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I have the dumbest car problems?

?96 Ford Taurus GL station wagon. I?m trying to replace the burned-out license tag lamps. To do so, I need to remove a Phillips head screw which is holding down a plastic shield which covers the light bulb. I put my screwdriver on it, turned it counterclockwise and all the screw does is spin. It will not come out of the hole. I?m concerned that if I try to just pry it out that I?ll break the plastic shield which would expose the circuitry to moisture. I got to get my car through inspection. Now what?

if the screw is not actually holding it in there, try a magnet, or a screwdriver with a magnetic head, and see if that can get it out.

I won’t have a chance to look at a Taurus till morning, but I’m not altogether sure what you are looking at is really a phillips screw. It MAY be a plastic rivet. Ford practically puts Taurusables together with them. Check it with a magnet. If it’s plastic, of course, the “screw” won’t be attracted to it. Then you will need to pry the rivet from its plasic ring. Then the ring pops out. Then the cover come off.

See if you can get something small, like a very small flat-blade screwdriver or pick under the head of the screw. Then apply some up force with the tool while trying to back the screw out with your Phillips. Keep this up until the screw is completely out, or out far enough to get a better grip on it with some needle-nose pliers or something similar.

Good luck

Lightly pry under the plastic and turn the screw with the Philips screwdriver.

What it is is a metal phillips head screw which holds down a rubber “dome” shaped washer which in turn pinches down one end of the plastic shield. I should have added this is on the tailgae of a Taurus wagon. I don’t know if the sedan is set up the same way. I even checked my other Taurus wagon (I have two of them) and the other one works the same way. I did try turning the screw while prying up on the rubber washer. I will try turning the screw while prying up on the plastic, if I can get the edge underneath it. I am really concerned I will break the plastic bulb sghield, though. I suspect the plastic is easy to break hence Ford putting in that rubber “dome” washer.

I should also have added that the screw will come out maybe a sixteenth of an inch, but then it will just spin ane no longer thread its way out of the hole. However the screw is still secure in the hole – it won’t be pried or pulled out.

If you can’t get needle nose on it to pull or to pry out, then drilling may be the best option to preserve the plastic/rubber stuff. Replace with larger screw or insert/screw combo afterwards.

What a coincidence. The shop that is recharging the A/C on my '94 Taurus just alerted me that both tag lites are out. So I dug out my Haynes manual for the 1986 - 1995 Taurus/Sable and looked it up. I think you are already beyond this with your '96, but maybe it will help:

“For the Station wagon … Remove the light assembly screws and side marker nuts for access to the bulbs.”

Maybe those “side marker nuts” have something to do with it.

Other than that, it sounds like the screw just doesn’t have much thread to catch, and once it backs out a little it is then spinning freely. As others have suggested, grab it with a needle-nose pliers or pry it a little with a small flat-blade screwdriver.

Hey thanks, Yeah the '95 must be different than my '96. The only fasteners visibly anywhere near the tag lights are the screws I mentioned. The side markers are literally two and a half feet or so away from the tag lights, all the way on the side of the car. There is no way on mine the side markers can provide any access to the tag lights.

I will try the needle-nose approach. Maybe that will enable the threads to catch again. Thanks again.

I don’t know if the wagon is the same as the sedan, but the sedan is DEFINITELY held in by a plastic rivet with what looks like a phillips screw head. I was holding one in my hand till I started typing. It’s still here on my desk.

If it will come out. 1/16" use your needle nosed pliers or a pair of dykes to pry it out to about 1/2" or completely out of its plastic surroundings. Then the surrounding SHOULD pry right out too. In my experience about half of them break on removal.
When you put it back together, just push the ?screw" into the holdrr that you’ve already pushed into the hole. It’s quick. I’m sure that’s why the factory uses them.

Yeah, what MG said.

I just finished chaniging the two bulbs. (One could be reached by an access port in the inside of the trunk lid.) Those two things that look like Phillips screws are not. Notice that they have what looks like a washer (soft plastic) under the head on the non-screw. That “washer” is actually the pop-in fastener. Unscrew the non-screw a little, slip a small blade between the “screw head” and the “washer”, and the “screw” can be pried out easily (maybe continue to turn the “screw” while you ary prying). Then the pop-in fastener can be pried out, even by prying on the plastic housing of the light assembly.

Now, back to the shop to see why the rear brakes have suddenly started groaning when I apply them and release them.