Best Glue for Number Plates

Best Glue for Number Plates
By Bill Wyatt
November 6, 2020
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Unless you’re on the cannonball run, you probably have a number plate on your vehicle. But are you a gluer or a screwer? Let’s find out what Glue is best for affixing license plates to vehicles.

In a rush?
No time to read? The best glue for license plates (metal or plastic) is 3M VHB Heavy Duty Mounting Tape. If you don’t mind your paintwork being permanently marked, another solution is to use a solvent based adhesive like E-6000 or Automotive Goop.

The Challenges in Gluing Number Plates

Without a number plate you’re a sitting duck for a traffic ticket, so it’s important that it’s attached securely to your vehicle.

The problem with number plates is that most of the time they are made from a hard plastic that’s difficult to glue.

On top of the material, number plates are also exposed to the weather and the heat and vibration of the vehicle, meaning most glues will not be able to hold them in place for a long time.

Depending on where you live, your number plate may have to deal with melting hot sun in the summer, and below zero ice in the winter. 

One possible solution is to use a solvent based silicone glue like E-6000 or Automotive Goop. Both are flexible and weather resistant, however they may damage the paintwork on your car, and both take a long time to cure.

For fixing number plates to your car I recommend using 3M VHB Heavy Duty Mounting Tape. I used this exact tape to affix my license plate to my car and it’s been on there for 2 years. It’s lasted through the cold Ohio winter and the scorching Arizona summers with no sign of movement.

Best adhesive for numberplates

The best solution in my opinion is to use VHB Mounting Tape for gluing your license plate to your car.

It’s cheap, very easy to use, looks much better than mechanical fasteners, and has better longevity and flexibility than traditional liquid adhesives.

How to glue your license plate to your car

  1. Use isopropyl alcohol or warm soapy water to clean the area of the bumper where the tape will go
  2. Ensure both the license plate and the bumper are completely free from grease or dirt
  3. Use the number plate to line up the tape to the correct place
  4. Peel off the backing of the tape and apply it to your license plate
  5. Remove the second backing and press your license plate firmly to the bumper
  6. The tape needs pressure applied to it to form a strong bond, hold it in place and apply pressure for a few minutes

Mechanical fastening vs adhesive fastening

Are you a gluer or a screwer? Most cars in the US come with a license plate holder already, whereas most card in Europe are attached directly to the car.

If you’re from the US, you might want to check out some Silicone License Plate Holders, which attach securely to your vehicle and hold your number plate in place, prevent rattling, and are fully temperature and weather resistant. (You can even customize them)

If that’s not an option, or if you want to go the adhesive route then I can wholeheartedly recommend 3M VHB Mounting Tape.

Advantages of adhesive tape over mechanical fastening:

The advantages of adhesive tape over mechanical fastening are the appearance, longevity, and ease of use.

Easier to read:

In some European license plate styles (Including the United Kingdom) the screws go through the plate directly, which can look ugly, or even obscure the numbers. (For example a C with a black screw in the middle can look like an E)

Easier to install:

No need to fiddle around with screws, no need to worry about cheap Chinese plastic frames breaking when you’re on the highway.

Better aesthetics:

This is slightly subjective, but adhesive license plates look a lot better, especially on European cars.

Avoiding the plastic trim gives a sleeker, more aerodynamic look. Looks just as good on a VW Golf as a Ford F150.

Why Liquid glue isn’t a great idea

I can fully recommend the 3M mounting tape method mentioned above, it’s what I used on my own truck.

If you’re considering using liquid glue instead, here are a few things to be aware of:

Flexibility:

The bumper of your car is rarely perfectly flat. It can be difficult for glue to form a strong bond with a curved surface. What usually happens is the glue sticks well in the middle, but the license plate pops out at either side.

Heat:

Many liquid glues can not withstand the high heat of the summer sun in addition to the heat of the engine.

Paint damage:

Although some liquid glue is certainly strong enough to hold a license plate in place, the strong solvents required to form a strong bond will damage the paintwork of your bumper.

Longevity:

Most glues dry solid, meaning there is not a lot of flexibility in the finished bond.

The completed seal is not able to deal with the vibrations of the engine as well as the adhesive tape.

Of course, there are exceptions such as E-6000 adhesive, which remain flexible, however the solvents in E-6000 are strong enough to damage the paintwork of your vehicle.

Conclusion

I hope I’ve convinced you to give the 3M tape a try. I was skeptical when I first used it but I will never use screws on my bumper again!

I hope you found this helpful, and if you have any questions about the tape or anything else, feel free to let me know by the contact page! 

Thanks for reading

-Bill

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