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I went to open the trunk of a friends car and accidentally grabbed the license plate and bent it up. Its still legible, but stays bent at a noticeable angle now.

For a present I would like to replace it with one from the college we both go to. I can buy them at the bookstore, but I believe they come blank. The car is register in NY. How do you go about engraving the license plate with the car number legally?

I realize that I probably can't do it because it's not my car, but would like to pay for it. I look at the NY website for license plates, but they had no information on a plate not being directly issued by the state. Does that mean you can't have them in New York?

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You can't make your own license plate. You can order a replacement plate, or switch to a vanity plate, but only for your own car. You could try to do it for your friend, and pay, but you would have to pretend you were your friend, it would probably be delivered to your friend's house, and you might be committing some sort of fraud.

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While you can't legally replace the damaged plate with a custom made one, or (most likely) order a replacement from New York aside from just paying your friend's cost to do so, it's most likely possible to straighten the existing plate enough that the damage won't be noticeable, because license plates are made of soft aluminum.

First, the plate needs to be off the car. Then you can use basic tools (or even your hands) to take out the main bend and a hammer and punch on the back side to undo creasing at the embossed areas. Be very careful not to damage the paint or reflective coating (do the punch work on a surface padded with a folded towel or similar), or the plate may become non-compliant with legal requirements and force replacement.

If you try to do this, you'll want to make sure it's okay with your friend; taking the plate off his car without his permission might qualify as theft, leaving you in the position to wind up making plates for your own state (in prison).

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