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eric e

license plate restoration how to!

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So here you are, your pride and joy has been redone and now you want to use a vintage original year of manufacture or make your newer plate look like an older one? ever wonder how to do this? well heres what i have been doing to restore old plates, well in this case make a new plate look like an older plate! grumpy sent me his newer california white plate and asked me to make it into an earlier blue plate. easy enough so i sent it off to the chemical stripper. I've found that sandblasting the heavy reflective finish on most newer license plates is near to impossible without destroying the plate so chemical dipping works great and cost about $10-$20.


once back i sent the sample plate off to my paint supply to have the blue color matched up,


- then glass beaded the bare aluminum plate to "etch" it up some so paint would stick. a red scotch brite would have also worked well in this case. after that i get out the mini jet spray gun and blast a couple light coats of aluminum aircraft acid etch primer on the plate.




after a few min of 100+ az summer heat drying time, I clean the mini jet and reload with the reduced blue paint and give the plate a couple coats of california blue.



now to break out the chrome yellow one shot pinstriping enamel and a couple hobby brushes!


spend about an hour painstakingly hand painting in the numbers and letters, make repairs with the blue where i couldn't keep it in the lines, and then let dry for a couple hours.


later on I took the plate to the actual spray booth and gave it a few coats of clear, finished! ready for that perfect resto!


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Did you consider a no-nap craft roller about 1/2-1" wide to roll on the yellow.


I've used this technique for other things with raised letters and it works great.


Makes it almost like pad printing with a roller.


Looks good!

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I spray my yellow first, hit it with a coat of sg100, then my blue base. put a little mineral spirit or wax/grease remover or other very mild reducer on a blue shop towel and wipe the blue off of the letters/numbers...works great, found it to be faster and easier than hand painting them.

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Nice Eric! I have some plates I need to restore. 


A tip on the yellow paint, it looks like you're using a regular paintbrush for acrylic or oil...I'd try an actual lettering quill. They have longer bristles which reduce the vibration from your hand so you get a sharper edge/line. 


You can also have a pinstriping brush to clean up the edges so everything's straight. Mack makes some of the best brushes: http://www.mackbrush.com/Lettering_Quills

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I've heard that repainting license plates is technically illegal. Not that it will likely come up, or get you pulled over, but it's just one more reason to do a good job that looks professional. Nice work Eric.

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