How To: Remove Front License Plate Bracket
Thanks to my friend NetKeym @ TCCoA who helped me figure out the right way to remove the front license plate bracket from my T-Bird. This should apply to 1996 & 1997 Thunderbirds & Cougars, and the process should be similar for 1989-1995 models.
Note: The process shown here will apply to many different makes and models of vehicles. If you have plastic rivets holding your license plate bracket on, this should apply. Examples include Chevy Equinox, Cruze, Ford Explorer, Fusion, Chevy Silverado, Subaru, etc.
This is super easy, it shouldn't take more than ten minutes. Personally I think the car looks cleaner without the front plate, and fortunately my local laws only require one rear license plate.
It's pretty straightforward as you can see from the following photos. Basically you need to remove the plate itself, which will expose four plastic rivets which are what hold the holder onto the bumper cover. Simply take a larger drillbit on a drill and slowly drill the center of the rivets. If the rivets turn while you're drilling, you may need to use some needlenose pliers or something else to kind of hold the outer edge of the rivet from turning with the bit. Use common sense, it's tempting to use your fingers but don't LOL.
First the "before" picture:
So very slowly, drill out the four plastic rivets using a larger drill bit (at least 1/4"), the bigger the better up to 3/8"...
Just be careful, you're only trying to drill the rivet out, not actually drill through and hit the bumper...
When you're done carefully drilling, you should see this, note the drill bit did not touch the bumper at all, the plastic front part of the rivet falls off at this point:
So as you can see from that last picture, if you use a large drill bit even if you go a little too deep you still won't hurt the bumper, you'll start to hurt the actual plastic plate holder. That's why a bigger drill bit is better. So do this for all four plastic rivets...
So the next step for me was to push the back side of the rivets into the bumper cover, and shake the cover so the back parts of the rivets fall down to the ground. This step is optional, I just used a small awl to push the remaining plastic bit out, you could easily use a small screwdriver, just be careful not to damage the bumper paint.
Here is what those rivet backs look like. I could only get 3 of the 4 to drop out, oh well.
Whoa, not cleaning behind there for 16 years is a little scary at first!!
Clean 'er up.... as you can see there is a very light scratch underneath from the holder. I can probably buff it out but.... it looks good from another angle...
Well good luck with doing this to your T-Bird/Cougar. Unfortunately you're left with 4 holes in the bumper cover, but that's just how it is. I plan on getting some small plastic plugs, paint them body color, and plug them in the holes.
Here is an example of a car with the body-colored painted plugs installed [source]:
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