnets to Grille
Re-attach the license plate frame to the grille, just like you did in step 4. The magnets should line up in the now scuffed up spots but look at it from the front to make sure it is exactly where you want it.
Now you can mix up some more epoxy. You'll want to take off one pair of magnets, apply epoxy, then re-place magnets before moving on to the next pair. This way, the frame will hold the magnets exactly where you want them. Be careful not to move the frame until the epoxy sets.
I left the masking tape in place while I applied the epoxy to make it look cleaner. It's not really necessary, but if you do leave it in place, make sure you remove it before the epoxy sets.
Step 7: Preparing for PlastiDip
To prevent the magnets from rusting, I decided to go with a product that has found popularity with the car-modding crowd: PlastiDip.
Full Disclosure - This is the first time I've worked with PlastiDip, so I was expecting overspray to be more of a problem than it was. I masked off the rest of the grille with some paper and masking tape to prevent overspray. PlastiDip creates a rubber coating that can be peeled off, but I figured I'd save cleanup time by using a bit of tape and paper.
Step 8: Applying PlastiDip
I applied PlastiDip to the grille and license plate frame, coating the magnets to protect them from the elements.
I also sprayed the backside of the frame. This was to keep it from scratching the grille when I'm driving around.
Apply 3-4 coats and let it dry for about 4 hours. If you masked off the grille, carefully remove the tape. I recommend taking a sharp knife and cutting along the edge of the tape, otherwise you may start to peel the PlastiDip.
Step 9: Installation
Once the PlastiDip is dry, you're ready to reinstall your grille, slap on your license plate and cruise around.
Just remember to take the plate off if you go through a car wash!