I bought my car 3 and a half years ago and when I went to attach the new license plate, I found that only one of the screws would engage. I've searched around here a fair amount and didn't find much of use on the issue. I also pinged Carson or my local parts guy at Clair and found out that to get this remedied with new parts would probably cost almost $350 ($250 in parts at the time plus paint) because you have to buy the whole rear assembly (~2ft panel) and then have it painted.
So it's sat ****-eyed on one screw for 3 and a half years.
I just moved out-of-state so this was a prime time investigate this issue!
It's not a huge project by any means, but I'll set it up like a tech article, for the archives. FYI, this is for an AVANT. I'm guessing it's similar in a sedan, but probably has a few more clips for the interior trim piece:
Task: remove/replace/repair rear license plate bracket and nuts/clips that license plate screws bolt into. Difficulty: 1 or 2 out of 10. If you're familiar with the way Audi/european cars are put together, in particular the clipping mechanisms, it's very straight forward. Tools: Small flat head screw driver (used for prying clips), medium philips head, 10mm socket, short to medium extension (6" is fine), and corresponding ratchet wrench, maybe some rags and cleaning agents to use this opportunity of taking things apart to clean them up. Time: Took me about 2 hours, but I was going REALLY slow, taking photos, cleaning and getting interrupted to help with other chores. Moving efficiently/quickly but still taking care not to break any clips or posts and cleaning everything as I go would take just less than an hour.
1. Pre-photo. Looks so sad.
2. If you were to go with a new part you would have to replace the ENTIRE piece shown here. A couple notes: 1) I know the 4 is crooked in the S4. The 4 fell off, then I tried to replace just the 4 and now it's crooked. It's annoying, but from a distance you can't tell. 2) yes my bumper is a complete mess. I'll eventually do a euro rear to fit the exhaust better any way... happy to be moving out of boston!!)
3. Ok. Starting the work. I started by unscrewing this screw.
4. Next I pulled off the thin rubber trim that runs around the carpeted interior piece from the glass on each side down to the latch in the middle. Two pieces, a right and a left (no photo). Then the plastic piece that connects to the carpeted trim up on the hatch pillar seemed like the easiest point of entry... it seemed the least secure. I pinched and pulled and tweaked it until a couple little tabs popped out of their stay location and the top corners of the carpeted trim was now a little loose. Then I worked my fingers in between the carpeted trim and the door body and began prying it down. At this point I didn't know how the piece was connected, so I went slow.
5. At last, after working around the whole perimeter of the carpeted trim I started yarding fairly hard and heard a loud pop and the clip came free. I didn't know what I was working with at the time, but you luckily get pictures with the clip type and locations!! So it shouldn't be too hard to find the clips and specifically work them out. The pyramid clips sit it these big black plastic posts that connect to the carpeted trim. The clips then pop into slits in the metal paneling of the door hatch. There are 8 you have to release to completely remove the carpeted trim. For some of the tougher clips I used a small flat screwdriver to coax them into popping free. NOTE: be careful both installing and removing all the clips. One clip broke on me and several of the black plastic posts flexed and fatigued and threatened to fail. All of these connector parts seem somewhat weak, so just work slowly and carefully (especially now that cars are getting so old!)
Hole (yes, I scratched the paint a bit prying the clip out, no I'm not concerned.):
Removed: Note that there are 8 clips.
6. You've completed the hardest part of this task! Here's what the door hatch looks like now, with no trim. Perfect condition Santorin paint! Wish that was on my rear bumper. Anyway. Now what you need to do is remove 7 10mm nuts from the rear license plate bracket. The studs are built into the bracket, so you're just removing the nuts, then the bracket and studs pull straight out of the door. Two on each side, one down near the door latch and two by the locking mechanism. One of the studs by the locking mechanism has a plastic cap on it to prevent it from cutting/wearing through the small plastic tube that runs over it. Make sure to replace this when you're finished!
7 10mm bolts. Two on each side, one down by the latch and two on either side of the locking mechanism.
Close up of the two by the locking mechanism. The one on the left has already had the nut removed from the stud, and the one on the right still has the plastic protective cap on it.
7. Now just pull/push the bracket away from the door hatch... and look what awaited me there. A pile of broken clips and nuts and worn out tape that had apparently been used to hold them in place. Nice job on that one, Audi. I will say now, the clip design is awful. More on that later.
Here's where I took the opportunity to clean everything... also along the door edge where the trim doesn't seal 100%.
I replaced the three clips that had broken or fallen out back into their holes. Also, it's clear from the clips that screwing the license plate bolts in too far presses on the back of the clip, pushing it back and pulls the clip edges into the middle of the hole, either breaking them, or pulling them off their position against the edge of the hole... lesson here is don't over tighten your license plate screws with this design.. they'll hold while you have the same plates, but when you unscrew the plates, the clips may then fall and rattle like crazy... TRUST ME!
Example of a clip that clearly got flexed by the bolt and snapped the clip. A healthy clip should have a flat back.
So I replaced them all and duct taped over them thoroughly just in case (at least if they break they won't fall and rattle around again) and re-installed everything. I did break one of the carpet trim pyramid clips and had to run over to the dealer, but by then I had my new plate on and was all legal!
