The Internet is full of websites that sell covers and sprays claiming to obscure your license plates from those pesky ticket cameras. We’ve been reluctant to endorse such products since they reportedly don’t work very well, and they may result in drivers running afoul of the law. (More on that below.)
But, when we got the following letter from a lifetime NMA member in South Carolina (we’ll call him Al) describing his DIY license plate privacy filter, we were impressed with his ingenuity and thought other NMA members would be interested. Al’s solution, described below, relies on readily available privacy filter material used to obscure computer monitors when viewed from an angle:
Reading about 3M computer privacy filter material, I found a merchant online offering the size for my iMac desktop. I chose that option because it could be cut into multiple license plate covers. For reference, I ordered the 21.6 inch width. Click here for more information. It comes in gold or smoke. I chose smoke and installed the non-reflective side out.
Other parts required are a frame and clear, plastic cover available at Advance Auto. As intended for computer screen privacy, the filter goes opaque as the eye is moved side-to-side from center viewing. For license plate application (and getting maximum coverage from a single sheet of material), I marked and cut two plate covers vertically from the sheet. I probably had enough left over to make another two from this sheet.
Rotating the screening operation from horizontal to vertical obscures the plate when viewed from above—perfect for any pole or high-mounted camera. The material is quite sturdy, so I used my hole-punch set and chose the 1/2″ tool to cut four holes for the Advance cover…perfect fit! Remembering to install the matt side out, I was very pleased with the final product. No violation of license plate visibility under normal situations, like straight behind and off-center viewing.
You must choose the frame and clear plastic cover (sold together as a unit) carefully, making sure the extra film thickness will not prevent normal mounting. Then, holes must be cut in the film, allowing it to seat firmly in place underneath the stock clear cover. For greater security, I recommend using four bolts/screws even if the vehicle requires only two to attach it to the mounting area.
With patience, good tools and workmanship, I was able to produce a “factory” job that should pass any normal inspection. After all, the plate visibility is still much better than most windows on today’s cars, including those of law enforcement. But, when the eye is moved upward to the designated angle, as with a pole-mounted red-light camera vying to take your picture, the plate goes black—totally unreadable!
Now, for the road test! I was followed by a SPA black & white for almost five miles. It was my normal route home from I-85, and the two young officers just happened to be going the same way. For at least half the journey, they were directly behind me and had ample opportunity to observe my plate from as close as 10 feet. I watched them closely, and not once did they appear interested in my license plate or anything about my vehicle.
My idea works and at an affordable price. Happy motoring!
Editor’s Note: We have not tried Al’s solution so we cannot assess its efficacy. Also, be aware that most states have laws about what you can and cannot do with a license plate cover. Some ban covers completely. It may not be enough for your plate to be readable by the naked eye. Some states, like Maryland, have passed laws that say your plate information must be recordable as an image. This makes it illegal to hide your plate (by whatever means) from a ticket camera. The NMA does not encourage any driver to break the law so be sure to check the relevant statute for your state before proceeding.