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R107 Rear License Plate Riveting Nut Replacement

A Step-by-Step Tutorial by GlueckAuf

Woo-hoo! I've crossed another of my SL's few remaining annoyances off the to-do list.
On my long-departed 1984 W123 as well as on my 1987 560 SL, Mercedes installed four blind aluminum
riveting nuts as the mounts for the rear license plate. And on both of these cars, most of these soft,
weak rivets either stripped their threads, or broke loose and became free-spinning, a real annoyance
when trying to change the license plate.

Figure 1. Four M5 aluminum threaded inserts, called riveting nuts, secure the rear license plate to the rear panel of the 560
SL (and presumably its other R107 cousins.) Forcing improper screws into them can damage these nuts, necessitating
replacement of one or more. This tutorial will show you how.

Part of the problem with these riveting nuts is that they appear to be threaded for an M6 screw, but
they're actually M5. What misleads the license-plate installer (whos usually on his knees, in the rain, in
the DMV parking lot) is that the threads are recessed considerably from the opening of the insert, but
the visible opening itself is plenty big to accommodate an M6 screw. So when some previous owners of

both of these cars probably first muscled-in M6 screws or bolts into those holes (or worse, SAE-threaded
screws), the damage was done.
Installing new riveting nuts requires a means to expand them, and my research led me to believe there
must be a special Mercedes-Benz tool designed to expand the nuts into the hexagonal holes in the
R107's rear panel. Generic tools exist for installing similar, but round, rivet nuts on aircraft. But at $20
to $80, they are mighty pricey, particularly for a one-trick pony of a tool one might use just once in a
lifetime. But I could see no reason why a simple screw and nut could not serve to expand these
Mercedes-style hexagonal riveting nuts. So armed with less than a dollar's worth of hardware for the
home-brewed tool and four new riveting nuts from the local Mercedes dealer ($2.90 each, part number
201 990 05 58), I put the hypothesis to the test.

Figure 2. Four of these $2.90 each riveting nuts will set you back just $11.60 from your local Mercedes dealer. But the
highly-specialized tools advertised to install these types of fasteners range from $20 to $80. Fortunately I found that an M5
screw, nut, and a couple of washers perform just as well.

Removing the Old Riveting Nuts


But first, how to get the old, damaged riveting nuts out? I found that a 1/4" drill bit is just about the
perfect size to drill out enough of the collar--without drilling into the rear panel sheet metal's hexagonal

holesso that the inside portion of the riveting nut can then be wiggled and broken free from the
weakened collar. The only difficulty is accessing the rest of the old fastener that hides inside the rear
panel beneath the carpeting.
Now I suppose one could simply drill out most of the old riveting nuts collars and, using a slim punch,
drive the remainder of the old riveting nuts into the rear panel to stay, and not bother with removing
the carpeting at all. But I didnt like the idea of those four old fasteners rattling around inside the rear
body panel where they might end up being both noisy and irrecoverableso off came the carpeting.
Removing the rear panel carpeting requires removing one or both of the two finishing strips that hold
the top of the carpeting to the trunk lid opening. Four small Phillips-head sheet metal screws hold each
strip on, and the carpeting itself is loosely glued to the top of the trunk's rear panel. After removing all
eight screws and both metal strips, I used a plastic scraper to loosen the carpeting glue as I gently pulled
the carpet free.

Figure 3. As should be apparent, a 1/4" drill bit is pretty close to the perfectly-sized tool to thin the collar of the old riveting
nut enough to remove it without contacting the rear panels painted sheet metal within which it resides. Work slowly and
carefully with low pressure and slow speed to drill out the fastener.

Once the carpet is free, the right-side (passenger) riveting nuts are easily visible and accessible to be
grabbed and held with a pair of needle nose vice-grips so they won't fall deep into the trunk rear panel
crevice when drilled out. (Remember, these riveting nuts are aluminum, and wont be attracted to your
magnetized screwdriver if you have to fish them outone more reason to securely hold them with a pair
of vise grips before drilling.)

