Help! I’ve Got a New Registration Sticker, but the Old One Won’t Come Off!

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: March 21, 2021

Registration stickers are designed to stay attached to your car for a year. Unfortunately, it seems the adhesive they use has the ability to last decades. If it’s time to swap out your old sticker for a new one, here are some quick tips to help you tell the old one goodbye without leaving a bunch of sticker residue behind in the process.

How To Remove Registration Sticker from a License Plate

In many states, the stickers are placed on the vehicle’s license plate, and you have to take care when pulling them off that you don’t scratch the heck out of the plate. To do this, pull out an old or unneeded credit card and use it to dig at the edge of the sticker, detaching enough of the sticker to grab onto. Grasp the exposed corner with your fingers and gently pull up, using enough pressure to slowly peel away the sticker.

With the sticker up and out of the way, it’s time to remove any residue left behind so the new one has the hope of sticking that well. Wipe the area down with a sponge of soapy water, or a cloth soaked in alcohol. Make sure what remains is heavily saturated and let it get damp for a few minutes. Now scrape away that’s left over using that same card that you used to pry up the edge. Continue wiping and scraping until all the residue is gone. You can also apply some baby oil to the residue to help it loosen up. Some people even suggest the magical properties of WD-40. Whatever you use, just make sure to avoid getting it on the paint as it may damage the finish.

How To Remove Registration Sticker from a Windshield

In some states, the registration is put on the windshield instead of a license plate. If that sounds like where you live, you’ll have to skin this cat a little differently. Fortunately, it’s easier and faster to remove a sticker from your windshield.

Grab yourself a razor blade and some glass cleaner and you’re ready to begin. Spray a bit of the cleaner near the edge of the sticker and start scraping away at it with the edge of the razor. Work the blade into the sticker and begin scraping it up along one side. Peel the sticker up gently while scraping away residue with the blade as you go. The process is smooth and easy to do and you’ll have the sticker off in just a minute or two most of the time. Once the sticker is off, you can finish the job by spraying a bit of cleaner on any remaining residue and scrape it away. See, much easier than for those poor souls in license plate sticker states.

Go Hot or Cold

Whether you’re removing the sticker from a license plate or a windshield, you can often make the process even easier by changing the temperature of the adhesive.

When an adhesive is chilled it can become brittle, facilitating sticker removal.  By holding an icepack against the sticker for a few moments, you may find that removal with a razor blade will become easier.

When an adhesive is heated it can become more flexible. If you have access to a heat gun (or even a high-wattage blow dryer), this method is easy to employ. Use the gun to get the sticker nice and hot, and it should peel off the surface without much issue. You’ll likely leave more residue than if you had used ice, but with a little Goo Gone or WD-40, that shouldn’t present too much of a problem.

There is one consideration you should factor in before choosing the heat gun method, and it depends on when your sticker expires. If your registration expires in a winter month, a heat gun may put your windshield at risk of cracking if the temperature is too low. On the other hand, the adhesive should be brittle enough to make razor blade removal easy.

This little clip details how to remove a window sticker. Hopefully, your state has paid as much attention to constructing stickers as Texas has.

After You Get It Off

Once you have the old sticker off, it’s time to put the new one on. To keep you from having to pull the new one off right away, try this handy trick.

Often it is much easier to achieve proper placement of the new sticker from outside of the car. Sometimes your line of sight can be distorted by the steering wheel of the reflection of your dashboard on the glass.

Instead, roll down your window and place the sticker with your right hand. From that angle you’ll have a full frontal view of the windshield guaranteeing you’ll get it right where you want it the first time.