Let me know if anything isn't clear or if there's any questions. Working on the back of this car offers a lot more space than working on the front. I was happy to sit on the bumper and work over head and have PLENTY of room for once.
Again this is on an avant; I'm guessing a sedan is a bit trickier as there's less room to work and more trim to remove, but I'm guessing it's all roughly the same procedure. Good luck!
Good write-up dude. FWIW, the plate on my '93 S4 was held on solely by duct tape for 2 years.
Just rolled the duct tape over itself behind the plate so that you couldn't see it - looked good and held great... but it sure would've been easy to steal.
I've also heard of people using the plastic clips that are typically used when a hole becomes too large in a sheet of drywall or on the outside of a house. Take the plate off, put the plastic clip (that the screw goes into) into the hole so that it fits relatively snug, then mount up the plate and screw into the plastic clip so that it expands and is held in place by pressure.
Anywho, possibly a couple of alternatives or temporary patches for those not wishing to go through what you've put up with over the last few years.
Edmonton, AB, Canada
1993 Audi S4 (178k miles) - Pearl on Black Leather with CF Trim
Simmons FR18, Custom Painted Audi Pearl White Faces, 18x8.5" front, 18x9.5" rear - 255/35/18, Spacers, Extended wheel bolts, Audi Bolero 17x8 winter wheels
H&R Springs, Revalved Bilstein Sport Struts, 2Bennett Revolution Camber Plates, Front Strut Tower Bar
Garrett GT30/40R Turbo w/ 0.82 AR and 4" Inlet, LoveFab Tubular Manifold, Custom made 034 Downpipe, QTEC Electric Exhaust Dump Valve, 7A Exhaust Cam, 60lb/hr High Impedance Injectors, Bosch 044 Fuel Pump, 24.5x9.5x3.5 Dave Stone FMIC, Samco Hoses, Stromung RSS Turbo Back 3" Exhaust, Tial 44mm Wastegate, 034 Custom Modded Motronic ECU, Javad Shadzi Tune with 91 and 100 Octane Programs, 4 Bar Pressure Transducer, 3-5 Bar Adjustable FPR, 4" AEM Air Filter, Custom made 4" Intake, ARP Head Studs, RS2 Rod Bearings, Forged Eagle Rods, Titanium Valve Retainers, High Rate Valve Springs, Compression Dropping Multilayer Steel Headgasket, 034 Fuel Pressure Gauge, Custom fuel lines
Audi B5 S4 6 speed, SPEC Stage 3+ clutch kit, Fidanza 10lb flywheel, 034EFI Short Shift Kit, Heavy Duty S6+ Transmission mounts, 034EFI Dense polysnub mount with bracket
Porsche 996tt Calipers, Porsche 993tt 2-Piece Drilled Rotors, Textar Brake Pads, BIRA Hats, ECS brackets, Stainless Steel Brake Lines
Carbon fiber hood, Carbon fiber trunk, Euro S4 one piece rear bumper, Euro S6 PLUS center tail light section, LLTEK RS lower valence, Slatted Front Bumper and Rebar, OEM trunk spoiler, HID conversion kit (6000K), PIAA Fog Lights, Clear front turn signals, 20% window tint
A pillar 30 PSI boost gauge, Pioneer Premier AM/FM/CD/MP3 DEH-740MP, JL Audio 4 x 100 amplifier, Diamond Audio 5.5" w/ tweeters, Diamond Audio 6"x9" speakers, 2 Watt dash lights
1969 Mercedes-Benz Unimog 421 (40k miles) - U45/U600, hydro winch/3pt hitch/tipper box, onboard air, 8 forward 8 reverse speeds, etc.
1991 Mitsubishi Pajero (68k miles) - 2.5TD, LWB, Roof rack, DD
1991 Toyota 4Runner (unknown miles) - 4.3 Chev swap, Dual T-cases, ~12" lift, locked and armored
2000 Yamaha R1 (14k miles) - Piped, flush front signals, chopped undertail, jetted to 130 WHP, +1 front, -2 rear
Nice write up.....I'm in the same boat. I got one of the nice Audiworld
rear lic plate covers and when I went to put it on I couldn't get two of the screws out because they rusted in and then they stripped. My remedy was some industrial strength double sided tape but at least I know there is a more proper fix now.
Submit this to Kris H so it can be added to the tech section.
Thanks Rob! I just used expanding rubber nuts on my lic plate
Your fix removes any potential rattling though. Though, my rear plate is pretty solid now, and I didn't have to take anything apart.
I can't remember where I found the nuts, probably at some hardware store- but they work great, they expand as you tighten them down, grabbing the sides of the holes where the clips used to be.
Well........ I didn't include this: The bottom two don't line up right. So even after I repaired /
replaced the clips, the holes don't line up with the holes in my license plate. I don't know what the deal is with that... whether Audi / car manufacturers just want you to use the top two, or if they just f-ed up the measurements. I awkwardly angled the bolt into the nut, then used some threadlocker to hold it in place. Mostly I just didn't want the plate and Audi Sport license plate cover banging around, so this at least hold it taught against the car... but it's not supporting any weight... the top two are the most solid.
Double check the alignment before you take on the project. It could be that the clips are broken/missing, or it could be that the alignment is just all wrong.