The use of a front license plate increases drag, reduces range (slightly), reduces radiator airflow (lowering efficiency), and makes any vehicle’s front end rather ugly. Many countries and states understand the need to reduce energy consumption and may have made the front license plate optional or unnecessary. About 30 states in the USA require a front license plate and may issue a ticket if you drive without one. Also, check out our section on the possibility of a hidden front license plate.
This project is for the classic Model S(prior to the 2016 refresh, and allows you to easily attach and remove the front license plate on your Model S without leaving holes in the nosecone. We use strong magnets behind the nosecone and magnets on the license plate holder. My original thought was to use it for parking and not freeway use, with the 1/8″ thick magnets. If you use the larger 1/4″ thick magnets, it appears you can leave it on all the time. Another owner reports he had driven for hours and even some track time without a problem when using the 1/4″ magnets.
The project should take less than an hour and cost less than $20.
Parts for this project
- 6 Neodymium magnets 7/8″ diameter, 1/8″ or 1/4″ thick (CMS Magnetics ND0483-42NM 1/8″ or ND0484-42NM 1/4″)
- 2 part epoxy
- disposable lid or cardboard (for mixing epoxy)
- disposable mixing stick (can be a plastic knife or similar)
- 4 self-tapping screws to mount the license plate to the holder (Use Tesla-supplied screws intended for the rear plate)
- 2 washers if needed
- 2 speed-nuts if needed (for top two self-tapping screws)
- 2 4-40 nuts or similar
Mark a dot on the top of each magnet with a Sharpe pen as you pull the magnets apart to keep the magnet orientation the same.
Mount 3 magnets to the back of the license plate frame. These will go in the rings which were intended to mount the frame to the bumper. They have a nice rim that will hold the magnet with epoxy. Use the marked side of the magnets facing up (visible). The lower two magnets will align with the bumper better if slightly angled. As you apply the epoxy to the mounting area, press a 4-40 nut into the epoxy, positioned towards the frame bottom. When you press the magnet into the epoxy, it angles the magnet to better align with the bumper curve. Clean any excess epoxy off the top of the magnet before it cures.
After 24 hours, when the epoxy has cured, I attached a small section of clear packing tape to each magnet to help prevent any scratches when attaching or removing the plate. This may not be necessary, as the smooth magnets do not seem to scratch the surface, but it’s better to be safe.
Next, we’ll attach the companion magnets to the inside of the nosecone.
Remove nosecone, by inserting a plastic tool to release the lower five clips. pull outwards from the bottom and all the other clips will release.
If you have parking sensors, disconnect the wires so the nosecone is fully removed. DO NOT place the nosecone unprotected on the floor or it will get scratched! Use a carpet scrap or just hold it carefully until removed. Move it to a higher surface such as a table – preferably covered with a soft towel to prevent scratches.
Attach the license plate frame to the front center desired position on the nosecone with blue painter’s tape. Flip the nosecone so the license plate frame and nosecone are facing down.
Dry fit the remaining three magnets to the back of the nosecone – roughly at the three bumps. The dot on each magnet will be facing up. If needed mark the locations or remember roughly where they will be placed. Remove the magnets, mix the epoxy, and place them at each bump. Press each magnet into the epoxy making sure the dot side is visible. The magnets should move to the best position for maximum attraction to the plate holder.
The epoxy should be solid enough after 4 hours to remove the license plate holder and install the nosecone back on the car. You may want to wait for a full cure – typically 24 hours before trying it out.
On the license holder, attach the license plate. My plate came with a small bag of screws marked for the front and rear license plate. The REAR self-tapping screws are better, as the ones Tesla provides for the front are too long. The bottom two holes work perfectly for these screws. The top two holes are too big and the length is a touch long. For the top, I used the Tesla rear plate screws with a washer on the front side, and a speed nut to hold it. Check very carefully that the screws are not too long and don’t touch the bumper.
That’s it! The instructions are a bit better than my actual implementation, as I didn’t angle the magnets, and didn’t think to temporarily attach the holder with magnets to get the optimum alignment between the magnets. Even so, it works quite well, and I even tested my poorer implementation to 30 mph with only the 1/8″ magnets without a problem.