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Rear License Plate Repair (long)


Old 08-11-2008, 11:15 PM
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Default Rear License Plate Repair (long)

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 <b>AVANT</b>. I'm guessing it's similar in a sedan, but probably has a few more clips for the interior trim piece:

<b>Task:</b> remove/replace/repair rear license plate bracket and nuts/clips that license plate screws bolt into.
<b>Difficulty:</b> 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.
<b>Tools:</b> 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.
<b>Time:</b> 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.
<img src="">

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!!)
<img src="">

3. Ok. Starting the work. I started by unscrewing this screw.
<img src="">

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.
<img src="">

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!)

<img src="">

Hole (yes, I scratched the paint a bit prying the clip out, no I'm not concerned.):
<img src="">

<img src="">

Removed: Note that there are 8 clips.
<img src="">

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.
<img src="">

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.
<img src="">

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.

<img src="">
<img src="">

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.
<img src="">

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!
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Old 08-12-2008, 01:33 AM
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Default 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.

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Old 08-12-2008, 03:07 AM
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Default Good work. Only 3 of the screws on mine will engage, so I'm too lazy to repair this just yet. But if

I had only one screw, I'd definitely be annoyed!
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Old 08-12-2008, 03:52 AM
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Great write up! I have the top 2 of my avant working, will have to try doing this.
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Old 08-12-2008, 04:00 AM
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Default 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.
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Old 08-12-2008, 04:41 AM
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Wow, your trunk lock is COMPLETELY different than my S4's. Weird.
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Old 08-12-2008, 05:39 AM
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Nice writeup!
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Old 08-12-2008, 05:44 AM
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Default 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.
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Old 08-12-2008, 07:20 AM
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Default Great writeup. Mine is held in by one loose screw, and velcro. Good time to address the wiper too.

You ought to post this in the Tech Articles.
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Old 08-12-2008, 07:26 AM
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Default Nice. I wish I had that when I had to remove my trim to replace my latch mechanism.

I also removed one of the nuts that was rattling around and now my license plate is simply held on with velcro.

Definitely submit to the tech articles. [email protected]
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