If a stitch in time saves nine, a strip of double-sided tape in time would probably save nineteen (Ringgit and eight Sen with GST to be exact)! It all started when our colleague arrived at CT Hardware HQ on Monday morning to find the rear of his car 'plate-less'. Obviously he had no idea where it flew off and it's a lucky thing he saw it before the cops did.

Since the rear flew off, it's probably a matter of time before the front goes AWOL so we thought we'd tackle it as the number plate shop we visited was reluctant to touch the front plate - stating that it'd break if they attempted to just replace the tape.

The problem also boils down the the fact that many car number plate shops would typically use a generic no-brand (your mileage might vary with these) or worst, fake 3M mounting tape as a cost-cutting measure. We noted that most of the time, they don't even bother to clean the surfaces prior to mounting the plates. 
 
Tape is tape, right?

"The difference between the genuine and imitation is in the material and temperature tolerance," says our friendly 3M distributor. She added that the genuine 3M tapes would easily last for more than a decade in the tropical Malaysian weather while the imitation tapes would typically fall off in about a year.

Often times the cheaper or imitation tapes would use polyethylene (PE) or polyurethane (PU) foam which is only suitable for indoor usage. The solution however is simple; just replace the tape when it is starting to peel - the visual cue is when the edges of your number plates starts to come off.

3M makes a myrid of tapes from their super-expensive VHB (the type you find on your GoPro mounts and in the facade of the Burj Al Arab) to the more affordable Scotch brand Exterior Mounting Tapes that retails for around the RM20 mark. Since the 3M Exterior Mounting Tape is weather-resistant and offers excellent holding strength, including the fact that we've had good experience with it in the past, that's the tape we're using for this repair.

Time to pull it off!

 
Start by carefully pulling the edge of the dangling number plate from the backing plate, being careful to hold and support the acrylic number plate on the edges directly behind where the double-sided tape is and keep the plate as flat as possible to avoid possibly breaking it or the raised alphanumerics.


In some situations, the tape might actually come off in the middle section of the number plate first. This can get tricky but is essentially the same thing - keep the acrylic plate straight and pull with a slow and steady pressure.

If parts of the tape doesn't want to budge, this is where a hot air gun, like this Hitachi RH 600T with its flat nozzle attachment (comes as a standard accessory together with four other nozzle types), would come in handy to help heat up and soften the double-sided adhesive foam tape. 

Gently pry the plate up with your fingers, keeping it flat and wedge in and blow hot air directly over the tape - being careful not to melt the number plate, backing plate or worst, your entire bumper in the process.

Once the number plate comes off the backing plate (attached to the car's bumper via screws), place the plate on a flat surface and remove the excess tape by pulling it sideways or rolling it into itself.
Now wash the back of the number plate and the backing plates and dry it with a lint-free cloth. Surprisingly, dish-washing detergent, sponge and the kitchen sink works great for washing both regular plates and number plates (just don't let the wife catch you washing this rectangular plate).

Dry both surfaces throughly and take note of the recesses in the backing plate. Ideally you want to apply the tape flat on the flat surface of the backing plate and not the screw recesses as you're just wasting tape.
We find that 4 vertical strips, two on the edges and two closer to the middle works the best. Peel the backing tape off and position it squarely in the backing plate - being careful not to touch the tape with your fingers once the backing tape comes off and apply a firm, even pressure on all the four strips of tape. With any luck, this repair should last you the life of your vehicle!

CT Hardware Top-tip: Surface preparation is equally important as a good quality double-sided tape. Even the best tape won't stick to a dirty surface.

#cthardware #numberplaterepairs #3M #ScotchBrand #ExteriorMountingTape #DIY #Hitachi #RH600T #hotairgun #cthardwaretoptip