Wednesday, May 9, 2012

How to Make a Sidemount License Plate

Modifications for my VStar have been slacking lately, so I may as well take this time to give a proper write-up for the side mount plate I made. Initially, I wanted an eye catching design. I even went so far as to cut a few of them out, but in the end, I decided on something a little more basic. To start with, I simply used paper and a ruler, measuring out and drawing the design, while keeping everything symmetrical. I then cut out and taped what I had on a piece of steel. Most hardware stores carry small squares of various gauges and dimensions. For the plate I believe I used 14 or perhaps 12 gauge. It’s not going to hold any substantial weight, but be sure what ever you use will resist a little highway speed wind. I have a jigsaw, and a Dremel tool, both with appropriate cutting blades, but for this project the jigsaw seemed like the logical choice. My plate design incorporates the contour of the tail light, so the curves took a bit more patience. For them I did use a grinding wheel on my Dremel to knock down the rough edges. I also used a vice to hold the end of the plate where the light will be bolted, and gave the other end a slight tug, bending the plate just a little. Now there is a bit of an angle difference between the area for the license plate, and that for the light. Next task was to drill the appropriate holes to mount the light, and license plate with. The tail light was a small cat eye shape, and required three holes, two for mounting, and one for the wiring, where as the license plate needed the four standard holes as found on any other plate. I used my drill, selected adequate sized bits for each hole, and punched them through. Now, for mounting the plate on the bike, I strayed from the typical plate design for VStars. Most of the aftermarket side mounts I’ve found have an extra tab on the side that is bolted on using the two rear most bolts of the rear drive. Other designs use a single mount point at the rear axle. I wanted to move mine farther up than that so my only option was bolting it to the swing arm. To do this I used an EMT hanger clamp for 1” electrical conduit, and a metal L shaped brace. The original bolt for the clamp does not provide enough support so it was replaced with a bolt/nut combo. The brace was 3x5 and a small amount was shaved off to match the width of the plate. The L brace will also need holes drilled to match those added earlier that are used to mount the actual license plate. To attach the L brace to the clamp, I simply used another bolt, and nut.  At this point you will want to ensure you are satisfied with the plate angle in reference to the swing arm, and completely tighten the bolt holding the clamp and L brace together. I should mention that I did add a couple of extra nuts between the brace and clamp for adequate spacing. Once it’s mounted, it’s difficult, or near impossible to get it tight, and it will most likely have to be removed to do so. Otherwise, the project is almost complete. At this point you can paint the side mount plate black like I did, or any color you wish. For an added finishing touch, I found a license plate frame that looked like barbed wire. I’m sure it can be found in black, however mine was chrome and thus was painted along with everything else. Once it’s dried, bolt the light on, add the license plate and frame, and slide the clamp around the swing arm, and bolt it down nice and snug. I added a little electric tape under the clamp to prevent any scratching during installation. It is a tight fit, and you will need a little elbow grease to push the inside of the clamp together for the bolt and nut.  There are assortments of chrome nuts, license plate nuts, and just generally neat looking bolts that can be used for an added custom flair. Overall, I have less than 20.00 invested. This includes the 5.00 light, and the 5.99 license plate frame, as well as everything that was purchased at the hardware store. Most of the aftermarket plates I found cost upwards of 100.00. I will admit though, you can find them much cheaper. However, I like knowing what I have was completely made by me. If you have any questions, or would like a few more pictures, please let me know, and I’ll post them right away. Until next time…ride safe.


Adam said...

What light did you buy and how did you wire it? Did you need a ballast or diode to get the transition from running light to brake?

James said...

Adam, I simply wired the light using the existing harness from the factory, no diode or ballast was needed. The light was a purchase from Ebay. Sorry for the delayed response. I will check to determine why I didn't receive notification when you first posted this.