Figure 4. Within the rear panel, behind the carpeting, reside the inner halves of the four riveting nuts. While those on the
right side (right photo) are readily visible, access to those on the left side (left photo) is complicated by the presence of the
trunk lock vacuum actuator for the central locking system. I held this end of the fastener with small vise-grip pliers to
prevent the inner half from falling into the panel when drilled free from its collar.

The left (driver's) side, though is little more complicated, because the central locking mechanism for the
trunk lock is in the way. There is a snap-on access panel that can be removed to get at the top riveting
nut, but to grab hold of the lower one, the two screws that hold the top of the vacuum actuator
mechanism bracket to the rear panel should be removed and the bracket pulled slightly away make the
nut accessible to the vise grips. (A rod from the vacuum actuator to the lock mechanism remains
connected, but need not be removed.)
Once Id locked the small, needle-nosed vise grips onto each old riveting nut, I started the drilling, using
a very light touch and slow speed. A sharp bit will cut through these soft aluminum rivets like the
proverbial hot knife through butter, so I used low forward pressure and very slow speed. Because the
drill bit is just a hair smaller than the riveting nut collars outer radius, it must be wallowed a bit to
cut it away near-completely. But easy does it, to avoid nicking sheet metal.

Installing the New Riveting Nuts


To expand the new riveting nuts, I simply threaded an M5 nut onto a 30mm M5 screw, slipped on two
M5 washers (to help protect the paint from the 8mm open-end tightening wrench) and threaded the
screw almost fully into the riveting nut. Then, firmly holding the collar of the new riveting nut flush
against the rear panel by way of my thumb pressing on the screw head, while holding the screw head

fast with an 8mm box wrench, I carefully tightened the nut against the washers and riveting nut. This
gradually expands the portion of the riveting nut between the collar and the threads tightly into the
hexagonal hole.
After turning the M5 nut several partial turns at a constant amount of resistance, it became suddenly
more difficult to turn. I prudently took this as the sign that expansion was complete. (Further
tightening may strip the riveting nuts threads or deform the fastener!) I removed the tools, removed
the screw, nut and washers, and checked to ensure that the new riveting nut was secure. I repeated the
process for the remaining three riveting nuts the same way. Finally, to protect the threads of those
aluminum riveting nuts from galvanic corrosion with the steel M5 license plate screws, I coated the
threads generously with anti-seize compound.

Rear Panel

Figure 5. (LEFT) Why buy an $80 aircraft-quality threaded insert installation tool when a simple nut, bolt, and two washers
will do the job just as well? (RIGHT) The outer 8mm wrench holds the screw stationary while the inner wrench is turned
clockwise to tighten the 8mm nut. This pulls the riveting nuts threaded portion toward the collar, expanding the riveting
nut to fit tightly within its hexagonal hole.

The Finish
To complete the job, reattach the trunk lock vacuum actuator bracket and the snap-in access panel, if
removed. Check the trunk lock mechanisms vacuum-powered locking and unlocking to ensure it is still
working properly.
Reposition the loosened, rear panel carpet and press it into position firmly. (The glue on mine was still a
little tacky, just enough to hold the carpet, so no re-gluing was necessary.) Replace the metal strips that
hold the top edge of the carpet to the top of the trunks rear panel with the four-per-side sheet metal
screws.
Now, after struggling with putting a new rear license plate on my SL every few years for over a decade
(Tennessee; US Army, Europe; Texas; Michigan; Texas again), the rear license plate is finally securely

fastened to the rear panel, thanks to four, new, tightly-installed riveting nuts with healthy threads and
four properly-sized, M5 screws.

Figure 6. The finished product--four new riveting nuts that, with the properly-sized, M5 screws, hold the license plate
securely, unlike the stripped and/or free-turning nuts they replaced. No more DMV-parking-lot-on-a-rainy-day-on-my-knees
aggravation for me, by God!

Of course, having gone to these extraordinary lengths to remedy a small and infrequent but annoying
issue, I have thus guaranteed one thing.
I will never have occasion to change my license plate again.

Good road,
________________

GlueckAuf
Sterling Heights, MI
1987 Mercedes-Benz 560SL Benzedrine
2002 Volvo S80 T6
2004 Litespeed Vortex/Campagnolo Record

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