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‘98 TJ
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I question why you bring this here, instead of handling it like a responsible parent. If you don't believe him, take away the keys and cell phone
I didn’t get the feeling he was asking for parenting advice at all so I’m not sure how you jumped to that.

He was asking what may have caused it to be ripped off in a parking lot based on other owners experience….. and that’s the whole point of forums.
 

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08 JK Sahara 3.8, 4wd, AT
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The plate is still there and there's literally no other damage. I'm thinking "stupid 16-year-old" shenanigans like standing on it. But maybe ninjas or aliens. I think the odds of a car sideswiping just that little piece are pretty close to 0%. Shopping cart is a maybe but even that seems like it would hit the bumper.

I just ordered the replacement part. It was $85 though there are cheaper ones on Amazon. I'm going to make him work off the $85 and help me install the new part when it gets here.
$36 + shipping @ Summit Racing
 

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Are you sure it wasn't hit?
It looks like there are scuffs on the bumper.
I agree that it might have been a shopping cart.
 

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2011 JKU Sahara 2.5” AEV lift with geo brackets steering stabilizer Warn winch & K&N cool air intake
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I had the screws come loose on the housing for the rear plate on my ‘11. The entire housing fell off, it looked almost like that.
 

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View attachment 4543594

The story I'm getting from my 16-year-old is that someone hit him in a parking lot. There is no damage to anything other than the license plate holder, which makes me suspect. I'm not lifted or anything but there's a pretty small number of vehicles that could bump off this without hitting the bumper.

I'm not going to kill him, or even punish him, over a $30 part I can replace myself. But I'm curious whether anyone has thoughts on what really might have happened.
On my 2010 Jeep Wrangler the license plate tends to stick out on the left side. I have often walked by and caught the plate on my pants. I have a plastic piece around the plate and this is what I catch. I guess something stronger than a person could take the plate off.
 

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2007 Jeep Wrangler Jk Sahara 2 dr, 3.8l, 4:10, AEV 2.5" DualSport XT lift
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I would say that a person could have stood on the license plate holder if that person was going on the roof, assuming that your jeep is a hard top. That holder looked like it was wide on the top end and going up to the roof with the foot sideways for leverage could break it. Out of curiosity, how tall and heavy is your 16 yr old kid?
 

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In my state (WA) the car wash warns me every time that they are not responsible if their brushes rip the license plate holder off. This is a known issue for JK's with the license plate holder location.
 

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View attachment 4543594

The story I'm getting from my 16-year-old is that someone hit him in a parking lot. There is no damage to anything other than the license plate holder, which makes me suspect. I'm not lifted or anything but there's a pretty small number of vehicles that could bump off this without hitting the bumper.

I'm not going to kill him, or even punish him, over a $30 part I can replace myself. But I'm curious whether anyone has thoughts on what really might have happened.
Look very closely at the left side square hole that holds the mounting screw. If I’m seeing it correctly in the photo, the left and right edges of the square are bent outwards and even missing paint. This would be consistent with a horizontal impact from the front side of the holder, pushing towards the back. My guess? Shopping cart may do it, but would be a pretty decent impact to rip it out. It’s probably just about the right height to tag the holder without hitting much else.
 

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The plate is still there and there's literally no other damage. I'm thinking "stupid 16-year-old" shenanigans like standing on it. But maybe ninjas or aliens. I think the odds of a car sideswiping just that little piece are pretty close to 0%. Shopping cart is a maybe but even that seems like it would hit the bumper.
I can say that the end of the license plate housing does stick out just enough that it can get damaged while everything else is untouched. I learned this the hard way. The only damage was to the license plate frame and like yours, minor sheet metal damage where it attaches.

In my case, the other vehicle was a Grand Cherokee - and far more damage was done to the WJ than to my JK. Thankfully, the local pick-a-part had one of the same model year & paint code so I just pulled the parts off the salvage yard WJ.

Not saying there isn't more to your son's story - but it could happen...
 

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I think one of your son's fiends was standing on it.
 

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I'm definitely more worried about what seems like a lie than the relatively cheap/easily fixed part. I think it was probably one of his friends who broke it (he told me they bought some glue and tried to replace the broken clip so they could reconnect the housing). I don't like being mistrustful, which is why I wanted to see if I'm being reasonable here.
Seems like a really minor incident IMO and my kids have caused worse results and just fessed up. They know I'll razz em some but fix it in the end cause that's what dads do.

Week or 2 back daughter took out a garbage can somewhere doing about 45 mph. I was just happy it wasnt something living.

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