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How To Change A Number Plate Bulb

If you want to know how to change a number plate bulb, follow the seven steps below:

  1. Always begin by consulting your vehicle handbook. Most will include instructions and sometimes a helpful diagram.
  2. Your first task is to locate the number plate lights. You'll usually find these slightly recessed above the number plate, and most cars have two lights. It might seem easier to simply change the bulb that's blown, but it makes more sense to replace both at the same time. That way, you'll avoid having to do the job again in the near future and you won't end up with uneven lighting.
  3. Each cover is held on with two screws, so you'll need to unscrew these, and, keeping the screws handy, remove the covers.
  4. To remove the bulbs, simply pull gently. Try not to pull too hard, and if they don't come out straight away, be patient.
  5. Now you should be able to insert the replacement bulbs. As with all bulbs, take care to handle them gently as the glass of the bulb is often quite thin and delicate, and therefore easily damaged.
  6. Before screwing the covers back on, check that the new bulbs are working and illuminate your number plate well. Remember, it's important that the plate can be read clearly from a distance.
  7. Finally, replace the covers and screw them back into place.

Why do I need an illuminated number plate?

It's tempting to think that the legal requirement for an illuminated number plate is simply so speed cameras can identify your vehicle. In actual fact, there are many other reasons why your vehicle must be identifiable, and with the increasing use of number plate recognition in car parks, on toll roads and bridges, and for congestion charges, it makes sense to ensure your bulbs are working correctly.

What types of bulb are available?

While there is currently no legal restriction on the wattage of your number plate lights, it's important that you don't dazzle other drivers. Bear in mind that only white lights are permitted, largely because using coloured bulbs can cause distortion and make your number plate hard to read.

Your handbook should include advice regarding what kind of replacement bulbs are appropriate for your particular make and model. If not, or if you don't have the handbook, a quick internet search will provide you with the right information.

Your vehicle manufacturer will also sell replacement bulbs, although it can be expensive to buy directly from them and you may be able to purchase them more cheaply online.

Standard filament or incandescent bulbs are cheaper, but can fade over time and are more likely to fail simply because they don't last as long. LED bulbs are much more popular now as they are more efficient, last longer and tend to maintain their brightness. They are usually a low wattage and produce a low-key light that doesn't dazzle. If your original bulbs are filament bulbs, you should still be able to upgrade to LED lights as the fittings are the same.

Do both front and rear number plates need to be lit up?

While you must display number plates at both the front and the rear of your vehicle, only the rear number plate is legally required to be directly illuminated. This is because number plates are made of a reflective material so that the front number plate will always be illuminated by oncoming traffic, as well as the ambient light from your own headlights.

Other related FAQs

Looking for more related content to this? We’ve picked a selection of related topics that you may find helpful

Usually, but there are a few exceptions. A private number plate can’t be transferred to a Q-registered vehicle, put on a car to make it look newer, or used on a vehicle that doesn’t require an HGV or MOT certificate.

You can discover certain information about the vehicle that a number plate is on fairly simply, but to find out who it actually belongs to is a little more tricky. Your best port of call is the DVLA.

It is fairly simple to fit a replacement number plate to your car in just a few steps. You can either use screws to fix it in place, or opt for double-sided pads to secure it.

A simple transfer from one vehicle to another can be completed online with the DVLA and you can make the switch as soon as you've finished the process. Organising it by post takes longer – expect two to five weeks.

If you want to get a personalised number plate made, you must ensure you go to a registered number plate supplier. This supplier will need to see proof of your identity and proof that you’re entitled to that registration number.

To find out the registered keeper of a vehicle number plate here in the UK, apply in writing to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). However, it will only provide these details if you have a reasonable cause.

UK number plates change every March and September, on the first of the month. This is when the year identifier changes, for example from 19 to 69 in 2019/20. The former applies from March, and the latter from September.

A number plate’s value varies according to how desirable and unusual it is. A number plate featuring a name, word or initials that a lot of people want is likely to fetch a higher price.

You must inform the DVLA if you wish to remove your personalised number plate and replace it with the car’s original plate. It costs £80 to remove personalised plates and this can be done online or by post.

Personalised number plates can be a good investment as they nearly always retain their value and often increase in price. Investing in these plates is not risk free though, so it shouldn’t be undertaken without careful research.